The authorship of the panel the Entombment has long been debated by critics, ever since the attribution to Michelangelo was first proposed, around the middle of the 19th century. It is one of the very few paintings by Buonarroti that is not a fresco: the artist distinctly preferred the medium of sculpture to that of painting. Like the so-called Manchester Madonna (also in the National Gallery of London), the Entombment was executed in Rome, in the same years in which Michelangelo started famous painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The picture was never finished, and several parts are missing, like the figure on the right or the arm of the woman kneeling on the left. Comparison of the completed sections with such an undisputed masterpiece as the Doni Tondo has led to the recognition, in the drawing of the figures as well as the choice of colors, of Michelangelo's authorship. The sculptural contraposition of Joseph of Arimathea, on the left, putting his weight on his bent leg and turning his head on its massive neck to the other side, is typically Michelangelesque and reminiscent of the powerful torsions of the figures in the Sistine Chapel, while the old man supporting Christ echoes the St. Joseph in the Doni Tondo.
The beautiful anatomical study of Jesus's lifeless body, just lowered from the cross and held upright by the bands, is a theme that was to hold the interest of Michelangelo the sculptor right up until his very last work, also left unfinished, the Rondanini Pieta.