Did the Italians Blow $4.2 Million on a Fake Michelangelo Crucifix?


Art experts are currently debating the authenticity of a crucifix attributed to the Renaissance titan Michelangelo, which was purchased by the Italian state for the equivalent of $4.2 million, a large chunk of their Culture Ministry's dwindling economic resources. The work in question is a sixteen-inch sculpture of a crucified Christ without a wood cross, and it was sold by Turin antiques dealer Giancarlo Gallino to the Italian Culture Ministry last year. Since then, the veracity and canonical value of the work has been called into question by academics, and the state has come under fire by critics claiming that the acquisition is a stunt designed to raise awareness of the Culture Ministry and promote Italian art's connection to Christianity, and that the money would have been better spent on necessary restorations and stimulating struggling museums.

Unfortunately for the Ministry, the case against the authenticity of the crucifix is strong — not only were similar works churned out by a number of skilled artisans in fifteenth-century Florence, but there are no documents linking Michelangelo to the work, and no acknowledgment by his biographers that he ever produced sculptures of this kind. Though supporters of the attribution suggest that the artist made the work on commission to make ends meet in his youth, we're inclined to think that $4.2 million is a bit much to pay for someone's old freelance work.

Yes, It’s Beautiful, the Italians All Say, but Is It a Michelangelo? [NYT]