Is the Laocoön by Michelangelo?

The Cupid scheme has made people wonder whether Michelangelo ever pulled off any more frauds. His biographers said he could imitate any style to perfection and that he used to love to fool people by making them believe a copy he had made of their statue was the original.

The Laocöon group, in the Vatican Museum, Rome

All Italy was crazy about antique art and antique things in general. If it was old, it just HAD to be good stuff. Even the artists bowed to Roman and Greek art. Now put yourself into the shoes of a young, maybe a hungry, sculptor. No one will buy your statue or pay much for it. But if they believe that that same statue is a real antique, they’ll pay a fortune. Do you have any ideas about how to make a ducat?

Now an American professor claims that Michelangelo forged no less than the famous Laocoön. This article appeared in the New York Times.

This entry was posted in art, great artists, Laocoön, Michelangelo, sculpture. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Is the Laocoön by Michelangelo?

  1. Nancy S. Diver-Gerd says:

    Do you believe this story? It would have been a rather stupid fraud! Imagine carving such a big thing in bronze and then say you did not do it! What the hell would he have done that for? And what about the expense? And was it possible to carve all that secretly, without anybody finding out what you were doing?

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  3. 100swallows says:

    I agree with you, Nancy: the story is hard to believe. Objections that occur to me off-hand are:
    One, in Michelangelo’s lifetime the idea of this fraud didn’t occur to any of his watchful enemies.
    Two, the statue wasn’t dug up until six or seven years after he allegedly carved it. If that was according to his plan, the Laocoön was a very long-range scheme for a starving artist. A potboiler is never such an ambitious work.
    Three, he would have had to cook up the plan with several other crooks, who would have had to keep their mouths shut for years.
    Four, Michelangelo himself would have been unable to brag about such an admired work. That would have been hard on him–very hard. When he heard some admirers of the Pietà ascribing it to another artist, he burned inside until he had written his name all across the Virgin in giant letters.
    By the way, Nancy, a bronze statue isn’t carved.

  4. Leroy says:

    I believe that it is possible that he did in fact sculpt this piece. As to his skill, he was easily capable of in. There is so much we don’t know about Michelangelo and his life. We look at his work, read letters and diaries of his contemporaries and think we know all about him. I am a sculptor, i have studied his work for many years and think that one should approach this with an open mind and to the idea that yes, he may well be the artist that did it.

  5. 100swallows says:

    Thanks, Leroy. See another post https://100swallows.wordpress.com/2008/05/25/was-michelangelo-crooked-part-4/ here on this subject. What would you say to some or any of these objections?

  6. tom says:

    FYI, he not only sculpted this but also sculpted the apollo belvedere..another sculpture of vague origins

    • 100swallows says:

      Tom: Is this allegation founded only on your suspicion? Have you read Michelangelo’s letters? I don’t mean someone’s selection but all 490-some of them. They show a conservative-thinking, responsible man, respectful of the popes, someone very careful of his reputation. Already with the first letter one sees that the author is not the untamed artist portrayed in stories (even Vasari’s) and movies. He is a respectful young man, not a braggart and a cheat. No one doubts that he was skillful enough to carve the Laocoon or the Apollo. But after getting to know him in his letters, you will think it inconceivable that he would try to hoodwink the Pope, or anyone else, with a statue.

  7. tom says:

    Best way to prove your merit as an artist is not to rest on your laurels but to allow the art to speak for itself. It would be very tough for an artist of that stature to get away from his name.

  8. Pingback: Laocoön | The Best Artists

  9. Greg says:

    There’s simply no way he did this.

    First of all, this isn’t even his style of artwork. This is, very much, a Hellanistic piece whereas Michelangelo was inspired by, and created, stoic classical pieces.

    Secondly, he had nothing to gain. Why would he create a masterpiece and then leave it in the ground for someone else to find and then never step forward? It makes absolutely no sense.

    Third, I don’t believe he even had the technical ability to make this. Not a single one of his verified pieces of artwork show a piece with as much vibrant, kinetic energy. If any single artist in the last thousand years hadhe ability to create in this style, it was only Bernini.

    Fourth, this sculpture has a record of existing as of nearly two-thousand years ago. It was both found where it was reported to have been and looked just as reported to look.

    Fifth, no amount of credible evidence is raised to suggest this argument has any credibility. The “summer lecturer” who came up with this theory believes that receipts are the key to believing Michelangelo was creating works of art that we don’t know about. The “scholar” is ignoring that Michelangelo rarely finished his work. Re man left incredible amounts of work unfinished and even destroyed others.

    So, there is sufficient reason to believe this is the original sculpture, absolutely no amount of evidence to believe Michelangelo had a motive to do this and it is questionable whether he had the ability to create this style of sculpture. It sounds like this “scholar” is trying to make a name for herself by proposing something inflammatory.

    • 100swallows says:

      Greg: Thanks. I agree with you. See this comment of mine in which I give a couple more reasons for rejecting the attribution to Michelangelo.

      100swallows
      Submitted on 2007/09/01 at 9:23 am

      I agree with you, Nancy: the story is hard to believe. Objections that occur to me off-hand are:
      One, in Michelangelo’s lifetime the idea of this fraud didn’t occur to any of his watchful enemies.
      Two, the statue wasn’t dug up until six or seven years after he allegedly carved it. If that was according to his plan, the Laocoön was a very long-range scheme for a starving artist. A potboiler is never such an ambitious work.
      Three, he would have had to cook up the plan with several other crooks, who would have had to keep their mouths shut for years.
      Four, Michelangelo himself would have been unable to brag about such an admired work. That would have been hard on him–very hard. When he heard some admirers of the Pietà ascribing it to another artist, he burned inside until he had written his name all across the Virgin in giant letters.
      By the way, Nancy, a bronze statue isn’t carved.

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