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Portrait of Michelangelo?

July 03, 2009|Associated Press

The restoration of Michelangelo's frescoes in the Vatican's Pauline Chapel may have produced a special prize -- a previously unknown self-portrait of the artist.

Chief Vatican restorer Maurizio De Luca said Thursday that the face of a man on horseback in the artist's "The Crucifixion of St. Peter" could well be the artist, though he said that nobody would ever know "with absolute certainty that the face is Michelangelo's." The Vatican announced earlier this week that the restoration had been completed after five years at a cost of $4.5 million.

The frescoes were commissioned by Pope Paul III and painted between 1542 and 1549, when Michelangelo was 75. They were his last works. The chapel, generally known by its Italian name Cappella Paolina, is used by the pope and is not open to the general public. It contains two Michelangelo frescoes, the other of which depicts the conversion of St. Paul.

Pope Benedict XVI will inaugurate the restored chapel with a prayer service Saturday.

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