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The Painting He Kept Behind His Sofa Could Be Worth $300 Million

Martin Kober doesn't know much about art, but he knows what he likes. And a painting from his childhood home that could be worth $300 million suits his tastes perfectly.

Kober with his painting.AP

The masterpiece is called "the Mike" by Kober's family but the Ragusa Pieta or the "Lost Michelangelo" by the art world, where the discovery has kicked off a fiery debate about whether or not it's real - and it all hinges on one small detail.

A close-up of "the Mike."AP

Since Kober was a little boy growing up in Rochester, New York "the Mike" was been hanging over his family's mantel. The painting shows a dying Jesus being held up by cherubs in front of the Virgin Mary, and it's supposedly painted by Michelangelo himself.

The frescoes of the Sistene Chapel, Michelangelo's most famous creation.Wikimedia

Before Kober's family realized what it could be worth the painting suffered a lot of abuse, including being stuffed behind a sofa and knocked off the wall twice: once while dusting it and once when it was hit by a tennis ball.

Despite the rough treatment the painting is in good shape after being restored (and stored safely in a vault) and could make Kober a bundle. But there's one detail that has experts convinced the painting is a fake.

Find out what the experts are arguing about on the next page!

Kober works as a pilot, but he's still a nobody in the art world, where he's struggle to prove the "lost Michelangelo" is genuine.

Jacopino del Conte's portrait of Michelangelo.Thought Co.

It's well-known that Michelangelo did early sketches for this painting in the 1500s, and experts who studied the brush strokes say it seems like an original piece. But others are convinced that Michelangelo - who was 70 around the time "the Mike" was painted - was too busy to make the "lost" painting.

Was the master artist too busy with other jobs to make this painting?EFE

Michelangelo is most famous for his work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and after he finished that job he quickly moved on and painted another church fresco. Whether the master painter made time for one extra painting during his busy schedule is up for debate.

It took the painter 4 years to finish his masterpiece.The Non-Smoking Ladybug

But how did the masterpiece make its way to upstate New York? What happened before 1883 is a mystery, but by then it was owned by a German baroness who shipped the painting to America with her servant, Kober's great-great-grandfather's sister-in-law.

The fight to prove that "the Mike" is real continues, but one Italian expert is confident Kober will win. "This painting can be poked and prodded all over again if that’s what it takes," he says "but the results will be the same. It’s a Michelangelo!"

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