Artibus et Historiae no. 52 (XXVI)

2005, ISSN 0391-9064

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LYNN CATTERSON - Michelangelo's Laocoön ?

The sculptural group of Laocoön and his Sons in the Vatican is considered to be one of the most famous and influential representatives of antiquity to survive. Described by Pliny the Elder as superior to all works, it was discovered in 1506 in a vineyard in Rome and authenticated at the site by Giuliano da Sangallo, with Michelangelo Buonarroti in tow. It was immediately acquired by Pope Julius II who installed it in the Cortile Belvedere of the Vatican, where it has been ever since. Although scholars have long sought to determine the precise origin of the Laocoön - whether it is a Greek original or a Roman copy, and to fix its date of manufacture somewhere between the mid-third century BC and the second century AD - no one has ever questioned its authenticity. A reevaluation of the Laocoön and the circumstances of its "discovery" together with new evidence culled from drawings and letters lead to the conclusion that the statue is probably a modern forgery by Michelangelo.

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