Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN)–The tiny wax figurine may have brought us closer than ever to the famous Italian sculptor, Michelangelo, after museum experts found what they believe to be a Renaissance master’s fingerprint, or thumbprint, pressed into action.
Specialists at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London discovered this mark on a dark red statue, which was a prototype for a larger, unfinished marble sculpture.
The 500-year-old wax work, titled “Slave”, was part of Michelangelo’s preparations for the tomb of Pope Julius II in Rome, in which it depicts a naked young man with his arm resting on his face.
According to the museum’s listing, the proposed statue was among more than 40 life-size figures that were once planned for the last pope’s burial place.
Michelangelo began work on a larger marble copy, which he called “Young Slave”, meaning “the little slave”, although the work was not completed in the end.
The V&A Museum in London wrote that plans for the Pope’s tomb were later “significantly reduced”.
Details of the discovery will be presented in the next episode of the BBC documentary series Museum Secrets, which follows specialists working at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The episode is scheduled to air in the UK on Tuesday.
“It is an exciting possibility that one of Michelangelo’s works may have survived on wax… such works indicate the physical presence of the artist’s creative process,” Beta Motor, a senior curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum, was quoted by the BBC as saying in a BBC press release. .
Michelangelo is known to have destroyed many of his preparatory works, which means that the wax model offers a rare insight into his early processes.
“The fingerprint will be a direct connection to the artist,” Motor explained.
In his 16th-century autobiography, The Life of Michelangelo, the painter Giorgio Vasari explained how the Renaissance master used wax models to produce large sculptures.
Vasari, a friend of Michelangelo, wrote that the artist submerges models in water and then slowly lifts them up, while engraving corresponding details on full-size marble work, according to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The wax model, measuring less than 7 inches in length, is believed to have been created between 1516 and 1519, more than 10 years after the tomb was commissioned by Pope Julius II.
The final design for the Young Slave, now in the Accademia Gallery in Florence, differs from the early wax model in several ways, suggesting that Michelangelo “improved the design at a later stage,” the V&A writes.