Michelangelo's First Painting Finds Fort Worth Home

"The Torment of Saint Anthony" is part of the Kimbell Art Museum's permanent collection

The only Michelangelo painting in the Western Hemisphere is on display in Fort Worth beginning Saturday.

"The Torment of Saint Anthony" is on exhibit as part of the permanent collection at the Kimbell Art Museum.

Believed to be his first painting, it is also one of only four known Michelangelo panel paintings in existence -- and one of the only two that are completed.

He is perhaps best known for his sculptures, such as "David" and "Pieta," and his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.

The Italian Renaissance artist likely painted the 15th-century oil and tempura painting on wood when he was only 12 or 13 years old, experts say.

It was inspired by an engraving by Martin Schongauer, a German master. Michelangelo is believed to have painted it while he was a pupil of Domenico Ghirlandaio.

The work was previously credited only to Ghirlandaio's workshop, although it was known that Michelangelo had painted the saint.

But the New York art deal who bought it for $2 million at Sotheby's in 2008 was convinced it was a Michelangelo piece and had experts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art examine and clean it, according to the New York Times.

"When it was cleaned, it was X-rayed, infrared photography was done, and that's when we realized that it is indeed a Michelangelo, and the evidence for this is absolutely overwhelming,"said Eric Lee, director of the Kimbell.

The painting is not an exact copy of Schongauer's engraving. It is larger, and Michelangelo made changes that are evident in the underdrawings. He changed the club to a firebrand and used a different angle.

"The Torment of Saint Anthony" also has a landscape at the bottom, more dramatic monsters and St. Anthony has a different expression on his face than in the original, according to the New York Times.

The Kimbell Art Museum purchased the painting in the spring for an undisclosed amount. It was briefly shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York this summer before returning home to North Texas.

"When I started my job at the Kimbell six months ago, never did I think this would be possible, acquiring a painting by Michelangelo, but here it is," Lee said.

The painting will be on display beginning Saturday during the Day in the District, when admission is free to seven museums in Fort Worth.

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