Michelangelo Buonarroti, “Crucifixion,” circa 1493, wood, 4 feet, 6 inches, © Santo Spirito Church

Even at 18 years old, famed Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti was well on his way to becoming one of the most celebrated artists in Europe. Arguably his first masterpiece — a wooden crucifix — was recently found, restored, and unveiled at a new home.

Those who visit Florence, Italy’s Santo Spirito Church will now be treated to something extra special: the newly restored wooden crucifix by Michelangelo — said to have been created when he was just 18 years old.

As has been well documented, Michelangelo lived for some time during his adolescence with benefactor Lorenzo de Medici. After Lorenzo’s death, Michelangelo lived for about a year with a community of Augustinian monks at Santo Spirito. It was here that Michelangelo received intimate training in human anatomy in the hospital the monks ran. Significantly, Michelangelo sculpted a stunning wooden crucifix as a thank you for their welcome.

For many decades in the late 19th century, it was believed the sculpture had been destroyed or lost forever, but it was eventually rediscovered in a convent — apparently barely recognizable due to the number of overpaint layers.

After massive restoration and a tour around Italy, the famed crucifix will now remain in the church it was originally intended for: suspended above Santo Spirito’s old sacristy.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster
Andrew Webster is the Editor of Fine Art Today and works as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.

3 COMMENTS

  1. This looks NOTHING like the work of Michelangelo Buonarotti. And I may be showing my ignorance, but since when dd he work in wood? The photograph of this piece shows nothing of the tension and angst of a Michelangelo crucifixion. At 18 Michelangelo was well on his way toward realizing the full emotional representation and impact which he was capable of. I cannot imagine Michelangelo at this young age representing Christ as going “gently into that good night”.

  2. Hi Chuck!

    I think you’ve made some great points, which encouraged me to look a little deeper into the sculpture. It’s definitely not universally accepted as by Michelangelo. However, there was a comprehensive study in 2001 that appears to have changed a lot of scholars’ minds. The BBC picked up the story here:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/1444780.stm

    Thoughts? Thank you for commenting!

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