Tue., October 12, 2010 10:14am (EDT)

A Michelangelo Behind the Couch?
By JJ Sutherland
Updated: 4 years ago

Loose change, sure, but a painting worth as much as 300 million dollars? That's just insane, or some couch.

Martin Kober and his family called it "The Mike" because of a family legend it was actually a Michelangelo. It hung on the wall for a while, then 27 years ago it was knocked down by a stray tennis ball, so they wrapped it in bubble wrap and stashed it behind the couch.

In 2003, Kober retired and decided to spend his free time looking into the history of the painting. He looked through books, talked to archivists and auction houses, and eventually got in touch with Antonio Forcellino, an Italian art historian and restorer.

From the Telegraph:

In his book "The Lost Pieta," Mr Forcellino said: "I had assumed it was going to be a copy. In reality this painting was even more beautiful than the versions hanging in Rome and Florence. The truth was this painting was much better than the ones they had."

Mr Forcellino claims that infrared and X-ray examinations showed changes made by the artist and an unfinished area of canvas close to the Madonna's right knee.

He said: "The evidence of unfinished portions demonstrate that this painting never, never, never could be a copy of another painting.

"No patron pays in the Renaissance for an unfinished copy. I'm absolutely convinced that is a Michelangelo painting."

The painting ended up behind the Kober couch because it was willed to a lady-in-waiting to a German in the 19th century. That lady-in-waiting was the sister-in-law of Kober's great grandfather. [Copyright 2010 National Public Radio]