Is it a Michelangelo? Done when he was a teen?

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The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth has acquired what some scholars now say is the first known painting made by Michelangelo. And if he created it, he did so when he was only 12 or 13.

This latest research holds that Michelangelo painted “The Torment of St. Anthony” between 1487 and 1488. That would make it one of only four known easel paintings by Michelangelo — another is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and two unfinished ones are in the National Gallery of Art in London — and the first to enter an American museum.

The painting’s attribution has been the subject of ferocious debate among scholars for four and a half centuries. While experts, citing historical records, agreed that Michelangelo had made a painting of the saint, the question was, Is it this work?

But “The Torment of St. Anthony” — an oil and tempera on a wood panel, depicting the saint poised in midair and beaten by demons — has recently undergone conservation and technical research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Keith Christiansen, a curator of European painting there, said he firmly believed that it was by the hand of the master.

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