The sculptural group of Laoco÷n and his sons is considered to be one of the most famous and influential representatives of antiquity to survive. Described by Pliny the Elder as superior to all works, it was discovered in 1506 in a vineyard in Rome and authenticated at the site by none other than Michelangelo Buonarroti. It was immediately acquired by Pope Julius II who installed it in the Cortile Belvedere of the Vatican, where it has been ever since. Although scholars have long sought to determine the precise origin of the Laoco÷n-- whether it is a Greek original or a Roman copy, and to fix its date of manufacture somewhere between the mid-third century BCE and the second century CE! -- no one has ever questioned its authenticity. A reevaluation of the Laoco÷n and the circumstances of its "discovery" together with startling new evidence lead to the conclusion that the statue is actually a modern forgery by Michelangelo.
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