By Michael Day in Milan for the UK’s Independant
A self-portrait by the Renaissance genius Michelangelo has been discovered in his final painting, the Crucifixion of Saint Peter in the Vatican’s Pauline Chapel, it emerged last night.
Maurizio De Luca, the Vatican’s head of paintings restoration, said the finding, possibly the only clear Michelangelo self-portrait in existence, was “extraordinary and moving”, and was given extra poignancy by appearing in the artist’s last painted work.
Tantalising evidence of the find began to emerge during a major restoration, started in 2004, of the Crucifixion of Saint Peter and the other Michelangelo fresco in the chapel, the Conversion of Saint Paul. Until then, no one had suspected who the figure in the top left-hand corner of the work might be. But as the five-year, £3m restoration progressed, scholars began to wonder if it could be the artist himself. And when they compared the facial features to those of portraits of Michelangelo by other artists, the conclusion was inescapable.
“What has emerged is a later Michelangelo work seen in a new light, a work which marked the end of his painting, as he dedicated himself to sculpture and architecture,” said Mr De Luca. He said that after months’ of research and discussion with some of the world’s leading art experts he was convinced the artist had painted his life-like image on the fresco, which he created between 1545 and 1550.
The figure identified as the artist is one of three horsemen in the picture. Michelangelo is depicted wearing a blue turban of lapis lazuli blue.