After a decade of investigation, art historians have concluded that a small terracotta statuette of the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus was, in fact, made by the Renaissance
. It’s believed that the small terracotta work was a maquette made by Michelangelo as a study for his world-famous Pietà
(1498–99), which is housed at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
The terracotta work resurfaced about 20 years ago, when it was acquired by an antiquarian in Northern Italy who, believing the piece to be worthless, kept it in a moldy box before selling it to a collector for next to nothing. The collector, acting on a hunch that it may have been a Michelangelo, contacted Roy Doliner, a U.S. art historian who specializes in Italian works of that era. Doliner gathered a team of Italian art historians who collectively scoured archives of the Renaissance era. The team found multiple instances of the terracotta model being attributed to Michelangelo in sources dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.