Two bronze statues might be attributed to 16th century Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo, Cambridge University researchers said. Photo courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum.
CAMBRIDGE, England, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Researchers at University of Cambridge and the school's Fitzwilliam Museum believe they can attribute a pair of bronze statues to Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo.
If they're right, the matching statues would be the only bronze statues by the famed artist to have survived.
The connection was made by Paul Joannides, a professor emeritus of art history at Cambridge last year. He was asked to appraise the statues by their owner.
The matching statues show two men -- one old, one younger -- riding panthers. The muscular men both extend an arm into the air.
Joannides said the statues reminded him of a drawing he once saw by one of Michelangelo's apprentices at the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France. He and an international team of researchers believe the drawings were based on studies Michelangelo did himself before casting the bronze statues.
"Michelangelo is a dangerous attribution to make," Joannides told the Economist. "Every year or two, somebody comes up with a new painting or sculpture attributed to Michelangelo, and 99.99 percent of the time, they're fantasy attributions."
The team says the way the bodies were depicted in the statues is very indicative of the style both Michelangelo and fellow Renaissance artist Leonardo di Vinci both worked in. Both had a unique understanding of the human body unlike other artists of the early 16th century, to which the statues have been dated.
"There really isn't anyone around who's in any way a plausible alternative candidate," Joannides said.
The researchers intend to present their discovery at an international conference July 6.
"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," said Dr Victoria Avery, keeper of the applied arts department of the Fitzwilliam Museum, where the statues are on display.