This painting of Jesus and Mary might be a lost, unfinished Michelangelo. So it's odd that it's spent the last few decades bundled up behind the couch in the Buffalo, New York home of the Kober family.
This pietà—a standard subject depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Christ—is another version of this drawing, drafted by Michelangelo for his friend, the poet Vittoria Colonna:
According to Martin Kober, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who researched the painting for his family, the Kobers appear to have come into possession of their painting in the 19th century, when Kober's great-grandfather was given the painting by his sister-in-law, a lady-in-waiting for a German baroness. It hung on the wall in their Buffalo home until it was hit by a tennis ball in the 1970s, at which point it was taken down and placed behind in the couch. (Interestingly, the painting may have been more damaged by the home's heating system than by the tennis ball.)
Infrared and X-ray examinations of the painting show alterations that help demonstrate its authenticity, says art restorer Antonio Forcellino, who helped Kober with his research and wrote a book about the painting. Forcellino says this painting, like the drawing above, was a gift to Colonna, and that there's documentation to help support that assertion.
Of course, there's no way to prove, definitively, that Michelangelo is the painting's author. But if enough scholars agree that he is, well—the Kobers are going to be very rich.