A fingerprint discovered on a 500-year-old wax statue may very well belong to Michelangelo.
The impression was discovered on a dark red figurine, titled "A Slave," by specialists at London's Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), who say it was an initial sketch model for a larger unfinished marble sculpture that was meant to form part of Michelangelo's preparations for Pope Julius II's tomb in Rome, according to CNN.
The work was commissioned in 1505 and was planned to feature more than 40 life-size or larger statues, and was intended for St Peter's in Rome. Michelangelo began working on a larger version of the statue, which was chiseled in marble, but did not complete it. In the end, a "greatly reduced" tomb was erected in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, in 1545, V&A officials said.
An upcoming episode of the BBC documentary series, "Secrets of the Museum," shares details of the discovery.
"It is an exciting prospect that one of Michelangelo's prints could have survived in the wax," one of the V&A's senior curators, Peta Motture, says in a BBC press release. "Such marks would suggest the physical presence of the creative process of an artist."
Michelangelo made a large number of drawings and models in wax, clay, and terracotta in connection with both his painting and his sculpture, explained the V&A. He destroyed many of his preparatory works and this wax figurine, which stands less than 7 inches tall and is believed to have been created between 1516 and 1519, offers insight into his early processes.
Artist and biographer, Giorgio Vasari described how the wax was prepared with animal fat, turpentine, and black pitch to make it more supple.
"It is the fat that makes it more supple, the turpentine adds tenacity, and the pitch gives it the black color and a certain consistency," he says.
According to the V&A, red was the preferred color by many artists and was achieved by adding red earth, vermilion, or red lead. It is believed that Michelangelo made a vast number of waxes, "the first of which in the design process would have consisted of just a hastily modeled work," like "A Slave" was.
According to Vasari, Michelangelo would immerse his wax statues in water and raise them bit by bit as the carving of the marble progressed.
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