This unfinished painting of Jesus and Mary could be a lost Michelangelo, potentially the art find of the century.
But to the upstate family on whose living-room wall it hung for years, it was just "The Mike."
When the kids knocked the painting off its perch with an errant tennis ball sometime in the mid-1970s, the Kober clan wrapped it up and tucked it away behind the sofa.
There it remained for 27 years, until Air Force Lt. Col. Martin Kober retired in 2003 and had some time on his hands. His father gave him a task -- research the family lore that the painting was really a Michelangelo.
"Now, with your newfound free time, do something with this!" Kober recalled his father telling him.
Kober, now 53, dug into the history of the painting, contacting auction houses, Renaissance art scholars, European archives, and even meeting museum directors in Italy. He found Antonio Forcellino, an Italian art restorer and historian and told him of the tennis ball, and something more horrifying.
"It wasn't the story that had scared me, but that it had been exposed to heating commonly found inside a middle-class home," Forcellino writes in his new book, "La Pieta Perduta," or "The Lost Pieta," published in Italy and due out in the United States next year.