Kimbell Buys Michelangelo's First Painting

Work's authenticity questioned for years, but no longer

By Angela K. Brown and Ashanti Blaize
|  Wednesday, May 13, 2009  |  Updated 9:33 PM CDT
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Kimbell Buys Michelangelo's First Painting

Courtesy of the Kimbell Art Museum

Michelangelo's "The Torment of Anthony" is a 15th century oil and tempura painting on wood that depicts scaly, horned, winged demons trying to pull the saint out of the sky.

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Kimbell Buys Michelangelo's First Painting

Experts believe the Michelangelo painted the work when he was only 12 or 13 years old.
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The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth is about to hang Michelangelo's first painting.

The museum declined to say how much it paid for "The Torment of Anthony," a 15th century oil and tempura painting on wood that depicts scaly, horned, winged demons trying to pull the saint out of the sky. Experts believe the famed artist painted the piece when he was only a boy.

"He was only 12 or 13 years old and its hard to believe that he was so young when he painted this work," Eric M. Lee, director of the Fort Worth museum said.

The Kimbell is the only museum in the United States and only the second in the world to have a finished movable piece painted by Michelangelo.

"There are only two finished panel paintings by Michelangelo, including the one we have here at the Kimbell today," said Claire Barry, the museum's chief conservator.

The painting was displayed in Paris until 1874, then kept privately for years as its authenticity was questioned. But after a dealer bought it last summer for nearly $2 million, experts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art examined it and declared it to be genuine.

"This is one of the greatest rediscoveries in the history of art," Lee said. "The evidence could not be stronger. It's like a detective story, like a mystery, and it involves one of the greatest artists of all time."

Lee predicted "The Torment of Saint Anthony" will be one of the most important pieces hanging in the Kimbell, mostly because of how rare it is.

The painting will briefly travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York before returning to its permanent home at the Kimbell in the fall.

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