You might think that the labor supply of the dead is fairly inelastic. Well, it is not so simple as meets the eye:
These days, the icon of Renaissance art is Florence’s greatest single brand and the global Michelangelo market is booming. You might imagine that as the years go by, the chances of finding a long-lost Michelangelo would shrink. But no. As one expert has observed, as the price tag on the world’s greatest artists keeps soaring, so, miraculously, more hidden Michelangelo gems keep being discovered.
There is more:
According to Wallace, the rate at which Michelangelo finds are turning up – including documents, drawings, and even a candlestick – has gone from one every two years a century ago to two a year on average from 1996 onwards. In the past year, he observes, three finds have been attributed to Michelangelo, most recently a small wooden statue of Christ, which went on display at the Horne museum in Florence earlier this month.
Now here is the clincher:
Some of the most highly publicised finds have subsequently “been shot down in flames” as they fail to withstand the scrutiny of the world’s experts, says Timothy Clifford, Michelangelo expert and director of National Galleries of Scotland.
Here is the full story. Most Renaissance artists did a wide variety of anonymous small commissions, especially in their early years. So there probably are “unknown Michelangelos” out there; it is less clear that we will ever know what came from his hand.