Page last updated at 18:04 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 19:04 UK

Inquiry over 'Michelangelo' work

By Duncan Kennedy,
BBC News, Rome

The Italian art world is deeply divided over the statue

An official inquiry has been started in Italy to determine whether a statue attributed to Michelangelo was really made by him.

The wooden statue of Christ on the Cross was bought by the Italian government for millions of dollars.

The authorities made their move after a number of experts declared that the statue was genuine.

But the statue is at the centre of a long-running dispute, with some experts insisting it is not a Michelangelo.

The row has been raging in Italy's art world for months.

It is all over a 40 cm-high wooden statue depicting Christ on the Cross, although the cross itself is now missing.

'Typical work'

The Italian government paid around $4.5m (3.2m euros; £2.8m) for the statue after a number of Renaissance art specialists attributed it to Michelangelo - including the director of the state museums in Florence where Michelangelo worked.

They said that the anatomy of the body was typical of works by the artist.

But other experts say the detail is not very high quality and there is no documentation to link it to Michelangelo.

Now the Audit Court of Rome has opened an inquiry to find out if the government's money has been spent wisely.

The Ministry of Culture told one newspaper here that it was shocked there would now be such an investigation.

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