Vatican: Michelangelo self-portrait discovered

A self-portrait by Michelangelo has been discovered by Vatican restorers working on his last painting, the Crucifixion of Saint Peter in the Pauline Chapel.

The figure identified as the artist,  is one of three horsemen, in the top left hand corner of the picture. Michelangelo is depicted wearing a blue turban of lapis lazuli blue.

Maurizio De Luca, who heads the Vatican's painting restoration project, said the image was "extraordinary and moving", and was given extra poignancy by appearing in the artist's last painted work completed between 1545 and 1550. After this time  he dedicated himself to sculpture and architecture.

De Luca  said that after much deliberation,  the "plaintive intensity of the facial features, together with similarities in dress and physiognomy with contemporary depictions of Michelangelo", had convinced him and his colleagues, that this was the artist.

The £3m restoration of the Crucifixion of Saint Peter and the other Michelangelo fresco in the chapel, the Conversion of Saint Paul began in 2004.

The only other generally accepted self-portrait of Michelangelo appears in his most famous work, the  Last Judgment,  in the Sistine Chapel, which he created between 1534 and 1541. This rather grotesque image, however, represents the artist's features on the flayed skin of a man held by Saint Bartholomew.

Michelangelo, who lived from 1475 to 1564, is widely regarded as the greatest artistic genius the world has seen.

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