Michelangelo's fingerprints discovered on the butt of a wax sculpture

As revealed in the first episode of the BBC's new series of Secrets of the Museum, the fingerprints of Renaissance painter Michelangelo were discovered on the butt of a wax sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. As The Times explained:

The print was discovered after the small waxwork was moved out of an upper gallery, where temperatures were rising rapidly during last year's warm spring, and into the museum's colder basement storage.

The wax statue, titled A Slave, was likely made between 1516 and 1519 as a model for a larger sculpture that was commissioned for the unfinished tomb of Pope of Julius II, according to Artnet News. However, the final carving was never finished, though what remains is on display at the Galleria dell'Academia in Florence. Here's a little more detail from the Victoria and Albert Museum:

This scheme was the third of six produced for the problematic project, which, when it was commissioned in 1505, was planned as a large free-standing structure with more than 40 life-size or larger statues, and was intended for St Peter's in Rome. The existing, greatly reduced tomb was finally erected in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, in 1545. This model differs from the unfinished marble in several details, suggesting that the artist refined the design at a later stage.

The museum adds that Michelangelo tended to destroy most of his preparatory works like this, making its survival—along with the fingerprint—an even more remarkable piece of history, because neither one was ever intended to last this long, let alone be seen on display. As the museum's senior curator Peta Motture said in a statement:

Such marks would suggest the physical presence of the creative process of an artist. It is where mind and hand somehow come together… he destroyed a lot of [the wax models] himself. A fingerprint would be a direct connection with the artist.

But really, the most important detail here is that Michelangelo was clearly giving extra attention to best sculpt the statue's booty, and that we basically only know that because of climate change.

Michelangelo's thumb print seen in BBC Two's Secrets of the Museum [BBC]

Fingerprint on Michelangelo's Slave points to the golden boy of Renaissance [David Sanderson / The Times of London]

Fingerprint Found on Renaissance Wax Sculpture May Belong to Michelangelo [Isis Davis-Marks / Smithsonian Magazine]

The Victoria and Albert Museum Says It Has Spotted Michelangelo's Thumbprint, Preserved in Wax, on One of His Sculptures [Sarah Cascone / Artnet News]

Image via YouTube