Two Michelangelo Bronzes of Men Riding Panthers Discovered

Posted on February 7, 2015

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Fitzwilliam Museum believe they have discovered that two bronze statues were created by Michelangelo. These are the only known Michelangelo bronzes. It was previously thought that no Michelangelo bronzes survived.

The researchers believe Michelangelo created the bronze sculptures between 1506 and 1508. This would have been after he completed the marble David and before he started working on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The bronzes are of two naked men riding on the backs of panthers. The men are each holding one arm in the air. One of the men riding the panthers is older than the other.

A small detail in a 500-year-old drawing helped researchers to link the sculptures to Michelangelo. The drawing shows a muscular youth riding a panther in one corner. You can view the drawing here. The researchers say the pose is very similar in pose to the bronzes. They also say the artwork was "drawn in the abrupt, forceful manner that Michelangelo employed in designs for sculpture."

Dr Victoria Avery, Keeper of the Applied Arts Department of the Fitzwilliam Museum, says in a statement, "It has been fantastically exciting to have been able to participate in this ground-breaking project, which has involved input from many art-historians in the UK, Europe and the States, and to draw on evidence from conservation scientists and anatomists. The bronzes are exceptionally powerful and compelling works of art that deserve close-up study – we hope the public will come and examine them for themselves, and engage with this ongoing debate."

The researchers also say it is a "common misconception" that Michelangelo sculpted frequently in marble but almost never in bronze. They say history indicates that he worked with bronze throughout his career of 75 years. Some of the known bronzes created by Michelangelo include bronze statues of David and Pope Julius II. Neither of these bronzes survived. The Pope Julius statue was melted down and used for artillery.

Dr. Avery shares more details about the discovery in this video. Take a look:

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