A sculpture by Michelangelo, which has been seen by “three people and a dog”, is expected to attract thousands more – as one of the star attractions of a redeveloped Royal Academy.
The Royal Academy Of Arts, in London, has undergone a huge transformation by architect Sir David Chipperfield as part of is 250th anniversary year.
One of the sculptures on display in the permanent galleries is Michelangelo’s the Taddei Tondo, a marble carving of the baby Jesus, Mary and the young St John the Baptist.
The work is considered to be one of the “greatest works of sculpture in the UK”.
Royal Academy president Christopher Le Brun joked that the sculpture, until now, had been visited by “three people and a dog”.
“We own the Taddei Tondo by Michelangelo which formerly has been seen rather modestly and quietly, visited by three people and a dog.
“I hope it will now be seen by many thousands of people because it is one of the greatest sculptures in this country,” he added.
Royal Academy chief executive Charles Saumarez Smith said that the work had been on display in a private space before it was placed in public galleries, but not in the right place.
He said that the new redevelopment would put the Royal Academy, famous for its Summer Exhibition, on the “tourist map” – partly thanks to works by artists like Michelangelo.
“It’s one of the great Michelangelos … I certainly would like to think that this building would give us at least another 500,000 (visitors) a year,” he said.
“If you have a Michelangelo on display permanently, people come to see a Michelangelo and everything else at the same time.”
The redevelopment, which includes a bridge linking two buildings and creating a new route between Piccadilly and Mayfair, has been funded with a £12.7 million grant from the National Lottery.
An auditorium includes seats sponsored by the likes of artist Tracey Emin and former chancellor George Osborne.
The Academy opens its new buildings to the public on Saturday.