After 450 years, Michelangelo's last works are set to shine again

The last works painted by Michelangelo, when he was in his seventies, are to be restored if the Holy See can find sponsors to put up the estimated €3m (£2m) cost. They are the twin frescoes in the Vatican's Pauline Chapel illustrating the conversion of Saul (later St Paul) and the crucifixion of St Peter.

The last works painted by Michelangelo, when he was in his seventies, are to be restored if the Holy See can find sponsors to put up the estimated €3m (£2m) cost. They are the twin frescoes in the Vatican's Pauline Chapel illustrating the conversion of Saul (later St Paul) and the crucifixion of St Peter.

Henry Thode, the great Michelangelo scholar, writing a century ago, said that the paintings had been badly preserved, damaged by smoke, restored and over-painted "to such an extent that the original character of the colouring has almost entirely vanished; the colours now produce a disagreeable, almost ugly effect."

According to Francesco Buranelli, director general of the Vatican museums, the work should start within the next couple of months and could take four years to complete. "It's a very important restoration from many points of view - technical, historical, artistic, cultural," he said. "So the Holy See will leave nothing to chance."

Detailed studies into what the restoration will involve are already far advanced.

The paintings were executed between 1545 and 1550. In The Conversion of Saul , God hurls a beam of buttery light from heaven, casting Saul to the ground.

In the Martyrdom of St Peter , the apostle, who asked to be crucified upside down as he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same position as Jesus, looks round boldly at the miserable crowd attending the event. A tall, grief-wracked figure in the corner is believed to represent the artist.

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