€3.3m for a 'fake' Michelangelo?

In December 2008, a Turin dealer offered for sale a phenomenal piece for the art world: a wooden crucifix carved by Michelangelo himself.

True, the image of Christ's death wasn't the most festive image in the run up to the celebration of his birth, but nevertheless the dealer asked for €14-15m. The statuette was from a Florentine family, he claimed. He was adamant that it was by Michelangelo.

Some experts agree, and the Italian government believed him and bought the work, not for the original asking price, but still for a substantial sum: over €3m, and the government didn't keep quiet about it either.

The 41cm carving known as Cristo Ritrovato (Christ Rediscovered) was exhibited to thousands, including the Pope and those able to view it in a place of honour at the Italian parliament.

Over the summer, however, doubts were increasingly raised over the items attribution, and now an investigation has been launched.

Medieval sculptures expert Francesco Caglioti told La Repubblica, "The quality of this work bears no resemblance to those of Michelangelo and every resemblance to the many crucifixes of this kind which were made by artisans in Florence in this period." Other, lesser, artists have been suggested.

The love of money may be the root of all evil, according to the figure depicted, but the government will still be hoping it hasn't been conned out of a lot of it.

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