More than three-quarters of a century after it was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War, and after 18 years of restoration, a statue attributed to Michelangelo is set to make its return to the small Andalusian town of Ubeda.
The statue, known as Saint John the Baptist Child and depicting him as a young boy – and dubbed “San Juanito” locally – was smashed by anti-clerical rioters in August 1936 and only 17 fragments were found.
It might be thought that a small Andalusian town is not the most likely location for Michelangelo. But Ubeda, dubbed the Renaissance capital of Andalusia and a Unesco World Heritage site, contains a huge number of churches, palaces and aristocratic houses from that era. The statue was brought to the town by locally-born Francisco de los Cobos, secretary to Emperor Charles I.
The 17 fragments, 40 per cent of the original – for years locals would joke the head was to be found in a local garage – were sent to conservation specialists in Florence, the Opficio delle Pietre Dure, in 1995. And after nearly two decades of complex work, the 130cm-high (4ft 3in) San Juanito is reported to be all but ready to be exhibited, first in Florence in June, before returning to Ubeda.