Michelangelo's other 'Pietà'

For 500 years, the works of Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo have drawn visitors to far-off locales such as Florence and Rome, hoping to get a glimpse of such masterpieces as his “David” and the Sistine Chapel ceiling.  

But if a news report worthy of its own episode of the PBS program “Antiques Roadshow” is accurate, a man living near Niagara Falls, N.Y., had just needed to look behind his couch to see one of the genius’ creations — an oil painting on wood depicting the Virgin Mary holding Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. 

Apparently the painting had been given to a relative in the 19th century, and Martin Kober and his family eventually inherited the piece, affectionately calling it “The Mike.”  

It hung on the wall until it was hit by a tennis ball some time in the mid-1970s. That’s when family wrapped up the painting and put it behind their couch for safekeeping.  

Seven years ago, Kober, who is a retired Air Force colonel, started doing some research on the painting, and contacted Italian art historian Antonio Forcellino in the process. 

Forcellino just has published a book in Italy about the painting, “La Pietà Perduta” (“The Lost Pieta”), which claims the painting is authentic. (According to The New York Post, the book will be released in the United States next year.) 

“The evidence of unfinished portions demonstrate that this painting never, never, never could be a copy of another painting,” he wrote. 

If verified, the painting would be worth a bundle — as much as $300 million, according to some reports. But for those who admire Michelangelo’s other masterpieces on religious themes, including the “Pietà” sculpture in St. Peter’s Basilica and the “Doni Tondo” depicting the Holy Family in loving embrace in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, the opportunity to admire another of his renderings of Mary’s maternal love for her son is priceless.

A return of the papa tiara?

Images of a new papal coat-of-arms, which debuted at Pope Benedict XVI’s Angelus address Oct. 10, caught people’s attention thanks to one change in particular — the replacement of the bishop’s mitre with a papal tiara. 

The tiara, which fell out of use during the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, symbolizes the threefold rule of the pontiff — his universal episcopate, his supremacy of jurisdiction and his temporal influence, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. 

As Rome Reports pointed out Oct. 12, the tiara has been present in all papal crests of the past century. Which version of the coat-of-arms the pope uses will depend on the type of ceremony.

British cat gets papal audience

It turns out that Pope Benedict XVI won over not only Brits of the two-legged kind during last month’s papal journey to the United Kingdom. 

According to news reports, Pushkin, a black cat who lives at the Birmingham Oratory with his owner, insisted on having an audience during the pope’s visit to the oratory. 

“As soon as the pope arrived the most terrible howling could be heard,” Father Anton Guziel, Pushkin’s owner, told the Daily Telegraph of London. “There was an awesome presence there, and Pushkin wanted to acquaint himself with it.” 

Pushkin, who also is an acquaintance of Princess Michael of Kent is now getting fan mail. Of course, he is not the first cat to be made famous by an association with Pope Benedict, who is known to have a fondness for felines. Chico, a ginger tabby who lives next door to the pontiff’s residence in Germany, was immortalized in the 2007 children’s book “Joseph and Chico: A Cat Recounts the Life of Pope Benedict XVI.”