Air Force Family Finds Lost Michelangelo Masterpiece
A family who lives outside of Buffalo, New York, has received expert confirmation that the painting they kept stored behind their sofa is likely an unfinished work by Michelangelo.
The painting is known to have passed to two Catholic cardinals in Europe. In the 19th century it ended up in the hands of a German baroness, who willed it to her lady-in-waiting, who sent it to her brother-in-law in America in 1883.
The Kober family called the painting, "the Mike," but no member of the family seriously looked into the family story that the painting was really a masterwork until 2003, when Air Force Lt. Col. Martin Kober retired and was charged by his father to find out whether Michelangelo had really produced the painting.
Kober, now 53, dug into the history of the painting, contacting auction houses, Renaissance art scholars, European archives, and even meeting museum directors in Italy.
Finally, an Italian art restorer and historian, Antonio Forcellino, agreed to view the painting. He found it to be "even more beautiful than the versions hanging in Rome and Florence. The truth was this painting was much better than the ones they had."
A scientific analysis of the painting proved that the Michelangelo claim was not so crazy.
Forcellino told The Post that infrared and X-ray examinations of the painting -- on a 25-by- 19-inch wood panel -- show many alterations made by the artist as he changed his mind, and an unfinished portion near the Madonna's right knee.
"The evidence of unfinished portions demonstrate that this painting never, never, never could be a copy of another painting," Forcellino said. "No patron pays in the Renaissance for an unfinished copy."
Additionally, the provenance, or ownership history, points to the work being done by Michelangelo around 1545 for his friend Vittoria Colonna. That was about 45 years after Michelangelo did his famed "Pieta," or pity, sculpture of Mary holding Jesus, housed in St. Peter's Basilica.
The Kober family has moved the painting to a bank vault. Depending on the opinions of experts over time, the painting's potential value is "millions and millions."
The rare Michelangelo drawings that have come up for sale in recent years have sold for as much as $20 million. And a possible Michelangelo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art could be worth as much as $300 million.