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Fresco of blond Jesus uncovered in Rome church

A 14th century fresco depicting the head of Christ has been uncovered in Rome during the restoration of Michelangelo's sculpted figure of Moses.

Scholars said that they found the mural during the cleaning of a plaster wall behind the figure of Moses in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, near the Colosseum. Much of the fresco, measuring 70cm by 50cm, had been irretrievably lost, but the face of Christ had survived.

They said that it had been painted by a talented and refined artist who had given Jesus "eyes of piercing intensity". Christ was shown with long hair and a beard that were almost blond, in contrast to the darker colouring that most painters of the time depicted.

Restorers said that they had made the discovery shortly before Easter but had kept it secret until now.

"It seemed to emerge like a miracle," one said. "I was transfixed. I just stood there and made the sign of the cross."

Raffaele Viola, the chief restorer, said that the fresco seemed to date from the latter half of the 14th century. This was poignant, as the Popes had moved to Avignon at that time, so that the unknown master was working in a semi-abandoned Rome. The papacy moved because of political turmoil in Rome and central Italy and remained in Avignon from 1305 to 1417.

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The Times (London)

15 Apr 2002