ce438e9d-da32-437f-b39b-6b7bd15b8c81-1039x2040 Michelangelo bronze

They are set to go on public display from today. Victoria Avery, the museum's keeper of applied arts, spoke of the thrill of discovering the origins of the bronzes: "It has been a huge privilege to be involved, very exciting and great fun."

A small drawing by an apprentice of Michelangelo, which belonged to a private British owner and is now in Musée Fabre in Montpellier, shows a sketch of similar design to the bronzes.

Paul Joannides, of Cambridge University, draw the connection between the sketch and the bronzes last year. Research also included a neutron scan which identified the bronzes as being from the first decade of the 16th century.

Professor Peter Abrahams, from the University of Warwick, identified the details on the body of the bronzes as being Michelangelo's design as they bear resemblance to the statue of David and nudes featured on the Sistine Chapel.

dc10778c-f3d5-4048-afbd-cb3b7f4aa505-1020x612 Victoria Avery with the bronzes

The pieces in the past have been attributed to Tiziano Aspetti, Jacopo Sansovino and Benvenuto Cellini.

Victoria Avery said:"You have to be pretty brave to even contemplate that they could be work by an artist of the magnificence and fame and importance of Michelangelo. We decided to be rather cautious, to be very careful and methodical ... nobody wants to be shot down and to look like an idiot."

The museum believes  the bronzes were made by Michelangelo between 1506 and 1508, when he was in his early 30s as he began to excel in his field.

The bronzes are named after Baron Adolphe de Rothschild, a grandson of Mayer Amschel Rothschild, who founded the banking dynasty, as they are the first known owners. It is believed the family purchased them from one of the Bourbon kings of Naples and if so they may have come from the Villa Reale at Caserta where the Bourbon art treasures were displayed. They were sold at Sotheby's where they were linked with the Florentine sculptor Cellini.

They featured in The Royal Academy big Bronze show in 2012 where they were attributed to the circle of Michelangelo and dated towards the middle of the 16th century.

The bronzes will be on display at the Fitzwilliam from 3rd February to 9th August, with a book of the discovery, and more findings and research  presented at a  conference on 6 July.

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