Rothschild Bronzes

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One of the bronzes displayed at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge from February to August 2015

The Rothschild Bronzes are a pair of early-16th century sculptures, each depicting a nude male figure riding a panther, which have been verified as being made by Michelangelo. The sculptures are believed to have been created around 1506 to 1508, before the painting of Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco but after the marble statue of David.[1] The bronzes are now considered the only known surviving bronze works by the artist in existence.[2]


The two 1m-high (3.2ft) bronzes each feature a nude male (one young, one old) mounted on the back of a mythological panther-like animal.[3] The sculptures are unsigned.


The bronzes were formerly the property of Baron Adolphe de Rothschild and were exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1878 as the work of Michelangelo, although this attribution was disputed at the time. The Rothschild's had acquired the atatues the previous year form their owner in Venice.

When his heir Maurice de Rothschild died in 1957, they were purchased by a French private collector. Over the years, the sculptures have been attributed to other artists, including Tiziano Aspetti, Jacopo Sansovino and Benvenuto Cellini, or their respective circles.

In 2002, they were again sold at Sotheby’s London, to a British collector for £1.8m, with a loose attribution to Cellini. In 2012, they were exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts as being from the circle of Michelangelo, although experts declined to attribute them directly to him.[4][5]

In February 2015, a team of experts from Cambridge attributed the statues to Michelangelo. This was based on their similarity to a detail in a drawing by one of Michelangelo's students, held at the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, their similarity in technique to other works by Michelangelo and a neutron scan, conducted in Switzerland, which dated the bronzes to the first decade of the 16th century. The possibility that they might be by Michelangelo excited experts, particularly given that at the time no other Michelangelo bronzes are known to have survived.[4]


In November 2018, the bronzes were verified by the Fitzwilliam Museum[6] as being by Michelangelo based on anatomical features which were specific to his body of work.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Michelangelo bronzes verified thanks to eight-pack stomach clue". BBC News. 15 November 2018.
  2. ^ "Michelangelo bronze statues verified after researchers discover abnormal eight packs and curly big toes". The Independent. 15 November 2018.
  3. ^ "Rothschild Bronzes definitely by Michelangelo, new book claims". The Art Newspaper. 15 November 2018.
  4. ^ a b Brown, Mark (2 Feb 2015). "Michelangelo's bronze panther-riders revealed after 'Renaissance whodunnit'". The Guardian.
  5. ^ "The story of the bronze riders". The Economist (Prospero blog). 2 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Only Michelangelo made abdomens – and wonky toes – like these". The Guardian. 15 November 2018.

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