Two obscure bronze sculptures may actually be by Michelangelo, a team of international researchers believes.
If the attribution is correct, the works will be the only surviving Michelangelo bronzes in the world.
The sculptures, of naked, muscular men riding on panthers, had been attributed to Michelangelo in the 19th Century but that theory had long been dismissed.
Cambridge University experts led the team and the sculptures will go on show at the city’s Fitzwilliam Museum.
Dr Victoria Avery, keeper of the applied arts department at the Fitzwilliam, said: “It has been fantastically exciting to have been able to participate in this ground-breaking project, which has involved input from many art historians in the UK, Europe and the States, and to draw on evidence from conservation scientists and anatomists.”
The bronzes have most recently been attributed to the Dutch sculptor Willem Danielsz Van Tetrode and the 19th Century belief the sculptures were by Michelangelo had been dismissed by experts for at least a century.
This changed last autumn, when Paul Joannides, emeritus professor of art history at the University of Cambridge, connected them to a tiny detail in a 16th Century drawing held in the Musee Fabre in Montpellier, France.
One of Michelangelo’s apprentices had copied various slightly earlier lost sketches by his master and in the corner of one was a drawing of a muscular youth riding a panther.
Its pose is very similar to that of one of the bronzes and is drawn with the same style used by Michelangelo in his designs for sculpture.