Augusta Stylianou Gallery
Michael Angelo Buonarroti
By Charles Holroyd,
Keeper of the National Gallery of British Art, with Translations of the Life of the Master by His Scholar, Ascanio Condivi, and Three Dialogues from the Portuguese by Francisco d'Ollanda
Duckworth and Company
Charles Scribner's Sons
From an early proof of the engraving by
Of all the many lives of Michael Angelo that have been written, that by his friend and pupil, Ascanio Condivi, is the most valuable. For not only is it a contemporary record, like the lives inserted by Giorgio Vasari in the two editions of his famous book, "The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects," published in Florence in 1550 and 1568; but Condivi's work has almost the authority of an autobiography, many phrases are in the same words, as certain letters in the hand of Michael Angelo still in existence, especially those relating to the early life and the ancestry of the master, to his favourite nephew Lionardo, and concerning the whole story of the Tragedy of the Tomb to Francesco Fattucci and others.
Condivi's description of his master's personal appearance is so detailed that we can see him with his sculptor's callipers measuring the head of his dear master, and gazing earnestly into his eyes, recording the colours of their scintillations, with the patience of a painter.
[pg vi]Vasari's account has been translated more than once, but Condivi's never, at least never completely. Extracts have been given, and it has been the main resource of every writer on the master; but the faithful and reverent character of the whole work can only be given in a complete translation, its transparent honesty, and its loving devotion. Even had the subject of this naif and unscholarly narrative been an ordinary man in an ordinary period, it would have been worth translating for its truth to life and human nature, much more, therefore, when it is about the greatest craftsman of the Cinque Cento.
Condivi published his "Vita di Michael Angelo Buonarroti" on July 16, 1553; probably incited thereto by the master himself, who desired to correct certain misstatements of his excellent friend, Giorgio Vasari, without hurting that worthy's feelings. Nevertheless, we gather from what Vasari says in his second edition that he somewhat resented the appearance of this new biographer. Perhaps this coloured his unflattering account of Condivi as an artist, when describing Michael Angelo's scholars: "Ascanio della Ripa took great pains, but no results have been seen, whether in designs or finished works. He spent several years over a picture for which Michael Angelo had given him the cartoon, and, at a word, the hopes conceived of him have vanished in smoke." What a good thing it would have been for Vasari's reputation if his art work had vanished in smoke, too, and only his biographies [pg vii]remained. Condivi lives, as he said he wished to live, in the dedication of his work to Pope Julius III., with the name of being a faithful servant and disciple of Michael Angelo.
A second edition of the "Vita di Michael Angelo," by Ascanio Condivi, was published at Florence in 1746. The introduction informs us that Condivi was born at Ripa Transona, and that he outlived his master ten years, dying on February 17, 1563 (1564), aged nearly eighty-nine years.
The second part of this book may be regarded as an appendix1 to Condivi. It is a supplementary account of the existing works of the master, and details of their fashioning that may help us to realise the mystery of their production, from contemporary documents: letters, contracts, and the life by Vasari, with some few explanations that will not interest the learned, but may help young students of the works of the great master. Londoners have peculiar facilities for this study. The bas-relief in the Diploma Gallery of the Royal Academy, the drawings in the British Museum, and the unfinished and altered picture at the National Gallery, are an excellent foundation from which to study the casts at Kensington and in the Crystal Palace (the latter are unique in this country, but, alas! in a poor state now). Students of to-day have one immense [pg viii]advantage over those of former times in the magnificent series of photographs that have been issued, especially those of the vault of the Sistine Chapel, which may almost be said never to have been so well seen before.
Since this book went to press, the author has seen an antique intaglio, No. 210 in the Estense Collection at Modena, which he is informed came from Ferrara in 1598, representing a Leda. This confirms the view expressed in the note on page 61, as to the genesis of the Leda by Michael Angelo, for it is exactly similar in composition.
The author desires to express his gratitude to many friends for valuable advice and assistance, especially to his wife for help in the translations, and to Mr. S. Arthur Strong for kindly looking over the proofs, and other aid; to the Earl of Leicester, of Holkham, for permission to photograph and reproduce the Cartoon at Holkham Hall; to the trustees of the British Museum and Mr. Sidney Colvin for facilities to reproduce two engravings in the Print Room; to the Signori Fratelli Alinari, Signor Anderson, Mm. Braun et Cie., and Signor Brogi, for kindly allowing their photographs to be used in making the illustrations.
THE LIFE OF MICHAEL ANGELO BUONARROTI,
THE RAPE OF DEIANIRA, OR THE BATTLE OF THE CENTAURS AND THE ANGEL OF THE SHRINE OF SAINT DOMINIC
Michael Angelo Buonarroti, the unique painter and sculptor, was descended from the Counts of Canossa, a noble and illustrious family of the land of Reggio, both on account of their own worth and antiquity, and because they had Imperial blood in their veins.2 For Beatrice, sister of Enrico II., was given in marriage to Count Bonifazio of Canossa, then Signor of Mantua; the Countess Matilda was their daughter, a lady of rare and singular prudence and piety; who, after the death of her husband Gottifredo, held in Italy (besides Mantua) Lucca, Parma, Reggio, and part of Tuscany, which to-day is called the Patrimonio of San Pietro; and, having in her lifetime done many things worthy of memory, died and was buried in the Badia of San Benedetto, beyond the walls of Mantua, which abbey she had built, and largely endowed.
[pg 4]II. Messer Simone then, of this family, coming to Florence as Podestà3 in the year 1250, was deemed worthy of being made a citizen, and head of a sesitiere or sixth part of the town, for into so many wards was the township divided at that time; to-day the wards are quartieri or fourth parts. The Guelph party were in power in Florence, and he, from Ghibelline that he was, became Guelph, because of the many benefits he received from that faction, changing the colour of his coat-of-arms, which originally was gules, a dog rampant with a bone in his mouth, argent—to azure, a dog or; and the Signoria afterwards granted him five lilies, gules, in a Rastrello, and at the same time the crest with two horns of a bull, the one or, and the other azure, as may be seen to this day painted on their ancient shields; the old arms of Messer Simone may be seen in the palace of the Podestà, carved in marble by his orders, according to the custom of those who held that office.
III. The reason why the family in Florence changed their name from Canossa to de'Buonarroti was because the name Buonarroto was usual in their house from age to age, almost always, down to the time of Michael Angelo himself, who had a brother called Buonarroto, and many of these Buonarroti being of the Signori, that is of the supreme magistracy of the Republic; the said brother especially, who was of that body at the time when Pope Leo was in Florence, as may be seen in the annals of the city; this name held by so many of them became a surname for the whole family, the more easily as it is the [pg 5]custom of Florence in the lists of voters and other nomination papers, after the proper name of the citizen, to add that of his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather, and even of those further removed. Therefore, from the many Buonarroti thus continued, and from that Simone who was the first of the family to settle in Florence, and who was of the House of Canossa, they became Buonarroti Simoni, for so they are called at this day. Lastly, Pope Leo X. being at Florence, besides many other privileges, gave to this family the right to bear on their coat the palla or ball, azure, of the arms of the House of Medici, with three lilies, or
IV. Of such family, then, was Michael Angelo born; his father's name was Lodovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni, a good and religious man, somewhat old-fashioned. Michael Angelo was born to him whilst he was Podestà of Chiusi and Caprese4 in the Casentino, in the year of our salvation 1474,5 on the sixth day of March, four hours before daylight on a Monday. A fine nativity truly, which showed how great the child would be and of how noble a genius; for the planet Mercury with Venus in seconda being received into the house of Jupiter with benign [pg 6]aspect, promised what afterwards followed, that the birth should be of a noble and high genius, able to succeed in every undertaking, but principally in those arts that delight the senses, such as painting, sculpture, and architecture. Having completed his term of office, the father returned to Florence and put the child out to nurse in the village of Settignano, three miles from the city, where he had a property, which was one of the first places in that country bought by Messer Simone da Canossa. The nurse was a daughter of a stone-carver and the wife of a stone-carver, so Michael Angelo used to say jestingly, but perhaps in earnest too, that it was no wonder he delighted in the use of the chisel, knowing that the milk of the foster-mother has such power in us that often it will change the disposition, one bent being thus altered to another of a very different nature.
V. The child grew and came to be of a reasonable age. His father, noticing his ability, desired that he should devote himself to letters; he therefore sent him to the school of a certain Maestro Francesco da Urbino, who in those days taught grammar in Florence;6 but although Michael Angelo made progress in these studies, still the heavens and his nature, both difficult to withstand, drew him towards the study of painting, so that he could not resist, whenever he could steal the time, drawing now here, now there, and seeking the company of painters. Amongst [pg 7]his familiar friends was Francesco Granacci, a scholar of Domenico del Grillandaio,7 who, seeing the ardent longing and burning desire of the child, determined to aid him, and continually exhorted him to the study of art, now lending him drawings and now taking him with him to the workshops of his master when some works were going forward from which he might learn. These sights moved Michael Angelo so powerfully, following as they did his nature, which never ceased to urge him, that he altogether abandoned letters. So that his father and his uncles, who held the art in contempt, were much displeased, and often beat him severely for it: they were so ignorant of the excellence and nobility of art that they thought shame to have her in the house. This, however much he disliked it, was not enough to turn him back, but, on the contrary, made him more bold: he wished to begin to colour, and he borrowed a print from Granacci which represented the story of St. Antony when he was beaten by devils. The engraver was a certain Martino d'Olanda,8 a brave artist for that time. Michael Angelo painted it on a panel of wood, Granacci lending him colours and brushes, in such a manner that not only did it raise the admiration of every one who saw it, but also envy, as some will have it, even in Domenico, the most famous painter of the day; as may be seen by what happened afterwards. Domenico used to say that the painting came from his own workshop in order to make it appear less wonderful. In this little picture, besides the figure of the Saint, there were many strange forms and monstrosities in the demons; these Michael Angelo executed with so much care that no [pg 8]part of them was coloured without reference to the natural object from which it had been derived. For that purpose he frequented the fish-market and observed the forms and tints of the scales and fins of fish and the colours of their eyes and all their other parts, copying them in his picture, which much conduced to the perfection of that work, exciting the wonder of the world, and, as I have said, some envy in Grillandaio; this was much more seen one day when Michael Angelo asked to see his book of drawings in which were represented shepherds with their flocks and dogs, landscapes, buildings, ruins, and such like things. Domenico would not lend it to him—indeed, he had the reputation of being a little envious: for not only was he hardly courteous to Michael Angelo, but even to his own brother, when he saw that he was progressing rapidly and having great hopes of himself: he sent him into France, not so much that it might be to his advantage, as some say, but that he himself might remain the first artist in Florence. The reason I have mentioned this is because I have heard it said that the son of Domenico attributes the excellence and divinity of Michael Angelo in great part to the training he received from his father: he received absolutely no assistance from him;9 nevertheless, [pg 9]Michael Angelo does not complain of it, nay, even praises Domenico both for his art and his manners. But this is a slight digression; let us return to our story.
VI. Possibly not less wonderful was another labour of Michael Angelo's done at this time, perhaps as a jest. Some one lent him a drawing of a head to copy; he returned his copy to the owner instead of the original and the deception was not noticed, but the boy talking and laughing about it with one of his companions it was found out. Many people compared the two and found no difference in them, for besides the perfection of the drawing, Michael Angelo had smoked the paper to make it appear of the same age as the original. This brought him a great reputation.10
VII. Now drawing one thing and now another, the boy had no fixed plan or method of study. It happened one day that Granacci took him to the gardens of the Medici at San Marco. In this garden the Magnificent [pg 10]Lorenzo, father of Pope Leo, a man renowned for every excellence, had disposed many antique statues and decorative sculptures. Michael Angelo, seeing these things and appreciating the beauty of them, never afterwards went to the workshop of Domenico, but spent every day at the gardens, as in a better school, always working at something or other. Amongst the rest, he studied one day the head of a Faun, in appearance very old, with a long beard and a laughing face, although the mouth could hardly be seen because of the injuries of time. As if knowing what would be, or because he liked the style of it, he determined to copy it in marble. The Magnificent Lorenzo was having some marble worked and dressed in that place to ornament the most noble library that he and his ancestors had gathered together from all parts of the world. (These works, suspended on account of the death of Lorenzo and other accidents, were, after many years, carried on by Pope Clement, but even then they were left unfinished, so that the books are still packed in chests.) Now these marbles being worked, as I said, Michael Angelo begged a piece from the masons and borrowed a chisel from them: with so much diligence and intelligence did he copy that Faun that in a few days it was carried to perfection, his imagination supplying all that was missing in the antique, such as the lips, open, as in a man who is laughing, so that the hollow of the mouth was seen with all the teeth. At this moment passed the Magnificent to see how his works progressed; he found the child, who was busy polishing the head. He spoke to him at once, noticing in the first place the beauty of the work, and having regard to the lad's youth he marvelled exceedingly, and although he praised the workmanship [pg 11]he none the less joked with him as with a child, saying: "Oh! you have made this Faun very old, and yet have left him all his teeth: do you not know that old men of that age always lack some of them?" It seemed a thousand years to Michael Angelo before the Magnificent went away and he remained alone to correct his error. He cut away a tooth from the upper jaw, drilling a hole in the gums as though it had come out by the roots.11 He awaited the return of the Magnificent upon another day with great longing. At last he came. Seeing the willingness and single-mindedness of the child he laughed very much, but afterwards appreciating the beauty of the thing and the boy's youth, as father of all talent he thought to bestow his favour upon such a genius and take him into his house, and hearing from him whose son he was, he said: "Let your father know that I desire to speak with him."
VIII. When he got home Michael Angelo carried out the embassy of the Magnificent; his father divining why he was called, with great persuasion from Granacci and others made ready to go: lamenting to himself that his son would be taken away. Stating, moreover, that he would never suffer his son to be a stonemason, it was useless for Granacci to explain how great was the difference between a sculptor and a mason. After all this long [pg 12]disputation he ultimately was ushered into the presence of the Magnificent, who asked him if he would deliver his son over to his care, for he would not neglect him; "Even so," he replied, "not only Michael Angelo, but all of us, with our lives and all our best faculties, are at the service of your Magnificence." And when the Magnificent asked what he could do for himself, he replied: "I have never practised any profession; but have always lived upon my small income and attended to the small property left to me by my ancestors; trying not only to keep it up properly, but also endeavouring to increase it as far as I may with my powers and by my diligence." The Magnificent then replied: "Very well, look about you, see if there is not something in Florence that will suit you; make use of me; I will do the best I can for you." And so dismissing the old man, he gave Michael Angelo a good room in his own house with all that he needed,12 treating him like a son, with a seat at his table, which was frequented every day by noblemen and men of great affairs. Now they had a custom that those who were present at the beginning of a meal should take their places next to the Magnificent according to their rank, and should not change them, no matter who came in afterwards; so that often Michael Angelo was seated even above the sons of Lorenzo and other persons of quality; for in that house noble persons abounded: by all of them Michael Angelo was caressed and [pg 13]incited to his honourable work; but above all by the Magnificent, who would often call for him many times in the day to show him engraved gems,13 cornelians, medals, and such like things of great price, seeing that he had genius and good judgment.
IX. Michael Angelo was between fifteen and sixteen years of age when he entered the house of the Magnificent, and he stayed with him until his death, which was in ninety-two,14 a space of two years. During that time an office in the customs fell vacant which could only be held by a Florentine citizen; so Lodovico, the father of Michael Angelo, came to the Magnificent and spoke for it: "Lorenzo, I can do nothing but read and write; the comrade of Marco Pucci in the Dogana is dead. I should like to have his place. I believe I shall be able to carry out the duties properly." The Magnificent put his hand upon his shoulder and, smiling, said: "You will always be poor," for he expected that he would ask for some great thing. However, he continued, "If you will be the comrade of Marco, be it so, till something better turns up." This place brought him eight scudi15 the month, a little more or a little less.
X. In the meantime Michael Angelo prosecuted his studies, showing the result of his labours to the Magnificent each day. In the same house lived Poliziano, a man, [pg 14]as every one knows, and as is testified by his works, most learned and witty. This man recognising the lofty spirit of Michael Angelo loved him exceedingly, and little as he needed it, spurred him on in his studies, always explaining things to him and giving him subjects. One day, amongst others, he suggested "The Rape of Deianira" and "The Battle of the Centaurs," telling him in detail the whole of the story. Michael Angelo set himself to carve it out in marble in mezzo-rilievo, and so well did he succeed, that I remember to have heard him say that when he saw it again he recognised how much wrong he had done to his nature in not following promptly the art of sculpture, judging by that work how well he might have succeeded, nor does he say this boastingly, he was a most modest man, but because he truly laments having been so unfortunate that by the fault of others he has sometimes been ten or twelve years doing nothing, as will be seen presently. This particular work may still be seen in Florence in his house; the figures are about two palms high.16 He had hardly finished this work when the Magnificent Lorenzo passed out of this life, and Michael Angelo returned to his father's house. So much grief did he feel for his patron's death that for many days he was unable to work. When he was himself again he bought a large piece of marble, that had for many years been exposed to the wind and rain, and carved a Hercules out of it, four braccia high, that was ultimately sent into France.17
[pg 15]XI. Whilst he was working at this statue there was a great snowstorm in Florence, and Pier de' Medici, the eldest son of Lorenzo, who occupied the same position as his father, wished childishly to have a statue of snow made in the middle of the court-yard, so he remembered Michael Angelo, and had him found and made him carve the statue.18 He desired him to live in his house as he had done in his father's time, and gave him the same apartment and a place at the table as before; where the same customs obtained as when the father was living, that is, that after they had sat down at the beginning of a meal no one should change his place however great might be the personage who came in afterwards.
XII. Lodovico, the father of Michael Angelo, now became more friendly to his son, seeing that he was almost always in the society of great personages, and he dressed him in finer clothes. The youth lived with Piero some months and was much caressed by him. Piero used to say, boastingly, that he had two remarkable men in his establishment: one was Michael Angelo, and the other a certain Spanish groom who, besides being marvellously beautiful to look upon, was so nimble and strong and so long-winded that, let Piero ride as fast [pg 16]as he could, he was not able to pass the runner by a finger.
XIII. At this time, Michael Angelo, to please the Prior of Santo Spirito, a church much venerated in Florence, carved a crucifix in wood, a little under life size, which to this day may be seen over the high altar of that church.19 He had much familiar intercourse with the Prior, and received many kindnesses from him, amongst others the use of a room and subjects to enable him to study anatomy. Nothing could have given him more pleasure, and this was the beginning of his study of the science of anatomy, which he followed until fortune had made him a master of it.20
XIV. There was living in the house of Piero a certain man named Cardiere, who had been very acceptable to the Magnifico, he improvised songs to the lyre most marvellously; in fact, he made a profession of it, and practised his art nearly every evening after supper. This man was friendly with Michael Angelo and imparted to him a vision, which was this: That Lorenzo de' Medici had [pg 17]appeared to him with nothing but a black cloak, all torn, over his naked body, and had commanded him to speak to his son, and tell him that shortly he would be hunted out of his house and never return to it again. Piero de' Medici was so proud and insolent that neither the generosity of his brother, Giovanni the Cardinal, nor the courtesy and kindness of Giuliano, were so powerful to keep him in Florence as those vices were to hunt him out. Michael Angelo exhorted Cardiere to inform Piero of the vision and carry out the will of Lorenzo, but he, fearing Piero's nature, kept all to himself. One other morning Michael Angelo was in the court-yard of the Palace, and beheld Cardiere all terrified and weeping: that night, he said, Lorenzo had appeared to him again in the same form as at first, and looking him through and through had given him a terrible box on the ears, because he had not reported what he had seen to Piero. Michael Angelo scolded him to such purpose that Cardiere plucked up his spirit and set out on foot for Careggi, a country house of the Medici, about three miles from the city, where his master was staying. But when he was half-way there he met Piero on the road returning home to Florence; Cardiere stopped him and told him all he had seen and heard. Piero only laughed at him, and made even his grooms jeer at him. The Chancellor, who was afterwards the Cardinal Bibbiena, said to him: "You must be mad! Do you think Lorenzo would rather appear to you or to his own son? Would he not rather appear to him than to any one else?" They ridiculed him and let him go. He went home and bemoaned himself to Michael Angelo, and he spoke so effectually of the vision, holding that the thing was true, that two days afterwards with two [pg 18]companions they left Florence together for Bologna, and from there went to Venice, fearful lest that which Cardiere prophesied should come to pass, and Florence not be safe for them!
XV. In a few days lack of funds (his companions having spent all his money) made Michael Angelo think of returning to Florence; but coming to Bologna a curious chance hindered them. Now there was a law in that land in the time of Messer Giovanni Bentivogli that every stranger who entered into Bologna should be obliged to have a great seal of red wax impressed upon his nail. Michael Angelo inadvertently entered without being sealed, so he was conducted, together with his companions, to the office of the Bullette, and condemned to pay a fine of fifty Bolognese lire: not having the wherewithal he was obliged to remain at the office. A certain Bolognese gentleman, Messer Gian Francesco Aldovrandi, who was then of the Sixteen, seeing him there, and hearing the reason, liberated him, chiefly because he was a sculptor. Aldovrandi invited the sculptor to his house. Michael Angelo thanked him, but excused himself because he had two companions with him who would not leave him, and he would not burden the gentleman with their company. To this the gentleman replied: "I, too, will come and wander over the world with you, if you will pay my expenses." With these and other words he prevailed over Michael Angelo, who excused himself to his companions and took leave of them, gave them what little money he had, and went to lodge with the gentleman.
XVI. By this time the House of the Medici, with all [pg 19]their followers, having been hunted out of Florence, came to Bologna and were lodged in the House of the Rossi. Thus the vision of Cardiere, whether a delusion of the devil, a divine warning, or a strong imagination that had taken hold of him, was verified; a thing so truly remarkable that it is worthy of being recorded. I have narrated it just as I heard it from Michael Angelo himself. It was about three years after the death of the Magnificent Lorenzo that his children were exiled from Florence, so that Michael Angelo was between twenty and twenty-one years of age when he escaped the first popular tumults by remaining with the aforesaid gentleman of Bologna until the city of Florence settled down again. This gentleman honoured him highly, delighting in his genius, and every evening he made him read something from Dante or from Petrarca, or now and then from Boccaccio, until he fell asleep.
XVII. One day walking together in Bologna they went to see the ark of San Domenico, in the Church dedicated to that Saint; two marble figures were still lacking, a San Petronio and a kneeling angel supporting a candlestick in his arms. The gentleman asked Michael Angelo if he had the heart to undertake them, and he replying "yes," had it arranged that he should have them to do; he was paid thirty ducats for it, eighteen for the San Petronio, and twelve for the angel. The figures were three palms high; they may still be seen in that same place. But afterwards Michael Angelo mistrusted a Bolognese sculptor, who complained that he had taken away the commission for the before-mentioned statues from him, as it had first been promised to him, and as he threatened to do him an injury [pg 20]Michael Angelo went back to Florence to accommodate matters,21 as affairs had now become quiet and he could live safely in his house. He remained with Messer Gian Francesco Aldovrandi a little over a year.
THE BACCHUS AND THE MADONNA DELLA PIETÀ OF SAINT PETER'S
XVIII. Having returned to his native town Michael Angelo set to work to carve out of marble a god of Love, between six and seven years of age, lying asleep; this figure was seen by Lorenzo di Pier Francesco de' Medici (for whom in the meantime Michael Angelo had carved a little Saint John), and he judged that it was most beautiful and said of it: "If you can manage to make it look as if it had been buried under the earth I will forward it to Rome, it will be taken for an antique and you will sell it much better." Michael Angelo hearing this immediately prepared it as one from whom no craft was hidden, so that it looked as if it had been made many years ago. In this state it was sent to Rome; the Cardinal di San Giorgio bought it as an antique for two hundred ducats; though the man who took all that money only paid thirty ducats to Michael Angelo as what he had received for the Cupid. So much of a rogue was he that he deceived at the same time both Lorenzo di Pier Francesco and Michael Angelo.22 But [pg 22]meanwhile it came to the ear of the Cardinal how the putto was made in Florence. Angry at being made a fool of, he sent one of his gentlemen there, who pretended to be looking for a sculptor to do some work in Rome. After visiting many others he came to the house of Michael Angelo; with a wary eye for what he wanted he observed the young man and inquired of him if he could let him see any work; but Michael Angelo not having any to show, took a pen (for in those days the pencil was not in general use) and drew a hand with so much ease that the gentleman was astonished. Afterwards he inquired if he had never done any works of sculpture. Yes, replied Michael Angelo, and amongst the rest a Cupid, in such and such a pose and action. The gentleman understood then that he had found the man he sought, and narrated how the affair had gone, and promised him that if he would come with him to Rome he would make the dealer disgorge, and arrange matters with his lord which he knew would be much to his satisfaction. Michael Angelo then, partly to see Rome, so much be praised by the gentleman as the widest field for a man to show his genius in, went with him and lodged in his house near the palace of the Cardinal, who, advised by letter in the meantime how the matter stood, laid hands on the merchant who had sold the Cupid to him as an antique, returned the statue to him, and got his money back; it afterwards came, I know not how, into the hands of the Duke Valentino, and was presented to the Marchesana of Mantua. She sent it to Mantua, where it is still to be found in the house of the lords of that city.23 The Cardinal di San Giorgio was [pg 23]blamed in this affair by many, for the work was seen by all the craftsmen of Rome, and all, equally, considered it most beautiful; they thought that he ought not to have deprived himself of it for the sake of two hundred scudi, although it was modern, as he was a very rich man. But he, smarting under the deceit, being able to punish the man, made him disburse the remainder of the payment. But nobody suffered more than Michael Angelo, who never received anything more for it than the money paid him in Florence. Cardinal di San Giorgio understood little and was no judge of sculpture, as is shown clearly enough by the fact that all the time Michael Angelo remained with him, which was about a year, he did not give him a single commission.24
[pg 24]XIX. All the same, others were not wanting who understood such things and who made use of Michael Angelo. For Messer Iacopo Galli, a Roman gentleman of good understanding, made him carve a marble Bacchus, ten palms in height, in his house; this work in form and bearing in every part corresponds to the description of the ancient writers—his aspect, merry; the eyes, squinting and lascivious, like those of people excessively given to the love of wine. He holds a cup in his right hand, like one about to drink, and looks at it lovingly, taking pleasure in the liquor of which he was the inventor; for this reason he is crowned with a garland of vine leaves. [pg 25]On his left arm he has a tiger's skin, the animal dedicated to him, as one that lives on grapes; and the skin was represented rather than the animal, as Michael Angelo desired to signify that he who allows his senses to be overcome by the appetite for that fruit, and the liquor pressed from it, ultimately loses his life. In his left hand he holds a bunch of grapes, which a merry and alert little satyr at his feet furtively enjoys. He appears to be about seven years old, and the Bacchus eighteen.25 The said Messer Iacopo desired also that he would carve him a little Cupid.26 Both of these works may still be seen in the house of Messer Giuliano and Messer Paolo Galli, courteous and worthy gentlemen, with whom Michael Angelo has always retained a real and cordial friendship.
XX. A little afterwards, at the request of the Cardinal de San Dionigi (called the Cardinal Rovano), he carved from a block of marble that marvellous statue of our Lady, which is now in the church of the Madonna della Febbre;27 although at first it was placed in the chapel of the King of France in the Church of Santa Petronilla, near to the Sacristy of Saint Peter's, formerly, according to some, a temple of Mars; this church was destroyed by Bramante for the sake of his design for the new Saint Peter's. The Madonna is seated on the stone upon which the Cross was erected, with her dead son on her lap. He is of so great and so rare a beauty, that no one beholds it but is moved to pity. A figure truly worthy of the [pg 26]Humanity which belonged to the Son of God, and to such a Mother; nevertheless, some there be who complain that the Mother is too young compared to the Son. One day as I was talking to Michael Angelo of this objection, "Do you not know," he said, "that chaste women retain their fresh looks much longer than those who are not chaste? How much more, therefore, a virgin in whom not even the least unchaste desire ever arose? And I tell you, moreover, that such freshness and flower of youth besides being maintained in her by natural causes, it may possibly be that it was ordained by the Divine Power to prove to the world the virginity and perpetual purity of the Mother. It was not necessary in the Son; but rather the contrary; wishing to show that the Son of God took upon himself a true human body subject to all the ills of man, excepting only sin; he did not allow the divine in him to hold back the human, but let it run its course and obey its laws, as was proved in His appointed time. Do not wonder then that I have, for all these reasons, made the most Holy Virgin, Mother of God, a great deal younger in comparison with her Son than she is usually represented. To the Son I have allotted His full age." Considerations worthy of any theologian, wonderful perhaps in any one else, but not in Michael Angelo, whom God and Nature have formed not only for his unique craftsmanship, but also capable of any, the most divine, conceptions, as may be seen not only in this but in very many of his arguments and writings. He may have been twenty-four or twenty-five years old when he finished this work. He gained great fame and reputation by it, so that already, in the opinion of the world, not only did he greatly surpass all others of the time and of the times before, but also he challenged the ancients themselves.
THE DAVID AND THE CARTOON OF PISA
XXI. These works being finished, he had to return to Florence for family affairs; he stayed there long enough to carve the statue called by all men the Giant, which is placed to this day by the door of the Palazzo della Signoria at the end of the balustrade.28 The thing happened in this wise. The Operai29 of Santa Maria del Fiore possessed a piece of marble nine braccia high, which had been brought from Carrara by an artist30 who was not so wise as he ought to have been, as it appeared. Because to transport the marble with greater convenience and less labour, he had roughed it out on the quay itself in such a clumsy way, however, that neither he nor any one else had the courage to put their hands to the block to carve a statue out of it, either of the full size of the marble or [pg 28]even one very much less. As they were not able to get anything out of this piece of marble likely to be any good, it seemed to Andrea del Monte a San Savino, that he might obtain the block, and he asked them to make him a present of it, promising that by joining certain pieces on to it he would carve a figure from it; but the Operai, before disposing of it, sent for Michael Angelo, and told him the wish and offer of Andrea, and, having heard his opinion that he could get something good out of it, in the end they offered it to him. Michael Angelo accepted it, and extracted the above-mentioned statue without adding any other piece at all, so exactly to size that the old surface of the outsides of the marble may be seen on the top of the head and in the base. He has left the same roughnesses in other of his works, as that statue for the tomb of Pope Julius II., which represents Contemplative Life. This is the custom of great masters, lords of their art. But in the Giant it is more wonderful than ever, because, besides not adding any pieces, he amended the faults of the roughing out, an impossible or, at least, a most difficult thing to do (as Michael Angelo himself has said). He received four hundred ducats for this work, and finished it in eighteen months.
XXII. In order that no copy of the Giant should exist which was not his own handiwork, he had it cast in bronze, of the size of the original, for his good friend Pier Soderini, who sent it to France; and similarly he cast a David with Goliath under him. The one to be seen in the middle of the court-yard of the Palazzo de'Signori is by Donatello, a man excellent in his art, and much praised by Michael Angelo, except for one thing—he had not the [pg 29]patience to properly polish his works; so that in the distance they look admirable, but close to they lose their quality. Michael Angelo also cast a bronze group of the Madonna with her Son in her lap, which was sent into Flanders31 by certain Flemish merchants, the Moscheroni, great people at home; they paid him one hundred ducats for it. And, in order not altogether to give up painting, he executed a round panel of Our Lady32 for Messer Agnolo Doni, a Florentine citizen, for which he received seventy ducats.
XXIII. It was some time since he had worked at that art, having given himself up to the study of poets and authors in the vulgar tongue and writing sonnets for his own pleasure. After the death of Pope Alexander VI. he was called to Rome by Pope Julius II., and received a hundred ducats in Florence as his viaticum. At this time Michael Angelo was about twenty-nine years old; for if we count from his birth in 1474, already stated, to the death of the above Alexander, which was in 1503, we shall find the number of years as given.
THE FIRST ACT OF THE TRAGEDY OF THE TOMB
XXIV. Coming then to Rome, many months33 passed before Julius II. resolved in what way to employ him. Ultimately it came into his head to get him to make his monument. When he saw Michael Angelo's design it pleased him so much that he at once sent him to Carrara to quarry the necessary marbles, instructing Alamanno Salviati, of Florence, to pay him a thousand ducats for this purpose. Michael Angelo stayed in these mountains more than eight months with two workmen and his horse, and without any other salary except his food. One day whilst he was there he saw a crag that overlooked the sea, which made him wish to carve a colossus that would be a landmark for sailors from a long way off, incited thereto principally by the suitable shape of the rock from which it could have been conveniently carved, and by emulation of the ancients, who, perhaps with the same object as Michael Angelo not to be idle, or for some other end, left several records unfinished and sketched out, which give a good idea of their powers. And of a surety he would [pg 31]have done it if he had had time enough, or the business upon which he had come had allowed him. He afterwards much regretted not having carried it out. Enough marbles quarried and chosen, he took them to the sea coast and left one of his men to have them embarked. He himself returned to Rome, and because he stopped some days in Florence on the way, when he arrived at Rome he found the first boat already at the Ripa34 unloading. He had the blocks carried to the piazza of St. Peter's, behind Santa Caterina, where he had his workshop near the Corridore.35 The quantity of marble was immense, so that, spread over the piazza, they were the admiration of all and a joy to the Pope, who heaped immeasurable favours upon Michael Angelo; and when he began to work upon them again and again went to see him at his house, and talked with him of monuments and other matters as with his own brother; and in order that he might more easily go to him, the Pope ordered that a drawbridge should be thrown across from the Corridore to the rooms of Michael Angelo, by which he might visit him in private.
XXV. These many and frequent favours were the cause (as often is the case at Court) of much envy, and, after the envy, of endless persecution, since Bramante, the architect, who was much loved by the Pope, made him change his mind as to the monument by telling him, as is said by the vulgar, that it is unlucky to build one's tomb in one's lifetime. Fear as well as envy stimulated [pg 32]Bramante, for the judgment of Michael Angelo had exposed many of his errors. Bramante, as every one knows, was given to all kinds of pleasures and a great spendthrift. The pension allotted to him by the Pope, however rich it might be, was not enough for him; he tried to make money out of the works, building the walls of bad materials, which, notwithstanding their greatness and width, are not very firm or solid. As is manifest to every one in the works of Saint Peter's, the Corridore di Belvedere, the Convents di San Pietro ad Vincula, and other fabrics built by him, it has been necessary to put new foundations and to strengthen all of them by props and buttresses, like buildings about to fall. Now because he had no doubt that Michael Angelo knew these errors of his, he always sought to remove him from Rome, or, at least, to deprive him of the favour of the Pope, and of the glory and usefulness that he might have acquired by his industry. He succeeded in the matter of the tomb. There is no doubt that if he had been allowed to finish it, according to his first design,36 having so large a field in which to show his worth, no other artist, however celebrated (be it said without envy), could have wrested from him the high place he would have held. Those parts which he did finish show what the rest would have been like. The two slaves were done for this work: those who have seen them declare that no such worthy statues were ever carved.
XXVI. And to give some idea of it, I say briefly that this tomb was to have had four faces, two of eighteen [pg 33]braccia, that served for the flanks, so that it was to be a square and a half in plan. All round about the outside were niches for statues, and between niche and niche terminal figures; to these were bound other statues, like prisoners, upon certain square plinths, rising from the ground and projecting from the monument. They represented the liberal arts, as Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, each with her symbol so that they could easily be recognised; denoting by this that, like Pope Julius, all the virtues were the prisoners of Death, because they would never find such favour and nourishment as he gave them. Above these ran the cornice that tied all the work together. On its plane were four great statues; one of these, the Moses, may be seen in San Piero and Vincula. It shall be spoken of in its proper place. So the work mounted upward until it ended in a plane. Upon it were two angels who supported an arc; one appeared to be smiling as though he rejoiced that the soul of the Pope had been received amongst the blessed spirits, the other wept, as if sad that the world had been deprived of such a man. Above one end was the entrance to the sepulchre in a small chamber, built like a temple; in the middle was a marble sarcophagus, where the body of the Pope was to be buried; everything worked out with marvellous art. Briefly, more than forty statues went to the whole work, not counting the subjects in mezzo rilievo to be cast in bronze, all appropriate in their stories and proclaiming the acts of this great Pontiff.
XXVII. Having seen this design the Pope sent Michael Angelo to Saint Peter's to decide where it might most conveniently be erected. The church was in the form of [pg 34]a cross. At the head Pope Nicolas V. had begun to rebuild the tribune; the walls were already three braccia above the ground when he died. It seemed to Michael Angelo that this place was very suitable. When he returned to the Pope he told him what he thought, and added, that if it seemed good to his Holiness, it would be necessary to go on with the building and roof it in. The Pope asked him, "What would be the cost of this?" Michael Angelo replied, "One hundred thousand scudi." "Let it be two hundred thousand," said Julius. And sending San Gallo, the architect, and Bramante to see the place, by their suggestion it came into the mind of the Pope to rebuild the church altogether. He directed them to prepare designs, and that of Bramante was approved, as being more graceful and better understood than the others. Thus, Michael Angelo was the cause, both that those parts of the building already begun were completed, which otherwise might have remained as they were to this day, and that it came into the mind of the Pope to rebuild the rest of the church on a more magnificent scale.
XXVIII. Returning to our story, Michael Angelo became acquainted with the change in the wishes of Julius in the following manner: The Pope instructed Michael Angelo that if he needed money he was to come direct to him and not to others, so that he might not have to go from one to another for it. It happened one day that the rest of the marbles that had been left at Carrara arrived at the Ripa; Michael Angelo had them disembarked and carried to Saint Peter's, and desiring at once to pay the [pg 35]freight, the landing, and the porterage, he went to ask the Pope for money, but found access to the palace more difficult than usual, and his Holiness occupied. So he returned home, and not to incommode the poor men who had earned their wages he paid them all out of his own pocket, thinking that his money would be returned by the Pope at a more convenient season. One morning he returned and entered the ante-chamber for an audience. A groom came up to him and said: "Pardon me, I have been ordered not to admit you." A bishop was present, and hearing the words of the man, cried out: "You cannot know who this man is?" "I know him very well," replied the groom, "but I am obliged to do what I am bid by my masters without further question." Michael Angelo, who had never before been kept waiting or had the door barred against him, seeing himself so turned off and scorned, was angered and replied: "You may tell the Pope that, henceforward, if he wants me he must look for me elsewhere." So he returned to his house and instructed his two servants to sell all his furniture, and when they got the money to follow him to Florence. He himself took horse and at the second hour of the night reached Poggibonsi, a castle in the Florentine territory, eighteen or twenty miles from the city, where, as in a safe place, he rested.
XXIX. A little later five messengers from Pope Julius arrived with orders to bring Michael Angelo back wherever they might find him. But overtaking him in a place where they were unable to offer him any violence, Michael Angelo threatening them with death if they [pg 36]dare lay hands on him, they turned to entreaties; then not succeeding, they obtained from him the concession that at least he would reply to the letter from the Pope which they had given to him, and that he should particularly write that they had only overtaken him in Florence that the Pope might understand that they were unable to bring him back against his will. The letter of the Pope was of this tenour: "At sight of this return immediately to Rome, under pain of my displeasure." Michael Angelo replied briefly: "That he was never going to return, and that his good and faithful service had not deserved this change, to be hunted away from his presence like a rogue; and as his Holiness did not wish to have anything more to do with the tomb, he was free and did not wish to bind himself again." So dating the letter as has been said he let the messengers go, he himself went on to Florence, where, during the three months he remained there, three Briefs were sent to the Signoria, full of menaces, demanding that he should be sent back either by fair means or force.
XXX. Pier Soderini, who was then Gonfaloniere of the Republic for life, having formerly let him go to Rome much against his will, wished him to work for him by painting in the Sala del Consiglio. On receipt of the first Brief he did not oblige Michael Angelo to return, hoping that the anger of the Pope would abate; but when a second and a third arrived, he called Michael Angelo to him and said: "You have braved the Pope as the King of France would not have done, therefore prayer is unavailing. We do not wish to go to war with him on your [pg 37]account and risk the State, so prepare yourself to return."37 Michael Angelo, seeing it had come to this, and fearing the wrath of the Pope, thought of going to the Levant, principally because he had been sought after by the Turk with rich promises, through the agency of certain Franciscan Friars, to throw a bridge from Constantinople to Pera, and for other works. But the Gonfaloniere, hearing of this, sent for him and dissuaded him, saying: "That it was better to die with the Pope than to live with the Turk; nevertheless, there was nothing to fear, for the Pope was kind, and sent for him because he loved him well, not because he wished him harm; and if he was still afraid, the Signoria would send him as ambassador, because violence was not offered to public persons without it being offered to those who sent them." By reason of these and other arguments Michael Angelo prepared to return.
XXXI. Whilst he was still in Florence two things happened. One was that he finished the marvellous cartoon he had begun for the Sala del Consiglio, which represented the war between Florence and Pisa, and the many and various events that occurred in it, which cartoon of consummate art was a light to all those who afterwards took pencil in hand. I cannot tell what evil fortune happened to it afterwards, it was left by Michael Angelo in the Sala del Papa (a place so called in Florence) at Santa Maria Novella. Fragments of it can be seen in [pg 38]the various places, preserved with greatest care like something sacred.38 The other thing was, that Pope Julius had taken Bologna and had gone there; he was delighted with the acquisition, and this gave courage to Michael Angelo to appear before him more hopefully.
THE COLOSSAL BRONZE FOR THE FAÇADE OF SAN PETRONIO
XXXII. So he arrived at Bologna one morning, and going to San Petronio to hear mass,39 behold, the grooms of the Pope, who recognised him and conducted him to his Holiness, who was at table in the Palazzo de' Sedici. When he saw Michael Angelo in his presence, Julius, with an angry look, said to him, "You ought to have come to us, and you have waited for us to come to you." Meaning to say, that his Holiness being come to Bologna, a place much nearer to Florence than Rome is, it was as if he (the Pope) had come to him. Michael Angelo with a loud voice and on his knees craved pardon, pleading that he had not erred maliciously but through indignation, for he could not bear to be hunted away as he had been. The Pope kept his head lowered and replied nothing, to all appearances much troubled, when a certain monsignore, sent by the Cardinal Soderini to excuse and intercede for Michael Angelo, broke in, saying: "Your Holiness, do not remember his fault, for he has erred through ignorance; these painters in things outside their art are all like this." The Pope indignantly replied: "You [pg 40]abuse him, whilst we say nothing; you are the ignorant one, and he is not the culprit; take yourself off in an evil hour." But as he was not going, he was, as Michael Angelo used to tell, hustled out of the room with blows by the servants of the Pope. Thus the Pope having spent his fury on the bishop, called Michael Angelo closer to him, and pardoned him, ordering him not to leave Bologna until another commission had been given to him. Nor was he long before he sent for him and said that he wished Michael Angelo to make a great portrait statue of him in bronze, which he wished to place on the front of the Church of San Petronio. And he left a thousand ducats in the bank of Messer Antommaria da Lignano to carry out the work when he departed for Rome. It is true that before he left Michael Angelo had already modelled it in clay, but he was doubtful as to what the statue should hold in the left hand, the right was raised as if giving a benediction. He asked the Pope, who had come to see the statue, if it pleased him that he should be made holding a book. "What! a book?" he replied, "a sword! As for me, I am no scholar." And jesting about the right hand, which was in vigorous action, he said, smiling the while, to Michael Angelo, "Does this statue of yours give a blessing or a curse?" Michael Angelo replied to him: "It threatens this people, Holy Father, lest they be foolish." But, as I have said, Pope Julius returned to Rome and Michael Angelo remained behind at Bologna, and spent sixteen months in completing the statue and erecting it where the Pope had directed. Afterwards, on the return of the Bentivogli to Bologna, this statue was thrown to earth in the fury of the populace and destroyed. Its height was more than three times that of life.
THE VAULT OF THE SISTINE CHAPEL
XXXIII. After he had finished this work he went to Rome, where Pope Julius wished to employ him, keeping still to his purpose of not going on with his tomb. It was put into his head by Bramante and other rivals of Michael Angelo that he should make him paint the vault of the chapel of Sixtus the Fourth, in the Vatican, making him believe that he would do wonders. This was done maliciously, to distract the Pope from works of sculpture; and because they thought it was certain, either, that by his not accepting such a commission, he would stir up the Pope's anger against himself, or that by accepting it he would come out of it very much inferior to Raffaello da Urbino, whom they heaped with favours on account of their hatred for Michael Angelo, judging that his principal art was sculpture, as in truth it was. Michael Angelo, who as yet had never used colours and knew the painting of the vault to be a very difficult undertaking, tried with all his power to get out of it, proposing Raffaello and excusing himself, in that it was not his art and that he would not succeed, refusing so many demands that the Pope was almost in a passion. But seeing his obstinacy, Michael Angelo set himself to do the work, which to-day is seen in the palace of the Pope, and is the admiration and [pg 42]wonder of the world; it brought him so much fame that it lifted him above all envy. I will give some brief account of this work.
XXXIV. The shape of this ceiling is what is commonly called a barrel vaulting, resting on lunettes, six to the length and two to the width of the building, so that the whole formed two squares and a half. In this space Michael Angelo has depicted, firstly, the creation of the world, and then almost the whole of the Old Testament. He has divided the work after this fashion: Beginning at the brackets, where the horns of the lunettes rest, up to almost a third of the arch of the vault, the walls appear to continue flat, running up to that height with certain pilasters and plinths imitating marble, which project into the open like a balustrade over an additional storey, with corbels below, and with other little pilasters above the same storey, where sit the prophets and sybils. The first pilasters grow from the arches of the lunettes, placing the pedestals in the middle, leaving, however, the greater part of the arch of the lunette—that is to say, the space they contain between them. Above the said plinths are painted some little naked children in various poses, who, in guise of terminals, support a cornice, which binds the whole work together, leaving in the middle of the vault from end to end, as it were, the open sky. This opening is divided into nine spaces; for from the cornices over the pilasters spring certain arches with cornices, which traverse the highest part of the vault, and join the cornice on the opposite side of the chapel, leaving from arch to arch nine openings, large and small. In the smaller spaces are two fillets, painted like marble that cross the opening in such [pg 43]a way that in the middle rest the two parts and one of the bands, where medallions are placed, as shall be told in due course; and this has been done to avoid monotony, which is born of sameness. Now, at the head of the chapel, in the first opening, which is one of the smaller ones, is seen how the Omnipotent God in the heavens by the movement of His arms divides light from darkness. In the second space is how He created the two great lights. The Creator is seen with arms extended: with the right He lights the sun, and with the left the moon. With Him are child-angels; one on the left hides his face against the bosom of his Creator, as though shielding himself from the harmful light of the moon. In the same space on the left God is seen turning to create the trees and plants of the earth, painted with such art that wherever you turn He appears to turn away also, showing the whole of the back down to the soles of His feet—a thing most beautiful, and which shows what may be done by foreshortening. In the third space the great God appears in the heavens, again with a company of angels, looking upon the waters and commanding them to bring forth all those forms of life nourished in that element, just as in the second He commands the earth. In the fourth is the creation of Man. God is seen with arm and hand stretched forth as if giving His commandments to Adam, what to do and what not to do; with His other arm He draws His angels about Him. In the fifth is how He drew woman from the side of Adam. She comes forth with her hands joined, raising them in prayer towards God, bending with gracious mien and offering thanks as He blesses her. In the sixth is how the Devil tempted man. From the middle upwards the wicked one is of human form, and the rest of him like [pg 44]unto a serpent, his legs transformed into tails winding around a tree. He seems to reason with the man and persuade him to act contrary to the commands of his Creator, and he offers the forbidden apple to the woman. On the other side of the space the two are seen driven forth by the angel, terrified and weeping, flying from the face of God. In the seventh is the sacrifice of Abel and of Cain;40 the one grateful to and accepted by God, the other hateful and refused. In the eighth is the Deluge, when the ark of Noah is seen in the distance in the midst of the waters; some men attempt to cling to it for safety. Nearer, in the same abyss of waters, is a boat laden with many people, which, both by the excessive weight she has to carry and by the many and tumultuous lashings of the waves, loses her sail, and, deprived of every aid and human control, she is already filling with water and going to the bottom. It is an admirable thing to see the human race so wretchedly perishing in the waves. Likewise, nearer to the eye, there still appears above the waters the summit of a mountain, like unto an island, on which, fleeing from the rising waters, collect a multitude of men and women, who exhibit different expressions, but all wretched and all terrified, dragging themselves beneath a curtain stretched over a tree to shelter them from the unusual rains; and above them is represented with great art the anger of God, which overwhelms them with water, with lightnings, and with thunderbolts. There is also another mountain-top on the right,41 much nearer the eye, [pg 45]and a multitude labouring under the same disasters, of which it would be long to write all the details; it shall suffice me to say that they are all very natural and tremendous, just as one would imagine them in such a convulsion. In the ninth, which is the last, is the story of Noah when he was drunken with wine, lying on the ground, his shame derided by his son Ham and covered by Shem and Japhet. Under the before-mentioned cornice which finishes the walls, and above the brackets where the lunettes rest, between pilaster and pilaster, sit twelve large figures—prophets and sybils—all truly wonderful, as much for their grace as for the decoration and design of their draperies. But admirable above all the others is the prophet Jonah, placed at the head of the vault, because contrary to the form of this part of the ceiling, by force of light and shade, the torso, which is foreshortened so that it goes back away into the roof, is on the part of the arch nearest the eye, and the feet and legs which, as it were, project within the walls, are on the part more distant. A stupendous performance, which shows what marvellous power was in this man of turning lines in foreshortening and perspective. Now in the spaces that are below the lunettes, as well as in those above, which have a triangular shape, are painted all the genealogy, or, I should say, all the ancestors of the Saviour, except the triangles at the corners, which come together, and so, two make up one of double the area. In one then of these, above the wall of the Last Judgment on the right hand,42 is seen how Aman, by command of King Ahasuerus, was hung upon a cross; and this was because, in his pride and arrogance, he wished to hang Mordecai, the uncle [pg 46]Queen Ester, for not honouring him with a reverence as he passed by. In another corner is the story of the bronze serpent, lifted by Moses on a staff, in which the children of Israel, wounded and ill-treated by lively little serpents, are healed by looking up. Here Michael Angelo has shown admirable force in those figures that are struggling to free themselves from the coils of the serpents. In the third corner, at the lower end of the chapel, is the vengeance wreaked upon Holofernes by Judith, and in the fourth that of David over Goliath. And these are briefly all the histories.
XXXV. But no less marvellous is that part which does not relate to the histories at all, that is to say, certain nudes who sit upon plinths above the before-mentioned cornice, one on either side holding up the medallions, which, as has been said, appear to be of metal, on which, in the style of reverses, are designed several stories, all however appropriate to their principal histories. By the beauty of the divisions, by the variety of the poses, and by the balance of the proportionate parts, in all of them Michael Angelo exhibited the highest art. But to tell the particulars of these things would be an infinite labour, a book to them alone would not be enough; therefore I pass over them briefly, wishing rather to give a little light upon the whole than to detail the parts.
XXXVI. In the meanwhile he did not lack troubles; for, having finished the picture of the Deluge, the work began to grow mouldy,43 so much so that the figures could hardly be distinguished. Michael Angelo, thinking that [pg 47]this excuse would suffice to enable him to shake off his burden, went to the Pope and said to him: "I have already told your Holiness that this is not my art; all that I have done is spoiled; if you do not believe it send and see." The Pope sent Il San Gallo, who, when he examined the fresco, saw that the plaster had been applied too wet, and the dampness running down caused this effect; and informing Michael Angelo of this he made him proceed, and the excuse was unavailing.
XXXVII. Whilst he was painting Pope Julius went to see the work many times, ascending the scaffolding by a ladder, Michael Angelo giving him his hand to assist him on to the highest platform. And, like one who was of a vehement nature, and impatient of delay, when but one half of the work was done, the part from the door to the middle of the vault,44 he insisted upon having it uncovered, although it was still incomplete and had not received the finishing touches. Michael Angelo's fame, and the expectation they had of him, drew the whole of Rome to the chapel, where the Pope also rushed, even before the dust raised by the taking down the scaffolding had settled.
XXXVIII. After this, Raphael, having seen this new and marvellous manner as one who excelled in imitating, tried by the aid of Bramante to get the rest of the chapel to paint. Michael Angelo was much troubled, came before the Pope, and bitterly complained of the injury Bramante was doing him; and in his presence grieved over it with the Pope, discovering to him all the persecution he had suffered from him, and afterwards unfolded to him [pg 48]many of Bramante's shortcomings, principally that in pulling down the old church of Saint Peter's he threw to earth those marvellous columns that were therein, not respecting them or caring whether they were broken to pieces or not, when he might have lowered them gently and preserved them whole; explaining how it was an easy thing to pile brick on brick, but to make such a column was most difficult, and many other things that it was most necessary to relate; so that the Pope, hearing of all these sad doings, willed that Michael Angelo should continue the work, showing him more favour than ever. He finished all this work in twenty months45 without assistance,46 not even any one to grind the colours. It is true that I have heard him say that the work is not finished as he would have wished, as he was prevented by the hurry of the Pope, who demanded of him one day when he would finish the chapel. Michael Angelo said: "When I can." The Pope, angered, added: "Do you want me to have you thrown down off this scaffolding?" Michael Angelo, hearing this, said to himself: "Nay, you shall not have me thrown down," and as soon as the Pope had gone away he had the scaffolding taken down and uncovered his work upon All Saints Day. It was seen with great satisfaction by the Pope (who that very day visited the chapel), and all Rome crowded to admire it. It lacked the retouches "a secco" of ultramarine and of gold in certain places, which [pg 49]would have made it appear more rich. Julius, his fervour having abated, wished that Michael Angelo should supply them; but he considering the business it would be to reerect the scaffolding, replied that there was nothing important wanting. "It should be touched with gold," replied the Pope. Michael Angelo said to him familiarly, as he had a way of doing with his Holiness: "I do not see that men wear gold." The Pope again said: "It will seem poor." "Those who are painted here were poor also," Michael Angelo replied. This he threw out in jest; but so the vault has remained. Michael Angelo received for this work and all his expenses three thousand ducats, of which I have heard him say he spent in colours about twenty or twenty-five.
THE RISEN CHRIST OF THE MINERVA
XXXIX. When he had finished this work Michael Angelo, because he had painted so long a time with his eyes turned upwards towards the vault, could hardly see anything when looking down, so that when he had to read a letter or look at a minute object it was necessary for him to hold it above his head. Nevertheless, little by little, he became able to again read looking down. By this we are able to judge with how much attention and assiduity he had carried out his work. Many other things happened to him during the life of Pope Julius, who loved him from his heart, having a more jealous care for him than for any one else he had about him, as one may see clearly by what we have already written. Indeed, one day fearing that Michael Angelo was angry, he immediately sent to pacify him. It happened in this wise. Michael Angelo wanting to go to Florence for Saint John's Day asked the Pope for money; and he demanded when his chapel would be finished. Michael Angelo, as his custom was, replied, "When I can." The Pope, who was of a hasty nature, struck him with a stick that he had in his hand, saying: "When I can, indeed; when I can!" After he got home Michael Angelo was preparing, without more ado, to go to Florence, when [pg 51]Accursio arrived, a highly favoured young man, sent by the Pope, and brought him five hundred ducats and pacified him as best he could, making the Pope's excuses. Michael Angelo accepted the apology and went away to Florence. So that it seems as if Julius cared more than for anything else to keep this man for himself; nor was he contented with his services during his life only, but required them after his death; wherefore coming to die he commanded that the Tomb which Michael Angelo had formerly begun should be finished for him, giving this charge to the old Cardinal Santi Quattro and the Cardinal Aginense, his nephew: they, however, had new designs prepared, the first appearing to them too large. So Michael Angelo again became involved in the Tragedy of the Tomb, which had no better success than at first; on the contrary much worse, it brought him infinite vexations, troubles, and labours; and, what is worse, by the malice of certain men, shame, from which he was hardly able to clear himself for many years. Michael Angelo then began all over again and set to work. He brought many masters from Florence, and Bernardo Bini, who was trustee, provided the money as he needed it. But it had not got on very far when he was interrupted, much to his disgust, for it came into the head of the Pope Leo, who had succeeded Julius, to ornament the façade of San Lorenzo, in Florence, with sculpture and marble work. This was the church built by the great Cosimo de' Medici; and, except for the façade mentioned above, was all completely finished. This part, then, Pope Leo resolved to supply. He thought of employing Michael Angelo, and sending for him he made him prepare a design, and finally on that account wished him to go to Florence and take upon [pg 52]himself all this charge. Michael Angelo, who was working with love and diligence at the tomb of Julius, made all the resistance that he could, saying that he was bound to Cardinal Santi Quattro and to Aginense, and could not fail them. But the Pope, who was determined in this matter, replied: "Leave me to deal with them; I will content them." So he sent for both of them and made them release Michael Angelo, much to the sorrow both of himself and the Cardinals, especially of Aginense, nephew, as has been said, of Pope Julius, for whom, however, Pope Leo promised that Michael Angelo should work in Florence, and that he would not hinder him. In this fashion, weeping, Michael Angelo left the tomb and betook himself to Florence. As soon as he arrived he put everything in order for building the façade, he himself went to Carrara to transport marbles, not only for the façade but also for the tomb, relying upon the promise of the Pope that he would be able to go on with it. In the meantime the Pope was informed that in the mountains of Pietrasanta, in the Florentine territory, there were marbles as good and beautiful as at Carrara. When this was discussed with Michael Angelo, he, as a friend of the Marchese Alberigo, and having come to an understanding with him about the marbles, preferred rather to quarry at Carrara than at these new places in the State of Florence. The Pope wrote to Michael Angelo and commanded him to go to Pietrasanta and see if it was as he heard from Florence. He went there and found the marble very unmanageable and unsuitable;47 and even if it had been [pg 53]suitable, it would be a difficult and very expensive business to bring it down to the sea; for it would require a new road to be constructed for several miles over the mountains with pickaxes, and across the plains, which were very marshy, on piles. Michael Angelo wrote all this to the Pope; but he rather believed those who had written to him from Florence, and ordered him to make the road. So to carry out the will of the Pope he constructed this road,48 and by it carried a vast quantity of marble to the sea coast, amongst them five columns of the right size; one of them is to be seen on the Piazza of San Lorenzo, brought by him to Florence;49 the other four, because the Pope had changed his mind and turned his thoughts elsewhere, are still lying on the sea shore. But the Marchese di Carrara, thinking that Michael Angelo, as a citizen of Florence, might have been the originator of the quarrying at Pietrasanta, became his enemy; nor would he allow him to return to Carrara afterwards even for marble that he had already quarried, which was a great loss to Michael Angelo.
THE SACRISTY OF SAN LORENZO
XL. Now having returned to Florence, and finding, as was said before, that the fervour of Pope Leo was all spent, Michael Angelo, grieving, remained there doing nothing for a long while, having, first in one thing and then in another, thrown away much of his time, to his great annoyance. Nevertheless, with certain blocks of marble that he had placed in his own house, he proceeded with the work of the Tomb. But Leo departing this life, Adrian was created Pope, and the work was interrupted again, for they charged Michael Angelo with having received from Julius for this work quite sixteen thousand scudi, and that he did not trouble himself to get on with it, but stayed at Florence for his own pleasure. All these accusations called for his presence in Rome; but the Cardinal de' Medici, who afterwards became Pope Clement VII., and who then had the government of Florence in his hand, did not wish him to go; and to keep him employed, and to have an excuse, he made him begin the Medici Library in San Lorenzo, and at the same time the sacristy with the tombs of his ancestors, promising to satisfy the Pope for him, and arrange matters. Then Adrian living only a few months and Clement succeeding him in the Papacy, nothing more was said [pg 55]about the Tomb of Julius for some time. But Michael Angelo was advised that the Duke of Urbino, Francesco Maria, nephew of Pope Julius of happy memory, complained greatly of him, and menaced him with vengeance if he did not quickly come to Rome. Michael Angelo conferred with Pope Clement about the affair, and he counselled him to call the agents of the Duke and prepare an account with them of all that he had received from Julius and all the work he had done for him, knowing that if Michael Angelo's work were properly estimated he would turn out to be the creditor rather than the debtor. Michael Angelo remained in Rome about this against his will; and having arranged affairs returned to Florence, principally because he anticipated the ruin that a little while afterwards came upon Rome.
XLI. In the meantime the House of Medici was driven out of Florence by the opposing faction, because they had taken more authority to themselves than could be suffered in a free city that ruled herself by her Republic. As the Signoria did not expect that the Pope would do anything to forego his family's authority they expected certain war, and turned their minds to the fortifications of their city, and appointed Michael Angelo Commissary-General for that work. He then, accepting this preferment, besides many other preparations carried out by him on every side of the city, encircled with strong fortifications the hill of San Miniato, that stands above the city and overlooks the surrounding plain. If the enemy took this hill nothing could prevent him becoming master of the city also. This fort was judged to be the saving of the country, and very dangerous to the enemy; being, as I have said, of high [pg 56]elevation, it menaced the hosts of their antagonists, especially from the bell-tower of the church, where two pieces of artillery were placed, which continually did great damage to the besiegers. Michael Angelo, notwithstanding that he had made provision beforehand for whatever might occur, posted himself upon the hill. After about six months the soldiers began to grumble amongst themselves of I know not what treachery; Michael Angelo partly knowing about this himself, and partly by the warnings of certain captains, his friends, betook himself to the Signoria and discovered to them what he had heard and seen, showing them in what danger the city stood, saying that there was yet time to provide against the danger, if they would. But instead of thanking him they abused him, and reproached him with being a timid man and too suspicious. He who replied to him thus had better have opened his ears to him, for the House of Medici entered into Florence and his head was cut off; whereas, if he had listened, he might have been yet alive.
XLII. When Michael Angelo saw how little his word was considered, and how the ruin of the city was certain, by the authority he had he caused a gate to be opened, and went out with two of his people, and betook himself to Venice. And certainly this notion of a treachery was no fable; but he who arranged it judged that it would pass over with less disgrace if it was not discovered just then, as time would achieve the same result by his merely failing in his duty and hindering others who wished to do theirs. The departure of Michael Angelo was the occasion of many rumours, and he fell into great disgrace with the governors. All the same, he was recalled with many prayers, with [pg 57]appeals to his patriotism, and by those who urged that he must not abandon the responsibilities that he had taken upon himself, and that the matter was not at such an extremity as he had been given to understand, and many other things. Persuaded by all this, and by the authority of the personages who wrote to him, but chiefly by his love for his country, after he had received a safe conduct for ten days before the day of his arrival in Florence, he returned, not without danger to his life.
XLIII. Again in Florence the first thing he did was to protect the bell-tower of San Miniato, which was all broken by the continual cannonading of the enemy, and had become very dangerous to those within. The method of defence was in this wise: a large number of mattresses, well filled with wool, were slung with stout cords from the top of the tower to the bottom, covering parts likely to be hit. And as the cornice projected considerably, the mattresses hung out from the main wall of the bell-tower more than six hands, so that the cannon-balls of the enemy, partly on account of the distance from which they were fired, and partly by the opposition of these mattresses, did little or no damage, not even injuring the mattresses themselves, because they were so yielding. Thus he held that tower all the time of the siege, which lasted a year, without its suffering any injury, and rejoicing greatly in the salvation of the land and the damage he did to the enemy.
XLIV. But afterwards the enemy entered the city by treachery, and many of the citizens were taken and killed. The court sent to the house of Michael Angelo to seize [pg 58]him; all the rooms and the chests were searched by them, even to the chimney and closet; but Michael Angelo, afraid of what might follow, had taken refuge in the house of a great friend. Here he remained in hiding many days, no one knowing that he was there except the friend who saved him. When the fury was over, Pope Clement wrote to Florence that Michael Angelo must be sought out, and ordered that, when found, he should be set at liberty if he would go on with the work of the Medici tombs formerly begun, and that he must be used courteously. Michael Angelo, hearing this, came out; and, although it was some fifteen years since he had touched the chisel, yet he set himself so earnestly to his task that in a few months he carved all the statues now to be seen in the sacristy of San Lorenzo, urged on more by fear than by love.50 It is true that none of these statues have received their last touches; nevertheless, they are carried so far that the excellence of the workmanship can be very well seen; nor does the lack of finish impair the perfection and the beauty of the work.
XLV. The statues are four, placed in a sacristy erected for this purpose on the left of the church opposite the old sacristy; and although each figure balances the other in design and general shape, nevertheless, they are quite different in form, idea, and action. The sarcophagi are placed against the side walls, and above their lids recline two figures, larger than life—that is to say, a man and a woman, signifying Day and Night; and by the two of them Time, [pg 59]that consumes all things. And in order that his idea might be better understood, he gave to the Night, who was made in the form of a woman of a marvellous beauty, an owl and other symbols suitable to her; similarly to the Day, his signs; and for the signification of Time he intended to carve a rat, because this little animal gnaws and consumes, just as Time devours, all things. He left a piece of marble on the work for it, which he did not carve, as he was afterwards prevented. There were besides other statues, which represented those for whom the tombs were erected. All, in conclusion, were more divine than human; but above all, the Madonna, with her little child straddling across her thigh, of this I judge it better to be silent than to say but little, and so I pass it by.51 We owe thanks to Pope Clement for these masterpieces; and if he had done no other praiseworthy act in his life (but, of course, he did many), this one was enough to cancel all his faults, for through him the world possesses these noble statues. And much more we owe him in that he did not fail to respect the virtue of this man when Florence fell, just as in olden times Marcellus respected the virtue of Archimedes when he entered Syracuse, although in that case it was of no effect; in this case, thanks be to God, it availed much.
XLVI. For all that Michael Angelo lived in great fear, because he was greatly disliked by the Duke Alessandro, a young man, as every one knows, very fierce and vindictive. There is no doubt that, if it had not been for the fear of the Pope, he would have had him put away long ago; the more so, as this Duke of Florence, when erecting those [pg 60]fortresses of his, sent for Michael Angelo, by Signor Alessandro Vitelli, to ride out with him and indicate where they would most usefully be placed, and he would not, replying that he had received no such commission from Pope Clement. The Duke was much angered; so that for this reason, as well as for the old ill-will he bore him, and on account of the nature of the Duke, Michael Angelo had good reason to fear him. And truly it was a blessing of God that he was not in Florence at the time of the death of Clement; he was called to Rome by the Pontiff before he had quite finished the tombs at San Lorenzo. He was received gladly. Clement respected this man like one sacred, and talked with him familiarly, both on grave and trivial subjects, as he would have done with his equals. He sought to relieve him of the burden of the Tomb of Julius, so that he might settle in Florence permanently, not only to finish the works already begun, but that he might execute others no less worthy.
XLVII. But before I say any more about this it behoves me to write of another fact concerning Michael Angelo, which I have inadvertently omitted. After the violent departure of the Medici from Florence, the Signoria fearing, as I have said above, the coming war, and intending to fortify their city, sent for Michael Angelo, as they knew him to be a man of consummate ingenuity and most active in whatever he undertook; nevertheless, by the advice of certain citizens who favoured the cause of the Medici and wished covertly to hinder or delay the fortification of the city, they sent him to Ferrara, under pretext that he should study the system by which Duke Alfonso had armed and fortified his city, knowing that his Excellency was most [pg 61]expert in these matters and in everything else most prudent. The Duke received Michael Angelo gladly, not only for the great worthiness of the man, but also because Don Ercole, his son and now Duke in his stead, was Captain of the Signoria of Florence. The Duke riding with him in person there was nothing that he did not show him, even more than was needful, so many bastions, so many pieces of artillery, and, indeed, he opened to him his cabinet also and showed him everything with his own hands, especially certain works of painting and portraits of his ancestors, by masters excellent in their day.52 But when Michael Angelo had to depart, the Duke said to him jestingly: "Michael Angelo, you are my prisoner. If you want me to let you go free you must promise to do some work for me with your own hands, whatever suits you best, let it be what you will, sculpture or painting." Michael Angelo agreed, and returned to Florence. Although much occupied in arming the country, yet he began a large easel picture, representing Leda and the Swan, and near by the egg from which Castor and Pollux were born, as is fabled by ancient writers. When the Duke heard that the Medici had entered Florence, fearing to lose so great a treasure in the tumult, he immediately sent one of his own people. His man, when he came to the house of Michael Angelo and saw the picture, said: "Why! this is but a small matter." Michael Angelo asked him what his business was? Realising that every one thinks they know other people's business best, he replied simpering, "I am a merchant;" perhaps disgusted by [pg 62]such a question, and not being taken for a gentleman, while at the same time despising the industry of the Florentine citizens, who for the most part are merchants, as if he had said: "You ask what is my business, would you ever believe that I am a merchant?" Michael Angelo heard what he said, and replied: "You have done bad business for your lord; leave my sight." So having dismissed the Ducal messenger, he gave the picture shortly afterwards to one of his assistants, who had two sisters to marry off. It was sent into France, where it still is,53 and was bought by King Francis.
XLVIII. Now to return, Michael Angelo having been called to Rome by Pope Clement, thereupon began the affair with the Duke of Urbino's agents concerning the Tomb of Julius. Clement, who wished to employ him in Florence, tried by every means to free him, and gave him for his attorney one Messer Tommaso, of Prato, who afterwards became Datario. But Michael Angelo, who knew and feared the ill-will of Duke Alessandro towards him, and at the same time loved and revered the bones of Pope Julius, and all the illustrious House della Rovere, did all he could to remain in Rome and work at the Tomb; the more so because he was accused by every one of having received from Pope Julius for that purpose fully sixteen thousand scudi, and of having enjoyed it without doing what he had undertaken. As he held his honour dear he could not bear the disgrace, and desired that the affair should be cleared up, not refusing, although he was old, [pg 63]the heavy task he had begun. It came to this pass: the adversaries were unable to prove payments that came within a long way of the sum they had at first stated; on the contrary, more than two-thirds were wanting of the entire sum agreed upon by the two Cardinals. Clement thought this a fine opportunity to get rid of the business, and to leave Michael Angelo free to serve him. He called him and said: "Come, tell me, you wish to complete this tomb; but you want to know who is to pay for the rest of it." Michael Angelo, who knew the Pope's mind, and that he wished to make use of him himself, replied: "And what if some one were found who would pay me?" Pope Clement said to him: "You are quite mad if you imagine that any one is likely to come forward to offer you a penny." So when Messer Tommaso, his attorney, appeared in court making his proposition to the agents of the Duke, they began to look one another in the face, and determined together that some sort of tomb should be made for the money that had already been advanced. Michael Angelo, thinking well of it, consented willingly, moved chiefly by the influence of the Cardinal of Montevecchio, a follower of Julius II. and uncle to Julius III., now, thanks be to God, our Pontiff. The agreement was: That Michael Angelo should make a tomb with one façade only, and that he should use the marbles already carved for the quadrangular tomb, arranging them as best he could; and that he should supply six statues from his own hand. It was conceded to Pope Clement that Michael Angelo should serve him in Florence, or wheresoever he pleased, four months in the year, his Holiness requiring this for the work in Florence. Such was the contract agreed upon between his Excellency the Duke and Michael Angelo.
[pg 64]XLIX. But now it must be understood that these accounts being settled Michael Angelo, to appear more indebted to the Duke of Urbino and to give Pope Clement less hope of sending him to Florence (where he did not by any means wish to go), secretly agreed with the counsel and agent of his Excellency that it should be said that he had received some thousand scudi more on this account than he really had. This was done not only by word of mouth, but without his knowledge and consent it was inserted in the written contract, not when it was sealed but when it was written out, at which he was much disturbed. Nevertheless, the counsel persuaded him that it would not prejudice his case, for it did not matter whether the contract specified twenty thousand or one thousand scudi, since they were agreed that the scheme of the Tomb should now be reduced in scale according to the amount of money actually received, adding that nobody but themselves would question the proceeding, and his interests were secured by the understanding that was between them. So with this Michael Angelo was pacified, because it appeared to him that he might put his trust in them, as also because he desired that this excuse should serve him with the Pope for the purpose mentioned above. And thus the matter ended for the time; but it was not nearly over yet, because after he had served the four months at Florence and returned to Rome, the Pope sought to use him in another way, by making him paint the end wall of the Sistine Chapel. And as one who had a good wit, he thought of one thing after another until finally he resolved to have the Day of the Last Judgment painted, considering that the variety and grandeur of the subject would give a wide field for this man to prove the power that [pg 65]was in him. Michael Angelo, knowing the obligation he was under to the Duke of Urbino, endeavoured to free himself from this new charge, but as he could not he put it off as much as possible; whilst pretending to busy himself with the cartoon, as he partly did, he was secretly working at the statues for the Tomb.
THE LAST ACT OF THE TRAGEDY OF THE TOMB, AND THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
L. Meanwhile Pope Clement died and Paul III. was elected. He sent for Michael Angelo and requested him to serve him. Michael Angelo, fearing that he would be hindered in the work of the Tomb, replied that he could not, for he was engaged by contract to the Duke of Urbino until he had finished the work that he had in hand. The Pope was much annoyed, and said: "It is some thirty years that I have had this wish, shall I not satisfy it now I am Pope? Where is the contract that I may tear it up?" Michael Angelo, seeing it had come to this, was for leaving Rome and betaking himself to the country about Genoa, to an abbey of the Bishops of Aleria, to a follower of Julius, very much his friend, and there bring his work to an end. This place was conveniently near Carrara and good for carrying the marbles by sea. He thought also of going to Urbino, where he had formerly designed to live, as a quiet resting-place, and where, for the sake of Julius, he would be welcomed cordially. For this reason he had sent one of his men some months before to buy a house and some land; but fearing the greatness of the Pontiff, with good reason, he did not go, and hoped with soft words to satisfy the Pope.
[pg 67]LI. But the Pope continued firm in his proposals. One day he came to visit Michael Angelo in his house, bringing with him eight or ten Cardinals. He wished to see the cartoon for the wall of the Sistine Chapel made for Clement, and the statues already carved for the Tomb, and minutely examined everything. Then the Most Reverend Cardinal of Mantua, who was present, seeing the Moses, of which we have already written, and of which we will write more copiously by-and-bye, said: "This statue alone is enough to do honour to the Tomb of Pope Julius." When Pope Paul had seen everything he again asked Michael Angelo, in the presence of the Cardinals, including the before-mentioned Most Reverend and Illustrious of Mantua, to come and work for him, but finding Michael Angelo obdurate, he said: "I will arrange that the Duke of Urbino shall be satisfied with these statues by your hand, and that the three remaining ones shall be given to others to do." He obtained a new contract from the agents, confirmed by his Excellency the Duke, who did not wish to displease the Pope. Although Michael Angelo might have avoided paying for these three statues, this contract freeing him from the obligation, nevertheless he wished to bear the expense himself, and he deposited for these and the remaining works of the Tomb one thousand five hundred and eighty ducats. Thus the agents of the Duke allowed it, and the Tragedy of the Tomb and the Tomb itself had an end at last. To-day it may be seen in the Church of San Pietro ad Vincula, not according to the first design with four sides, but with one side, and that one of the lesser, not detached all round and isolated, but built up against a wall on account of the hindrances mentioned above. It is yet true that, although it is [pg 68]botched and patched up, it is the most worthy monument to be found in Rome, or, perhaps, anywhere else; if for nothing else, at least, for the three statues that are by the hand of the master: among them that most marvellous Moses, leader and captain of the Hebrews, who is seated in an attitude of thought and wisdom, holding under his right arm the tables of the law, and supporting his chin with his left hand, like one tired and full of cares. Between the fingers of that hand escape long waves of his beard—a very beautiful thing to see. And his face is full of life and thought, and capable of inspiring love and terror, which, perhaps, was the truth. It has, according to the usual descriptions, the two horns on his head a little way from the top of the forehead. He is robed and shod in the manner of the antique, with his arms bare. A work most marvellous and full of art, and much more so because all the form is apparent beneath the beautiful garments with which it is covered. The dress does not hide the shape and beauty of the body, as, in a word, may be seen in all Michael Angelo's clothed figures, whether in painting or sculpture. The statue is more than twice the size of life. At the right hand of this statue, under a niche, is one that represents Contemplative Life—a woman, larger than life and of rare beauty, with bent knee, not to the ground but on a plinth, with her face and both her hands raised to heaven, so that she seems to breathe love in every part. On the other side, that is to say on the left of Moses, is Active Life, with a mirror in her right hand, into which she gazes attentively, meaning by this that our actions should be governed by forethought; and in her left hand a garland of flowers. In this Michael Angelo followed Dante, of [pg 69]whom he was always a great student, for in his Purgatorio he feigns to have the Countess Matilda, whom he takes to represent Active Life, in a field full of flowers. The Tomb is altogether beautiful, especially the binding of the several parts together by the great cornice, to which no one could take exception.
LII. Now that is enough for this work; indeed, I fear it is only too much, and that instead of giving pleasure it will have been tedious to the reader. Nevertheless, it appeared to me necessary, in order to remove those unfortunate and false scandals, rooted in men's minds, that Michael Angelo had received sixteen thousand scudi, and then would not carry out the work he had undertaken. Neither the one nor the other was true, because he had from Julius for the Tomb only one thousand ducats, spent in those months of quarrying marble at Carrara. How then could Michael Angelo have received money for it from him, since he changed his purpose and would hear no more of the Tomb? As to the money Michael Angelo received, after the death of Pope Julius, from the two cardinals, his executors, Michael Angelo possesses a written public acknowledgment—by the hand of a notary, from Bernardo Bini, Florentine citizen, who was trustee, and payed out the money—that the payments amounted to about three thousand ducats. Never was man more anxious about his work than Michael Angelo in this, as much because he knew how great fame it would bring him as for the loving memory in which he always held the blessed spirit of Pope Julius, for that reason he has always honoured and loved the House della Rovere, and especially the Dukes of Urbino, for that reason he has contended with two Popes, as has [pg 70]been said, who wished to withdraw him from the undertaking. But what grieved Michael Angelo the most, is that instead of thanks all he got was odium and disgrace.
LIII. But returning to Pope Paul. I must tell you that after the last agreement made between his Excellency the Duke and Michael Angelo, the Pope took Michael Angelo into his service, and desired him to carry out what he had begun in the time of Clement, to paint the end wall of the Sistine Chapel, which he had already covered with rough-cast and screened off with boards from floor to ceiling. As this work was instigated by Pope Clement, and begun in his time, it does not bear the arms of Paul, although he desired it; but Pope Paul so loved and reverenced Michael Angelo that however much he desired it he would never have vexed him. In this work Michael Angelo expressed all that the human figure is capable of in the art of painting, not leaving out any pose or action whatsoever. The composition is careful and well thought out, but lengthy to describe; perhaps it is unnecessary, as so many engravings and such a variety of drawings of it have been dispersed everywhere. Nevertheless, for those who have not seen the real thing, and into whose hands the engravings have not come, let us say, briefly, that the whole is divided into parts, right and left, upper and lower, and central. In the central part, near to the earth, are seven angels, described by Saint John in the Apocalypse, with trumpets to their lips, calling the dead to judgment from the four corners of the earth. With them are two others having an open book in their hands, in which every one reads and recognises his past life, having almost to judge himself. At the sound of these trumpets [pg 71]the graves open and the human race issues from the earth, all with varied and marvellous gestures; while in some, according to the prophecy of Ezekiel, the bones only have come together, in some they are half clothed with flesh, and in others entirely covered; some naked, some clothed in the shrouds and grave-clothes in which they were wrapped when buried, and of which they seek to divest themselves. Among these are some who are not yet fully risen, and looking up to heaven in doubt as to whither Divine justice shall call them. It is a delightful thing to see them with labour and pains issue forth from the earth, and, with arms out-stretched to heaven, take flight; those who are already risen lifted up into the air, some higher and some lower, with different gestures and characters. Above the angels of the trumpets is the Son of God in majesty, in the form of a man, with arm and strong right hand uplifted. He wrathfully curses the wicked, and drives them from before his face into eternal fire. With His left hand stretched out to those on the right, He seems to draw the good gently to Himself. The angels are seen between heaven and earth as executors of the Divine commands. On the right they rush to aid the elect, whose flight is impeded by malignant spirits; and on the left to dash back to earth the damned, who in their audacity attempt to scale the heavens. Evil spirits drag down these wicked ones into the abyss, the proud by the hair of the head, and so also every sinner by the member through which he sinned. Beneath them is seen Charon with his black boat, just as Dante described him in the "Inferno," on muddy Acheron, raising his oar to strike some laggard soul. As the bark touches the bank, pushed on by Divine justice, all these souls strive to fling themselves ashore, so [pg 72]that fear, as the poet says, is changed into longing. Afterwards they receive from Minos their sentence, to be dragged by demons to the bottomless pit, where are marvellous contortions, grievous and desperate as the place demands. In the middle of the composition, on the clouds of heaven, the Blessed already arisen form a crown and circle around the Son of God. Apart, and beside the Son, appears His Mother, timorous and seeming hardly secure herself from the wrath and mystery of God; she draws as near as possible to the Son. Next to her the Baptist, the Twelve Apostles, and all the saints of God, each one showing to the tremendous Judge the symbol of the martyrdom by which he glorified God: St. Andrew the cross, St. Bartholomew his skin, St. Lawrence the gridiron, St. Sebastian the arrows, San Biagio the combs of iron, St. Catherine the wheel, and others other things whereby they are known. Above these on the right and left, on the upper part of the wall, are groups of angels, with actions gracious and rare, raising in heaven the Cross of the Son of God, the Sponge, the Crown of Thorns, the Nails, and the Column of the Flagellation, to reproach the wicked with the blessings of God of which they have been so heedless, and for which they have been so ungrateful, and to comfort and give confidence to the good. There are infinite details which I pass over in silence. It is enough that, besides the divine composition, all that the human figure is capable of in the art of painting is here to be seen.
THE CHAPEL OF POPE PAUL AND THE PIETÀ OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE
LIV. Finally, Pope Paul having built a chapel on the same floor as the before-mentioned Sistine, he desired to decorate it in his own memory, and he made Michael Angelo paint the frescoes on the side walls. In one is represented the crucifixion of St. Peter; in the other the story of St. Paul—how he was converted by the apparition of Jesus Christ—both stupendous in general composition as in the individual figures. And this is the last work of painting by Michael Angelo that has been seen to this day; he finished it in his seventy-fifth year. At present he has in hand a group in marble, which he works at for his pleasure, as one who full of ideas and powers must produce something every day. It is a group of four figures, larger than life—a Deposition. The dead Christ is held up by His Mother; she supports the body on her bosom with her arms and with her knees, a wonderfully beautiful gesture. She is aided by Nicodemus above, who is erect and stands firmly—he holds her under the arms and sustains her with manly strength—and on the left by one of the Marys, who, although exhibiting the deepest grief, does not omit to do those offices that the Mother, by the extremity of her sorrow, is unable to perform. The Christ [pg 74]is dead, all His limbs fall relaxed, but withall in a very different manner from the Christ Michael Angelo made for the Marchioness of Pescara or the Christ in the Madonna della Febbre. It is impossible to speak of its beauty and its sorrow, of the grieving and sad faces of them all, especially of the afflicted Mother. Let it suffice; I tell you it is a rare thing, and one of the most laborious works that he has yet done, principally because all the figures are distinct from each other, the folds of the draperies of one figure not confused with those of the others.
LV. Michael Angelo has done infinitely more things of which I have not spoken, such as the Christ that is in the Church of the Minerva, a St. Matthew in Florence; when he began it he designed to carve all the twelve Apostles to be placed near twelve pilasters in the Duomo. His cartoons for several works of paintings, and of designs for buildings, both public and private, are infinite in number; and, lastly, for a bridge to span the Grand Canal of Venice, of a new shape and style of which the like was never seen; and many other things never to be seen. It would be long to describe them, so I make an end. He intends to give the Deposition from the Cross to some church, and to be buried at the foot of the altar where it is placed. The Lord God in His goodness long preserve him to us, for without doubt the same day will end his life and his labours, as is written of Socrates. His active and vigorous old age gives me firm hope that he has many years to live, as also the long life of his father, who lived to ninety-two years without knowing what it was to have a fever, and then dying more for lack of resolution than for any illness; so that when he was dead, as Michael Angelo [pg 75]relates, his face retained the same colour that he had when living, appearing rather asleep than dead.
LVI. From a child Michael Angelo was a hard worker, and to the gifts of nature added study, not using the labours and industry of others, but, desiring to learn from nature herself, he set her up before him as the true example. There is no animal whose anatomy he did not desire to study, much more than that of man; so that those who have spent all their lives in that science, and who make a profession of it, hardly know so much of it as he. I speak of such knowledge as is necessary to the arts of painting and sculpture, not of other minutiæ that anatomists observe. And thus it is that his figures show so much art and learning, so that they are inimitable by any painter whatever. I have always been of this opinion, that the forces and efforts of nature have a prescribed end, fixed and ordained by God, which it is impossible for ordinary powers to pass; and this is so not only in painting and sculpture, but universally in all arts and sciences; and that she gives power to one person that he may be a rule and example in a particular art, giving him the first place; so that afterwards, if any one desires to bring forth a great work in that art, worthy to be read or seen, he must work in the same way as the first great example, or, at least, similarly, and go by his road; for if he does not his work will be much inferior, the worse the more he diverges from the direct path. After Plato and Aristotle, how many philosophers have we seen who, not following them, have been worth anything? How many orators after Demosthenes and Cicero? How many mathematicians after Euclid and Archimedes? How many doctors [pg 76]after Hypocrates and Galen? Or poets after Homer and Virgil? And if there has been any one who has been able by his own abilities to arrive at the first place in any one of these sciences and finds it already occupied, he either acknowledges the first one to have arrived at perfection, and gives up the attempt, or if he has sense he follows him as the ideal of the perfect. This has been exemplified in our own day in Bembo, in Sanazzaro, in Caro, in Guidoccione, in the Marchioness of Pescara, and in other writers and lovers of the Tuscan rhyme, who, although gifted with the highest and most singular genius, none the less, not being able of themselves to do better than nature exemplifies in Petrarca, they set themselves to follow him, but so happily that they are judged worthy to be read and counted with the best.
CONCLUSION OF THE LIFE BY CONDIVI
LVII. Now to consider my remarks. I say, that it seems to me, that nature has endowed Michael Angelo so largely with all her riches in these arts of painting and sculpture, that I am not to be reproached for saying that his figures are almost inimitable. Nor does it appear that I have allowed myself to be too much carried away, for until now he alone has worthily taken up both chisel and brush. Of the painting of the ancients there is no memorial, and to whom does he yield in their sculpture (of which, indeed, much remains)? In the judgment of men learned in the art, to no one, unless we stoop to the opinion of the vulgar, who admire the antique for the sole reason that they envy the genius and industry of their own times. All the same, I have not yet heard any one say the contrary; this man is so far above envy. Raffael da Urbino, although he desired to compete with Michael Angelo, was often constrained to say that he thanked God he was born in his time as he acquired from him a style very different from that which he learnt from his father, who was a painter, and from his master Perugino. But what greater and clearer sign can we ever have of the excellence of this man than the contention of the Princes of the world for him? From the four Pontiffs, Julius, [pg 78]Leo, Clement, and Paul, to the Grand Turk, father of him who to-day holds the Empire. As I have said above, the Sultan sent certain monks of the Order of Saint Francis with letters begging Michael Angelo to come and stay with him; arranging by letters of credit for the bank of the Gondi, in Florence, to advance the amount of money necessary for his journey, and also that from Cossa, near Ragusi, he should be accompanied to Constantinople most honourably by one of his grandees. Francesco54 Valesio, King of France, tried every means to get him, crediting him with three thousand scudi for his journey whenever he should go. Il Bruciolo was sent to Rome by the Signoria of Venice to invite him to come and dwell in that city, and to offer him a provision of six hundred scudi a year, not binding him to anything, only that he should honour the Republic with his presence; with the condition also that if he did any work in her service he should be paid for it as if he received no pension from them at all. These are not ordinary doings that happen every day, but new and out of the common use, and would only happen to singular and most excellent worth, as was that of Homer, for whom many cities contested, each one appropriating him as her own.
LVIII. He is held of no less account, than by those already named, by the present Pontiff, Julius III., a Prince of supreme wisdom and a lover and patron of all the arts; but particularly inclined to painting, sculpture, and architecture, as may be clearly known by the works he has done in the Palazzo and the Belvedere, and now has ordered for his villa Giulia (a memorial and scheme worthy [pg 79]of a noble and generous soul like his). It is filled with so many statues, ancient and modern, so great variety of beautiful stones, precious columns, plaster work, paintings, and every other kind of ornament, of which I will write another time, as a unique work, not yet in its perfection, requires. He does not ask Michael Angelo to work for him. Having respect for his age, he understands well and appreciates his greatness; but wishes not to overburden him. This regard, in my judgment, brings Michael Angelo more honour than all his employment under the other Popes. It is, however, true, that in the paintings and architecture that his Holiness is continually having done, he almost always seeks Michael Angelo's advice and judgment, frequently sending the artists to seek him at his house. It grieves me, and it grieves also his Holiness, that by reason of a certain natural timidity, or let us say respect and reverence, which some call pride, Michael Angelo does not profit by the goodwill, kindness, and liberality of so great a Pontiff and so much his friend. As I first heard from the most Reverend Monsignor di Forlì, his chamberlain, the Pope has often said that (if it were possible) he would willingly take from his own years and his own blood to add to the life of Michael Angelo, that the world might not so soon be deprived of such a man. I also, having access to his Holiness, heard it from his lips with my own ears, and more also, that if he survives him, as in the natural course of life is probable, he will have Michael Angelo's body embalmed and keep it near him, so that it should be as lasting as his works. He said this at the beginning of his Pontificate to Michael Angelo himself in the presence of many. I do not know what could be more honourable to Michael [pg 80]Angelo than these words, or a greater proof of the esteem in which the Pope holds him.
LIX. Again the Pope showed his esteem plainly when Pope Paul died and he was created Pontiff, in a consistory, all the Cardinals then in Rome being present. He defended Michael Angelo and protected him from the overseers of the fabric of St. Peter's, who, for no fault of his, as they said, but of his servants, wished to deprive him of, or at least to restrain, that authority given him by Pope Paul by a moto proprio, of which more will be said below. He defended him, and not only confirmed the moto proprio but honoured him by many kind words, not lending his ears to the quarrels of the overseers or anybody else. Michael Angelo knows (as many times he has told me) the love and kindness of his Holiness towards him, and how he respects him; and because he cannot requite the Pope with his services, and show his love, he will regret all the rest of his life that he seems useless and appears ungrateful to his Holiness. One thing comforts him somewhat (as he is accustomed to say); knowing the wisdom of his Holiness he hopes to be excused, and being unable to give more, that his good will may be accepted. Nor does he refuse, as far as he has the power, and for all he may be worth, to spend his life in his service; this I have from his own mouth. Nevertheless, at the request of his Holiness, Michael Angelo designed the façade of a palace that the Pope had a mind to build in Rome, a thing new and original to those who have seen it—not bound to any laws, ancient or modern, as in many other works of his in Florence and in Rome—proving that architecture has not been so arbitrarily handled in the past that there [pg 81]is not room for fresh invention no less delightful and beautiful.
LX. Now to return to anatomy. He gave up dissection because it turned his stomach so that he could neither eat nor drink with benefit. It is very true that he did not give up until he was so learned and rich in such knowledge that he often had in his mind the wish to write, for the sake of sculptors and painters, a treatise on the movements of the human body, its aspect, and concerning the bones, with an ingenious theory of his own, devised after long practice. He would have done it had he not mistrusted his powers, lest they should not suffice to treat with dignity and grace of such a subject, like one practised in the sciences and in rhetoric. I know well that when he reads Alberto Duro he finds him very weak, seeing in his own mind how much more beautiful and useful his own conception would be. To tell the truth, Alberto only treats of the proportions and diversities of the body, for which one cannot make fixed rules, making figures as regular as posts; and what matters more, says nothing of human movements and gestures. And because Michael Angelo has now reached a ripe old age, he thinks of putting his ideas in writing and giving them to the world. With great devotion he has explained everything minutely to me; he also conferred with Messer Realdo Colombo, an anatomist and most excellent surgeon, a great friend of Michael Angelo's and mine. He sent to Michael Angelo for study the body of a Moor, a very fine young man, and very suitable to the purpose; he was sent to Santa Agata, where I then lived and still live, as it is a quiet place. On this corpse Michael Angelo showed me many rare and recondite facts, [pg 82]perhaps never before understood, all of which I noted down, and hope one day, with the help of some learned man, to publish for the advantage and use of painters and sculptors; but enough of this.
LXI. He devoted himself to perspective and to architecture, his works show with what profit. Michael Angelo did not content himself with knowing only the main features of architecture, but wished also to know about everything that could be useful in any way in that profession, such as ties, platforms, scaffolding, and such like, he knew as much of these things as those who profess nothing else, which was exemplified in the time of Julius II. in this wise. When Michael Angelo had to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel the Pope ordered Bramante to erect the scaffolding. For all the architect he was he did not know how to do it, but pierced the vault in many places, letting down certain ropes through these holes to sling the platform. When Michael Angelo saw it he smiled, and asked Bramante what was to be done when he came to those holes? Bramante had no defence to make, only replied that it could not be done any other way. The matter came before the Pope, and Bramante replied again to the same effect. The Pope turned to Michael Angelo and said: "As it is not satisfactory go and do it yourself." Michael Angelo took down the platform, and took away so much rope from it, that having given it to a poor man that assisted him, it enabled him to dower and marry two daughters. Michael Angelo erected his scaffold without ropes, so well devised and arranged that the more weight it had to bear the firmer it became. This opened Bramante's eyes, and gave him a lesson in the building of a platform, [pg 83]which was very useful to him in the works of St. Peter's. For all that, Michael Angelo, although he had no equal in all these things, would not make a profession of architecture. On the contrary, when at last Antonio da San Gallo, the architect of St. Peter's, died, and Pope Paul wished to put Michael Angelo in his place, he refused the post, saying that architecture was not his art. He refused it so earnestly that the Pope had to command him to take it, and issue an ample moto proprio, which was afterwards confirmed by Pope Julius III., now, as I have said, by the grace of God, our Pontiff. For these, his services, Michael Angelo received no payment; so he wished it to be stated in the moto proprio. One day, when Pope Paul sent him a hundred scudi of gold by Messer Pier Giovanni, then Gentleman of the Wardrobe to his Holiness, now Bishop of Forlì, as his month's salary on account of the building, Michael Angelo would not accept it, saying it was not in the agreement they had between them, and he sent them back. The Pope was very angry, as I have been told by Messer Alessandro Ruffini, a gentleman of Rome, then Groom to the Chambers and Carver before his Holiness; but this did not move Michael Angelo from his resolution. When he had accepted this charge he made a new model, both because certain parts of the old one did not please him in many respects, and, besides, if it was followed one would sooner expect to see the end of the world than St. Peter's finished. This model, praised and approved by the Pope, is now being followed to the great satisfaction of those who have judgment, although there be certain persons who do not approve of it.
LXII. Michael Angelo gave himself, then, whilst still [pg 84]young, not only to sculpture and painting, but to all the kindred arts, with such devotion that for a time he almost withdrew from the fellowship of men, only consorting with a few. So that by some he was held to be proud, and by others odd and eccentric, though he had none of these vices; but (like many excellent men) a love of knowledge and continued exercise in the learned arts made him solitary, and he was so satisfied and took such a delight in them that company not only did not please him but even annoyed him, as interrupting his meditations he was never less solitary than when alone (as the great Scipio used to say of himself).
LXIII. Nevertheless, he willingly kept the friendship of those from whose wise and learned conversation he could gather any fruit and in whom shone some ray of excellence, such as the Most Reverend and Illustrious Monsignor Polo,55 for his rare learning and singular goodness; and similarly my Most Reverend patron the Cardinal Crispo, finding in him besides his many good qualities a rare and excellent judgment. He had also a great affection for the Most Reverend Cardinal Santa Croce, a man of great weight and most prudent, of whom I have heard him speak more than once with the highest esteem; and the Most Reverend Maffei, whose goodness and learning he always speaks of; and generally loves and honours all the House of the Farnese, for the lively memory he cherishes of Pope Paul, recalling him with the utmost reverence, speaking of him constantly as a good and holy old man. [pg 85]And so, too, the Most Reverend Patriarch of Jerusalem, formerly Bishop of Cesena, with whom he has often conversed familiarly, as one whose open and liberal nature much pleased him. He had also a close friendship with my Most Reverend patron, the Cardinal Ridolfi, of happy memory, the refuge of all men of talent. There are others whom I leave out, so as not to be tedious, as Monsignor Claudio Toleméi, Messer Lorenzo Ridolfi, Messer Donato Giannotti, Messer Lionardo Malaspini, Il Lottino, Messer Tomaso de' Cavalieri, and other honourable gentlemen, of whom I will not write at length. Finally, he has a great affection for Annibal Caro. He has told me that he is sorry not to have known him before, as he is so much to his taste. More particularly he loved greatly the Marchioness of Pescara, of whose divine spirit he was enamoured, being in return loved tenderly by her. He still possesses many letters of hers, full of an honest and most sweet love, such as issued from her heart. He has written to her also many and many sonnets, full of wit and sweet desire. She often returned to Rome from Viterbo and other places, where she had gone for her pastime and to spend the summer, for no other reason than to see Michael Angelo; and he bore her so much love that I remember to have heard him say: Nothing grieved him so much as that when he went to see her after she passed away from this life he did not kiss her on the brow or face, as he did kiss her hand. Recalling this, her death, he often remained dazed as one bereft of sense. He made at the wish of his lady a naked Christ, when He was taken down from the Cross, and His dead body would have fallen at the feet of His most holy Mother, if it were not supported by the arms of two angels; but [pg 86]she, seated under the Cross with a tearful and sorrowful face, raises to heaven both hands with her arms out-stretched, with this cry, which one reads inscribed on the stem of the cross:
NON VI SI PENSA QUANTO SANGUE COSTA!
The Cross is like that which was carried in procession by the Bianchi at the time of the plague of 1348, and afterwards placed in the Church of Santa Croce, at Florence. He also made for love of her a drawing of a Jesu Christ on the Cross, not as if dead, as is the common use, but with a Divine gesture. Raising His face to the Father He seems to say, "Eli, Eli." The body does not hang like a corpse but as if still living, and contorted by the bitter agony of His death.
LXIV. And as he greatly delighted in the conversation of the learned, so he took pleasure in the study of the writers of both prose and poetry. He had a special admiration for Dante, delighting in the admirable genius of that man, almost all of whose works he knew by heart; he held Petrarca in no less esteem. He not only delighted in reading, but occasionally in composing, too, as may be seen by some sonnets that are to be found of his. Concerning some of them, there have been published—"Lectures and Criticisms by Varchi." But he wrote these sonnets more for his pleasure than because he made a profession of it, always belittling them himself, accusing himself of ignorance in these matters.
LXV. Likewise, with deep study and attention, he read the Holy Scriptures, both the Old and the New Testaments, [pg 87]and searched them diligently, as also the writings of Savonarola, for whom he always had a great affection, keeping always in his mind the memory of his living voice. He has also loved the beauty of the human body, as one who best understands it; and in such wise that certain carnal-minded men, who do not comprehend the love of beauty, have taken occasion to think and speak evil of him, as if Alcibiades, a youth of perfect beauty, had not been purely loved by Socrates, from whose side he arose as from the side of his father. I have often heard Michael Angelo reason and discourse of Love, and learned afterwards from those who were present that he did not speak otherwise of Love than is to be found written in the works of Plato. For myself I do not know what Plato says of Love, but I know well that I, who have known Michael Angelo so long and so intimately, have never heard issue from his mouth any but the most honest of words, which had the power to extinguish in youth every ill-regulated and unbridled desire which might arise. By this we may know that no evil thoughts were born in him. He loved not only human beauty, but universally every beautiful thing—a beautiful horse, a beautiful dog, a beautiful country, a beautiful plant, a beautiful mountain, a beautiful forest, and every place and thing beautiful and rare after its kind, admiring them all with a marvellous love; thus choosing the beauty in nature as the bees gather honey from the flowers, using it afterwards in his works, as all those have done who have ever made a noise in painting. That old master who had to paint a Venus was not content to see one virgin only, but studied many, and taking from each her most beautiful and perfect feature gave them to his Venus; and, in truth, who ever [pg 88]expects to arrive at a true theory of art without this method of study is greatly mistaken.
LXVI. All through his life Michael Angelo has been very abstemious, taking food more from necessity than from pleasure, especially when at work, at which time, for the most part, he has been content with a piece of bread, which he munched whilst he laboured. But latterly he has lived more regularly, his advanced age requiring it. I have often heard him say: "Ascanio, rich man as I have made myself, I have always lived as a poor one." And as he took little food so he took little sleep, which, as he says, rarely did him any good, for sleeping almost always made his head ache, and too much sleep made his stomach bad. When he was more robust he often slept in his clothes and with his buskins on; this he made a habit of for fear of the cramp, from which he continually suffered, besides other reasons; and he has sometimes been so long without taking them off that when he did so the skin came off with them like the slough of a snake. He was never miserly with his money, nor did he hoard it, contented with enough to live honestly. Works from his hand were sought for more and more by the gentry and rich people with large promises, but he has rarely satisfied them; and when he has done so, it has been from friendship and goodwill rather than for hope of reward.
LXVII. He has given away many of his things, which, if he had wished to sell them, would have brought him in endless money; as, for example, were there no others, the two statues that he gave to Roberto Strozzi, his [pg 89]great friend.56 He has not only been liberal with his works, but with his purse also he has often helped the talented and studious poor in their need, whether men of letters or painters; of this I am able to testify, having benefited by it myself. He was never jealous of the labours of others even in his own art, more by his goodness of nature than any opinion he had of himself. On the contrary, he has praised all universally, even Raphael of Urbino, between whom and himself there was formally some rivalry in painting, as I have written; only I have heard him say that Raphael had not his art by nature, but acquired it by long study. Nor is it true what many say of him, that he would not teach; on the contrary, he has done so willingly, as I know myself, for to me he has made known all the secrets of his art; but unfortunately he has met either with pupils little apt, or even if apt without perseverance, so after working under his discipline a few months they thought themselves masters. Now, although he would readily do kindly acts, he was unwilling to have them known, wishing more to do well than to appear to do so. It must also be known that he has always desired to cultivate the arts in persons of nobility, as was the manner of the ancients, and not in plebeians.
LXVIII. Michael Angelo had a most retentive memory, so that although he has painted so many thousand figures, as may be seen, he has never made one like to another, or in the same pose; indeed, I have heard him say that if ever he draws a line which he remembers to have drawn before, he rubs it out if it is to come before the public. He has also a most powerful imagination, from whence it [pg 90]comes, firstly, that he is little contented with his work, his hand not appearing to carry out the ideas he has conceived in his mind. And, secondly, from the same cause (as often happens to those who lead a peaceful and contemplative life), he has always been somewhat timid; saving only when a just indignation against some wrong or lapse of duty to himself or to others moves him, then he plucks up more spirit than those who are held to be courageous; otherwise he is of a most patient disposition. Of his modesty it is not possible to say as much as he deserves; and so also of his manners, and his ways, they are seasoned with pleasantries and sharp sayings: for instance, his conversation at Bologna with a certain gentleman, who, seeing the mere largeness and mass of the bronze statue Michael Angelo had made, marvelled and said: "Which do you suppose to be the larger, this statue or a pair of oxen?" To whom Michael Angelo replied: "It is according to the oxen you mean; if it be these of Bologna doubtless they are much larger; if ours of Florence they are much smaller."57 So also when Il Francia, who was at that time thought to be an Apelles in Bologna, came to see that same statue and said: "This is a beautiful bronze," it seemed to Michael Angelo that he was praising the metal and not the form, so he laughingly replied: "If this be beautiful bronze, I must thank Pope Julius for it, who gave it to me, as you have to thank the apothecaries who provide your colours." And another day, seeing the [pg 91]child of Francia, who was a very beautiful boy: "My son," said he, "your father makes better living pictures than painted ones."
LXIX. Michael Angelo is of a good complexion; his figure rather sinuous and bony than fleshy and fat; healthy above all by nature, as well as by the use of exercise and his continence of life and moderation in taking food; nevertheless, as a child he was feeble and sickly, and as a man he had two illnesses. He has suffered much for several years in the passing of urine, which trouble would have turned into a stone if he had not been relieved by the care and diligence of the before-mentioned Messer Realdo. Michael Angelo has always had a good colour in his face; he is of middle height; he is broad shouldered, with the rest of the body in proportion, rather slight than not. The shape of his skull in front is round; the height above the ear is a sixth part of the circumference round the middle of the head, so that the temples project somewhat beyond the ears, and the ears beyond the cheek-bones, and the cheek-bones beyond the rest of the face; the skull in proportion to the face must be called large. The front view of the forehead is square, the nose a little flattened, not naturally, but because when he was a boy, one Torrigiano, a brutal and proud fellow, with a blow almost broke the cartilage, so that Michael Angelo was carried home as one dead; for this Torrigiano was banished from Florence, and he came to a bad end.58 Michael Angelo's nose, such [pg 92]as it is, is in proportion to the forehead and the rest of the face. His lips are mobile, the lower one somewhat the thicker, so that seen in profile it sticks out a little. The chin goes well with the above-mentioned parts. The forehead in profile is almost in front of the nose, which is little less than broken, except for a small lump in the middle. The eyebrows have few hairs; the eyes are rather small than otherwise, the colour is that of horn, but changing, with sparkles of yellow and blue; the ears in proportion; the hair black, and beard also, but, in this his seventy-ninth year, plentifully sprinkled with grey; his beard is forked, four or five fingers long and not very thick, as may be seen in his portraits. Many other things remain to be said, but I have left them out because of the hurry in which I bring out these writings, hearing that others59 wish to reap the reward of my labours, which I had confided to their hands; so, if it should ever happen that another should undertake this work again, I hereby offer [pg 93]to tell him all I know, or most lovingly to give it to him in writing. I hope before long to bring out some of Michael Angelo's sonnets and madrigals, which I have for a long time collected, both from himself and from others, that the world may know the worth of his imaginations, and how many beautiful conceits were born in his divine spirit, and with this I close.
THE WORKS OF MICHAEL ANGELO
"Non essendo homo in Italia apto ad expedire una opera di costesta qualità, e necessario che lui solo, e non altro."
Piero Soderini to the Marchese Alberigo Malaspina, Gaye ii. 107.
THE RAPE OF DEIANEIRA, OR THE BATTLE OF THE CENTAURS, AND THE ANGEL OF THE SHRINE OF SAINT DOMINIC
All accounts agree as to the precocity of the genius of Michael Angelo, and Piero Soderini vouches for its practical character in the words quoted above. It was not until he had suffered from the procrastination and uncertainty of the patronage of the Popes, that his work took him so long to finish that sometimes it had to be left incomplete. His early works were remarkable, not only for their high finish but also for the expedition with which they were carried out.
Condivi has given us the story of his early difficulties and of his first picture,60 probably in Michael Angelo's own words; we may supplement this account by the following extract from Vasari, who gathered his information from the gossip of the workshops of Florence, and from Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, the son of his first master. "Michael Angelo grew in power and character so rapidly that Domenico61 was astonished, seeing him do things quite extraordinary in a youth, for it seemed [pg 98]to him that he not only surpassed the other students, of whom Domenico had a large number, but that he often equalled the work done by him as master. Now, one of the lads who studied under Domenico made a pen-drawing of some women, draped, after Ghirlandaio. Michael Angelo took up the paper, and with a thicker pen went over the outline of one of the women with a new line, correcting it, and making it perfect, so that it is wonderful to see the difference between the two styles, and the ability and judgment of a boy, so spirited and bold that he had the courage to correct his master's handiwork. This drawing is to-day in my possession, valued as a relic. I had it from Granacci to put it in my book of drawings with others given to me by Michael Angelo. In the year 1550, being in Rome, I, Giorgio, showed it to Michael Angelo, who recognised it and was pleased to see it again, saying modestly that he knew more of art as a child than now as an old man.62 It happened that Domenico was working in the great Chapel of Santa Maria Novella, and one day when he was out Michael Angelo set himself to draw from nature the scaffolding, the tables with all the materials of the art, and some of the young men at work. Presently Domenico returned, and saw Michael Angelo's drawing. He was astonished, saying this boy knows more than I do; and he was stupefied by this style and new realism: a gift from heaven to a child of such tender years."
[pg 99]The first art school of Michael Angelo was the beautiful Church of Santa Maria Novella, called by him affectionately "Mia Sposa." Here, day by day, he beheld the "Last Judgment" of Orcagna, the enthroned figures in the Spanish Chapel, and the solemn blue Madonna, now in the Capella Rucellai, with its little figures of prophets on the frame that are already almost Michael Angelesque. Here he transferred cartoons for Domenico and painted draperies and ornaments; here he mixed colours for fresco painting after the Florentine fashion; and here possibly he first painted on a vault. No certain trace of his handiwork can be identified upon the walls, but there is a nude figure seated upon the steps resting his chin upon his hand in the fresco of the Blessed Virgin going to the Temple, that has a sinister expression and a force of modelling that Domenico does not usually command.
Now Lorenzo de' Medici, the Magnificent, desired to encourage the art of sculpture in Florence; he therefore established a museum of antiquities in his garden near San Marco, and made Bertoldo, the pupil of Donatello and the foreman of his workshop, keeper of the collection, with a special commission to aid and instruct the young men who studied there. Lorenzo requested Domenico Ghirlandaio to select from his pupils those he considered the most promising, and send them to work in the garden. Domenico sent Michael Angelo Buonarroti and Francesco Granacci; possibly he was rather glad to get these talented elements of insubordination out of his workshop. Thus it was that Michael Angelo came under the influence of a pupil and foreman of Donatello. Bertoldo [pg 100]must be considered the instructor of Michael Angelo in his beloved art of sculpture, and the most important influence in shaping his genius. Very little is known of the man upon whom this responsibility was placed, but he appears to have been worthy of it. Vasari tells us that Bertoldo "was old and could not work; that he was none the less an able and highly reputed artist, not only because he had most diligently chased and polished the casts in bronze for the pupils of Donatello his master, but also for the numerous casts in bronze of battle-pieces and other little things, which he had executed of his own; there was no one then in Florence more masterly in such work." We have no important work entirely by Bertoldo, but he must have been a considerable artist or he would not have been appointed to his important post by such a wise man as Lorenzo the Magnificent. His share of the work for the pulpits of San Lorenzo was probably much greater than we are accustomed to think. Vasari's word rinettato had a much wider meaning to him than it has to us, the chasing of a bronze was considered no small part of its quality by the Florentines. Lorenzo Ghiberti's supposed superiority over his competitors for the doors of San Giovanni was more in his superb finish than in anything else. The pulpits in San Lorenzo have something about them that is between the art of Donatello and the art of Michael Angelo; we may even owe a large part of the composition in some of the stories to Bertoldo. Donatello must have needed a man of judgment and ability to carry out the numerous and important commissions that issued from his workshops in his old age. That Michael Angelo studied the pulpits of San Lorenzo is [pg 101]proved by the numerous motives he took from them in after life; the general aspect of the figures strangely suggests the "terribilità" of his style, and the beginnings of several of his motives can be traced to them, such as the Centaurs, the Pietà, and, in the Sistine ceiling, the Adam; the monochrome putti used as Caryatides; the single putto placed at the springing of two arches; the athletes supporting garlands, similar in proportion to the cherubs supporting garlands used for the capitals of columns in the pulpits; two figures for the spaces over the windows. The man with the clean-shaven and bird-like face writing in a book and dressed in trousers tied in at the ankles, like the captive barbarians of Roman art, in one of the semi-circular spaces round the windows, is very like a man standing behind the Madonna who supports the dead Christ in the deposition of the pulpit. Perhaps it is a portrait of old Bertoldo himself. In this panel, too, are horsemen riding animals similar to the ones Michael Angelo drew in his last fresco, The Conversion of Saint Paul. The composition for the scourging of Christ, supplied by Michael Angelo to Sebastiano del Piombo for his wall painting in San Pietro in Montorio, follows the lines of the bas-relief of the same subject on the pulpit. What is more likely than that Bertoldo should have educated his great pupil by directing him to the glories of the last work of his master, Donatello, and that Michael Angelo should have studied them eagerly, particularly if Bertoldo himself was partly responsible for some of the panels, and may have been working upon them at this time.63
[pg 102]The pulpits of San Lorenzo were the second school of Michael Angelo, and Bertoldo was his master. No great style ever sprang complete from the brain of its great exponent, but grew and developed from master to pupil until its supreme exponent blazed it before the world full of the traditional fire of his predecessors, but distinctly marked by his own dominant personality. The root of the style of Michael Angelo may be seen in the works of Donatello and in the pulpits of San Lorenzo. His study of the antique,64 modified by his love of grace, of high finish, and his own powerful character, only had to be added to complete the perfect flower of Florentine art, Michael Angelo, the topmost bloom of the lily.
THE RAPE OF DEIANEIRA AND THE BATTLE OF THE CENTAURS
CASA BUONARROTI, FLORENCE
By good fortune, Michael Angelo attracted the notice of Lorenzo the Magnificent, as Condivi has related;65 and thus at the age of fifteen years he entered the most cultured house in Italy and there acquired that distinction of style that he kept all through his life, both in his art and his manner. In these halcyon days at this hospitable table Michael Angelo met such men as Massilio Ficino, the interpreter of Plato; Pico della Mirandola, the phoenix of erudition; Luigi Pulci and Angelo Poliziano—the latter is supposed to have incited Michael Angelo to carve the bas-relief66 now in the Casa Buonarroti, [pg 103]called by Condivi "The rape of Deianeira and the battle of the Centaurs." This is the earliest work that we know from the master's hand to which we can give a date; it already shows his double love for the Hellenistic and for the Tuscan styles. The degree of relief is alto-rilievo, like those on the Roman sarcophagi and the pulpits of the Pisani; in shape it is almost as high as it is long; this unusual proportion is similar to some of the divisions of the bronze reliefs in the Donatello pulpits at San Lorenzo. The struggling figures, Centaurs, and Lapithæ, already exhibit Michael Angelo's power over rhythm of line in a crowded composition as in the later groups of "Moses raising the Serpent in the Wilderness," and "The Last Judgment," both in the Sistine Chapel. The method is extraordinarily free for so young a sculptor; he evidently thinks out his work as it proceeds; his delight in the beauty of the male human form is shown in every figure. Some critics have been unable to distinguish the figure of Deianeira, as her form has been so little differentiated or emphasised by the master. She is towards the left of the [pg 104]composition; a man holds her by the hair of her head. The centre figures and the two at the lower corners remind us forcibly of the pulpits of San Lorenzo.
THE ANGEL AT THE SHRINE OF SAINT DOMINIC
Vasari mentions another bas-relief executed at this period, a seated Madonna with the Infant Jesus, in the manner of Donatello; the inferior bas-relief, now in the Casa Buonarroti, is said to be this work. If the club-shaped feet and thick hands of the Madonna are compared with the beautiful long feet and graceful hands of the angel holding a candlestick, at San Domenico, in Bologna, certainly by Michael Angelo, it cannot be supposed that these two works were either executed or even designed by the same artist. The pose of the Holy Child in the Madonna bas-relief has been arranged by some one who has seen "The Day" on the tomb of Giuliano at San Lorenzo; in the background are children on a stairway, somewhat in the style of Donatello, but they are more like imitations of the later works of Michael Angelo. The folds of the draperies are like the folds of some silken material, whereas the folds of the robe of the angel at San Domenico are large, like the folds of a blanket, a characteristic of all the draperies designed by the master. This bas-relief, now in the Casa Buonarroti, was presented to Cosimo dè Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany, by Michael Angelo's nephew Leonardo,67 as a work by his uncle, but we do not know that Leonardo was a good judge of his uncle's works, and this bas-relief was supposed to have been executed more than fifty years before its presentation; afterwards it came back into the possession of the Buonarroti family, and was presented by [pg 105]them to the city of Florence along with the house in Via Ghibellina.
Michael Angelo, like all young artists who have had the opportunity, drew and studied in the Brancacci Chapel of the Church of the Carmine, containing the frescoes of Masaccio and his followers; the result of these studies may be seen in some of the compositions, and especially in the draperies of the Sistine ceiling. There are two pen-drawings in Vienna that show us the sort of work Michael Angelo did at this time: one represents a kneeling figure, evidently from a picture by Pesellino; the other, two standing figures, that might be after Ghirlandaio. The draperies have been specially studied. Another pen-drawing, in the Louvre, is a careful study from Giotto's fresco of the Resurrection of St. John in the Cappella Peruzzi at Santa Croce.
A gloom was cast over all Italy by the death of Lorenzo de' Medici on April 8, 1492. Michael Angelo lost his best friend and returned to his father's house; here he worked upon a statue of Hercules that stood in the Strozzi Palace until the siege of Florence in 1530, when Giovanni Battista della Palla bought it and sent it into France as a present to the French King. It is lost.
In the year 1495, whilst living with Aldovrandi at Bologna, as Condivi tells us, Michael Angelo, for the sum of thirty ducats, completed the drapery of a San Petronio, begun by Nicolo di Bari on the arca or shrine of San Domenico, and carved the very beautiful and highly finished statuette of an angel holding a candlestick, still to be seen there.68
[pg 106]When Michael Angelo returned to Florence a government had been established by Savonarola. No doubt, like all the other citizens, the master listened to the voice of the preacher, but we have no evidence that he was particularly influenced by his teaching, though many of his biographers would have us believe that Savonarola made him Protestant, Lutheran, or what not, according to the sect of the biographer. Michael Angelo loved the sermons of the eloquent Frate as works of art; no doubt, if the prophets of the Sistine could speak, they would preach with the voice of Savonarola.
Michael Angelo set to work and carved a San Giovannino for Lorenzo di Pier Francesco, a cousin of the exiled Medici. The Berlin Museum acquired, in 1880, a marble statue of a young St. John, which had been placed in the palace of the Counts Gualandi Rosselmini, at Pisa, in 1817, and was rediscovered there in 1874. It is supposed to be this San Giovannino by Michael Angelo, though it has nothing of the large quality of Michael Angelo's work. Donatello has been suggested as the author, but it has still less of the square planes and ascetic character of the great Donato. It is a charming, almost a cloying statue. St. John seems to find his honeycomb distinctly sweet.
THE BACCHUS, AND THE MADONNA DELLA PIETÀ OF SAINT PETER'S
The story of a Cupid, carved and coloured in imitation of the antique, is given by Condivi.69 It was the cause of Michael Angelo's first visit to Rome. As soon as he reached the Eternal City he set to work at his sculpture, as the purchase of a piece of marble mentioned in his letter to Pier Francesco de' Medici, sent to Florence under cover to Sandro Botticelli,70 indicates. During the whole of this very important visit he worked in marble. We have, however, one record of a cartoon by him for a Saint Francis receiving the Stigmata, to be painted by a certain barber; but that is all. He studied the works of antique art and imitated the finish and softness of the Hellenic style: marbles of debased Greek workmanship abound to this day in the Roman collections. Messer Jacopo Gallo, a Roman gentleman and a banker, commissioned a Bacchus, now in the Bargello at Florence, and a Cupid, said to be the statue now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington. Condivi records these commissions.71 [pg 108]This Bacchus is the least dignified work that Michael Angelo ever executed. Perhaps, like a young artist struggling to get on, he listened too much to the wishes and suggestions of his intelligent patron. The finish and the truth to nature of the unpleasant youth are exquisite. The folds of the skin and the softness of the flesh are perfectly rendered, but the work is repulsive, save for the mischievous little Satyr who steals the grapes; he seems to take us out into the open air, and away from the fumes of the wine shop. Condivi calls the second statue a Cupid,72 but Springer points out73 that Ulisse Aldovrandi, who saw the statue in Messer Gallo's house at Rome, talks of an Apollo quite naked, with a quiver at his side and an urn at his feet. The work, Cupid or Apollo, at Kensington, is not so finely finished as the other statues of this first Roman period; the head is like a copy of the head of the David, the division between the pectoral muscles is weak, and their attachments to the breast-bone are round, regular, and without distinction, very different from either the naturalism of the Bacchus, the delicate truth of the Pietà, or the dignified abstraction of the David, done very shortly afterwards. This work at Kensington was discovered some fifty years ago in the cellars of the Gualfonda (Rucellai) Gardens by Professor Miliarini and the sculptor Santarelli. The left arm was broken, the right hand damaged, and the hair unfinished, as may be seen to-day; Santarelli restored the arm. The statue is like the work of a poor imitator. A work by Michael Angelo may easily have been destroyed in troublous times, but can never have been lost and forgotten. He has always had lovers in every age; unlike the [pg 109]primitives and the quattrocentisti, he has never been out of fashion.
Whilst Michael Angelo was working away in Rome he was much troubled by family affairs in Florence. After the expulsion of the Medici in 1495, Lodovico lost his post at the Customs, and his three younger sons appear to have been put into trade. Buonarroto, who was the only sensible one left at home, and dearly loved by Michael Angelo, was born in 1477; he was sent to serve in the Strozzi cloth warehouse in the Porta Rossa. All the noble families of Florence practised some trade, in order that they might share in the Government. Giovan Simone, another brother, born in 1479, led a vagabond life until he joined Buonarroto in a cloth business that was bought for them by Michael Angelo. Sigismondo, born in 1481, was a soldier. At the age of forty he settled down on the small paternal farm at Settignano, and became a mere peasant, very much to the annoyance and chagrin of his famous brother, Michael Angelo, who spent his earnings for the advantage of his brothers, and the advancement of his family, with a kindness and generosity as beautiful as it is rare. Francesca, the mother of Michael Angelo and of the other sons of Lodovico Buonarroti, was married to him in 1472. When she died is not known, but Lodovico married his second wife Lucrezia in 1485. She died childless in 1497, and was buried upon July 9 in the Church of Santa Croce.
In the year 1497 Buonarroto visited Rome, and informed Michael Angelo, the only hope of the family, of their pecuniary troubles. Michael Angelo wrote kindly to his father:[pg 110]
"Domino Lodovico Buonarroti, in Florence.
"In the name of God, the 19th day of August, 1497.
"Dearest Father, &c.—Bonarroto arrived on Friday; as soon as I knew of it I went to seek him at the inn, and he told me by word of mouth how you are doing, and informed me that Consiglio, the mercer, annoys you very much, and will not, by any means, come to an agreement, and that he wishes to have you arrested. I tell you that you must satisfy him and pay him some ducats on account; and whatever you agree to pay him for the balance, send and tell me, and I will send it to you, if you have it not; although I have but little myself, as I have told you, I will contrive to borrow it, so that you need not take money out of the Monte,74 as Bonarroto says. Do not wonder that I have sometimes written irritably, for I often get very angry, owing to the many annoyances that happen to one away from his home.
"I had an order to do a work for Piero de' Medici and bought the marble; but I never began it because he did not do as he had promised, so I stayed at home and carved a figure for my pleasure. I bought a piece of marble for five ducats; it was not good; the money was thrown away. Afterwards I bought another piece, another five ducats, and worked at it for my pleasure; so you must believe that I also have expenses and troubles, and you must make allowances. I will send you the money, though I should have to sell myself into slavery.
"Buonarroto arrived in safety and has returned to his inn; he has a room; he is all right and lacks nothing for [pg 111]as long as he likes to stay. I have no accommodation for him to stay with me, because I am living in another's house. It suffices that I do not let him want for anything. Well, as I hope you are.
"Michael Angelo, in Rome."
(In the hand of Lodovico.)
"He says he will help me to pay Consiglio."75
Nevertheless, Milanesi tells us in a note, Lodovico settled with Consiglio, to whom he owed ninety gold florins, in the way Michael Angelo did not approve and after going to law about it. A letter of Lodovico's refers to the kindness of Michael Angelo in establishing his brothers in the cloth business. It is dated December 19, 1500. "... and more, I know that you have advanced money, and the love you have for your brothers; it is a great consolation to me. About this matter of the money with which you wish to set up Buonarroto and Giansimone in a shop, I have hunted and I am still hunting, but as yet I have not found anything to please me. True it is I have my hands on a good thing, but it is necessary to keep one's eyes open and to take care not to get into difficulties; I want to go slowly and with good counsel, and I will tell you all about it day by day. Buonarroto tells me how you live yonder, very economically, or rather penuriously; economy is good, but penuriousness is evil, for it is a vice displeasing to God and man, and, moreover, it is bad for the body and soul. Whilst you are young you will be able to bear these hardships for a time, but when the strength of youth fails you, disease and infirmities will develop, for they are engendered by hardship, mean living, and penurious [pg 112]habits. As I said, economy is good. But, above all, do not be penurious; live moderately and do not stint yourself; above all things avoid hardships, because in your art, if you fall ill (which God forbid), you are a lost man; above all things have a care of your head, keep it moderately warm, and never wash; have yourself rubbed down, but never wash. Buonarroto also tells me that you have a swelling on your side; it comes from hardship or fatigue, or from eating something bad and windy, or suffering the feet to be cold or damp. I have had one myself, and it still troubles me when I eat windy food, or when I endure cold or such like things. Our Francesco formerly had one, too, and also Gismondo similarly. Be careful about it because it is dangerous."
The name of Michael Angelo's good friend, Jacopo Gallo, appears in the agreement drawn up concerning the crowning work of this the first Roman period, the Pietà, called the Madonna della Febbre, first placed in the Chapel of Santa Petronilla, and now in the Chapel of Santa Maria della Febbre, on the right of the entrance to St. Peters, in Rome. The commission for this work was given by the Cardinal Jean de la Grostaye de Villiers François, Abbot of St. Denis, called in Italy Cardinal di San Dionigi. It is dated August 26, 1498.
THE MADONNA BELLA PIETÀ
SAINT PETER'S, ROME
"Be it known and manifest to whoso shall read the ensuing document, how the Most Reverend Cardinal of San Dionigi has agreed with the master, Michael Angelo, sculptor of Florence, that the said master shall make a Pietà of marble at his own cost; that is, a Virgin Mary clothed, with the dead Christ in her arms, of the size of a proper [pg 113]man, for the price of four hundred and fifty golden Papal ducats, within the term of one year from the day of the beginning of the work" (the Cardinal agrees to pay certain sums in advance). The contract concludes: "And I, Jacopo Gallo, promise to his Most Reverend Monsignore that the said Michael Angelo will finish the said work within one year, and that it shall be the most beautiful work in marble which Rome to-day can show, and that no master of our days shall be able to produce a better. And similarly I promise the said Michael Angelo that the Most Reverend Cardinal will disburse the payments as written above; and in good faith, I, Jacopo Gallo, have made the present writing with my own hand, according to date of year, month, and day, as above."76
Jacopo's boast and promise were justified, for even now there is no finer complete work of sculpture in the whole of Rome than the Pietà at St. Peter's. It is said that Michael Angelo overheard certain Lombards ascribe the Pietà to their own sculptor, Cristoforo Solari, called "Il Gobbo." He therefore carved his name upon the belt of the Madonna's robe. He never signed any other work. Nothing closes the great period of the fifteenth century so fitly as the Pietà of Michael Angelo, prophesying at the same time the power of the art of the sixteenth.
THE DAVID AND THE CARTOON OF PISA
Family affairs recalled Michael Angelo to Florence in the spring of 1501. He returned full of honours gained in Rome, and took up his position as the first sculptor of the day. His next commission came from Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini, afterwards Pope Pius III. A contract was signed on June 5, 1501, by which Michael Angelo agreed to complete some fifteen statues of male saints within the time of three years, for the Piccolomini Chapel, in the Duomo of Siena. A Saint Francis was begun by Piero Torrigiano, and may have been finished by Michael Angelo. The rest of the four works that were the outcome of this commission can have had nothing to do with the chisel of the sculptor of the Madonna della Febbre and the David. Michael Angelo must have merely contracted to supply them, as the master sculptor of a sculptor's yard, possibly furnishing the designs himself. There is a drawing at the British Museum of a bearded saint, cowled and holding a book in his left hand, which may be a design for one of these inferior works.
THE ACADEMY, FLORENCE
IN THE PIAZZA
THE COURT OF THE ACADEMY, FLORENCE
In August of the same year, 1501, Michael Angelo began the colossal statue of David, that used to stand in the Piazza and is now in the Academy at Florence. The first contract for this work, signed between Michael [pg 115]Angelo, the Arte della Lana, and the Opera del Duomo, is dated August 16, 1501. It states "That the worthy master, Michael Angelo, son of Lodovico Bonarroti, citizen of Florence, has been chosen to fashion, complete, and perfectly finish the male statue, already rough hewn and called the giant, of nine cubits in height,77 now existing in the workshop of the Cathedral, badly blocked out afore-time by Master Agostino,78 of Florence. The work shall be completed within the term of the next ensuing two years, dating from September, at a salary of six golden florins79 per month; and whatever is needful for the accomplishment of this task, as workmen, wood, &c., which he may require, shall be supplied him by the said Operai; and when the said statue is finished, the Consuls and Operai, who shall be in office, shall estimate whether he deserve a larger recompense, and this shall be left to their consciences." Michael Angelo began to work in a wooden shed, erected for that purpose near the Cathedral, on Monday morning, September 13, 1501, and the "David" is said to be almost entirely finished in a note, dated January 25, 1503,80 when a solemn council of the most important artists, then resident in Florence, met at the Opera del Duomo to consider where the statue should be placed. What an original way of deciding æsthetic questions! They came to the admirable conclusion that the choice of the site should be left to Michael Angelo. Amongst those who spoke at the meeting were Francesco Monciatto, a wood carver, who suggested that the statue [pg 116]should be erected in front of the Duomo, where the block was originally meant to be set up; he was supported by the painters Cosimo Rosselli and Sandro Botticelli. Giuliano da San Gallo proposed to place it under the Loggia dei Lanzi, because "the imperfection of the marble, which is softened by exposure to the air, renders the durability of the statue doubtful." Messer Angelo de Lorenzo Manfidi (second herald) objected because it would break the order of certain ceremonies held in the Loggia. Leonardo da Vinci followed San Gallo; he did not think it would injure the ceremonies. Salvestro, a jeweller, and Filippino Lippi supported Piero di Cosimo, who proposed that the precise spot should be left to the sculptor who made it, "as he will know better how it should be." Michael Angelo elected to have his David set up on the steps of the Palazzo Vecchio, on the right side of the entrance. Its effect in that position may be well seen, appropriately enough, in a picture by the same Piero di Cosimo (No. 895), in the National Gallery, where the Piazza della Signoria forms the background to a portrait of a man in armour. Il Cronaca, Antonio da San Gallo, Baccio d'Agnolo, Bernardo della Cecca, and Michael Angelo were associated in the task of transporting the giant from the workshop near the Duomo to the Piazza della Signoria. It was encased in planks and suspended upright from great beams. "On May 14, 1504, the marble giant was dragged from the Opera. It came out at twenty-four o'clock, and they broke the wall above the door enough to let it pass. That night some stones were thrown at the Colossus with intent to injure it; a watch had to be set over it at night, and it made way very slowly, bound as it was upright, suspended so that the feet were off the ground by enormous [pg 117]beams with much ingenuity. It took four days to reach the Piazza, arriving on the 18th at the hour of twelve. More than forty men were employed to make it go, and there were fourteen logs to go beneath it, which were changed from hand to hand. Afterwards they worked until June 8, 1504, to place it on a pedestal where the Judith used to stand. The Judith was removed and set upon the ground within the palace. The said giant was the work of Michael Angelo Buonarroti."81 The great marble David stood in the Piazza three hundred and sixty-nine years; it was removed to the hall of the Accademia delle Belle Arti in 1873 for its better preservation. It has suffered very little from its exposure in the fine air of Florence, but the left arm was broken by a huge stone thrown during the tumults of 1527. Giorgio Vasari and his friend Cecchino Salviati collected the broken pieces and brought them to the house of Michael Angelo Salviati, father of Cecchino. They were carefully put together and restored to the statue in 1543. The David was the first work by Michael Angelo that displayed the awe-inspiring quality known as his Terribilità; from the fierce frown of the brow to the sharp, strained forms of the feet and toes there is an expression of strenuous force struggling against an almost overwhelming power. The force of the David may succeed against Goliath; but in Michael Angelo's later works the struggle always appears to be a hopeless one, nobly as his Titans fight against fate and omnipotence. The face of the David is a development of the Saint George of Or San Michele, by Donatello, and the figure is of the same type, only this triumphant boy of Michael Angelo's shows a more exact study of the antique than the naturalistic [pg 118]work of his master. In Donatello the planes are given as flat, and their junctions are sharp and hard; in Michael Angelo they are carefully rounded and finished with the grace of the antique and of life. The details of the head, although so high up, are so absolutely perfect that the separate features have been, and are still, the models set before all students of art when they first begin to study the human figure, and they are known as the nose, the eye, the ear, and the mouth. We have noticed that the young student is more interested in his work when he is told that they are the features of the David. Michael Angelo carved his giant without modelling a full-size clay figure first, but with the guidance of drawings and small wax models about eighteen inches high only, carving the figure out of the block in the way that is so well seen in the unfinished Saint Matthew in the court of the Accademia delle Belle Arti, in Florence. There are two small wax models of the David in the Casa Buonarroti at Florence, said to be Michael Angelo's designs for this figure, but they are of very doubtful authority. Later in his life he is said to have worked from full-sized models, as Benvenuto Cellini tells us in his Trattati dell' Oreficeria, &c.82 Vasari tells the story of how Michael Angelo contented the Gonfaloniere and silenced his criticism of the David: "While still surrounded by the scaffolding Pier Soderini inspected the statue, which pleased him immensely, and when Michael Angelo was re-touching it in parts, Soderini said to him that the nose appeared to him too big. Michael Angelo, knowing that the Gonfaloniere was close under the statue and that from this point of view the truth was not to be discerned, mounted the scaffolding, [pg 119]which was as high as the shoulder of the giant, and quickly took a chisel in his left hand with a little of the marble dust from the platform and began to let fall a little of it at each touch of the tool, but he did not alter the nose from what it was before; then he looked down to the Gonfaloniere, who stood watching below: 'Look at it now,' said Michael Angelo. 'I like it better. You have given it life,' said the Gonfaloniere," rubbing the dust out of his eyes.
On August 12, 1502, Michael Angelo undertook another commission for the Republic—another giant David. This time it was to be in bronze, two cubits and a quarter in height; in the casting he was to be assisted by Benedetto da Rovezzano. It has been suggested that the pen and ink drawing in the Louvre is a design for this second David, but the drawing of an arm on the same sheet is so like the right arm of the first David that it is more probably an early idea for the first David, in which we see that Michael Angelo's design needed more room than the cramped block of marble allowed; it makes us wonder the more at the marvellous freedom of action that he managed to get out of the cramped stone. The bronze David was intended for the French statesman, Pierre de Rohan, Maréchal de Gié, as a present from the Florentine Republic, but before it was finished the Maréchal fell into disgrace and could be of no further use to the Florentines. The Signory therefore determined to send the bronze to Florimond Robertet, Secretary of Finance to the French King. A minute of the Signory dated November 6, 1508, informs us that the bronze David, weighing about 800 pounds, had been "packed in the name of God," and sent [pg 120]to Signa on its way to Leghorn. Florimond Robertet placed it in the courtyard of his château of Bury, near Blois. It remained there for more than a hundred years, then it was removed to the château of Villeroy, and disappeared no one knows whither.
On April 24, 1503, the Consuls of the Arte della Lana and the Operai of the Duomo ordered Michael Angelo to carve out of Carrara marble twelve Apostles, each four and a quarter cubits high, to be placed inside the church. One was to be finished each year, the Operai paying all expenses, including the cost of living for the sculptor and his assistants, and paying him two golden florins a month. They built a house and workshops for him in the Borgo Pinti; it was designed by Il Cronaca. Michael Angelo lived there rent free until it was evident that the contract could not be carried out. He then hired it on a lease, but on June 15, 1508, the lease of the house was transferred to Sigismondo Martelli. The St. Matthew, now in the courtyard of the Accademia delle Belle Arti, in Florence, is the only work we know of resulting from this commission. The apostle is just emerging from the marble, and shows us Michael Angelo's method of work. Vasari says: "At this time he also began a statue in marble of San Matteo in the works of Santa Maria del Fiore, which, though but roughly hewn, shows his perfections, and teaches sculptors how to carve figures from the stone without maiming them, always gaining ground by cutting away the waste stone, and being able to draw back or alter in case of need." The deep chisel marks in the stone are sometimes as much as four inches long, and their directions indicate that Michael Angelo worked equally well [pg 121]with either hand, a fact confirmed by Raffaello de Montelupo in his "Autobiographie."83 "Here I may mention that I am in the habit of drawing with my left hand, and that once, at Rome, while I was sketching the arch of Trajan from the Colosseum, Michael Angelo and Sebastiano del Piombo, both of whom were naturally left-handed (although they did not work with the left hand excepting when they wished to use great strength), stopped to see me, and expressed great wonder."
THE MADONNA AND CHILD, WITH THE CHILD SAINT JOHN
THE BARGELLO, FLORENCE
The Florentine love of bas-relief explains to some extent their extreme devotion to the tondo, or circular shape, in paintings and in sculptures. According to Vasari, it was at this time that Michael Angelo carved two tondi: one for Bartolommeo Pitti, now in the Bargello at Florence, and the other for Taddeo Taddei, now at Burlington House, in the Diploma Gallery of the Royal Academy, London. It was acquired by Sir George Beaumont, and is the most valuable work the Academy possesses. If it were in an out-of-the-way palace in Florence many of us would see it more frequently than we do now, although we have only to climb a few steps to visit this glorious work any day we are in Piccadilly. Both of these reliefs represent the Madonna and Child, with the child St. John. The one in the Bargello appears to be the earlier; the composition is very beautiful and simple, and fills the circular space admirably. The Madonna is seated facing the spectator, and looks out full towards him with an enigmatical expression on her proud features; the Child stands beside her, His elbow on her knee, as in the Bruges Madonna. The St. John is only roughly cut, but the movement and forms are so well realised under the marble that one does [pg 122]not wish for any further finish. In the Royal Academy tondo the Madonna is seated more to the side of the circle, and is in profile; the Child reclines upon her knee, clinging to her arm, startled but interested by the little bird St. John has brought to show Him (a favourite motive with Italian artists). The head and shoulders of the Madonna and the torso of the Child Jesus are the only parts that are near completion, yet the whole group is so much there that we do not ask for another touch; in fact, the works of Michael Angelo were finished from the very first strokes. The rough charcoal drawing upon the block of marble, could we see it, would have been complete to us, only Michael Angelo could add anything to it; and so it is with every fragment of stone or other piece of work by his hand, from the lightest charcoal drawing to the great marble fragments in the grotto of the Boboli Gardens. They are complete to us; the thing he thought is there, and the art is there, and we are satisfied.
THE HOLY FAMILY
THE UFFIZI, FLORENCE
Another tondo executed about this time is the painting now in the Uffizi, the only easel picture known with certainty to be by the hand of Michael Angelo. This Holy Family, with naked shepherds in the background, was painted for Angelo Doni, the same man whose portrait was painted by Raphael. Vasari says that Michael Angelo asked seventy ducats for the work, but that Doni only offered forty when the picture was delivered. Michael Angelo sent word that he must pay a hundred or send back the picture. Doni offered the original seventy; but Michael Angelo replied that if he was bent on bargaining, he should not pay less than one hundred and forty. In this composition the Madonna is seated upon the ground, forming a pyramid, of which the heads of Joseph and the [pg 123]Child form the apex; her lithe and strong form has a Greek loveliness as she turns quickly and receives the beautiful Child on to her shoulder from the arms of Joseph. Never in any painting have the drawing and modelling of the human figure been so perfectly executed as in the figure of this Child and the arms of the Madonna; the hands and feet are modelled with the delicacy of a Flemish miniature, and at the same time have a beauty and suavity of modelling and a magnificent choice of line altogether Italian. On either side of the central triangle the spaces between it and the circumference of the tondo are filled by the introduction of the infant St. John and some nude shepherds; the landscape background is austere as the mountain tops of some primeval world where such titanic beings as these of Michael Angelo's alone could dwell. The old painters loved to decorate their Madonna pictures with all the most beautiful things they could think of, or most loved. The Florentines with fair and pleasant gardens; the Umbrians with spacious colonnades, distant landscapes, and rare skies; the Venetians with fruits and garlands of foliage and fruit, and even vegetables, if they had a particular regard for them, as Crivelli had for the cucumber. One painter only before this time decorated his pictures with nude human figures, Luca Signorelli. Michael Angelo may have seen a Madonna of his, with two nude figures in the background, executed for Lorenzo de' Medici, and now hung in the Gallery of the Uffizi. Michael Angelo, who knew the beauty of the human form better than any one, would never be content to decorate his tondo with any less beautiful offering after seeing this picture by Signorelli. The tondo form was a favourite one with Signorelli. His [pg 124]two pictures of this shape in Florence perhaps helped Michael Angelo in the three compositions we have been considering; and this is the only debt Michael Angelo owes to the Umbrian painter. Their way of looking at the nude and their ideals of its beauty are so absolutely different, the one from the other, that possibly the Florentine could hardly bear to look at the work of the Umbrian.
THE CARTOON OF PISA
FROM THE MONOCHROME AT HOLKHAM HALL
In August 1504, Michael Angelo was commissioned to prepare cartoons for the decoration of a wall in the Sala del Gran Consiglio in the Palazzo Vecchio, opposite the wall for which Leonardo da Vinci was already preparing designs. Michael Angelo had a workshop given him in the Hospital of the Dyers at San Onofrio, under the date October 31, 1504; a minute of expenditure shows that paper for the cartoon was provided. Leonardo's design was the famous "Fight for the Standard." Michael Angelo chose an episode from the war with Pisa, when, on July 28, 1364, a band of four hundred Florentines were surprised bathing in the Arno by Sir John Hawkwood (Giovanni Acuto) and his cavalry, then in the service of the Pisans, a subject that enabled Michael Angelo to express his delight in the beauty of the human form, and his power of drawing and foreshortening the naked limbs of the bathers as they hurry out of the river and don their armour at the sound of the alarm. This great central work of Michael Angelo's prime has disappeared, and we must be very careful in studying it to allow for the weakness of the work of the copyists and engravers who preserved what little record of it is left for us, especially in the drawing of the nude. If we compare the vault of the Sistine Chapel with the contemporary [pg 125]engravings we shall be able to estimate the enormous difference between the cartoon, which may have been the greatest work of art produced in Italy, and the copies of it that exist. The most complete copy of the cartoon is the monochrome painting belonging to the Earl of Leicester, at Holkham Hall. There is a sketch of the whole composition in the Albertina Gallery at Vienna, and the line engraving by Marc Antonio Raimondi of three principal figures with a foolish Italian rendering of a German engraved landscape in the background, utterly destroying what little Michael Angelesque dignity the engraver was able to get into the figures, with his poor knowledge of the nude. The best remnants we have are some few of Michael Angelo's own studies from the nude, done especially for this composition; they are full of the power, vigour, and naturalism peculiar to this period, rude forms hacked out of the paper with a broad pen, altered with charcoal, chalk, white paint, or anything handy and effective; from them we must try and imagine the power, breadth and dignity of the great composition. The work was done upon ordinary paper, stretched over canvas or linen fixed on a wooden frame, like the few cartoons by the great masters that have come down to us. The outlines were usually pricked, and when finished the cartoon was cut into convenient sizes for pouncing on the wall or other foundation upon which the picture was to be painted, unless the artist took the precaution of putting a plain piece of paper under the original drawing and pricking both together and transferring the outlines by the aid of the second sheet. These cut-up cartoons became the property of the whole workshop, and were used by the pupils when they wished. No doubt the roughness of [pg 126]this treatment soon destroyed many of them. Vasari, who cannot have seen the Cartoon of Pisa, gives us a long, enthusiastic description of it, ending with some helpful notes as to the materials with which it was drawn, and an account of its effect upon contemporary artists. He continues: "In addition, you discovered groups of figures sketched in various methods, some outlined with charcoal, some shaded with lines, some rubbed in, some heightened with white-lead, the master having sought to prove his empire over all materials of draughtsmanship.84 The craftsmen of design remained therewith astonished and dumbfounded, recognising the fullest reaches of their art revealed to them by this unrivalled masterpiece. Those who examined the forms I have described, painters who inspected and compared them with works hardly less divine, affirm that never in the history of human achievement was any product of man's brain seen like to them in mere supremacy. And certainly we have the right to believe this; for when the cartoon was finished and carried to the hall of the Pope, amid the acclamation of all artists and to the exceeding fame of Michael Angelo, the students who made drawings from it, as happened with foreigners and natives through many years in Florence, became men of mark in several branches. This is obvious, for Aristotele da San Gallo worked there, as did Ridolfo Grillandaio, Rafael Santio da Urbino, Francesco Granaccio, Baccio Bandinelli, and Alonso [pg 127]Berugetta, the Spaniard; they were followed by Andrea del Sarto, il Franciabigio, Jacomo Sansovino, il Rosso, Maturino, Lorenzetto, Tribolo (then a boy), Jacomo da Puntormo, and Pierin del Vaga, all of them first-rate masters of the Florentine school."
Benvenuto Cellini's account is important, for he himself copied the cartoon in 1513 just before it disappeared. He says: "Michael Angelo portrayed a number of foot soldiers, who, the season being summer, had gone to bathe in the Arno. He drew them at the moment the alarm is sounded, and the men, all naked, rush to arms. So splendid is their action, that nothing survives of ancient or of modern art which touches the same lofty point of excellence; and, as I have already said, the design of the great Leonardo was itself most admirably beautiful. These two cartoons stood, one in the Palace of the Medici, the other in the hall of the Pope. So long as they remained intact they were the school of the world. Though the divine Michael Angelo in later life finished that great chapel of Pope Julius, he never rose half-way to the same pitch of power; his genius never afterwards attained to the force of those first studies."
These years spent under the shadow of the Duomo, away from which no Florentine is happy, working at his sculptures and drawings, were probably some of the happiest years of Michael Angelo's whole life.
THE FIRST ACT OF THE TRAGEDY OF THE TOMB
THE TOMB OF JULIUS II. SAN PIETRO IN VINCOLI, ROME
The cartoon, The Apostles for the Duomo, and all these works, had to be left unfinished, as Michael Angelo was summoned to Rome in the beginning of 1505 by Pope Julius II. From this period Michael Angelo was the servant, often the unwilling servant, of the Popes (his Medusa as he said). Much of his time was wasted owing to the different dispositions and likings of his patrons, yet we must be thankful to them for the opportunities they gave him in their great undertakings. Now began what Condivi called "The Tragedy of the Tomb"; the phrase is so apt that we imagine he must have got it from Michael Angelo himself. Julius appears to have appreciated his artist from the first; both were what the Italians call uomini terribili, men whose brains worked with furious energy, grand and formidable in their imaginations. Michael Angelo was packed off to Carrara for marble as soon as his design was approved. There is a contract signed by him and two shipowners of Lavagna, dated November 18, 1505. Thirty-four cartloads of marble were then ready for shipment, together with two blocked-out figures. He probably left Carrara soon afterwards, returning to Rome by way of Florence. The only authoritative account of the original project of the Tomb is that [pg 129]of Condivi; Vasari's account was not published until his second edition in 1558. The architectural drawings, said to be designs for this Tomb, are of doubtful authenticity; most of them are certainly not by Michael Angelo. We must therefore study Condivi, who probably got the details from Michael Angelo himself, though he, too, must have had great difficulty in recalling the ideas of forty-eight years ago.85 The plans for the new church of St. Peter's, the largest church in Christendom, were altered to embrace this huge monument, but a transept of the little church of San Pietro in Vincoli gave ample space for the final scheme, when it was set up in 1545. The only statues we know belonging to it by Michael Angelo are the Moses and the two bound Slaves in the Louvre; the other six statues in San Pietro in Vincoli were finished by assistants. The unfinished marble figures so unworthily housed in the stupid rock-work grotto of the Boboli Gardens, Florence, may have been for the Tomb, although their measurements do not agree with the Slaves of the Louvre. How well these superlative fragments would look in the corners of the Loggia dei Lanzi, or in the courtyard of the Bargello. In the Bargello two groups, the Victory and the Dying Adonis, may have been originally intended for the Tomb, but we believe they have been finished and considerably altered by some later workman; possibly they were only blocked out by Michael Angelo. The movement of the figure and the position of the head have been altered [pg 130]in the Victory, and the whole subject of the Adonis has been changed by the introduction of the insignificant boar. Vasari tells us that in his time there were, besides the Moses, Victory, and two Slaves, eight figures blocked out by Michael Angelo at Rome, and five at Florence; possibly these five at Florence were the four in the Boboli Gardens and an earlier state of the Adonis.
After his flight from Rome in 1506 Michael Angelo had some six months at Florence, working on his cartoon in the workshop at the Spedale dei Tintori. When he went to Julius at Bologna in November it was finished, and was exhibited in the Sala del Papa at Santa Maria Novella. All this time Bramante and his set had the Pope's ear in Rome. He has been accused of suggesting that Michael Angelo should paint the vault of the Sistine Chapel, in the hope that he would ignominiously fail in such an unusual task; but we do not think we can thank Bramante even for that indirect service, for Michael Angelo's friend, Pietro Rosselli, wrote on May 6, 1506:—
TWO OF THE UNFINISHED MARBLE STATUES IN THE GROTTO OF THE BOBOLI GARDENS, FLORENCE
(By permission of the Fratelli Alinari, Florence)
"Dearest in place of a brother, after salutations and kind regards:—I inform you how on Saturday evening, when the Pope was at supper, I showed him certain designs that Bramante and I had to examine. When the Pope had supped and I had showed them to him, he sent for Bramante and said to him: 'Sangallo goes to Florence and will bring Michael Angelo back with him.' Bramante replied to the Pope, and said: 'Holy Father, he will do no such thing, because I know Michael Angelo well enough, and he has told me many a time that he will not undertake the Chapel, which you wanted to put upon him; and that he intended to apply himself to sculpture [pg 131]all the time and not to painting.' And he said: 'Holy Father, I believe that he has not courage enough for it, because he has not painted many figures, and especially as these will be high up and foreshortened; and that is quite another thing to painting on the ground.' Then the Pope replied, and said: 'If he does not come he will do me wrong, so I think he will return anyhow.' Upon this I up and abused him soundly there in the presence of the Pope; and said what I believe you would have said for me, so that he did not know what to reply, and he seemed to think he had made a mistake. And I said further: 'Holy Father, he has never spoken to Michael Angelo, and as to what he has now told you, if it be true may you cut my head off, for he never did speak to Michael Angelo; and I believe he will return by all means, whenever your Holiness desires.' And so the thing ended. I have nothing more to tell you. God keep you from harm. If I can do anything for you let me know; I will do it willingly. Remember me to Simone il Pollaiuolo."86
Bramante was not far wrong in what he said about vault painting. He alluded to the method of foreshortening employed by his fellow countryman, Melozzo da Forli, by which he made figures painted on domes and vaults look as if they were suspended in the air really above the spectators, and not simply a pattern painted on the surface of the plaster; this method was perfected by Correggio, but was never practised successfully by a Florentine.
THE COLOSSAL BRONZE FOR THE FAÇADE OF SAN PETRONIO
The Pope entered Bologna in triumph on November 11, 1506, after the marvellous campaign by which he restored two rich provinces to the Church with only five hundred men-at-arms and his twenty-four Cardinals. Less than ten days afterwards he inquired for his artist. The Cardinal of Pavia wrote an autograph letter to the Signory of Florence on the 21st, urgently requesting that they would despatch Michael Angelo immediately to that town, inasmuch as the Pope was impatient for his arrival, and wanted to employ him on important works. On November 27 Soderini wrote to the Cardinal of Pavia introducing Michael Angelo and praising the cartoon the artist had to leave unpainted, and to the Cardinal of Volterra more formally as follows:—
"The bearer will be Michael Angelo, the sculptor, whom we send to please and satisfy his Holiness our Lord. We certify your Lordship that he is a worthy young man, and in his own art without a peer in Italy; perhaps also in the universe. We cannot recommend him too highly. He is of such a nature, that with good words and kindness one can make him do anything. Show him love and show him kindness, and he will do things that will make all who see [pg 133]them wonder. We inform your Lordship that he has begun a story for the Republic which will be admirable, and also XII Apostles, each 4-1/2 to 5 braccia high, which will be remarkable. We recommend him to your lordship as much as we can.
"The XXVII of November, 1506."87
Michael Angelo says in his letter to Fattucci88 that the portrait he now modelled of Pope Julius was in bronze, sitting, about seven cubits in height.89 At the end of the two years that it took him to finish the work he had to cast it twice. He says. "I found that I had four and a half ducats left. I never received anything more for this work; and all the moneys paid out during the said two years were the 1000 ducats with which I promised to cast it." Michael Angelo worked in the Stanza del Pavaglione behind the Cathedral; he employed three assistants, from Florence—Lapo Antonio di Lapo, a sculptor; Lodovico del Buono, called Lotti, a founder; and Pietro Urbano, a man who worked for him for a long time. His way of life was frugal and sordid in the extreme. In his letter to his brother Buonarroto he says90:—
"With regard to Giovansimone coming here, I do not advise it as yet, for I am lodged in one wretched room, and have bought one single bed, in which we all four of us sleep. And I shall not be able to receive him suitably. But if he will come all the same, let him wait till I have [pg 134]cast the figure I am doing, and I will send away Lapo and Lodovico who are helping me, and I will send him a horse so that he may come decently and not like a beggar. No more. Pray to God for me that things may go well.
"Michael Angelo, Sculptor, in Bologna."
Another letter tells of a visit from the Pope, troubles with his workmen, and his usual generosity to his brothers and father.
"To Buonarroto di Lodovico Simone, in Firenze91
"To be delivered at the shop of Strozzi, wool merchant, in the street of the Porta Rossa.
"Buonarroto,—I hear by one of yours how things went about the little farm; it is a great comfort to me and pleases me well, if it is a sure thing. Of the affairs of Baronciello I am well informed, and from what I understand it is a much more serious thing than you make out; and for my part, it not being to my taste, I do not ask it. We are all obliged to do all we can for Baronciello, and so we will, especially everything that is in our power. You must know that on Friday evening at twenty-one o'clock Pope Julius came to my house where I work, and stayed about half an hour while I was at work; then he gave me the benediction, and went away, and showed himself well pleased with what I am doing. For all this we must thank God heartily; and so I beg you to do, and pray for me. I inform you further, how that on Friday morning I sent away Lapo and Lodovico, who were with me. Lapo I dismissed because he is good for nothing and a rogue, and would not serve me. Lodovico is better, and I would [pg 135]have kept him another two months; but Lapo, so as not to be the only one blamed, so corrupted him that they both had to go. I write this not because I care for them, for they are not worth three halfpence between them, but because, if they come to talk to Lodovico, he must not be surprised. Tell him by no means to lend them his ears; and if you want to know about them go to Messer Agnolo, the Herald of the Signoria, for I have written all the story to him, and he, out of his kindness, will relate it to you. Of Giovansimone I have heard. I shall be pleased if he goes to the shop of your master and is careful to do his best; and so comfort him, because, if all goes well, I have hopes of placing you both in a good position, if you will be discreet. About that land which is beside that of Mona 92 Zanobia, if Lodovico likes it, tell him to see about it and let me know. I think, according to what is rumoured here, the Pope will leave about the time of Carnival.
"The first day of February, 1506.
"Michael Angelo di Lodovico
Notwithstanding this warning, the silly old man, his father, wrote a scolding letter to his son about the workmen. Michael Angelo's humble reply was dated February 8, 1507.93
"Most Revered Father,—I have received a letter from you to-day, from which I learn that you have been talked to by Lapo and Lodovico. I am glad that you [pg 136]should rebuke me, because I deserve to be rebuked as a miserable sinner, as much as any one, perhaps more. But you must know that I have not been guilty in this affair for which you blame me now."
He goes on to explain his dealings with the rogue Lapo. There is also trouble about a sword-hilt94 Michael Angelo had designed for Pietro Aldobrandini. However, Aldobrandini objected that the blade was too short. Michael Angelo affirmed that it was ordered exactly to the measure sent, and bade his brother present it to Filippo Strozzi as a compliment from the Buonarroti family; but the stupid fellow bungled it in some way, for Michael Angelo writes to say that he is sorry "he behaved so scurvily towards Filippo in so trifling an affair."
Michael Angelo must have spent his spare time in studying the bas-reliefs by Jacopo della Quercia upon the façade of San Petronio, for he used many of the motives in his next great work, the Sistine vault. When the wax model of the statue of Pope Julius was ready, Michael Angelo sent to Florence for the ordnance founder to the Republic, Maestro dal Ponte, of Milan, to cast it for him. This master's leave of absence was signed on May 15, 1507. Just before the casting Michael Angelo wrote to Buonarroto:—
"To Buonarroto di Lodovico Simoni, in Florence, at the Shop of Lorenzo Strozzi, Wool Merchant, in Porta Rossa, Florence.
"Buonarroto,—I have received yours by the hand of Master Bernardo, who has arrived; by it I hear all are [pg 137]well except Giovansimone, who has not yet recovered. I am very sorry, and it grieves me not to be able to help him. But soon I hope to be with you, and I will do something that will please him, and you others, too. Therefore comfort him and tell him to be of good cheer. Tell Lodovico also that about the middle of next month I hope to cast my figure without fail; therefore, if he will offer prayers, or anything else for its good success, let him do so betimes, and say I beg this of him. I have no time to write more. Things go well.
"The twenty-sixth day of May (1507).
"Michael Angelo, in Bologna."95
At last, on July 1, it is done, but done badly; and he writes:—
To the same.
"Buonarroto,—We have cast my figure, and it has come out so badly that I truly believe I shall have to do it all again. I cannot write all the particulars, because I have other things to think of. Enough that it has come badly. Thanks be to God all the same, because I believe everything is for the best. Before long I shall know what I have to do and will write to you. Tell Lodovico about it, and be of good cheer. And if it should be that I have to do it all again, and that I am not able to return to you, I will find means somehow to do what I have promised in the best way I can.
"The first day of July.
"Michael Angelo, in Bologna."96
"Buonarroto,—Understand how that we have cast my figure. I have not had much luck in it; for Master Bernardino, either by ignorance or misfortune, did not sufficiently melt the bronze. How it happened would be long to tell; it is enough that my figure has come out up to the girdle; the rest of the stuff, that is to say the metal, remained in the furnace; it was not melted; so that to get it out I shall have the furnace taken to pieces, and that I am doing now, and I will have it remade again this week. Next week I will recast the upper part and finish filling the mould, and I believe that this bad business will go very well, but not without the greatest devotion, labour, and expense. I would have believed that Master Bernardino could have cast it without fire, so much faith had I in him; all the same, it is not that he is not a good master and that he did not work with a will. But he who fails, fails. And he has failed enough to my loss and his own, for he blames himself so much that he cannot lift his eyes in Bologna. If you see Baccio d'Agnolo read him this letter and ask him to tell San Gallo, at Rome, and remember me to him and to Giovanni da Ricasoli, and to Granaccio give my respects. I hope, if the thing goes well, in from fifteen to twenty days to be through with it and to return to you. If it should not go well, I should perhaps have to do it again. I will tell you all. Let me know how Giovansimone is.
"The sixth day of July. (No signature.)
"With this will be a letter to go to Rome for Giuliano da San Gallo. Send it safely and as quickly as you can; but if he should happen to be in Florence, give it to him."97
"Buonorroto,—I hear by one of yours that you are well and happy. It pleases me very much. My business here, I hope, will turn out well after all, but as yet I know nothing. We have recast the upper part which was wanting, as I informed you, but have not been able to see how it has come, for the sand is so hot that we cannot as yet uncover it. By next week I shall know and will tell you. Master Bernardino left here yesterday. When he salutes you receive him kindly enough.
"The tenth day of July.
"Michael Angelo, in Bologna."98
To the same, later (July 18, 1501):—
"Buonarroto,—My affairs might have turned out much better and also much worse; at any rate, all of it is there as far as I can make out, for it is not yet all uncovered. I estimate that it will take some months to chase, for it has come out with a bad surface; all the same, we must thank God! for, as I say, it might have been worse. If anything is said to you by Salvestro del Pollaiolo99 or others, tell them that I do not need any one, so that no one will be sent here to be on my shoulders, because I have spent so much that there hardly remains enough for me to live on, let alone keeping others. About next week I will let you know more when I have uncovered the whole figure.
"Michael Angelo, in Bologna."100
"Buonarroto,—I marvel you write to me so seldom. I am sure you have much more time to write to me than I to write to you, so let me hear often how things go. I understand by your last how, with good reason, you wish me to return soon. It made me anxious for several days; therefore, when you write to me, write strongly and clearly what the matter is so that I may understand it—and enough. Know that I desire to return soon even more than you desire it, for I pass my life here in the greatest discomfort and with the hardest labour, doing nothing but work day and night, and I have endured so much fatigue and hardship that if I should have to go through it again, I do not believe my life would hold out, for it has been an enormous undertaking, and if it had been in any one else's hands it would have come out very badly. But I believe the prayers of some one have sustained me and kept me in health, for all Bologna was of opinion that I should never finish it after it was cast, and before also, when no one would believe that I should ever cast it. Enough that I have brought it to a good end, but I shall not quite have finished it by the end of this month, as I hoped; but next month, at any rate, it will be done, and I will return. So be all of good cheer, for I will do as I promised whatever happens. Comfort Lodovico and Giovansimone for me and write to me how Giovansimone does. Mind and learn to keep shop, so that you will know how to do it when you need, which will be soon.
"The tenth day of November.
"Michael Angelo, in Bologna."101
"Buonarroto,—It is now a fortnight since I expected to be with you, for I thought that directly my figure was finished they would place it. And now these people are dawdling and doing nothing; and I have orders from the Pope not to leave until it is placed, so that it seems to me I shall be prevented. I shall stay and look after it all this week too; if there are no further orders I will come away at all costs, without observing the command. With this will be a letter to go to the Cardinal of Pavia, in which I reply to him about it all, so that he cannot complain. So put it in a cover and direct it to Giuliano da San Gallo on my part, and desire him to deliver it with his own hand.
"Di Bologna (the 18th day of February, 1508)."102
On February 21, 1508, the statue of Pope Julius II. was hoisted on to its pedestal above the great central door of San Petronio. Alas! this work which cost Michael Angelo a year and three months of hard, unremitting labour only existed for about twice that period. It was destroyed by the worst enemy of art—war. The Papal Legate fled from Bologna in 1511 and the Bentivogli again entered the city. The people of their party dragged the heavy bronze to the ground and broke it into pieces on December 30. The broken fragments were sent to Alfonso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, who cast a huge cannon with the metal, which the Italians, with their usual mocking spirit, immediately called La Giulia. The Duke kept the head only, and said he would not take its weight in gold for it; it weighed six hundred pounds. This head has disappeared too; [pg 142]there is no drawing, engraving, or any fragment to help us to reconstruct in our minds this mighty bronze; only, perhaps, we may imagine that we have an echo of this Pope by Michael Angelo when we turn our eyes from the bare front of San Petronio to the niche on the Palazzo Comunale to the right of the square, where a bronze Pope, Gregory XIII., stretches his hand to curse the iconoclastic people. In the Piazza Dante, at Perugia, is the bronze statue of Pope Julius III., by Vincenzio Dante, that makes us think of the master, and in Rimini a mighty bronze form stretches out his right hand with a threatening gesture. He, too, is a Pope—Paul V.
THE CREATION OF THE SUN AND MOON, AND OF THE TREES AND HERBS
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
THE VAULT OF THE SISTINE CHAPEL
Michael Angelo's work in Bologna well over, he returned to Florence upon March 18, 1508, and hired his house at Borgo Pinti from the Operai del Duomo, probably intending to proceed with the Twelve Apostles for that church. Michael Angelo's father now emancipated his son from parental control. The date of the document is March 13; it was entered in the State Archives upon March 28. According to the law of Florence a son was not of age until his father had executed this document. Michael Angelo appears to have had the idea of settling in Florence at this time, but "his Medusa," as he called the Pope, commanded the presence of his artist in Rome as soon as he heard that the work at Bologna was finished. Michael Angelo obeyed at once this time. We have a good account by his own hand of what happened when he arrived in Rome, his famous letter to Fattucci, written sixteen years later.
"To Ser Giovan Francesco Fattucci, in Rome.
"From Florence (January 1524).
"Messer Giovan Francesco,—You ask of me in your letter how my affairs stood with Pope Julius. I tell you that I estimate that I could demand payment and interest [pg 144]on it, to receive money rather than give it. For when he sent for me to Florence, I believe it was in the second year of his Pontificate, I had begun to decorate the half of the Sala del Consiglio of Florence, that is to paint it. I was to have had three thousand ducats for it, and the cartoon was already completed, as was well known to all Florence, so that they seemed to me half earned. And of the Twelve Apostles, which I had still to do for Santa Maria del Fiore, one was sketched out, as may still be seen; and I had carried thither the greater part of the marbles. Pope Julius calling me away, I received nothing for either undertaking. Afterwards, I being in Rome with the said Pope Julius, he commissioned me to make his tomb, into which was to go a thousand ducats' worth of marbles. He paid me the money, and sent me to Carrara for them; there I stayed eight months having them blocked out, and brought them almost all to the piazza of St. Peter's; a part remained at the Ripa. After I had paid the freightage of these said marbles the money received for this work came to an end. I furnished the house I had on the piazza of St. Peter's with beds and furniture with my own money, on my hopes of the tomb, and sent for workmen from Florence (some of whom are still living), and paid them with my own in advance. By this time Pope Julius had changed his mind, and no longer wished to have it done. I, not knowing this and going to him for money, was chased from the room; and for this insult I immediately left Rome, and everything I had in my house went to the bad; and these marbles which I had bought lay on the piazza of St. Peter's until the creation of Pope Leo; and on every side things went wrong. Among other things that I can prove, two pieces, of four braccia and a half [pg 145]each, on the Ripa were stolen from me by Agostino Chigi, which had cost me more than fifty gold ducats; and these could be claimed for, because there are witnesses. But to return to the marbles. From the time that I went for them, and that I remained at Carrara, until I was driven from the Palace, was more than a year, for which period I never received anything, and I paid out many tens of ducats.
CREATION OF MAN
"Afterwards, the first time Pope Julius went to Bologna, I was obliged to take my courage in both hands and go there to beg his pardon; then he ordered me to make his portrait in bronze, which was seated, about seven braccia high. He asking me what it would cost, I said I believed I could cast it for a thousand ducats, but that it was not my art and that I could not promise. He replied to me: 'Go to work and cast it until it come well, and we will give you what will content you.' To be brief, it was cast twice. At the end of the two years that I stayed there I found myself four ducats and a half in pocket; and during that time I never received anything for all the expenses that I had, except the thousand ducats which I had said that I could cast it for; these were paid me in several installments by Messer Antonio Maria da Legnia (me), the Bolognese.
"Having hoisted the figure on to the façade of San Petronio, and returned to Rome, Pope Julius did not yet wish me to go on with the tomb, but set me to paint the vault of Sisto, and we made an agreement for three thousand ducats. The first design was for twelve apostles in the lunettes, and for the rest certain compartments filled with ornaments of the usual sort.
"After beginning the said work it seemed to me it would [pg 146]be but a poor thing. He asked me why? I told him, because they also were poor. Then he gave me a new order to do what I would, and that he would satisfy me, and that I was to paint down to the stories below. When the vault was almost finished the Pope returned to Bologna, where I went twice for money I needed, uselessly, and lost all my time, until he returned to Rome. I returned to Rome and set myself to work on the cartoons for the said vault, that is, for the ends and sides of the said Chapel of Sisto, hoping to have money to finish the work. I never could obtain anything; and complaining one day to Messer Bernardo da Bibbiena and Attalante how that I was unable to stay any longer in Rome, but that I must go away, with the help of God, Messer Bernardo said to Attalante that he must remember that he was to give me money in any case, and he had two thousand ducats of the Chamber given to me, which are the moneys, with that first thousand for marbles, that they put to the account of the tomb; and I estimate that I should have more for the time lost and the work done. And of the said moneys, Messer Bernardo and Attalante having obtained it for me, I gave to the one a hundred ducats, to the other fifty.
"Then came the death of Pope Julius, and in the first years of Leo, Aginensis, wishing to enlarge the tomb, that is, to make a greater work than the design I had at first prepared, we made a contract, and I not wishing the said three thousand ducats I had received to be put to the account of the tomb, and showing that I ought to have much more, Aginensis said to me that I was a swindler."103
CREATION OF MAN
DETAIL, SISTINE CHAPEL
The preliminary works for the vault of the Sistine Chapel were carried on without delay, and there is a note in Michael Angelo's hand, saying: "I record how on this day, the tenth of May, in the year one thousand five hundred and eight, I, Michael Angelo, Sculptor, have received from the Holiness of our Lord Pope Julius II. five hundred ducats of the Camera, the which were paid me by Messer Carlino, chamberlain, and Messer Carlo degli Albizzi, on account of the painting of the vault of the Chapel of Pope Sisto, on which I begin to work this day, under the conditions and contracts set forth in a document written by his Most Reverend Lordship of Pavia, and signed by my hand. For the painter assistants who are to come from Florence, who will be five in number, twenty gold ducats of the Camera a-piece, on this condition, that is to say, that when they are here and are working in accord with me, the said twenty ducats shall be reckoned to each man's salary; the said salary to begin upon the day they leave Florence to come here. And if they do not agree with me, half the said money shall be paid them for their travelling expenses and for their time."104
From this important record we learn that Michael Angelo, who still calls himself "sculptor," intends to engage five painter assistants, and very wisely arranges terms by which he can send them away if he does not get on with them, and also that he began to work upon May 10, 1508. This must not be taken to mean that he began to paint, but only to prepare the vault by carefully pointing the bricks and covering it with rough cast plaster ready for the fine coat called intonaca, in this case made [pg 148]of marble dust and Roman lime, prepared each day and plastered on the wall in patches sufficient for one day's work only. In true fresco painting the colour is put on the plaster only whilst it is still wet. Michael Angelo must also have prepared a general scheme to scale from his small design, approved by the Pope, and set it off with very careful measurements on the surface of the rough cast, at least as to the architectural framework. The cartoons for the figure-subjects and details he may have left until they were needed. He considerably altered the scale of the figures in his stories as he proceeded with the work; this alteration in scale is not only observable in the central subjects or pictures of the vault, but also in the decorative figures on the framework, called Athletes; those at the end, near the stories of Noah and the Flood, and where Michael Angelo began to work, are at least a head smaller than those at the other end of the chapel over the altar, where the stories relate to the Creation. This can be seen even in a photographic reproduction. Although the development of the great scheme was so much upon the traditional lines of Italian art, yet the details of arrangement and placing must have fully occupied the artist for some months. He cannot have begun actually to paint on the vault until late autumn, at least, not any of the work we see now, for his assistants did not arrive from Florence until August, and he had to experiment with their work, and find it wanting, before he dismissed them, destroyed their work, and began alone. All the work of the part of the vault executed first is by Michael Angelo's own hand, as far as can be judged from the floor of the chapel, or from the cornice level with the windows. The following receipts for the plaster, or for [pg 149]rough-coating the vault, show that painting cannot have begun so early as has been assumed:105
THE CREATION OF EVE
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
"In the name of God, the 11th day of May, 1508.
"I, Piero di Jacopo Roselli, Master Mason, have this day received, the 11th of May as above said, from Michael Angelo Bonaroti, Sculptor, ten ducats in gold, full weight, on account of 'Scialbatura' on the vault of Pope Sixtus, and for rough plastering in his chapel, and doing that which was needful by order of Pope Julius; and in faith of the truth I have done this with my own hand, this day above said. Ducats 10 of gold, full weight."
This payment was made by Michael Angelo. The second receipt of Rosselli for fifteen ducats was made out on May 24, to Francesco Granacci, so he was already in Rome, helping his friend. The next payment of ten ducats was also made by Granacci on June 3, and another on June 10. On July 17 Michael Angelo himself paid the mason; so Granacci had gone to Florence by then to hire the other assistants. On July 27 Michael Angelo paid Rosselli thirty golden ducats, full weight, for rough plastering and other details. The amount paid, and the time taken, go to prove that the whole vault was plastered. Granacci106 wrote from Florence about the assistants. Heath Wilson gives a literal translation of his rather bewildering letter.
"Very Dear Friend,—I recommend myself and wish you infinite health. This is to your Excellency, as to-day I met Raffaelino, the painter, and gathered from him in fine that if you have need of him he will come at your [pg 150]bidding, should you be pleased to pay him the salary which he has received from the Master Pietro Matteo d'Amelia, who, he says, gave him ten ducats a month. Ever faithful to your Excellency, I give the advice as from myself. If you have need to employ him, offer him your amount of salary; he is ready to do what you may command as to work. He is a good master and honest. And if for me there is anything, advise me, for I am always here to do for you those things which are useful and honourable. If I can do one thing more than another let me know; I will do it with love and solicitude. Nothing more. Christ have you in his keeping. Bene Valeti.
"This day, 22nd of July, 1508.
"If you can employ me as above is said, I shall be willing to be with you. Nothing more.
"Directed to the Excellent Master
"Given from the Bank of Baldassare in Campo di Fiore."
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
Neither Raffaellino del Garbo nor Giovanni Michi were employed, but the next letter of Granacci, dated July 24, 1508, mentions Giuliano Buggiardini and Jacopo L'Indaco, who were both tried. Vasari informs us that [pg 151]Granacci, Jacopo di Sandro, and the elder Indaco, Agnolo di Donnino, and Aristotile da Sangallo also accepted work. We have another proof that the actual fresco painting did not begin at this period, in a document preserved in the National Archives at Florence. Heath Wilson obtained legal opinion that Michael Angelo must have been in Florence in person when this deed was executed. It runs: "In the year of our Lord, 1508, on the 11th day of August, Michael Angelo, the son of Ludovico Lionardo di Buonarroto, cancelled his lawful claim upon the estate of his uncle Francis by a deed drawn up by Ser Giovanni di Guasparre da Montevarchi, Florentine notary, on the 27th of the month of July, 1508." Another instance of Michael Angelo's generosity to his family. If Michael Angelo at once proceeded to Rome, he and his assistants may have begun work towards the end of August. During all this period we must notice how troubled he was by the affairs of his family and his household arrangements. Michael Angelo, while living like a poor man in Rome, sent money to, and purchased land for, his family in Florence, and helped to establish Buonarroto in business, but they were never satisfied, and his letters to his father and Giovan Simone show how his mind was troubled. There is a letter in the British Museum that belongs to this summer of 1508.
"Most Reverend Father,—I have learnt by your last how things go with you, and how Giovan Simone behaves himself. I have not had worse news for ten years than on the evening when I read your letter, for I thought that I had arranged their affairs so that they had reason to hope they would make a good shop with my aid. Now, [pg 152]I see, they do the contrary, especially Giovan Simone. From this I know that it is profitless to try and do him good. Had it been possible on the day when I received your letter I should have mounted on horseback and by this time should have settled everything; but not being able to do so, I write him such a letter as appears to me to be necessary, and if from now he does not change his nature, or if ever he takes from the home so much as a stick, or does anything to displease you, I pray you to let me know, because I will obtain leave from the Pope to come to you, when I shall show him his error. I wish you to be certain that all the labours which I have continually endured have been more for your sake than for my own, and the property which I have bought I have bought that it may be yours whilst you live. Had it not been for you I should not have bought it. Therefore, if it please you to let this house or the farm, do so; and with that income and with what I shall give you you will live like a gentleman. Were it not that the summer were coming on I would say come and live with me here, but it is not the season, for here in summer you would not live long. It has occurred to me to take from him (Giovan Simone) the money which he has in the shop, and to give it to Gismondo, so that he and Buonarroto may get on together as well as they can ... and if you let these said houses and the farm of the Pazolatica, and with that income and with the help that I will give you besides, you will take refuge in some place where you will be comfortable, and you will be able to keep some one to serve you either in Florence or outside Florence, and leave that good-for-nothing ... I pray you to consider yourself, and in all things whatever you wish to do—that is, for [pg 153]yourself in all you desire—I will aid you all I know and can. Let me hear about Cassandra's affairs. I am advised not to go to law about it here. I am told that I shall spend here three times as much as there; and this is certain, for a grosso goes further there than two carlini here. Besides, I have no friend here to trust to, and I could not attend to such things. It seems to me, when you desire to attend to it, that you should go by the usual way, as reason demands, and you must defend yourself as well as you are able and know how; and for the money that is necessary to spend I will not fail as long as I have any. Have as little fear as you can, for it is not a case of life and death. No more. Let me know, as I told you above.
"From Michael Angelo, in Rome."107
A DETAIL, SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
Truly his family did all they could to disturb his mind during this important period of the development of his greatest work. The mind that wrote the following letter to Giovan Simone cannot have been in a good state for work; but as he never lets a thought about his art appear in his letters, so, no doubt, when once the mood of work was upon him, all other thoughts were left without the workshop door:
"Rome, July 1508.
"Giovan Simone,—It is said that when one does good to a good man it makes him become better, but a bad man becomes worse. I have tried now many years with words and deeds of kindness to bring you to live honestly and in peace with your father and the rest of us. You grow continually worse. I do not say that you are a bad [pg 154]man, but you are of such sort that you have ceased to please me or anybody. I could read you a long lesson on your ways of living, but they would be idle words, like all the rest that I have wasted on you. To cut the matter short, I will tell you for a certain truth that you have nothing in the world. What you spend and your house-room I give you, and have given you these many years, for the love of God, believing you to be my brother like the rest. Now, I am sure that you are not my brother, else you would not threaten my father. Nay, you are a beast; and as a beast I mean to treat you. Know that he who sees his father threatened or roughly handled is bound to risk his own life in this cause. Enough, I tell you that you have nothing in the world; and if I hear the least thing about your goings on, I will come post-haste and show you your error, and teach you to waste your substance and set fire to houses and farms you have not earned. Indeed, you are not where you think yourself to be. If I come, I will open your eyes to what will make you weep hot tears, and let you know on what false grounds you found your pride.
"I have something else to say to you which I have not said before. If you will endeavour to live rightly, and to honour and revere your father, I will help you like the rest, and make you able shortly to open a good shop. If you do not do so, I shall come and settle your affairs in such a fashion that you will know what you are better than you ever did, and will understand what you have in the world, and it will be seen in every place where you may go. No more. What I lack in words I will supply with deeds.
"Michael Angelo, in Rome.
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
"I cannot refrain from adding two lines. It is this: I have gone these twelve years past, drudging about through all Italy, borne every shame, suffered every hardship, worn my body in every toil, put my life into a thousand dangers, solely to help the fortunes of my house, and now that I have begun to raise it up a little, you alone choose to destroy and ruin in one hour all that I have done in so many years, and with such labours. By Christ's body this shall not be! for I am the man to confound ten thousand such as you whenever it be needed. Be wise in time then, and do not try one who has other things to vex him."
So with hindrances enough, private and public, we must imagine the great artist climbing his scaffolding to the vault of the Pope's chapel, followed by his assistants, and setting them their task, transferring his full-size outline cartoons, prepared from the general designs, to the roof. We may fancy L'Indaco, Buggiardini, and the rest, staring with amazement at the huge figures and the great flowing lines before them, and trying to fit their dry manner of painting to the new grandeur of design. It could but end in one way. The clause prepared beforehand by Michael Angelo in the contracts came into effect, and they had to be sent away, with plenty of grumbling on their part, no doubt. Michael Angelo was too exacting in the perfection of his taste to allow any work short of the absolute ideal he had imagined. Unlike Raphael, who was working in the neighbouring stanze, and who was contented to pass, and some would have us believe to execute, ill-turned foreshortenings and false drawing, so long as his general effect was preserved and the work done [pg 156]in reasonable time. Perhaps his gentle and sunlike genius could not bear to use harsh words and shut the door against the mediocre men with whom he was surrounded. Michael Angelo could brook no imperfection of whatever kind, so that he destroyed all that his assistants had done and shut himself up alone in the chapel. He was the only man who could do the work to his satisfaction; so he did it, alone and unaided, as to the actual painting, and produced a work unequalled in perfection since Phidias worked in Athens.
The dismissal of his assistants appears to have begun about the New Year 1509. It is hinted at in this letter:—
"Dearest Father,—I have to-day received one of yours. When I read it I was sufficiently displeased. I doubt that you are more timid and fearful than you need be. I should like you to tell me what you imagine they can do to you, that is, if it should come to the worst. I have no more to say. It grieves me that you should be in such fear, so I comfort you by advising you to be well prepared against their power, with good advice, and then think no more about it; for if they took away all you have in the world you should not lack means to be comfortable as long as I was there. Therefore be of good cheer. I am still in a great quandary, for it is now a year since I received a groat from the Pope, and I do not ask for it, for my work does not go forward in such a fashion as to deserve it, as it seems to me. And this is because of the difficulty of the work, and also that it is not my profession. And so I lose my time fruitlessly. God help me. If you are in [pg 157]need of money go to the Spedalingo108 and make him give you anything up to fifteen ducats, and let me know what remains. Jacopo,109 the painter whom I brought here, has just left, and as he has been grumbling here about my doings, I expect he will grumble there also. Turn a deaf ear to him. It is enough. For he is a thousand times in the wrong. I have good reason to complain of him. Take no notice of him. Tell Buonarroto that I will reply to him another time.
"The day twenty 7 of January.
"Michael Angelo, in Rome."110
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
Buggiardini appears to have fared better than L'Indaco. He painted a portrait of Michael Angelo with a towel tied round his head like a turban, now in the Casa Buonarroti, at Florence. From the age of the sitter it appears to belong to this period; the towel may have been used to protect the hair and head of the artist from falling colour as he painted the roof above him. It is an energetic head, with jet black hair and sallow complexion, with many lines and wrinkles for so young a face, determined, sad, and scornful in expression; a slight weakness and affectation may be due to the personality of the painter. Buggiardini also executed a painting from the cartoon of the master, the Madonna and Child with Angels, number 809, of the National Gallery. The beauty and grandeur of the lines of this design are far above the imagination of any one except Michael Angelo, but the details of the [pg 158]execution of the hands and the feet are inferior to any authentic work of his. The hatchings in the shadows, especially of the draperies, are made up of short and feeble lines, and do not express the form of the folds at all in the same way as we are accustomed to see Michael Angelo express them, even in his earlier drawings, the copies from Giotto and the primitives. The form of the mouths, and the expression and shape of the heads, especially in the second angel on the right, are similar to the work of Buggiardini as seen in Florence, Milan, and the Cathedral of Pisa. Buggiardini is the only one of the assistants who seems to have reaped any benefit, beyond their wages, from the work they did for the great master. This trouble with his assistants was not the only difficulty that Michael Angelo had to contend with in the execution of his work. Vasari says that he shut himself alone in the chapel, without any one to help him even in the grinding of his colours; but, as he adds, that he took great precautions to prevent the workmen informing the public as to what he was doing, we must assume that Vasari was repeating a fable that had grown up about the marvellous work forty years after it was executed, much as we might at this day repeat stories of the making of the Wellington Monument by Alfred Stevens. The carpenters and plasterers Michael Angelo employed would soon learn to perform the more mechanical part of his work, such as laying the intonaco, pricking the cartoons, and grinding colours, and as they could not have inserted into the work any tradition contrary to the new manner of the artist, would be preferred by him to second-rate artist assistants; no doubt, too, the boy he employed in household work would be made to help. The trouble he had [pg 159]in his household arrangements before the time of his trusted servant, Urbino, may be illustrated by a letter relating to the boy he got from Florence about this time. He never would have a woman to work for him in any way.
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
"To Lodovico di Buonarrota Simoni, in Florence.
"Rome (January 1510).
"Most Revered Father,—I answered you about the business of Bernardino, as I wished first to settle the affairs of my household as you know, and so I now reply to you. I sent first for him because I was promised that within a few days he would be ready and that I might get to work. Afterwards I saw that it would be a long business; in the meantime I am seeking another suitable one to get out of it. I won't have any work done until I am ready, but tell him how the matter stands. About the boy who came, that rascal of a muleteer did me out of a ducat. He took an oath that he had agreed for two broad golden ducats, and all the lads who come here with the muleteers do not give more than ten carlinos. I was more angry than if I had lost twenty-five ducats, because I see it is the fault of the father, who wanted to send him on muleback in state. Oh! I had never such good fortune! not I. Although the father declared, and the son likewise, that he would do anything, attend to the mule, and sleep on the ground if necessary; and now I have to look after him. Did I need any more bothers than I have had since my return? Here I have my boy, whom I left here, ill since the day I returned until now. He is now better it is true, but he has been between life and death, given up by the doctors, so that for about a month I have not been in bed, let alone many others. Now I have this [pg 160]nuisance of a boy, who says, and says again, that he does not want to lose time, that he must learn. And he told me that he would be satisfied with two or three hours a day. Now all day is not enough, so that he will be drawing all night also. These are counsels of the father. If I say anything he would declare that I did not wish him to learn. I want some one to mind the house, and if he did not feel like doing it they should not have put me to this expense. But they are no good, no good at all, and are working for their own ends; but enough. I beg you to have him taken away from before me, for he annoys me so much that I cannot stand him any longer. The muleteer has had so much money that he can very well take him back again; he is a friend of his father's. Tell the father to send for him. I'll not give him another farthing, for I have no money, I will have patience until he sends for him, and if he is not sent for I will turn him out, for I have done so already, on the second day after his arrival and other times as well, and he won't believe it.
"For the business of the shop I will send you a hundred ducats next Saturday. With this, if you see that they are diligent and do well, give it to them and make me their creditor, as I was to Buonarroto when he went away. If they are not diligent, and do badly, place it to my account at Santa Maria Nuova. It is not yet time to buy.
"Your Michael Angelo, in Rome.
"If you are speaking to the father of the boy, put the matter nicely, mannerly; that he is a good lad, but too genteel, and that he is not fit for my work, and that he must send for him."111
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
The more gentle tone of the postscript is very characteristic. Outwardly he would be rough, consumed with anger and indignation; but inwardly his nature was kindly to a degree to those he had about him.
Condivi tells us of the delay in the works in the Sistine due to the mould on the surface of the fresco, and of the haste of Julius. The progress was fast enough, one would have thought, even for that exacting Pontiff; for although the whole work consists, on counting heads, of some three hundred and ninety-four figures, the majority ten feet high; the prophets and sibyls, twelve in number, would be eighteen feet high if they stood up; yet by the following letters to his brother Buonarroto, of October 1509, we know he had finished the first half, consisting probably of some two hundred figures, even then; or assuming that he began to paint when the assistants were dismissed in January 1509, he worked at the rate of about a figure a day.
To Buonarroto di Lodovico di Buonarrota, in Florence.
From Rome, the 17th of October, 1509.
"Buonarroto,—I got the bread: it is good, but it is not good enough to make a trade of, for there would be little gain. I gave the knave five carlini, and he would hardly hand it over. I learn by your last how Lorenzo112 will pass this way, and how I am to give him a good reception. It appears you do not know how I am situated here, all the same I excuse you. What I can do, I will. About Gismondo and how he intends to come here to advance his business, tell him from me not to have any designs on me, not because I do not love him as a [pg 162]brother, but because I am unable to help him in anything. I am obliged to love myself more than others, and I have not enough for my own needs. I live here in great distress and with the greatest fatigue of body, and have not a friend of any sort, and do not want one, and have not even enough time to eat necessary food; therefore, do not annoy me any more, for I cannot bear another ounce.
For the shop I encourage you to be careful. It pleases me to hear that Giovanni Simone begins to do well. Endeavour to advance a little, or, at least, maintain what you have got, so that you will know how to manage larger affairs afterwards; for I have a hope, when I return to you, that you will be men enough to manage for yourselves. Tell Lodovico that I have not replied to him because I had not the time, and not to wonder if I do not write.
"Michael Angelo, Sculptor, in Rome."113
To the same.
From Rome (Oct. 1509).
"Buonarroto,—I hear by your last how that all are well, and how Lodovico has another office. It all pleases me, and I encourage him to accept it if it will allow him to return when necessary to his post in Florence. I am here just as usual, and shall have finished my painting by the end of next week, that is, the part of it I began; and when I have uncovered it I believe I shall receive my money, and I will endeavour again to get leave to come to you for a month. I do not know whether it will be, but I need it for I am not very well. I have no time to write more. I will tell you what happens.
"Michael Angelo, Sculptor, in Rome."114
THE DELPHIC SIBYL
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
The work was exposed to view upon November 1, 1509. So at the longest possible estimate of time from May 10, 1508, to November 1, 1509, Michael Angelo took four hundred and sixty-two working days to paint it. The more probable, in fact, almost certain estimate of the time occupied in painting the fresco, as we now see it, is from the time his assistants left him, about New Year's Day 1509, to November 1 in the same year, or two hundred and thirty-four working days. As the plaster could only be painted on whilst wet, we can tell, by the marks of the divisions between the separate days' plasterings, how many days the larger individual figures took. One of the largest and most prominent, as well as one of the finest and most finished, the Adam in the Creation of Man, was painted in three sittings only. The lines of the junctions of the plaster may be seen in a photograph; one is along the collar bone, and one across the junction of the body and the thighs. There is also a division all round the figure, an inch or so from the outline, so we know that the beautiful and highly finished head and neck were painted in one day; the stupendous torso and arms in another; and the huge legs, finished in every detail, in a third. Such power of work and of finish is utterly inconceivable to any artist of to-day. Some will even excuse the imperfection of the study of a head by saying that they had only three or four sittings.
Condivi asserts, and Vasari follows him, that the part uncovered in November 1509, was the first half of the whole vault, beginning at the large door of entrance and ending in the middle. But Albertini states in his [pg 164]Mirabilia Urbis115 that the upper portion of the whole vaulted roof had been uncovered when he saw it in 1509, and this statement is corroborated by the work itself. There is a distinct enlargement of the style from the Sin of the Sons of Ham through the series of the Creation and the Athletes to the Prophets and Sibyls, and again from the first of these, near the large door, to those near the altar wall. So it may have been the complete work on the flat part of the vault that was shown to the world, including the story of the Creation and Fall of Man; and it was not, therefore, so very unreasonable of Bramante to propose that Raphael should continue the work, for he probably did not know of Michael Angelo's intention of commemorating the promise of the Redeemer by his prophets and sibyls upon the curved surface of the vaulting. Michael Angelo was naturally indignant at his action, but Julius, who probably was the only man who knew Michael Angelo's scheme, commanded him to complete his work.
We gather from a letter to his father that the scaffolding for completing the painting of the vault was not put up on September 7, 1510.
THE PROPHET JOEL
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
To Lodovico di Buonarrota Simoni, in Florence.
From Rome, September 7, 1510.
"Dearest Father,—I have received your last, and hear with the greatest anxiety that Buonarroto is ill; therefore, as soon as you see this, go to the Spedalingo116 [pg 165]and make him give you fifty or an hundred ducats; you may need them. Arrange that all things necessary be provided in good time, and that there be no lack of money. Let me tell you how that I am waiting to receive from the Pope five hundred ducats, well earned, and he should give me as much again to put up the scaffolding and go on with the other part of my work. And he has gone from here without leaving me any orders. I have written him a letter. I do not know what will follow. I should have come to you immediately on the receipt of your last, but if I left without permission I doubt the Pope would be angry, and I should lose all that I ought to have. Nevertheless, let me know immediately if Buonarroto should still be very bad, because if you think I ought to come I will ride post and be with you in two days, for men are worth more than money. Let me know at once, for I am very anxious.
"On the 7th day of September.
"Your Michael Angelo, Sculptor, in Rome."117
The following note tells of the end of the work:
"I have finished the Chapel which I painted. The Pope is very well satisfied, but other things do not happen as I wished. Lay blame on the times, which are unfavourable to art." It is a note by Michael Angelo in the Buonarroto manuscripts of the British Museum, but undated. It is probably of October 1512, and marks the close of this period of enormous work. The decoration of the Sistine Chapel now consisted, firstly, on the flat of the vault, of Michael Angelo's history of the Creation and the Fall of Man, of the Punishment of the Flood, [pg 166]and the Second Entry of Sin into the World; secondly, on the pendentives, of the Prophets and Sibyls proclaiming the coming of a Redeemer; and thirdly, of the Ancestors of Christ, filling the arches of the windows and the arches on the two end walls. Those on the altar wall are now covered by angels bearing the instruments of the Passion of Christ, parts of the great fresco of the Last Judgment, finished by Michael Angelo thirty years afterwards. At Oxford there are two drawings after these two destroyed frescoes of the Ancestors of Christ series. Fourthly, at the four corners the four great Deliverances of the Chosen People, emblems of the Redemption; fifthly, below, between the windows, a row of the figures of the Popes by Sandro Botticelli and others; these are still in existence, except the three that were on the wall of the high altar, now occupied by the Last Judgment. They were the earliest of the Popes, St. Peter probably in the centre. Lastly, below again, the great series of frescoes of the History of Christ and the History of Moses by Sandro Botticelli, Domenico del Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli, Pietro Perugino, Bernardino Pintoricchio, Luca Signorelli, and Bartolomeo della Gatta. This splendid series forms a worthy predella to the epic work of Michael Angelo above; that they are worthy the one of the other is the highest compliment that can be paid to either. These stories well repay prolonged study, and help to keep our mind fresh to enjoy the idea of the advance Michael Angelo made in the art of painting. It is very instructive to compare his work with these frescoes of men who were almost his contemporaries. Above the altar three of this series were destroyed to make way for the Last Judgment; they were all three by Perugino, and represented the Assumption of the Virgin in the centre, the Nativity [pg 167]on the right, and the finding of Moses on the left. At the opposite end, over the great door, were two pictures by Domenico del Ghirlandaio, representing the Resurrection of Christ, and Michael contending with Satan for the Body of Moses, completing the series of the lives of the Redeemer and of his prototype in the Old Testament: Moses, the Deliverer. These last two works were destroyed for the ridiculous caricatures of Arrigo Fiammingo and Mattei da Lecce. Ultimately the Tapestry woven after the cartoons by Raphael, now at South Kensington Museum, completed the cycle of decoration down to the ground level.
THE PROPHET EZEKIEL
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
When Pope Julius prevented Michael Angelo from going on with his beloved project of the Tomb and made him paint the vault, the master set to work to produce a similar conception to the Tomb in a painted form. The vault became a great temple of painted marble and painted sculptures raised in mid-air above the walls of the chapel. The cornices and pilasters are of simple Renaissance architecture, the only ornaments he allowed himself to use being similar to those he would have used as a sculptor. Acorns, the family device of the della Rovere, rams' skulls, and scallop shells, and the one theme of decoration that Michael Angelo always delighted in—the human figure. The Prophets and Sibyls took the positions occupied by the principal figures designed for the Tomb, like the great statue of Moses. The Athletes at the corner of the ribs of the roof were in place of the bound captives, two of which are now in the Louvre, and the nine histories of the Creation and the Flood fill the panels like the bronze reliefs of the Tomb. The detail and completeness of this fresco are the best refutation of the [pg 168]frequent criticism that Michael Angelo did not finish his work. The fact is, that he finished more than any one. Had Michael Angelo done no work but this vault of the Sistine Chapel, it would have represented an output equal in quantity alone to that of the most prolific of his brother Italian artists. It is veritably a large picture-gallery of his works in itself. An idea of its numerical magnitude may be got by dividing it up into its component units and making an inventory of them. The vault itself, according to Heath Wilson, is one hundred and thirty-one feet six inches long, by forty-five feet two and a half inches wide at the large door end, and forty-three feet two and a half inches at the altar end, an area of nearly six thousand square feet, which apparently does not represent the arch measurement but only the plane covered by the arch, nor does it take account of the triangular and semicircular spaces above the windows. This vast surface is divided into:—
Four large pictures stretching over more than one-third of the width of the roof, and containing from five to more than forty-five figures, some of them twelve feet in height.
Five pictures, half the size of the last, with from one to eight figures in each.
Twenty colossal nude figures of Athletes.
Ten circular medallions.
Seven large figures of Prophets.
Five large figures of Sibyls; these Prophets and Sibyls would be eighteen feet high if they stood upright, and most of them have secondary figures of angel boys between them, twenty-three in all.
Twenty-four decorative pilasters of two children each, in monochrome.[pg 169]
THE PROPHET DANIEL
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
Four large triangular compositions representing the Redemptions of Israel, and containing from five to twenty-two colossal figures.
Eight triangular spaces above the windows, representing the Ancestors of Christ, containing from two to four colossal figures.
Twenty-four groups in the semicircular spaces above the windows, also of the Ancestors of Christ, of from one to four colossal figures.
Ten large figures of children forming brackets under the figures of Prophets and Sibyls, at the springing of the arches between the windows.
Twenty-four bronze-coloured colossal figures filling up the spaces in the architectural framework.
Thus, the vault may be regarded as a gallery of one hundred and forty-five separate pictures by Michael Angelo. There is one reservation, and that is, that the twenty-four groups of two children forming pilasters are in pairs, of the same outline but reversed; as they are differently lighted they may still be taken as different pictures. These pilasters form the sides of the thrones of the Prophets and Sibyls, and repeating them in reversed outline on either side of the same throne has a very valuable decorative effect, well known to the old Italian workmen, who frequently repeated the forms of their fruit and flower decorations in this manner, by the expedient of reversing the paper-pricking from one and the same cartoon. It is interesting to find Michael Angelo resorting to this simple trick to get the effect of balance in figure decoration. The light and shade of the reversed figures follow the general scheme of the illumination, so that the figures traced from the same cartoons look very dissimilar when painted, but if the [pg 170]outlines are traced from a photograph, and reversed on the corresponding figures, they will be seen to coincide. It seems impossible to explain the exactness in any other way, a few measurements on the vault itself would make it certain. Probably the same method was employed in transferring the twenty-four bronze-coloured decorative figures also.
The historical sequence of the events in the nine pictures on the central space of the vault represents the Story of the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and the second entry of Sin into the world, demonstrating the need for a scheme of Salvation, promised by the Prophets and Sibyls in the second part of the decoration. The series represented is an old invention, and all the scenes may be found in Byzantine and early Italian works; but the new treatment gives them a character of grandeur only equalled by the Old Testament narrative which they illustrate. All the human figures and most of the angels appear to be dominated by an idea of impending doom, but they nobly act their part in a fateful present, although they know that the future cannot be changed by any effort of theirs, however noble it may be. They are all fatalists, but all noble in their pessimism; they reflect the mind of the artist. The individual motives of the figures, their grouping and their action, are frequently taken from earlier art, especially sculpture, and they show how carefully and reverently Michael Angelo studied the works of his predecessors, Massaccio, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello, and Jacopo della Quercia.
THE LIBYAN SIBYL
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
THE PROPHET JEREMIAH
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
The first division above the High Altar represents the creation of light. God separates light from darkness, and brings order out of chaos. In the second division, one of the larger pictures, God creates the sun and moon; He [pg 171]passes on and spreads His hand in blessing over a segment of the earth where the trees and herbs spring forth. In the third, God gathers together in one place the waters which were under the firmament. In these works Michael Angelo designed a figure of the Creator that has remained ever since the only possible pictorial symbol of God the Father. He is like an old man in appearance and in wisdom, but as alert and powerful as a young man. The creation of Adam is the central composition of the ceiling. The Deity, accompanied by six angels, gives life to Adam by the touch of finger tips. The figure of Adam is the most beautiful in modern art. It appears to have been inspired by a Greek intaglio. The angels are much varied in type. They are without the tinsel and gold embroidery used by earlier artists to represent celestial glory. The simple and solemn lines of the landscape showing the curved surface of the globe give a cosmic character to the scene, and the beautiful indigo blue of the distance forms a fine background for the supremely modelled flesh. This composition is the first in the order of execution in which Michael Angelo fully realised his scheme of decoration, as to scale and form, making a few figures fill the space allotted to them with ease and freedom of movement. Truly the space occupied appears to have been arranged and cut specially to suit the figures, and not the figures made, as was the fact, to fit the space. The next compartment, the creation of Eve, is only less beautiful than that of the Adam. It is small, and the space is a little crowded: the composition is taken exactly from the beautiful bas-relief by Jacopo della Quercia at Bologna. The Almighty is shrouded in a voluminous mantle; Eve joins her hands in worship. The figure is modelled with [pg 172]a delicious softness, and the pearly colour is a delightful rendering of the lighter flesh tints of woman, something like the quality sought by Correggio in later times. The Adam reclining in the corner fills that part of the space as a good medal design fits its circumference; the grey of the shadow, especially in the darker parts, envelops the figures in a way that had never been attempted in fresco painting, but is somewhat like a hand in shadow by Rembrandt. The representations of the Fall and the Expulsion fill the next compartment, a large one. Here we have another rendering of a female nude; the type, and especially the modelling of the flank, is a prophecy of the figure of Dawn in the Sacristy of San Lorenzo. The upper part of the serpent has a woman's form, and the junction is most admirably managed after the manner of the sea maidens in Græco-Roman art. In this story is the only foreground tree in full leaf ever painted by Michael Angelo, and yet it is as supreme as everything else. It is remarkable that the Paradise of Michael Angelo should be such a rocky place, like the side of a marble mountain, for in his time such places were regarded with distaste. The landscape into which Adam and Eve are expelled is a lone flat desert, where no marble could be found. This part of the composition is taken almost exactly from Massaccio's version in the Brancacci Chapel. The Sacrifice of Noah fills the next, a smaller compartment. It is placed, historically, before the Deluge, and must be taken to represent how Noah, the just man and perfect, and his family, found grace in the eyes of the Lord. As there are five male persons present, this scene cannot represent the sacrifice immediately after the Flood, nor is any rainbow to be seen as was usual in the traditional representations of that subject, [pg 173]like the one in the Chiostro Verde at Santa Maria Novella. Raphael also gives more figures than can be accounted for as having been in the ark in his composition of the sacrifice of Noah, in the series called the Bible of Raphael in the Loggia. The large composition of the Deluge gives us some idea of what the cartoon of Pisa may have been like. There never was a collection of naked figures so many and so beautiful. One is filled with sorrow at the idea of their being drowned. They are all, too, engaged in noble works; charity, energy, and inventiveness are amongst the virtues they exhibit; there is no panic, or struggling one with another; no anger or selfishness, excepting only in the boat in the middle distance; a woman helps her children, a man his wife, an old man bears a young man in his arms, Priam carrying Æneas, an even more pathetic imagination than Homer's; others attempt to save their household goods; others erect a tent; others, again, attempt to scale the sides of the ark or break into it with axes—one cannot but hope they will succeed. The female figures are especially beautiful in this picture, and again we have a foretaste of that wonderful modelling of the flank and thigh seen to perfection in the tombs at San Lorenzo. The weird sea and sky, the ark and the dead tree, show what Michael Angelo could do when he liked, in departments of art other than the human figure. The individual figures in the Deluge are difficult to see on account of the smallness of scale in this part of the vault. It must have been after seeing them from the floor of the chapel, by removing some of the boards of his scaffolding, that Michael Angelo determined to alter the scale in the remaining compositions. In no other way can we account for the change in the size of the Athletes, at [pg 174]any rate. The difference of scale between those surrounding the Sin of Ham over the large door, and those surrounding the separation of Light from Darkness over the High Altar, must be almost two feet. The increase is gradual along the ceiling. Similarly the Sybilla Delphica is very much smaller than the Sybilla Lybica, and the Prophet Joel than the Prophet Jeremiah. The last composition of this series—a small one—represents the Sin of Ham, and was the first painted. The vat and the wine jug are wonderful still-life, reminding us of Bassano.
A DETAIL, SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
The twenty Athletes that decorate the corners of these central compositions, and support bronze medallions held in place by oak garlands or by draperies, are nothing but the most direct of transcripts from the nude model, but the most noble that have been executed in the art of painting. They are finished to the smallest detail, and are as truthful to nature as it was possible for a man with an innate sense of grandeur of line to make them. Italian models have been posed in the positions of most of them, and drawings from them compared with the photographs of these figures; they are marvellously true, to the very wrinkles of the skin under the arms and about the knees, and the drawing of the curves and creases of the torso as the body bends. So naturalistic are they that Michael Angelo must have posed a model and made drawings in the chapel itself, perhaps even on the scaffolding, and worked straight away. He appears to have used only three models for this purpose. The Athletes drawn from the same model can easily be distinguished; they are actual portraits. One was the man who sat for the Adam, and was of a noble proportion with a small head, a beautiful brow, and a solemn mouth. His hair was wavy and of a wispy character; he [pg 175]had broad shoulders; his extremities were small, the thighs large and well developed, showing the individual muscles by large forms with flat planes. He may be seen, as we have said, in the Adam, and in the four figures surrounding the fresco representing God dividing the Light from the Darkness; in the two figures near the Adam in his creation of Eve; and best of all, for comparison, in the figures near the foot of Adam in the creation of Man. Another model was of a rounder and more bacchanalian character, not unlike the Dancing Fawn in the Uffizi; but he was not in such good training. He was decidedly fat, his face was mobile, and very easily took jovial expressions, his cheeks dimpled, his eyes round and large, the pupils very dark and the whites very white; his hair went into short, soft, frizzy curls; his shoulders were small and round, the arms feeble, the thighs short, round, and formless; his back was well developed, the folds of the skin in the torso, when he bent, were very large and fat in line. It was probably for this that Michael Angelo chose him. He is well seen in three of the figures surrounding the third panel from the High Altar representing The Spirit of God upon the Face of the Waters, and the two figures nearest to the Adam and Eve in the scene of the Expulsion. The other model was of more ordinary but of still very fine proportion. His head was rather large, and his mouth petulant in expression, the upper eyelids very thick; his hair is broken into large, hard curls. He is seen in the figures surrounding the Sin of Ham, and was probably the first employed for this work. These Athletes are the very epitome of the work of Michael Angelo. If a man does not love them he cannot care for the work of Michael Angelo. They express his highest idea of beauty—man [pg 176]created in the image of God, as he testifies in this vault, and in the sonnet ending:—
Nè Dio, suo grazia, mi si mostra altrove,
Più che'n alcun leggiadro e mortal velo;
E quel sol amo, perchè'n quel si specchia.
Nor hath God deigned to show himself elsewhere
More clearly than in human form sublime
Which, since they image Him, alone I love.118
No leaves or branches, minor works of the Great Artist, still less draperies of cloth or even of gold brocade, the works of the hand of man, shall cover any portion of the Divine Image. So all these figures are frankly naked, the genii of the Beauty of the Human Race.
The festoons these Athletes carry support large medallions painted like bronze. They were probably the portion that Michael Angelo intended to finish with gilding, but owing to the impatience of the Pope they were left in their present state. They are a most valuable part of the decorative scheme. Continuity is given by the repetition of these bronze-coloured circles.
THE BRAZEN SERPENT
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
A great cornice divides the scheme of the flat part of the vault already described, and perhaps the first portion executed, from the curved part containing the Prophets and Sibyls. They are larger in scale and freer in style than any portion of the flat part of the vault, as though with practice Michael Angelo's hand had grown even bolder than before. He may, too, have thought the new scale of figures easier to see from the floor of the chapel, for we must remember that this was his first experiment in vault painting, and no doubt he would be glad to see its effect from below when he was ordered to remove the [pg 177]scaffolding, and he must have learnt by it. The Prophets and Sibyls appear to be the last word of Michael Angelo in decorative painting, as Raphael knew, for he assimilated the teaching both in the beautiful figures of Sibyls at Santa Maria della Pace and the Prophet Isaiah of San Agostino. The motives of the genii or angels, wise children whispering in the ears of the foretellers, seem to be inspired by the sculpture of Giovanni Pisano as seen in the pilasters of the pulpit of the Church of San Andrea at Pistoia.
It would be endless to try and tell all the thoughts and emotions, both literary and artistic, suggested by the contemplation of these figures and by the groups representing the Ancestors of Christ. Suffice it to say, that all the thoughts that come into the minds of the beholders are as nothing compared to the thoughts that passed through the mind of the solitary artist composing and painting upon the high scaffolding of the quiet chapel.
The series of the Ancestors of Christ illustrate the life of a being upon this earth, from the terrible moment when the pregnant woman first feels the pangs of approaching labour, in the semicircle of the window (inscribed Roboam, Abias) to the lean and slippered pantaloon, who needs a stick to help him rise from his seat (over the window inscribed Salmon, Boaz, Obeth); there is the happy mother sleeping with her infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes (Salmon, Boaz, Obeth); and the old man playing with the children, (Eleazr, Matthew); the student attentively poring over his book regardless of the female figure, possibly Inspiration, speaking to him from the other side of the window (Naason). These figures, the Ancestors of Christ, are more slightly painted than the rest of the vault. They loom out of the darkness, caused by contrast to the light of the [pg 178]windows they surround, grow in and out of the background and have an atmospheric effect unequalled in fresco painting. Those who walk from the Ponte Saint Angelo up the Borgo to the Vatican any morning early may see at the back of the dim recesses of the arched cellar-like shops such groups as these. The series may be regarded as the sketch-book of Michael Angelo, in which he recorded his impressions of the life about him as he trudged to his work.
The four triangular compositions that fill the corners of the chapel, the four great Redemptions of Israel, are absolute masterpieces of space arrangement, different methods of overcoming the same difficulty being used in each picture, from the two principal figures and the tent in the David and Goliath to the marvellous crowd of twisted limbs in the story of the Brazen Serpent. In the composition of the Death of Holofernes Judith covers with a napkin the severed head, which is carried in a basket on the head of her handmaid; a most lovely group, said to have been taken from an intaglio representing a vintage scene, in which a nymph fills with grapes a basket supported on the head of a companion.
Under each of the Prophets and Sibyls, upon the side walls, is a decorative putto supporting the name plate, standing at the springing of the arches, as in Donatello's bas-relief representing Christ before Pilate, in the pulpit of San Lorenzo. These ten beautiful figures are seldom noticed, but evidently Raphael thought them worthy of study, as may be seen in the lovely child-figure attributed to him in the Accademia di San Lucca.
JUDITH WITH THE HEAD OF HOLOFERNES
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
The whole vault contains hardly one unworthy human being, the only sins they commit are the Sins of Adam [pg 179]and of Ham, necessary for the story. They are all beautiful and all holy. Can Michael Angelo have had any thought of the doom of these his creations, as exemplified by him on the altar wall, twenty-two years afterwards? The great work was finished, the public saw it, and, as Michael Angelo says, "the Pope was very well pleased."
THE RISEN CHRIST OF THE MINERVA
Julius II. died on February 21, 1513. He will ever be remembered as the man who compelled Michael Angelo to paint the Sistine vault. He was the best friend Michael Angelo ever had, notwithstanding their bickerings, and he understood him as no one ever did afterwards; but he bequeathed to him the Tragedy of the Tomb. In 1514 Michael Angelo signed the agreement for a new commission:—
"Deed with Michael Angelo for the figure in marble119 of a Risen Christ for the Church of the Minerva, in Rome. The 14 day of June, 1514. Let it be known and manifest to whoever reads this scrip, how Messere Bernardo Cencio, Canon of St. Peter's, and Messeri Mario Scappucci and Metello Vari, have ordered Michael Angelo di Lodovico Simoni, Sculptor, to carve a figure in marble of Christ as large as life, nude, standing, bearing a cross, in whatever attitude the said Michael Angelo thinks good, for the price of two hundred gold ducats of the Camera, to be paid in this manner, that is to say: At the present time one hundred and fifty gold ducats of the Camera, and the remainder, that is fifty similar ducats, the said Messeri Mario and Metello delli Vari promise to pay when [pg 181]the work is finished. As soon as the said Michael Angelo begins to work on the said figure, which he promises to place in the Minerva in whatever position the before-mentioned shall approve; and at his own expense to make a niche where the said figure is to be placed; and every other adornment that should be needful, it is understood that the before-mentioned Messer Bernardo and Messer Mario shall supply at their own expense. This figure the said Michael Angelo promises to do by the end of the next four years, more or less as appears to him good, engaging, however, that he will not exceed four years."
ONE OF THE ANCESTORS OF CHRIST, OVER THE WINDOW INSCRIBED "JESSE"
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
Then follow their affirmations in due form. Metello Vari dei Porcari, a Roman of an old family, appears to have been the real patron to whom Michael Angelo was responsible. The first block of marble was found to be faulty, so another one had to be carved. The work was not completed until 1521. It is now in the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva at Rome.
In 1515 Michael Angelo was still at work on the Tomb, but apprehensive of interruption from Pope Leo.
To Buonarroto di Lodovico Simoni, in Florence.
"Buonarroto,—I have written the letter to Filipo Strozzi; see if you like it and give it to him. If it is not well, I know he will hold me excused, for it is not my profession; enough if it serves its purpose. I wish you to go to the Spedalingo120 of Santa Maria Nuova, and tell him to pay to me here one thousand and four hundred ducats of what he has of mine, because I must make a great effort this summer to finish my work quickly, because I expect [pg 182]soon to have to enter the Pope's service. And for this I have bought perhaps twenty thousands of bronze for casting certain figures. I must have money; so when you see this arrange with the Spedalingo to have it paid over to me; and if you are able to arrange with Pier Francesco Borgerini, who is there, that he should have it paid to me by his people here, I should be glad, for Pier Francesco is my friend and will serve me well; and do not talk about it for I wish it to be paid to me here secretly; and for what remains at Santa Maria Nuova, accept security from the Spedalingo, on account. I wait for the money. No more.
"On the 16th day of June, 1515.
"Michael Angelo, in Rome."121
So now, besides the Moses and the Captives in marble, the panels in relief were, perhaps, ready for casting. The lower portions of the architectural base, now in San Pietro in Vincula, were also probably finished. Half the period spent by Michael Angelo in quarrying and road-making for Pope Leo would have sufficed for the completion of the Tomb, which would then have been a monument of Michael Angelo's power as a sculptor, fit to rank with the monument of his power as a painter in the Sistine Chapel: a monument containing four figures, equal in execution and size to the Moses, twelve figures like the Slaves, altogether some forty statues and numerous bronze bas-reliefs besides. It is a great misfortune that we have no bronze bas-reliefs by Michael Angelo, for all his works prove that his genius would have been well expressed in this art.[pg 183]
ONE OF THE ANCESTORS OF CHRIST, OVER THE WINDOW INSCRIBED "IORAM"
(Reproduced by permission from a photograph by Sig. D. Anderson, Rome)
The early years of the Pontificate of Leo X. were wasted over the project for the facade of San Lorenzo. Michael Angelo was continually at Carrara. In a letter, dated May 8, 1517, to Domenico Buoninsegna, Michael Angelo writes with enthusiasm about his new scheme, and undertakes to carry it out for 35,000 golden ducats in six years. Buoninsegna replied that the Cardinal expressed the highest satisfaction at "the great heart he had for conducting the work of the façade." The friendly relations of Michael Angelo with the natives of Carrara continued until the Pope obliged him to leave their quarries and open up those of Pietra Santa, in Tuscan territory, by which act Michael Angelo lost much time. He had positively to make roads down the mountains and over the marshes before he could get a single block to the river. The Marquis of Carrara became his enemy, and the contracts with the people of Carrara caused him much annoyance and great loss. The orders from Rome were peremptory and had to be obeyed.122 Ten years of the best of Michael Angelo's working life were wasted; the numberless delays of this period, and the delays over the Tomb of Julius, positively seem to have changed the character of the artist from a man of action to a man of thought. Possibly advancing age had something to do with it; but the fact remains that the man who executed the bronze statue of Julius in two years, and painted the vault of the Sistine in less than three years, took seven years to finish the Last Judgment, which covers a surface about one-third [pg 184]the extent of the vault, and also is in a much more favourable position for painting.
There is a document shown in the rooms of the State Archives at the Uffizi that belongs to this period; it is a memorial addressed by the Florentine Academy to Pope Leo X., asking him to authorise the translation of the bones of Dante from Ravenna, where they still rest under "the little cupola, more neat than solemn," to Florence. It is dated October 20, 1518. All but one of the signatures appended are written in Latin; that one is as follows:—"I, Michael Angelo, the sculptor, pray the like of your Holiness, offering my services to the divine poet for the erection of a befitting sepulchre to him in some honour-place in this city." Michael Angelo's devotion to Dante was well known to his contemporaries; he is known to have filled a book with drawings to illustrate the "Divina Com media"; this volume perished at sea, whilst in the possession of the sculptor Antonio Montanti, who was shipwrecked on a journey from Leghorn to Rome.
On April 17, 1517, Michael Angelo bought some ground in the Via Mozza, now Via San Zanobi, Florence, from the Chapter of Santa Maria del Fiore, to build a workshop for finishing his marbles; the purchase was completed on November 24, 1518. This studio remained in his possession until his death. He describes it to Lionardo di Compago, the saddle-maker, as an excellent workshop, where twenty statues can be set up together.
Meanwhile he went on working at Pietra Santa for the façade. In August 1518, he writes:—--
ONE OF THE ANCESTORS OF CHRIST, OVER THE WINDOW INSCRIBED "ASA"
(By permission of the Fratelli Alinari, Florence)
"The place of quarrying is very rugged, and the workmen are very ignorant of this sort of work. So for some [pg 185]months I must be very patient until the mountains are tamed and the men are mastered. Then we shall get on more quickly. Enough, what I have promised that will I do by some means, and I will make the most beautiful thing that has ever been done in Italy if God helps me."
The melancholy end of this scheme is told in a Ricordo in the Archivio Buonarroti, March 10, 1520.
"Now Pope Leo, perhaps, to carry out more quickly the above-mentioned façade of San Lorenzo than according to the agreement he made with me, and I consenting, sets me free, and for all the above-said money that I have received, are counted the road that I have made to Pietra Santa, and the marbles that were quarried there and rough-hewn as may be seen to-day; and he declares himself content and satisfied with me, as is said, about all the money received for the said façade of San Lorenzo, and every other work that I have had to do for him until this tenth day of March, 1519; and so he leaves me my freedom, and not obliged to render account to any one for anything that I have had to do for him or with others for him."123
We have a series of most interesting letters from Sebastiano del Piombo, Michael Angelo's favourite gossip in Rome; most of them are dated from 1520 to 1533, and give Michael Angelo at Carrara news of Sebastiano and the art world of Rome, They often relate to designs that Sebastiano wished to get from Michael Angelo in order that he might be entrusted with commissions from the Pope that would otherwise be given to the scholars of Raphael. In one, dated October 27, 1520, he says:—[pg 186]
"For I know how much the Pope values you, and when he speaks of you it is as if he were speaking of his own brother, almost with tears in his eyes; for he has told me that you were brought up together, and shows that he knows and loves you. But you frighten everybody, even Popes!"124
Michael Angelo seems to have taken exception to the remark, for Sebastiano in his next letter but one says:—
"As to what you reply to me about your terribleness, I for my part do not find you terrible; and if I have not written to you about this, do not wonder, for you do not appear to me terrible except only in art—that is to say, the greatest master that has ever been; so it seems to me if I am in error I am to blame. I have no more to say. Christ keep you safe. 9th day of November, 1520. Remember me to friend Leonardo and to Master Pier Francesco.
"Your most faithful gossip,
"Bastiano, Painter, in Rome.
"The Lord Michael Angelo de Bonarotis, the most worthy sculptor, Florence."125
After Michael Angelo had been dismissed from the work of the façade of San Lorenzo he appears to have remained quietly at Florence, possibly engaged upon the marbles for the Tomb of Julius II. About the same time, at the instigation of the Cardinal de' Medici, he began to design the new sacristy and the tombs at San Lorenzo.[pg 187]
THE PROPHET JONAH
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
In the Ricordi, which run from April 9 to August 19, 1521, he says that on April 9 he received two hundred ducats from the Cardinal de' Medici to go to Carrara and lodge there, to quarry marbles for the tombs which are to be placed in the new sacristy at San Lorenzo. "And there I stayed about twenty days and made out drawings to scale, and measured models in clay for the said tombs." On August 16 the contractors for the blocks, all of which were excavated from the old Roman quarry of Polvaccio, came to Florence, and were paid on account.
The statue of the "Risen Christ" was forwarded to Rome during the summer. The smaller detached, or more easily broken portions, were left in the rough to prevent accidents during the journey, and Pietro Urbino went to Rome with orders to complete the work there. Sebastiano del Piombo, like the good friend he was, kept Michael Angelo informed of the progress of the young scamp of a pupil, from whom his master had extracted a promise that he would avoid the company of dissolute Florentines in Rome more than he had previously done. On November 9, 1520, Sebastiano writes that his gossip, Giovanni da Reggio, "goes about saying that you have not done the figure yourself, but that it is the work of Pietro Urbino. Be sure that it may be seen to be from your hand, so that poltroons and babblers may burst." This was written whilst the work was still at Florence. On September 6, 1531, after it had arrived at Rome, Sebastiano says of Pietro: "Firstly, you sent him to Rome with the statue, to finish and erect it. What he did and did not do you know; but I must let you understand that wherever he has worked he has maimed it. Chiefly, he has shortened the [pg 188]right foot, and it is plainly seen that he has cut off the toes. He has shortened the fingers of the hands, too, more especially those of the one which holds the cross, the right; Frizzi says, it seems to have been worked by a cake-maker, not carved in marble. It looks as if it had been made by one who worked in dough, it is so stunted. I do not understand these things, not knowing the manner of working in marble; but I can very well tell you that those fingers look to me very stumpy. I can tell you, too, that it is easy to see he has been working on the beard. I believe a baby would have had more discretion; it looks as though he had done the hair with a knife without a point; but this can easily be remedied. He has also cut one of the nostrils, so that with a little more the whole nose would have been spoiled, so that no one but God could have mended it, and I believe God inspired you to write your last letter to Master Zovane da Reggio, my comrade, for if the figure had remained in the hands of Pietro he would undoubtedly have ruined it." Michael Angelo transferred the work of finishing from Pietro to Federigo Frizzi. Sebastiano goes on to say: "Pietro is most malignant now that he is cast off by you. He does not seem to value you or any one else alive, but thinks he is a great master; he will find out what he is fast enough, for I believe the poor young man will never know how to make statues. He has forgotten the art. The knees of your statue are worth more than all Rome."
Frizzi mended up the mistakes and finished the work on the hair, face, hands, feet, cross, and the parts undercut. Michael Angelo was evidently anxious as to the result of this touching up, and as he was much attached to Vari, he offered to make a new statue, but the courtly [pg 189]Roman replied that he was entirely satisfied with the one he had received. He regarded it and esteemed it as a thing of gold, and said that Michael Angelo's offer proved his noble soul and generosity, inasmuch as when he had already made what could not be surpassed and was incomparable, he still wanted to serve his friend better.126
This Christ of the Minerva is like a late Greek embodiment of the Christian ideal; it is a work that has been a good deal criticised, particularly as to the details, which the letters just quoted prove to have been finished by assistants away from the supervision of the master. The arms and torso, and, as Sebastiano justly says, the knees, are very splendid, and if the spoiled head and extremities were broken away the fragment, that is to say, the part really executed by the master, would be as famous as many a fine work of Greece or of Old Rome. As it stands near a column in the centre of the church in a subdued light it has a presence of great beauty and sweetness, never allied with so much power before, notwithstanding that brazen draperies and a sandal hide much of the reverent workmanship.
THE SACRISTY OF SAN LORENZO
After the death of Leo X., on December 1, 1521, Adrian IV. was elected to fill the seat of St. Peter. He was not an Italian and loved not the arts. He is recorded to have called statues "idols of the Pagans," and he spent no money on pictures or frescoes. No wonder the artists who were accustomed to the patronage of the Popes rejoiced when he died, notwithstanding his goodness, and hailed his physician as saviour of the Fatherland. The Cardinal Giuliano de' Medici was elected in his stead, under the name of Clement VII., and Michael Angelo expressed the feelings of most of his countrymen and all the artists when he wrote to his friend, Topolino, at Carrara "You will have heard how the Medici is made Pope; it seems to me that all the world is glad of it, so I imagine that here (Florence) many things will soon be set going in art. Therefore, serve well and with faithfulness, so that we may have honour."127
THE TOMB OF LORENZO DE' MEDICI, DUKE OF URBINO
THE NEW SACRISTY, SAN LORENZO, FLORENCE
In the year 1523 the Senate of Genoa banked 300 ducats towards the expenses of a colossal statue of Andrea Doria, the great sea-captain, to be carved by Michael Angelo. Unfortunately Michael Angelo was unable to execute this congenial task. There is a magnificent [pg 191]portrait of this prince, as Neptune, by Sebastiano del Piombo in the private rooms of the Doria Palace at Rome. The admiral points down with Michael Angelesque forefinger as though he were condemning his enemies to descend to the lowest depths of the sea. It looks as if it had been inspired by a drawing of Michael Angelo's, possibly for this statue, which may have been designed as a nude figure of Neptune; the parapet in front of the picture is decorated with a painted bas-relief of a Roman galley.
Michael Angelo's last known letter to his father is supposed to have been written in June 1523.128 It is a bitter complaint of the testy manner in which his father always treated him, and the continual interruptions of his work. It must have been a great grief to Michael Angelo when the old man came to die if he had not made up this quarrel with him, for he loved him in a way that is marvellous to us when we consider the character of the old man as evidenced in the correspondence.
Clement VII. lost no time, after he was elected Pope, in setting Michael Angelo to work, but again it was against the inclination of the artist, who passionately desired to complete the Tomb of Julius, partly for the love of his memory and partly to free himself from the importunity of the executors, who threatened him with a lawsuit. Michael Angelo replied to the agent of Clement, Francesco Fattucci, who requested plans for the Laurentian Library: "I understand from your last that his Holiness our Lord wishes that the design for the Library should be by my hand. I have heard nothing and do not know where he wishes it to be built. True, Stefano talked to [pg 192]me about it, but I did not give my mind to it. When he returns from Carrara I will inform myself about it from him, and will do all I can, although it is not my profession."
Clement, who really seems to have had a regard for the artist, and wished to bind him to his interests, desired to provide for him for life. If Michael Angelo would have consented to make the vows of celibacy he would have given him an ecclesiastical appointment, failing that he offered him a pension. Michael Angelo only asked for fifteen ducats a month. Fattucci, on January 13, 1524, rebuked him for this modesty, and wrote that "Jacopo Salviati has given orders that Spina should be instructed to pay you a monthly provision of fifty ducats." A house also was assigned to him at San Lorenzo, rent free, that he might be near his work. Stefano di Tomaso, miniatore, was Michael Angelo's right-hand man at this time, and his name continually recurs in the Ricordi. He was not altogether a satisfactory servant, and in April 1524, Antonio Mini seems to have taken his place. This helps us to date the roofing of the sacristy of San Lorenzo, as in an undated letter to Pope Clement Michael Angelo says that Stefano finished the lantern and it was universally admired. This is the work of which it is recorded that when folk told Michael Angelo it would be better than the lantern of Brunelleschi, he replied: "Different, perhaps; but better, no!" In the British Museum there is a drawing with a bit of advice to young artists, personified in his new pupil, Antonio Mini. It is in Michael Angelo's own hand:—
Disegna Antonio, disegna Antonio, disegna e non perder tempo.
Draw Antonio, draw Antonio, draw and do not lose time.
[pg 193]And now in August 1524,129 the Tombs of the Medici in the new sacristy were fairly under way. There are several preliminary designs in the Print Room of the British Museum, the Albertina at Vienna, and the Uffizi, Florence.130 The first idea was for the tombs to be isolated in the centre of the chapel, but we gather from a letter, written in May 1524,131 that it had already been decided to have mural monuments. The sarcophagi were to support portrait statues of the Dukes and Popes, of Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano. At the foot were to be six rivers, two under each tomb—the Arno, Tiber, Metauro, Po, Taro, and Ticino. The drawings go to prove that the architectural background, as we see it now, is as incomplete as it looks. Some of the drawings have elaborate candlesticks at the top; others a circular panel supported by putti. In several the first ideas for some of the final forms may be seen, but one point is very important: in almost every case the sarcophagi are large enough to support the figure or figures to be placed upon them, and never do we see that uncomfortable arrangement by which the figures appear to be sliding off their supports. Letters to Fattucci in October 1525, and April 1526,132 give us an idea of the progress of the works. "I am working as hard as I can, and in fifteen days I intend to begin the other captain. Afterwards the only important things left will be the four rivers. The four figures on the top of the [pg 194]sarcophagi, the four figures on the ground which are the rivers, the two captains and Our Lady, who is to be placed upon the tomb at the head of the chapel; these are the figures I mean to carve with my own hand, and of them I have begun six; and I have sufficient spirit to finish them in a convenient time, and bring partially forward the others which are not of so much importance." The six he had begun are those that are now in the chapel. The Giuliano and Lorenzo, Day and Night, Dawn and Evening. The Madonna, perhaps Michael Angelo's finest work in sculpture, was also carved by his own hand; the two other works, now in the chapel representing the patron saints of the Medici family, Cosmo and Damiano, were carved by Montelupo and Montorsoli; they do not seem to have anything of Michael Angelo about them, not even in design.
Meanwhile Francesco Maria, Duke of Urbino, the executor of Julius, was pressing the affair of the Tomb; he threatened a lawsuit to recover money advanced for the work. Michael Angelo appeals to the Pope in a letter addressed to Giovanni Spina, of April 19, 1525:—
THE TOMB OF GIULIANO DE' MEDICI, DUKE OF NEMOURS
THE NEW SACRISTY, SAN LORENZO, FLORENCE
"It seems to me it is no good sending a power of attorney about the Tomb of Pope Julius, because I do not want to plead. They cannot bring a suit against me if I acknowledge that I am in the wrong; so I assume that I have sued and lost, and have to pay; and this I am disposed to do if I am able. Therefore, if the Pope will help me in this, as intermediary, and it would be the greatest blessing to me, seeing that I am not able to finish the said Tomb of Julius, both on account of my age and infirmity, he might express his will that I should repay what I have [pg 195]received for doing it, so as to release me of this burden, and so that the relatives of Pope Julius, with this repayment, may have the work done to their satisfaction by any one they like. Thus his Holiness our Lord could please me very greatly. Still, I wish to pay back as little as possible in reason. Making them listen to some of my arguments, such as the time spent for the Pope at Bologna, and other time lost without any payment, as Ser Giovanni Francesco, whom I have informed of everything, knows. As soon as I know clearly what I have to restore, I will make a division of what I have, sell, and arrange my affairs so as to repay all. Then I shall be able to think of the Pope's business, and work. If this is not done I cannot work. There is no way more safe for myself, nor more agreeable, nor more likely to clear my spirit. It can be done amicably without a lawsuit. I pray to God that the Pope may become willing to arrange it in this fashion, for it does not seem to me that any one else can do it."133
Michael Angelo had a wholesome fear of the law, not because he was guilty but because of the power of his antagonist. There can be no doubt that he was perfectly honest in these transactions, and, as Pope Clement said, he was rather creditor than debtor. Clement appears to have arranged matters to some extent with the executors, and we have a hint of the new arrangement in a letter by Michael Angelo to Fattucci,134 dated Florence, October 24, 1525:—
"Messer Giovan Francesco,—In reply to your last, the four statues I have in hand are not yet finished, and [pg 196]much has still to be done upon them. The four others, for rivers, are not begun, because the marble was wanting, but now it has come. I do not tell you how because there is no need. With regard to the affair of Julius, I wish to make the Tomb like that of Pius in St. Peter's, as you have written, and will do so little by little, now one piece and now another, and will pay for it out of my own pocket, if I hold my pension and my house, as you have written; that is to say, the house where I lived yonder in Rome, with the marbles and movables therein. So that I should not have to give to them, I mean to the heirs of Julius, in order to be quit of the Tomb contract, anything of what I have received hitherto, except the said Tomb, completed, like that of Pius in Saint Peter's. Moreover, I undertake to perform the work within a reasonable time, and to finish the statues with my own hand." He now turns to his annoyances at San Lorenzo: "And given my pension as was said, I will never stop working for Pope Clement with what strength I have, though that be little, for I am old. At the same time I must not be slighted and affronted as I am now, for it weighs greatly on my spirits, and has prevented me from doing what I wished to do these many months; one cannot work at one thing with the hands, and at another with the brain, and especially in marble. 'Tis said here that these annoyances are meant to spur me on; but I maintain that those are scurvy spurs that make a good steed jib. I have not touched my pension during the last year, and struggle with poverty. I am alone in my troubles, and have many of them, which keep me more busy than my art, for I cannot keep a servant for lack of means."
[pg 197]There is a kind letter from Michael Angelo to Sebastiano del Piombo that belongs to this period, May 1525.135 It refers to a picture by Sebastiano, probably the portrait of Anton Francesco degli Albizzi, referred to in letter cccxcvi.:—
"My Most Dear Sebastiano,—Last evening our friend the Capitano Cuio136 and certain other gentlemen were so good as to invite me to sup with them, which gave me very great pleasure, since it took me a little out of my melancholy, or rather folly. Not only did I enjoy the supper, which was very good, but I had far more pleasure in the conversation, and more than all it increased my pleasure to hear your name mentioned by the said Capitano Cuio; nor was this all, for it further rejoiced me exceedingly to hear from the Capitano that, in art, you are peerless in the world, and that so you were esteemed in Rome. If I could have rejoiced more I would have done so. So you see my judgment is not false, therefore do not any more deny that you are peerless, when I tell it you, for I have too many witnesses. And behold there is a picture of yours here, God be thanked, which wins credence for me with every one who can see daylight."
From the Ricordi we learn that Michael Angelo was busy with the Library of San Lorenzo. He had in his employ stone hewers and masters in various crafts: Tasio and Carota for wood carving, Battista del Cinque and Ciapino for carpentry, and Giovanni da Udine, a pupil of Raphael, for the grotesque decoration for the dome of the chapel. Clement added a postscript in his own hand to one of his secretary's letters: "Thou knowest that Popes [pg 198]have no long lives; and we cannot yearn more than we do to behold the chapel with the tombs of our kinsmen, or, at any rate, to hear that it is finished. And so also the library. Wherefore we recommend both to thy diligence. Meanwhile we will betake us (as thou said'st erstwhile) to a wholesome patience, praying God that He may put it into thy heart to push the whole forward together. Fear not that either work to do or rewards shall fail thee while we live. Farewell; with the blessing of God and ours.—Julius." (Clement signs with his baptismal name.)137
The Pope set Michael Angelo to make a Sacrarium for the relics belonging to San Lorenzo. It was placed above the entrance door of the church, and the details of that portion of the interior were altered for it. A design by Michael Angelo at Oxford is for part of these alterations. Another commission Clement desired Michael Angelo to undertake was of a curiously absurd character. Fattucci wrote to say that the Pope wished a colossal statue to be erected on the piazza of San Lorenzo, opposite the Stufa Palace. The giant was to top the roof of the Medician Palace, with its face turned in that direction and its back to the house of Luigi della Stufa. Being so huge it would have to be constructed of separate pieces fitted together. This project, evidently intended as a truly Florentine insult to the house of Stufa, did not please Michael Angelo, and his letter, of October 1525, in reply is an instance of his heavy, elephantine humour:—[pg 199]
LORENZO DE MEDICI, DUKE OF URBINO
THE NEW SACRISTY, SAN LORENZO, FLORENCE
"To my dear friend Messere Giovan Francesco, priest of Saint Mary of the Flower of Florence, in Rome.
"Messer Giovan Francesco,—If I had as much strength as I have had pleasure from your last letter, I should expect to carry out, and that quickly, all the things you write to me about, but as I have not I will do what I can.
"About the colossus of forty braccia, of which you tell me, that is to go, or rather to be erected, at the corner of the loggia of the Medician garden, opposite the corner of Messer Luigi della Stufa, I have thought of it not a little, as you told me, and it seems to me that it would not do in that corner, for it would take up too much of the roadway; but in the other corner, where the barber's shop is, it would turn out much better according to my way of thinking, because it has the piazza in front of it and would not be so much in the way; and perhaps as they would not allow the shop to be removed, for love of the income from it, I have been thinking that the said figure might be in a sitting position, and the seat high, the said work to be hollow within, as is right when working in pieces, so that the barber's shop would come underneath, and the rent would not be lost. And again, so that the said shop may have wherewithal to dispose of its smoke as it has now, it occurred to me to give the said statue a horn of plenty in its hand, hollow within, which would serve for the chimney. Then having the head of the said figure empty, like the other members, of that also I believe we could make some use, for there is here in the piazza a huckster, very much my friend, who tells me in secret that it would make a very fine dovecot. Another fancy strikes me that would be [pg 200]much better, but we should have to make the figure ever so much larger. And it might be done, for a tower is built up of pieces; and that is, that the head should serve as campanile for San Lorenzo, which needs one badly. And the bells hanging within, the sound clanging from the mouth, it would seem that the said colossus were howling for mercy, and especially on feast days, when they ring oftenest and with the largest bells.
"About the transport for the marbles for the above-mentioned statue, so that no one shall know of it, meseems they should come by night and well covered up, so that they may not be seen. There will be danger at the gates, and we must provide for it somehow; at the worst, we shall have San Gallo.138
"As to doing, or not doing, the things that are to do, and which you say may stand over, it is better to let them be done by those who will do them, for I have so much to do that I do not care to undertake more. To me it will suffice if it be something worthy.
"I do not reply to all you say, for lo Spina comes shortly to Rome, and will answer your letter by word of mouth, and more in detail than I can with the pen.
"Your Michael Angelo, Sculptor, in Florence."
This letter had its desired effect, nothing more was heard of the colossus.
The Sack of Rome in 1527 by the rabble of Germany and Spain, called the Imperial army, naturally stopped all artistic work, for war is the worst enemy of art. Clement was besieged in the Castle Saint Angelo for nine [pg 201]months, and the Medici lost their power in Florence. The Cardinal of Cortona, with the young princes Ippolito and Alessandro de' Medici, fled, and Niccolo Capponi was elected President of the Popular Government. Michael Angelo was in Florence all this time. A Ricordo given in Lettere, p. 598, says: "I record how, some days ago, Piero di Filippo Gondi asked to enter the new sacristy at San Lorenzo to hide there certain goods of his because of the peril in which we now find ourselves. This evening of the 29th of April, 1527, he has begun to bring in certain bundles. He says they are linen of his sisters, and I, not to witness what he does, or where he hides the stuff, have given him the key of the said sacristy this said evening."
Upon July 2, 1528, Michael Angelo's favourite brother, Buonarroto, died of the plague. Gotti tells how Michael Angelo held his brother in his arms139 while he was dying, notwithstanding the great risk to his own life, and took care of his family after his death. There are minutes of the expenses he incurred; the clothes were burnt to avoid infection; he repaid the widow Bartolommea her dowry, placed his niece Francesca in a convent until she was of an age to marry, and provided for his nephew Lionardo, as if for a son of his own.
The citizens of Florence, fearing the anger of the Pope and his new allies, now that their power was in the ascendant, prepared to endure a siege. Michael Angelo was appointed general over the construction of the walls and defences of the city in 1529. He had many difficulties with the council; often they objected [pg 202]to his plan of fortifying the heights of San Miniato. Michael Angelo went to Pisa and Arezzo to superintend the strengthening of the works there. He was sent also to Ferrara with letters from the Signori and the Ten to the Duke, the greatest Italian authority upon fortification, and to their envoy, Galeotto Giugni, who wrote to inform the Florentines that Michael Angelo refused to abandon the inn and receive the hospitality of the Duke, who with great honour personally conducted him over the fortresses and walls of Ferrara; no doubt at the same time showing him his art collections. It would be interesting to know if Michael Angelo looked upon the portrait-head of Julius II., broken from his Bologna statue, when the bronze was turned into a cannon. Perhaps he also saw La Giulia, the cannon herself. It may be that amongst the engraved gems in the Duke's collection was one representing "Leda and the Swan," and that Michael Angelo talked with the Duke as to the possibilities of this composition for pictorial treatment. Soon after Michael Angelo returned to Florence he received warning from a mysterious person that there was treachery in the garrison, so he fled to Venice. He had no idea of wasting his life uselessly when he thought certain destruction was before the city, and so he determined to leave Italy and accept the overtures that had been made to him from the Court of France. The courage that fears not to undertake the greatest and most difficult works is of a different temper from that of a soldier, a bravo, or a Benvenuto Cellini; all the noble and virtuous qualities cannot belong to one hero. Unfortunately, the judgment of Michael Angelo turned out to be right after all. Nevertheless, hearing better news, and hoping against hope, he courageously returned to Florence in her [pg 203]extremity and went on with the fortifications. Some of the works at San Miniato still remain. Vauban is said to have found them of such interest that he surveyed and measured them. During this sad time Michael Angelo laboured in secret at the tombs of the Medici. The sad and despairing thoughts of the artist are evident in the work he produced. No one can enter that solemn sacristy without feeling the spirit of deepest sadness brooding over all—Il Penseroso, and the figures of Day and of Night, of Morning and of Evening.
The city fell in August 1530. Marco Dandolo, of Venice, when he heard of it, exclaimed aloud, "Baglioni has put upon his head the cap of the biggest traitor upon record." The prominent citizens who escaped, including Michael Angelo, were outlawed and their property confiscated. Many who remained in the city were imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded. Michael Angelo hid himself, the Senator Filippo Buonarroti says, in the bell-tower of San Nicolo beyond Arno.140 After the fury was over and Clement's anger abated, Michael Angelo, hearing a message of peace from the Pope, came forth from his hiding-place and resumed work on the statues at San Lorenzo, moved thereto more by fear of the Pope than by love of the Medici. During November or December his pension of fifty crowns a month was renewed, the Pope's agent in Florence being Battista Figiovanni, Prior of San Lorenzo.
In 1528 a block of marble had been assigned to Michael Angelo, from which he determined to extract a heroic [pg 204]group of Hercules and Cacus. There is a small wax model of this composition at South Kensington, attributed to Michael Angelo, which may be for this design. The Medici Government handed over the blocks to the craven Baccio Bandinelli, who produced the horrible work, representing the same subject, now in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
The Leda for the Duke of Ferrara,141 but presented by Michael Angelo to his pupil Mini, was painted during the siege. It was probably a design from some antique gem in the Duke's cabinet. The original, and a copy by Benedetto Bene, were taken to Paris by Antonio Mini, where they passed into the possession of the King. Michael Angelo's Leda hung at Fontainebleau until the time of Louis XIII., when a Minister of State, M. Desnoyers, ordered its destruction, as it seemed to him to be an improper picture. Pierre Mariette informs us that the picture was only hidden away, and that it reappeared and was seen by him. It was restored and sent to England. In the offices of the National Gallery is the best edition of this picture. The head and arm are repainted, but the thigh and hip are modelled in a magnificent style that reminds us of the figure of Night in the Medician tombs that he was at this very time carving. From the power of this portion of the work we may assume that it is the damaged and much restored original by Michael Angelo.
THE HEAD OF THE DAWN
THE NEW SACRISTY, SAN LORENZO, FLORENCE
Vasari informs us that about this time "he began a statue, of three cubits, in marble. It was an Apollo drawing a shaft from his quiver. This he nearly finished. It stands now in the chamber of the Prince of Florence, a [pg 205]thing of rare beauty, though not quite completed." This work was presented by the artist to Baccio Valori, the powerful agent of the Medici. It is now in one of the upper rooms of the Bargello, in Florence. The rough hatchings of the chisel lines are everywhere visible; the figure is palpitating with life under a veil of hewn marble; the pose of the young god as he glides along and turns his head over his shoulder is one of the most beautiful and graceful Michael Angelo ever imagined. Until 1533 Michael Angelo worked at the Medici monuments. The ever recurring trouble about the Tomb of Julius distracted him in 1532; a new contract was made out in the May of that year, and Michael Angelo evidently expected that he would have to go to Rome about it. This may be gathered from the important letter written on February 24, 1531, by Sebastiano del Piombo, in Rome, to Michael Angelo, in Florence; it marks the renewal of the intercourse of the two old friends after the dangers and troubles they had passed through during the siege of Florence and the sack of Rome. Sebastiano's previous letter, as far as we know, is dated April 25, 1525:—
1531, 24th February.
"My Dearest Comrade,—By Master Domenico, called Menichella, who has been to see me on your behalf. God knows how dear it was to me. After so many sorrows, hardships, and dangers, Almighty God has left us alive and well in His mercy and pity. A fact truly miraculous when I think over it; everlasting thanks to His Divine Majesty, and if I could express to you with my pen the anxiety and worry I have had on your account you would marvel at it. The Signor Fernando di Gonzaga will bear me witness, and God knows what sorrow I had [pg 206]when I heard you had been to Venice. If you had found me at Venice things would have been very different; but enough. Now gossip mine, now that we have been through fire and water, and experienced things one could never have imagined, let us thank God for all things, and for the little life that is left to us; at least, let us spend it in what quiet we may. Verily, we must put no faith in fortune, she is so perverse and sad. I am come to this; for aught I care the universe may be ruined. I should laugh at everything. Menichella will tell you by word of mouth of my life and how I am. I do not as yet seem to myself to be the same Bastiano that I was before the sack. I cannot collect my thoughts. I say no more. Christ keep you well.
"The 24th day of February, 1531, in Rome.
"About your coming here, according to what Master Menichella tells me, it does not seem to be necessary, unless you come for a jaunt or to put your house in order; which, in truth, is going to the bad in more ways than one, as in the roofs and other things. I suppose you know that the workshop, with the carved marbles in, has tumbled to pieces; it is a great pity. You will be able to remedy this and make some arrangements. As for me I should dearly love to enjoy your company for a while; truly I am dying to see you. I am all impatience; but do as you think best.
"Your very faithful gossip,
"Lord Michael Angelo de Bonarotis,
"Most rare Sculptor, in Florence."
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM, THE BARGELLO, FLORENCE
Sebastiano continued his good services to his friend [pg 207]with regard to the Tomb of Julius all through 1531. The course of events may be followed in his letters. The Pope was interested, and always consulted, in the affair, and most favourably disposed to Michael Angelo. All this anxiety preyed upon the master and injured his health. Paolo Mini, the father of Antonio, Michael Angelo's assistant, wrote to Baccio Valori on September 29142: "Michael Angelo will not live long unless some measures are taken for his benefit. He works very hard, eats little and poorly, and sleeps less. In fact, he is afflicted with two kinds of disorder: the one in his head, the other in his heart. Neither is incurable, since he has a robust constitution; but, for the good of his head, he ought to be restrained by our Lord the Pope from working through the winter in the sacristy, the air of which is bad for him;143 and for his heart, the best remedy would be if his Holiness could accommodate matters with the Duke of Urbino." On November 21 Clement addressed a brief to his sculptor, whereby Buonarroti was ordered, under pain of excommunication, to lay aside all work, except what was strictly necessary for the Medician monuments, and to take better care of his health. On the 26th Benvenuto Valpaio added that his Holiness desired Michael Angelo to select some workshop more convenient than the cold and cheerless sacristy.
Sebastiano's letters during 1533 often refer to an edition of some madrigals written by Michael Angelo and set to music by Bartolomeo Tromboncino, Giacomo Arcadelt, [pg 208]and Constanzo Festa.144 Gottif145 publishes an essay by Leto Puliti on this music with the score of three of the madrigals. Many of Michael Angelo's poetical compositions may be referred to this period of comparative inaction as to painting and sculpture. All through his life he wrote sonnets and poems when his other work did not proceed quickly.
In 1535 Michael Angelo finally left Florence. His father and his favourite brother were dead, and so he left the shadow of the great Duomo, all Florentines love, for ever. At Rome he dreamed a dream of another Dome, that has given to that city the feature by which we know it best, and to Romans a possession not less beloved than Bruneleschi's gift to the Florentines.
THE HEAD OF THE NIGHT
THE NEW SACRISTY OF SAN LORENZO, FLORENCE
When Michael Angelo left, the works at San Lorenzo were all unfinished; the façade was not begun, the Sagrestia Nuova, the ground plan of which is similar to Bruneleschi's Sagrestia Vecchia, was left in the rough, and the Library he designed to hold the priceless Medician manuscripts, collected by Cosimo Pater Patriæ and Lorenzo the Magnificent, now known as the "Biblioteca Laurenziana," was only begun. As Michael Angelo's designs and working drawings were of the roughest description, and he usually left a great deal to be settled after he had seen the effect of the earlier part of his works, we cannot blame him only for certain faults, such as, for instance, the awkward approach to the Library. If he had completed the work he very likely would have made an entrance from the piazza, as roomy and convenient, as the curious staircase in the corner of the cloister is awkward and cramped. It was [pg 209]completed by Giorgio Vasari, whose letters to Michael Angelo about this difficult work, and Michael Angelo's chaotic replies, belong to a much later period. The curious manner of cutting up the wall by pilasters and framed spaces cannot properly be judged without the bronze bas-reliefs that they were intended to contain. Considered as a method of hanging or displaying a collection of works of art they are admirable, and might well serve for the interior decoration of a great museum. The vestibule, with its curious stairway, large consoles, and green and white colour, leaves an impression of power and eccentricity in architecture like the effect of the serious caricatures of Leonardo da Vinci in drawing. The buildings at San Lorenzo should be regarded as the prentice work of the architect of the Dome of St. Peter's. The decorations of the Sagrestia Nuova, too, were left unfinished; the statues of Day, Night, Morning, and Evening were left where he had worked upon them, on the floor of the chapel. From Vasari's letter to him of 1562, instigated by the Duke Cosimo, who desired to complete the work according to Michael Angelo's designs, asking for help and advice,146 we gather that Michael Angelo intended to have placed statues in all the niches above the sepulchres, and in the frames above the doors works of painting, stucco for the arches, and painting to adorn the flat walls and semicircular spaces of the chapel. Michael Angelo, on account of his great age, was unable or unwilling to assist in the work. The present sarcophagi cannot have been intended to hold the allegorical figures in the way they do, for the under surfaces of the statues do not fit the top of the [pg 210]mouldings, and certainly the rough stones that project over them, forming a base for the feet, must have been intended to be supported by solid marble, and not to rest uneasily on air. The sarcophagi are of a greyer marble than the figures or than the panelling behind them. The architectural ornament appears to be of three dates: First, the niches and panels of the walls; second, the sarcophagi and their supports; third, the doors of the chapel and niches over them. In the first, the grotesque heads in the mouldings are like the dull grotesques Michael Angelo appears to have designed in the architecture of the Tomb of Julius and on the armour of the captains in this chapel. In the second, the four-horned skulls of rams on the sides of the supports of the sarcophagi are very feeble and poor in design. If we compare them with the powerful and true drawing of the rams' heads used in the frame-work of the vault of the Sistine Chapel, we shall see that it is impossible for Michael Angelo to have designed them, or even let them pass whilst he was superintending the works. The shell and rope patterns are even worse and more feeble; they are easily seen to be executed by different hands. The simple bosses of the base under "Dawn and Evening" are still unfinished: that would go to prove that Michael Angelo had designed them and seen them cut as far as they go—not necessarily that he had seen them in position—and that the academicians, when they did their best to complete the chapel, rightly decided to leave them as they were. The base under Day and Night has no bosses; they had not been begun as in the former case; we may presume the academicians thought it best to have them flat. These simple bases are the most effective portions of the architectural scheme of the monument, in character [pg 211]with the allegorical figures, reminding us of the plinths or seats provided for the Athletes and the Prophets of the Sistine. Perhaps they were the only portions, except the figures and the panelling of the walls, seen by Michael Angelo himself. The supports and lid of the sarcophagi, and the sarcophagus of Giuliano, are of different marble to the actual receptacle of the body of Lorenzo, that is under Dawn and Evening. The quiet mouldings of the latter are much finer and more in character with the walls. The lids are of a white sugary marble, the mouldings coarse and semicircular in section, and the volutes and circular endings of the lids are of a perfectly stupid design. These lids cannot have been seen by Michael Angelo; and, therefore, he cannot have seen the figures in their places upon them. The sarcophagus under the Day and Night has been copied from the one seen by Michael Angelo: its mouldings are still beautiful, but heavier, more deeply cut, and of less subtle line in the section. The difference is perceptible to the eye and evident with the aid of a good foot-rule. This sarcophagus is of a different marble, as has been said. As to the third period, the garlands and little pretty vases over the doors of the chapel, and the consoles and niches above, are like nothing else in the world but those carved frames that in Florence to this day are called "Vasari frames."
The marble candlesticks upon the altar of the chapel are of different marble from the altar on which they stand, and appear to be of an earlier date. The grotesques on the bases are of good design, and the drill holes of the marble cutting are simply left to tell their story of how the work was done, instead of being cut away and hidden as in later work. May they not have been designed in [pg 212]Michael Angelo's time, possibly for the brackets on the cornice of the panelling behind the tombs? On the altar is the inscription:
PAULUS V. PONT. MAX.
The figures of Giuliano and Lorenzo are perfectly finished; they cannot be regarded as portraits, but as symbols. The armour of the warrior Giuliano is magnificently designed, and must have been founded upon some antique example. The grotesque upon the breastplate is not unlike a grotesque in a similar place upon an antique marble bust in the Naples Museum. The helmeted Lorenzo, Il Penseroso, broods over what might have been, had he acted his part in Florence. Under his elbow rests a box of peculiar design, possibly the representation of a political instrument used in the offices of his family's unwise government. The unfinished head of Day is an example of how the master appears to complete his work from the first stroke of his chisel. The vigorous giant, just rising to his work, looks over his shoulder at the bright sun. The rough chiselling of the face suggests already the dazzle of the light in his eyes; how he tears his right hand as yet half stone from out his stony breast! With his left hand behind his back he appears to count the quattrini of his wage; this action of the thumb placed on the second finger is Michael Angelo's favourite one for the hand; it may be seen many times in this chapel alone. The shortness of the feet in the figure of Day appears to be due to a miscalculation as to the size of the block; but, perhaps, had the head and torso been thinned down in the finishing [pg 213]they would have been correct in proportion. At the same time, the feet are finished most carefully and beautifully, and are so true that photographs of them look almost like photographs from the finest of living models.
THE NEW SACRISTY OF SAN LORENZO, FLORENCE
How much has been written about the Night and her meanings! We have good proof that her maker intended her to have some of these many meanings in the reply of Michael Angelo to Giovan Battista Strozzi's complimentary verses:—
La Notte, che tu vedi in si dolci atti
Dormire, fu da un Angelo scolpita
In questo sasso, e perchè dorme ha vita;
Destala, se no'l credi, e parleratti.
The Night, that thou seest, so sweetly sleeping,
Was by an angel carved in the rude stone,
Sleeping, she lives, if thou believ'st it not,
Wake her, and surely she will answer thee.
The reply of Michael Angelo is in a much higher vein, and teaches us to look to a far different aim in his work than the mere form represented:—
Grato m'è 'l sonno e più l'esser di sasso;
Mentre che 'l danno e la vergogna dura
Non veder, non sentir m'è gran ventura;
Però non mi destar; deh! parla basso!
Dear is my sleep, more dear to be but stone;
Whilst deep despair and dark dishonour reign
Not to hear, not to feel is greatest gain;
Then wake me not; speak in an undertone.
No one ever before gave such tragic beauty to the worn and tired figure of a woman who has lived through her many days of toil and suffered many labours. It is believed by a medical authority that the master meant [pg 214]the statue to represent rest after a labour, but it is rather the nightmare-troubled sleep of a tired woman, whose beautiful firm hips and worn breasts prove her to have bravely met and passed through many cares, and suckled many children. A horrid mask, symbolising these memories, in bad dreams, grimaces beside her left hand. The eyes of the mask are cut double so that the thing alters its glance as you move about the chapel, fascinates and is intolerable. The noble and splendid thighs of the woman again realise a favourite problem of Michael Angelo's. He represented these powerful limbs in the Flood and other parts of the Sistine vault, and in the Leda. Beneath is seen an owl; never before in sculpture has a bird been represented with such power and dignity, save only by the Greeks in the eaglets head on the coin of Eiis. There are wreaths of poppy heads, symbols of sleep, and a moon and stars to crown the head that is like the head of a greater than Diana.
Evening, a brawny, hard-worked man, looks across the chapel with pity towards the Night. He appears to be in the act of straightening and stretching out his limbs, lately bent by the toils of the day, in longed-for rest.
THE MADONNA AND CHILD
THE NEW SACRISTY, SAN LORENZO, FLORENCE
The virgin Dawn lifts her weary head, as it were, in despair, that another day of shame and reproach is beginning; her long, lithe limbs and narrow hips contrast with the ample girth and muscular power of the Night. The modelling of the torso of this figure is, perhaps, the finest piece of workmanship in the chapel, and should be studied from every point of view, even from the back of the monument. The muscular forms and the disposition of the lines are so beautiful and true that it is a veritable marvel and wonder of the world. The right proportion of [pg 215]development necessary for a figure of that colossal size to move and live has never been so well calculated. The head is so beautiful that it cannot be spoken about; but must be seen in the position Michael Angelo designed it for, and not tilted upright on an ordinary pedestal as it is always seen in the art schools. All the four figures struggle with the trials, difficulties, and despair of their lives, as who should say, to such a pass has Medici rule reduced existence in Florence.
One other statue in the Chapel is entirely by the hand of the master, a Madonna suckling the child Jesus, a strong boy straddling across her knee and turning right round to reach the breast. Although unfinished, it is one of Michael Angelo's noblest works; it is a notable example of compactness of design, and of how he left the shape of the block of marble evident in his finished work.
THE LAST ACT OF THE TRAGEDY OF THE TOMB, AND THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
As soon as Michael Angelo arrived in Rome, in 1535, he set to work to complete his contract for the Tomb of Julius, and marbles that had waited in silence for his liberating hand began to resound with the clink of the iron. The two Slaves in the Louvre appear to have been worked upon once again at this date, if we may judge by their likeness to the work in the Dawn and the Day. After the death of Clement the new Pope, Paul III., Farnese, sent for him and requested him to enter his service, as Condivi tells us.147 Paul III., in a brief dated September 1, 1535,148 appointed Michael Angelo chief architect, sculptor, and painter at the Vatican; he became a member of the Pope's household, with a pension of 1200 golden crowns, raised on the revenue from a ferry across the river Po, at Piacenza. This was so unremunerative, however, that it was exchanged for a post on the Chancery at Rimini. And now the doors of the Sistine Chapel once more close upon the master, not to be opened again until the Christmas of 1541.
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
(From a print in the British Museum)
Michael Angelo had to destroy three frescoes by Perugino and two lunettes of his own upon the altar [pg 217]wall of the Sistine Chapel for his new scheme. He is said to have had the wall rebuilt of well-baked bricks, so possibly the old frescoes had suffered from damp and dirt. Vasari says Fra Sebastiano del Piombo prepared the wall for Michael Angelo, and secretly had it grounded for oil painting, no doubt hoping himself to be employed in the work, as oil was his special medium. Michael Angelo was very wroth with his old friend for this, and declared that oil painting was an art only fit for women and crazy fellows. We hear of no further intercourse between Michael Angelo and the jovial frate. Vasari attributes their coolness to this incident.
Hieronimo Staccoli wrote a letter in July 1537,149 to the Duke of Camerino, son and heir to the Duke of Urbino, about a salt-cellar designed for him by Michael Angelo. This prince was afterwards a good friend to the master, and his letter of September 7, 1539, informs us of the position of affairs with regard to the Tomb of Julius during the progress of the large painting in the Sistine:—
"Dearest Messer Michael Angelo,—It always has been, and now is, more than ever our infinite desire, as you will naturally imagine, to see the Tomb to the sainted memory of Pope Julius, my uncle, brought to a good conclusion by you, and we know well that it belongs to our duty to have good care of it, and see it ultimately finished, being held to it as you so well know by that sainted spirit: nevertheless, having heard by letters from our ambassador at Rome the great desire of our Lord, we must comfort ourselves with all patience whilst this said [pg 218]work is passed over by you. As long as His Holiness holds you busy in finishing the picture in the said chapel of Sisto; not being able or willing, but by our duty and our natural inclination in this as in all things to otherwise than comply with his wishes, we are contented to agree with a good grace, on reflection and by the reverence we bear to His Holiness. You may, therefore, fairly go on with the painting until the work is finished; but with a firm hope and belief that when it is done you will give yourself up entirely to finishing the said Tomb, redoubling your diligence and care to make up for the loss of time, as His Holiness has also promised you shall, kindly offering himself to urge you to do it; and to this end we have written you this letter. So long a time has passed since this said Tomb was begun that we cannot persuade ourselves but that you are equally desirous with us to see it finished; and esteeming you an honourable man, as we certainly believe you are—you cannot be otherwise with your singular virtue—we judge it superfluous to give you any admonition except that you keep yourself in good health, in order that you may honour those sainted bones that living honoured you and the other gifted men of that age, by all that we have so often heard. We beg you will make use of us if there is any other matter in which we can do you pleasure, for we shall do it with that good will which your most rare gifts deserve. And keep well."
THE JUDGE. from "THE DAY OF JUDGMENT"
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
Shortly before the fresco was finished, Vasari informs us that Michael Angelo had a bad fall from the scaffolding, and injured his leg. He returned home, shut himself up in his house, and would not allow any doctor to come near [pg 219]him or even enter the house. A certain Florentine physician and lover of the arts, Baccio Rontini, contrived to creep in by a back door, and roamed about until he found the master. He then insisted upon remaining with him, looking after him until he had effected a complete cure.
The Last Judgment was shown to the public upon Christmas Day, 1541. In this picture of the Day of Wrath, Michael Angelo has concentrated all his energies to represent the terror of the wrath of God. It is Jehovah with His thunders that rises before the frightened mass of human souls. The Holy Mother crouches beside Him, turning her face away so as not to see the wrath to come. Even the saints look with dread towards the great Judge, fearing lest they too should be condemned. Martyrs brandish the emblems of their martyrdom before His eyes to plead for them, and, as some have said, claim vengeance for their pains. Michael Angelo would have us realise that no human soul is innocent beside the Holiness of Heaven. The gentle happiness of the redeemed, as represented by the blessed Frate Angelico is absent from the scene—it could not appear without destroying the unities of the tragedy. Peace will follow as the blessed walk in the Elysian fields after they have passed, with a fearful joy, from the judgment seat. Michael Angelo has followed the traditional composition of the subject in all its lines and details, adapting it with the least change possible to the space at his command, and to the superior knowledge of the drawing of the human form that he possessed. It is most interesting to compare this rendering with the same subject in the Campo Santo at Pisa. Every part of the composition is repeated, the action of the Judge, the [pg 220]Madonna beside Him on His right, Apostles on either side, the resurrection of the dead, the descent into hell, the angels blowing the trumpets in the centre of the lower part, the angels bearing the cross and other implements of the Passion in the upper corners. This crowded mass of figures is divided into nine several parts, all the figures and groups having room enough to move, and to spare. The more this work is studied in detail the more beautiful the forms appear, and the more daring and skilful the foreshortenings are found to be. Every figure is beautiful, and every one of them noble. The picture is full of symbolism in the details, and may be studied every day, and new thoughts and new meanings found in it. Souls that help each other in their upward struggle. Beads of prayers with which one good righteous man draws souls to heaven. The wife who lifts up her despairing husband; his expression of awe and doubt as he rises upward. Souls long separated by death rush together in close embrace; father and son, husband and wife. Dante is there thirsting for deepest mysteries, his face positively thrust between St. Peter and St. Paul. Souls driven down to hell, beautiful and noble as are those destined for heaven; even their despair is dignified as if they assented to their doom as just. Old Charon, in his boat, "with eyes of brass, who beats the delaying souls with uplifted oar," is taken directly from Dante:—
Caron demonio con occhi di bragia
Loro accenando, tutte le raccoglie,
Batte col remo qualunque si adagia.
SPIRITS OF THE BLESSED, part of "THE DAY OF JUDGMENT"
SISTINE CHAPEL, ROME
Those portions of the fresco in the semicircular spaces at the top, angels bearing implements of the Passion, appear to have been painted the last. They approximate [pg 221]in style to the works afterwards done in the Pauline Chapel, and are not so absolutely true in drawing as the rest of the work. Here, for the first time, is a sense of fatigue in the workmanship. They appear to have been treated as two separate compositions filling their lunettes. Michael Angelo has used the favourite device of Raphael to give movement, direction, and force of line, two figures pointing almost side by side in almost exactly parallel actions. Nothing gives so much sense of rush, as may be seen in many of the compositions in the Loggia. One instance here is the angel bearing the Crown of Thorns and the figure near him. Another is just below, two figures near the right arm of the Judge. One of the finest and most superb groups ever designed by Michael Angelo is the group of angels blowing the trumpets of doom in the forefront of the fresco. Their energy and power, compared with the placid angels of Pisa and Orvieto, exhibit the different aims of the artist most effectively. It must be noticed how carefully Michael Angelo has arranged his composition, so that the baldacchino used behind the High Altar upon great occasions shall not injure his composition. The group of angel trumpeters, the Charon and the devils in a cave, are all hidden and cut off exactly by the curtains, and the composition generally is positively improved by their absence. Michael Angelo, no doubt, thought the fresco would be most seen on such occasions, and designed his work accordingly. The space hidden, however, he did not neglect, but placed in it some of his finest work.
The prophet above this end of the chapel is Jonah, whose history is a symbol of the resurrection of the dead. His presence there makes us suppose that Michael Angelo always contemplated the possibility of his having to paint [pg 222]the Last Judgment upon this wall, although he himself painted the lunettes now covered by the larger composition. The colour of this fresco is very much darkened by dust and by smoke from the altar candles; and, as it is more within reach than the vault, it has been retouched. It should be a source of comfort to those who get tired with looking upward at pictures in high places, if they will but remember that their beloved paintings have often been protected from the restorer by their high position. There is an interesting early copy of this fresco in the Corsini Gallery in Florence, which, though rather crude, gives us a good idea of the light tone of the painting in its early state.
This work was received by artists with enthusiasm, reflected in the pages of Vasari. They came from all parts to study it; in fact, most of the drawings attributed to Michael Angelo in collections are their studies from it, and not his studies for it, as they are called. As a general rule, whenever there are two or more figures drawn in a group, all equally finished and accurately in the same position as the figures in the fresco, the drawing may be assumed to be a copy.
Two sections of the public, even then, were unable to receive Michael Angelo's message of the beauty and purity of the human figure. Not only scandalous persons, like Aretino, objected to them, but pious people, who could not and cannot yet be brought to believe in the splendour and holiness of the Creator's work. Vasari tells us that when Michael Angelo had almost finished the work Pope Paul came to see it, and Messer Biagio da Cesena, Master of the Ceremonies, a very particular person, was with him in the chapel, and was asked what he thought of it. [pg 223]Messer Biagio da Cesena replied that he considered it highly improper to paint so many shameless, naked figures in such an honourable building, and that it was not a fit work for the Pope's chapel, but more suitable to a bagno or an inn. Michael Angelo nettled by this resolved to revenge himself at once. As soon as they left the chapel he set to work and drew Messer Biagio's portrait, from memory, in hell as Minos, with a great serpent twisted round his legs, surrounded by a crowd of devils. Messer Biagio complained to the Pope, who asked him where he was placed? "In hell," was the reply. "Then I can do nothing to help you," said the Pope; "had the painter sent you to purgatory I would have used my best efforts to get you released, but I exercise no influence in hell, ubi nulla est redemptio." Some years afterwards Paul IV. objected to the naked figures, and employed Daniele da Volterra to patch draperies on to some of them, with Michael Angelo's consent, whereby Daniele obtained the nickname of Il Braghettone, or the breeches-maker. Daniele did his work with a good deal of discretion, hiding as little of the original fresco as possible: the additions are unfortunately offensive in colour. The early engravings show the picture in its original state, and show that the additions are not so many or so important as might be supposed, as most of the larger masses of draperies are seen to be Michael Angelo's own work. When the Pope obtained Michael Angelo's consent to this alteration, the artist replied to his messenger: "Tell his Holiness this is a small matter, and can easily be set right. Let him look to setting the world in order: to reform a picture costs no great trouble." Pius V. also employed Girolamo da Fano to make some further alterations. These retouches [pg 224]a secco have destroyed to a great extent the atmospheric quality and the relation of the planes in Michael Angelo's suave true-fresco method, which, as may be seen in the vault, gives the grey half-tints of the flesh-tones in a way only equalled by Andrea del Sarto in fresco and Rembrandt in oil painting.
As soon as Michael Angelo had finished the Last Judgment, Paul III. set him to work again to fresco the walls of the chapel of the Holy Sacrament, just completed by Antonio da San Gallo, and now known as the Cappella Paolina. Michael Angelo had hoped to complete the Tomb of Julius at once, with his own hand, but the Pope's determination necessitated further negotiations with the Duke of Urbino. The Duke wrote to Michael Angelo upon March 6, 1542, saying that he would be quite satisfied if the three statues by his hand, including the Moses, were assigned to the Tomb, the execution of the rest being left to competent workmen under him.150
There is also a petition from Michael Angelo to Paul III.151 stating that his Holiness the Pope's commission for Michael Angelo to work and paint in his new chapel prevents him finishing the Tomb as agreed with the illustrious signor Duke of Urbino. "Already Raffaello da Monte Lupo, the Florentine, considered one of the best masters of the time, was well forward with the standing group of the Madonna with the Child in her arms, and a Prophet and a Sibyl seated, for four hundred scudi. The rest of the decoration, excepting the part in front, was in the hands of Master Giovanni de' Marchesi and Francesco da Urbino, chisellers and carvers in stone, for seven hundred [pg 225]scudi. But there still remained to be supplied the three figures to be carved by Michael Angelo's own hand, that is to say, a Moses and two captives. But as the two said captives were designed for the work when it was to have been on a much larger scale, they would not fit in the reduced design, nor could they in any way be made to look well there. Accordingly the said Messer Michael Angelo, not to lose his honour, had blocked out two new statues to go on either side of the Moses, representing the Active and Contemplative Life, which are well advanced, so that they may be easily finished by another master. Michael Angelo desires and supplicates his Holiness our Lord the Pope Paul the Third, in order that he may work in his chapel, which needs all his energies and his entire care, and he being aged, and desiring to serve the Pope with all his power, to free him from his obligation to the signor Duke of Urbino with regard to the said Tomb, cancelling and annulling every obligation. Especially, to allow him to hand over the two statues that remain to be done to the said Raffaello da Montelupo, or to some one pleasing to his Excellency, for a good price, which it is thought would be 200 scudi. The Moses will be finished entirely by Michael Angelo, and arrangements will be made by Michael Angelo to pay the money due for these workers ... and so he will be free in all things and able to serve and satisfy his Holiness." Finally, he deposits a sum of 1200 crowns, and guarantees that the work shall be efficiently executed in all its details. The final contract in agreement with this petition was signed upon August 20, 1542.152
The mighty design of Michael Angelo's early years of enthusiasm dwindled down to the Moses, but what a height [pg 226]above other men's biggest designs is this single figure! The Cardinal was right who said the statue of Moses alone was a sufficient memorial of Julius. In a letter to Salvestro da Montauto, of February 3, 1545153, Michael Angelo says that the Duke of Urbino ratified the deed, and the five statues were given to Raffaello da Montelupo to be carved. "Of these five statues my Lord the Pope having at my earnest prayer and for my satisfaction conceded to me a little time, I finished two of them with my own hand, that is to say, the Contemplative Life and the Active Life for the same sum that the said Raffaello was to have had." From the works themselves we may be sure that there is a good deal of Raffaello da Montelupo about these figures all the same. Notwithstanding all this evidence of the desire of Michael Angelo to carry out his contract, we have a letter154 from Annibale Caro to Antonio Gallo as late as 1553 entreating him to plead with the Duke of Urbino for Michael Angelo. "I assure you that the extreme distress caused him by being in disgrace with his Excellency is sufficient to bring his grey hair with sorrow to the grave before his time."
In the finished work there are statues not yet accounted for, that is to say, the recumbent portrait of the Pope which was executed by Maso del Bosco, the coat of arms of the Della Rovere by Battista Benti of Pietra Santa, and the terminal figures by Giacomo del Duca. The greatest drawback to the effect of the whole is the change in the architectural treatment and decorations. The lower part belongs to the period when the work was begun in 1505, [pg 227]and the upper, with no transition but a joint in the stone, to the heavier and coarser style of the period when it was finished, 1545. The jointing and the masonry generally are not of a satisfactory character,155 and Michael Angelo's assistants cannot be congratulated upon the way they did their share of the work. With the exception of the figures of Active and Contemplative Life, the work of the assistants would be better away.
The two bound captives which were too big for the altered monument are now the glory of the Italian sculpture galleries of the Louvre. They were presented by Michael Angelo to Roberto degli Strozzi, because, when the sculptor was ill in 1544, Luigi del Riccio, his friend, nursed him and looked after him in the Strozzi Palace. They were taken to France and offered to the King of France, who gave them to the Connétable de Montmorenci; they were placed by him in Ecouen. They were bought for the French nation by M. Lenoir when the Republic put them up for sale in 1793.
Four unfinished colossal figures, which still appear to be wrenching themselves from their prison of stone, now lurk in the corners of a repulsive grotto in the Boboli Gardens. They are supposed to have been also for the Tomb of Julius. Heath Wilson suggests that they may have been intended for the façade of San Lorenzo. The difficulty as to scale that caused a doubt as to their being intended for the Tomb does not really disprove it; for Michael Angelo was never very particular as to the comparative size of the figures in his monuments, and the many alterations of his schemes for the Tomb make it possible for them to have been worked in somehow. It is [pg 228]very probable that when he was at Florence, and after some of the more threatening letters of the executors, he set savagely to work upon some blocks ready to his hand, with the idea of having them conveyed to Rome afterwards. They belong to about the time of the siege of Florence, and are more suggestive of his method of work, and of his thoughts in the presence of the stone, than any other of his statues. If they were removed from their ugly surroundings and placed, say, in the Tribuna of David in the Belle Arti at Florence instead of the plaster casts that represent the master in his own city, they, with the other fragments, such as the Saint Matthew, the Apollo, the Victory, and the other works in the Bargello, would make a gallery of his art even worthy of Michael Angelo. Failing such a possibility, they might, at least, be placed under the Loggia dei Lanzi, away from the repulsive grotesque of stucco and stalactite that grins at them in the grotto. If something must be left as a companion to the ugly thing, plaster casts would be quite good enough.
The Victory, of the Bargello, was said by Vasari to have been designed for the Tomb, but it may just as well have been intended for an angel overcoming a demon, part of the ruined scheme for the façade of San Lorenzo. The lower figure is still left in the rough, and is supposed to be like the artist. The head of the upper figure is so dull that it cannot have been carved by the sculptor who finished the torso so exquisitely. It may have been left a mere block, like the head of one of the captives of the Boboli. The man who carved the head, and also worked on other portions of the group, turned the neck round too much. If we imagine the head less turned and looking down towards the crouching figure, conquered by the young genius of beauty and [pg 229]victory, we shall see the grace in the pose of the torso to greater advantage. We imagine a somewhat similar story for the figure in the Bargello, called the Adonis. The boar cannot be by Michael Angelo's hand, and, indeed, very little of the figure suggests his grasp of plastic possibilities; the figure cannot have been much more than blocked out by him, and was finished after his death by some artist of the type of Vincenzio Danti.
THE CHAPEL OF POPE PAUL, AND THE PIETÀ OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE
Michael Angelo wrote a number of sonnets and made many drawings for his friends, especially for the Marchioness of Pescara and Messer Tomaso dei Cavalieri, a noble Roman gentleman. For him they were generally subjects from Greek and Roman mythology, but for the Marchioness the drawings always represented episodes from the story of the Passion of our Lord. A Pietà, drawn for this lady, was engraved by Giulio Bonasoni and Tudius Bononiensis in 1546. There are several drawings in the Print Room of the British Museum and the Windsor and Oxford Collections of this character and period. One at Oxford was probably the original sent to Vittoria, but all are of the same sacred inspiration; in fact, the religious element becomes very strong indeed in all his later work, just as in the later work of Titian. These artists had the near prospect of death in view, and thus they turned their thoughts entirely to work from which they hoped for reward in the world to come. The fear of hell was not without its influence upon both of them.
Some of the drawings made by Michael Angelo for his friend, Tomaso Cavalieri, are mentioned in one of Tomaso's letters, dated 1533.156[pg 231]
THE CRUCIFIXION OF SAINT PETER
THE CHAPEL OF POPE PAUL, THE VATICAN, ROME
"Unique my Lord,—Some days ago I received a letter from you, which was very welcome, both because I learned by it that you are well, and also because I can now be sure that you will soon return. I was very sorry not to answer at once. However, when you know the cause, you will hold me excused. On the day your letter reached me I was very sick, and in such a high fever that I was at the point of death; and verily I should have died if it had not revived me. Since then, thank God, I have been well. Messer Bartolomei has now brought me a sonnet by you, which has made it my duty to write. Some three days since I received my drawing of Phæton, which is exceedingly well done. The Pope, the Cardinal de' Medici, and every one, have seen it. I do not know what made them want to do so. The Cardinal expressed a wish to inspect all your drawings, and they pleased him so much that he said he should like to have a Tityos and Ganymede done in crystal. I could not prevent him from using the Tityos, and it is now being executed by Master Giovanni. I struggled hard to save the Ganymede. The other day I went, as you requested, to Fra Sebastiano. He sends a thousand messages, but all to pray you to come back.
Messer Tomaso feared the drawings would be damaged in the workshop of the gem engraver. There are several of these drawings in existence in good condition, with no marks of the thumbs of workmen about them.
From the letters referring to the last contract about the Tomb of Julius, we learn that the frescoes in the [pg 232]Cappella Paolina were not begun in October 1542. Michael Angelo worked at them with slight interruptions for seven years; they represent the Conversion of Saint Paul and the Martyrdom of Saint Peter. They are very highly finished in execution and studied in grace of composition, but frigid, and too evidently the work of an old man. The skill of the drawing and foreshortening is masterly as ever, but he does not appear to have referred to nature for the forms; and even Michael Angelo without nature became stale. Vasari says, after describing the frescoes without his customary enthusiasm, "They were his last productions in painting. He was seventy-five years old when he carried them to completion; and, as he informed me, he did so with great effort and fatigue—painting, after a certain age, and especially fresco painting, not being in truth fit work for old men."
In the spring of 1546 Francis I. of France wrote to Michael Angelo asking for some fine monument by his hand, and copies of the Pietà della Febbre, now in St. Peter's, and of the Christ holding the Cross, in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, for his chapel. A draft of Michael Angelo's reply runs:—
THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL
THE CHAPEL OF POPE PAUL
To the most Christian King of France.157
"Sacred Majesty,—I do not know which is the greater, the grace or the wonder at it, that your Majesty should have deigned to write to a man like me, and still more to ask him for things of his, unworthy even of the name of your Majesty; but, whatever they are, let your Majesty understand that for a long time I have desired to serve you in them; but, not having had the opportunity, [pg 233]because you have not been in Italy where my work is, I have not been able to do it. Now I am old, and have been occupied these many months with the work for Pope Paul. But if a little life is still left me after all these occupations, what I have desired is, as I have said, a little time to work for your Majesty at my art—one work to be in marble, one in bronze, and one in painting. And if death hinders me from carrying out my wish, and if it be possible to carve statues or to paint in the other life, I shall not fail to do so there, where there is no more growing old. And I pray God that He grant your Majesty a long and happy life.
"From Rome, the day XXVI. of April, MDXLVI."
In the letters and poems of this period we note the endeavour to attain to a style in literature full of rich conceits and elaborate compliment, which may be compared to the style, elaborate and ornamental, but somewhat cold and unattractive, of the frescoes in the Cappella Paolina. As he grew older he devoted himself more entirely to architecture and literature. The arts of sculpture and painting, as exercised by him, could not be carried on by assistants; he now perforce had to employ himself upon work in which the execution could be left to younger hands. He sought the help of scholars to overhaul and set to rights his poems, sonnets, and thoughts in words, as the masons and master-builders expressed his thoughts in architecture—the Dome of St. Peter's, and the cornice of the Farnese Palace. In the devotional drawings we have mentioned, and an unfinished group in sculpture, the Deposition from the Cross, now behind the High Altar of Santa Maria del Fiore at Florence, we have the [pg 234]only further manifestation of Michael Angelo's genius in his favourite arts. Many of these drawings appear to be designs for a great picture of the Crucifixion. He went on executing them long after the death of the Marchioness of Pescara, who first seems to have incited him to this work. It almost appears to have become a religious exercise with him; they have the same meaning as these last lines of a Sonnet.
Nè pinger nè scolpir fia più che quieti
L' anima volta a quell' Amor divino
Ch' aperse, a prender noi, in croce le braccia.
Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest
My soul, that turns to His great love on high,
Whose arms to clasp us on the Cross were spread.158
THE PIETÀ OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE
The marble group of the Deposition is so religious in character that it can be compared with no work of art executed since Michael Angelo's own early work the Pietà, in St. Peter's, the Madonna della Febbre. Both for its earnestness and its noble religious sentiment it is an act of worship to look at it, and the days and nights spent in its execution must have been periods of the heartiest religious devotion and sorrowing love. The old sculptor intended this work to have been his monument. The unfinished head of Nicodemus, who sustains the body of his dear Lord, is his own portrait, and, unfinished as it is, expresses the deepest devotion and sadness. Vasari saw this work in progress, and gives us a glimpse into the home-life of the aged worker, who was never content out of his workshop, and spent his sleepless nights working at this huge marble with a paper cap on his head, in which he stuck a lighted candle to see by. The solitary figure of [pg 235]the old man in the vast and dimly lighted studio, groping round the inchoate marble; the stillness of the night, broken only by the sharp click of the mallet and the grating of the chisel, is a picture of many of the bravest hours of his old age. Vasari, observing all this, and wishing to do the revered artist a kindness, sent him 40 lbs. of candles made of goat's fat, knowing that they gutter less than ordinary dips of tallow. His servant carried them politely to the house two hours after night-fall, and presented them to Michael Angelo. He refused, and said he did not want them. The man answered: "Sir, they have almost broken my back carrying them all this long way from the bridge, and I will not carry them home again. There is a heap of mud opposite your door, thick and firm enough to hold them upright. Here then will I set them all up, and light them." When Michael Angelo heard this he gave way: "Lay them down; I do not mean you to play pranks at my house door." Vasari tells another anecdote about the Deposition. Pope Julius III. sent him late one evening to Michael Angelo's house for a certain drawing. The aged master came down with a lantern, and, hearing what was wanted, told Urbino to look for the design. Meanwhile, Vasari turned his attention to one of the legs of the Christ, which Michael Angelo had been altering. In order to prevent his seeing it Michael Angelo let the light fall, and they remained in darkness. He then called for another light, and stepped forth from the screen of planks behind which he worked, saying: "I am so old that oftentimes Death plucks me by the cape to go with him, and one day this body of mine will fall like the lantern, and the light of life will be put out."
"If life gives us pleasure we ought not to expect displeasure [pg 236]from death, seeing it is made by the hand of the same master," was a favourite reflection of Michael Angelo's upon mortality. This Deposition was never completed, flaws appeared in the marble, and perhaps whilst working in the imperfect light Michael Angelo's impatient chisel cut too deep. He began to break up the work, but luckily his servant Antonio, successor to Urbino, begged the fragments from his master. Francesco Bandini, a Florentine exile settled in Rome, wished for a work by the master, and, with Michael Angelo's consent, bought it from Antonio for two hundred crowns. It was patched up, but apparently not worked upon, and remained in the garden of Bandini's heir at Monte Cavallo. It was afterwards taken to Florence and was finally placed in the Duomo in 1722 by the Grand Duke Cosimo III., where it may now be seen behind the high altar, well-placed, so that the great cross of the altar looks like the tree from which the body has just been lowered. So well does the line of the cross behind cut the group that we cannot help imagining that the artist intended some such erection to have been placed behind his figures. Those who would see this group aright must visit the Duomo before seven o'clock on a summer morning, when the light of the sun falls, though the white robe of a bishop in one of the high eastern windows, upon the neighbouring pillars and the floor, and lights up that end of the church; at other times the darkness of the dome covers the group as the darkness covered the earth during the tragic hours at Golgotha.
The right arm of the Christ has become over polished and much worn because it is used as a balustrade by the acolytes, who carelessly run up and down the steps between the group and the back of the high altar to light the candles during [pg 237]service. On the other side a rough metal handle has positively been let into the left side of the Joseph of Arimathea, so that a clumsy boy may climb the more easily; wooden steps also fit so closely to the marble that they injure the lines of the group. All the characteristics of Michael Angelo's impassioned period may be studied in this group; his favourite mannerisms are there also. Examine the hand of Joseph, with the middle finger touching the thumb, and compare it with the allegorical statues of the Medici Chapel. Vasari tells us that Michael Angelo began another Pietà on a smaller scale; this may be the beautiful group that has been spoiled by an alteration, now in the courtyard of the Palazzo Rondini, No. 418, the Corso, Rome. There is a cast of it in the Belle Arti at Florence. The hanging limbs of the Christ have a most pathetic effect, and so has the whole expression of the group. The effect is obtained by the length of the principal lines.
There is a medallion of the Madonna clasping her dead son at the Albergo dei Poveri, at Genoa, attributed to Michael Angelo; it may have been begun by him during this long period of old age, but it cannot be called his work. It has been entirely recarved by an imitator.
Michael Angelo made his famous report condemning the design of Antonio da Sangallo for the rebuilding of the Farnese palace upon the shores of the Tiber; it is a mysterious document, in Michael Angelo's own hand, and does not leave Sangallo a single merit. All the theories are proved by the precepts of Vitruvius. The adherents of Sangallo resented it very naturally, and the "Setta Sangallesca" became his bitter enemies. The Pope [pg 238]himself was dissatisfied with Sangallo, and the design for the cornice was thrown open to competition. Perino del Vaga, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giorgio Vasari, and Michael Angelo all competed. Michael Angelo's design was eventually carried out after he had placed a wooden model of part of his cornice in position. Vasari, who is the best authority upon this period of the life of Michael Angelo, attributes to him also the exterior of the palace from the second story upwards, and the whole of the central courtyard above the first story, "making it the finest thing of its sort in Europe." Michael Angelo had also a serious disagreement with Sangallo before the military committee fortifying the Borgo for the Pope.
When Antonio da Sangallo died at Terni on October 3, 1546, Michael Angelo succeeded to his post in Rome, architect-in-general to the Pope, the principal work was, of course, the great Church of St. Peter's. Bramante, Raphael, and Peruzzi had all been architects-in-chief, and many were the alterations in the plans. Notwithstanding their differences during his early life, the design of Bramante was the one that commended itself to Michael Angelo; he abandoned Sangallo's design; the model for it still exists and we cannot wonder at Michael Angelo's decision. His criticisms are given in a letter supposed to be to Bartolomeo Amanati.159 "It cannot be denied that Bramante was a brave architect, equal to any one from the times of the ancients until now. He laid the first plan of Saint Peter's, not confused, but clear and simple, full of light and detached from surrounding buildings, so as not to injure any part of the palace. It was considered a fine [pg 239]thing, and, indeed, it is still manifest that it was so; and all the architects who have departed from the plan of Bramante, as Sangallo has done, have departed from the truth. And so it is, and all who have not prejudiced eyes can see it in his model. He, with his outer circle of chapels, in the first place takes all the light from the plan of Bramante; and not only this, but he has not provided any other means of lighting, and there are so many lurking places, both above and below, all dark, which would be very convenient for innumerable knaveries, a secure hiding-place for bandits, false coiners, and all sorts of ribaldry, and when it was shut up at night twenty-five men would be needed to clear the building of those in hiding there, and it would be difficult enough to find them. There is yet another inconvenience: the circle of buildings with their adjuncts outside added to Bramante's plan would make it necessary to pull down to the ground the Capella Paolina, the offices of the Piombo and the Ruota, and more besides; nay, even the Sistine Chapel would, I believe, not escape." May it not have been that this malicious arrangement of Sangailo's to destroy Michael Angelo's masterpieces made the great artist so bitter against him.
Paul III. conferred the post of architect-in-chief at St. Peter's upon Michael Angelo on January 1, 1547, "commissary, prefect, surveyor of the works, and architect, with full authority to change the model, form, and structure of the church at pleasure, and to dismiss and remove the workmen and foremen employed upon the same." For all this work Michael Angelo refused payment, declaring that he meant to labour, without recompense, for the love of God and the reverence he felt [pg 240]for the Prince of the Apostles. Speaking broadly, the former architects had designed ground plans of St. Peter's on two lines, the Greek and the Latin crosses. Bramante, and Baldassare Peruzzi used the Greek cross; Raphael, the Basilica form, the addition of a long nave made the plan like a Latin cross; and Sangallo, by adding a huge portico to Peruzzi's design, made his ground plan a Latin cross. Michael Angelo followed the lines of Bramante, the Greek cross, designed so that the cupola should be the dominant note of the building and its principal feature, whether from within or without, and from whichever side the building was approached. Michael Angelo's intention may be realised at the back of the present building, and his work best judged as one walks round the great mass of masonry to the old entrance to the Sculpture Galleries of the Vatican. Those who approach Rome in the best way at present open to the newcomer, by the light railway line from Viterbo, get a magnificent view of the cupola, apparently rising out of a green hillside, just before they enter the Eternal City, and then, on their way to the Trastevere station, they pass behind the building and get their first impression of St. Peter's from Michael Angelo's own work.160
Michael Angelo began his work by pulling down much of Sangallo's construction, and by severely repressing all sorts of jobbery in connection with the supply of materials.
Michael Angelo states in a letter to Cardinal Ridolfo Pio of Carpi,161 that the study of the nude human figure is [pg 241]necessary to an architect. If he had also stated that it was an essential to all art workers, many good judges would have agreed with him.
"Most Reverend Monsignor,—When a plan has divers parts all those which are of one type in quality and quantity have to be decorated in the same fashion and in the same style, and similarly their counterparts. But when the plan changes form altogether it is not only allowable but necessary to change the said adornments and likewise their counterparts. The intermediate parts are always as free as you like, just as the nose, which stands in the middle of the face, is not obliged to correspond with either of the eyes; but one hand is obliged to be like the other, and one eye must be as its fellow, because they balance each other. Therefore it is very certain that the members of architecture depend upon the members of man. Who has not been, or is not a good master of the figure, and especially of anatomy, cannot understand it.
"Michael Angelo Buonarroti."
Vasari tells us "that the Pope approved of Michael Angelo's model, which reduced the cathedral to smaller dimensions, but also to a more essential greatness. He discovered that four of the principal piers, erected by Bramante and left standing by Antonio da Sangallo, which had to bear the weight of the tribune, were feeble. These he fortified in part, constructing a winding staircase at the side with gently sloping steps, up which beasts of burden ascend with building material, and one can ride on horseback to the level above the arches. He carried the first cornice, made of travertine, round the arches—a wonderful [pg 242]piece of work, full of grace, and very different from the others. Nor could anything be better done in its kind. He began the two great apses of the transept; and whereas Bramante, Raffaello, and Peruzzi had designed eight tabernacles toward the Campo Santo, which arrangement Sangallo adhered to, he reduced them to three, with three chapels inside."
The sect of Sangallo, headed by Nanni di Baccio Bigio, continued to annoy and conspire against the aged architect, and though Michael Angelo brought their machinations to the notice of the Superintendent of the Fabric in 1547,162 he could not get his chief enemy dismissed.
The master's good friend, Pope Paul III., died in 1549. Michael Angelo wrote of him to his nephew163: "It is true that I have suffered great sorrow and not less loss by the Pope's death, because I have received benefits from his Holiness, and hoped for even more. God's will be done. We must have patience. His death was beautiful, fully conscious to the last word. God have mercy on his soul." His successor, Julius III., was also friendly to Michael Angelo, who spoke of him in a letter to his old friend, Giovan Francesco Fattucci, at Florence.164
"To Messer Giovan Francesco Fattucci, priest of Santa Maria del Fiore, My most dear friend at Florence.
"Messer Giovan Francesco,—Dear friend, although for many months we have not written to each other, yet I [pg 243]have not forgotten our long and faithful friendship, and wish you well, as I have always done, and love you with all my heart and more, for the endless kindnesses I have received. As regards old age, which is upon us both alike, I should much like to know how yours treats you, for mine does not content me greatly, so I beg you will write something to me. You know how that we have a new Pope, and who he is. All Rome rejoices, thanks be to God, and expects nothing but the greatest benefit to all, especially to the poor, on account of his liberality...."
Efforts were made to dislodge Michael Angelo from his post of architect to St. Peter's. A memorial of grievances165 was drawn up by the Superintendent and set before the Pope, stating that Michael Angelo was "carrying on with a high hand, and letting them know nothing of the work, so that they do not like his ways, especially in what he keeps pulling down. The demolition has been, and to-day is, so great that all who witness it are moved to pity." Michael Angelo evidently satisfied the Pope, for he was confirmed in his office with even greater powers than before.
Another plot ripened in 1557, and is excellently described by Vasari:—
"It was some little while before the beginning of 1551, when Vasari, on his return from Florence to Rome, found the sect of Sangallo plotting against Michael Angelo. They induced the Pope to hold a meeting in Saint Peter's, where all the overseers and workmen connected with the building should attend, and his Holiness [pg 244]should be persuaded by false insinuations that Michael Angelo had spoiled the fabric. He had already walled in the apse of the King where the three chapels are, and carried out the three upper windows. But it was not known what he meant to do with the vault. They then, misled by their shallow judgment, made Cardinal Salviati, the elder, and Marcello Cervini, who was afterwards Pope, believe that Saint Peter's would be badly lighted. When all were assembled the Pope told Michael Angelo that the deputies were of opinion the apse would have but little light. He answered, 'I should like to hear these deputies speak.' The Cardinal Marcello rejoined: 'We are here.' Michael Angelo then remarked: 'My lord, above these three windows there will be other three in the vault, which is to be built of travertine.' 'You never told us anything about this,' said the Cardinal. Michael Angelo responded: 'I am not, nor do I mean to be, obliged to tell your lordships, or anybody else, what I ought or wish to do. It is your business to provide the money, and to see that it is not stolen. As regards the plans of the building, you have to leave them to me.' Then he turned to the Pope and said: 'Holy Father, behold what gains are mine! Unless the hardships I endure are beneficial to my soul, I lose my time and my labour.' The Pope, who loved him, laid his hands upon his shoulders and said: 'You are gaining both for soul and body; have no fear!' Michael Angelo's self-defence increased the Pope's love, and he ordered him to repair next day with Vasari to the Vigna Giulia, where they held long discourses upon matters of art."
Vasari also tells us of the transfer of a piece of engineering work from Michael Angelo to his enemy—if such [pg 245]a small man deserves to be called the enemy of Michael Angelo—Nanni di Baccio Bigio. The old bridge of Santa Maria had long shown signs of giving way, and it had to be rebuilt. Paul III. entrusted the work to Michael Angelo. Nanni got it transferred to him by the influence of his friends with the new Pope. The man laid his foundations badly. Michael Angelo, riding over the new bridge one day with Vasari, cried out: "Giorgio, the bridge shakes beneath us; let us spur on before it gives way with us upon it." Ultimately the prophecy was fulfilled, and the bridge fell during a great inundation. Its ruins are known as the Ponte Rotto to this day.
Julius III. died in 1555, and Cardinal Marcello Cervini was elected in his stead, under the title of Marcellus II. He had been Michael Angelo's adversary at the great conference, so the hopes of the Setti Sangalleschi revived, and Michael Angelo began to think of accepting the oft-repeated invitations of the Duke of Tuscany, who had long pressed him to come and reside again in Florence, and dignify his native city with his presence during his remaining years; but Marcellus died after a reign of only a few weeks, and Pius IV., the next Pope, persuaded Michael Angelo not to forsake his work at Saint Peter's. In a letter to Vasari, intended for the ears of the Duke, Michael Angelo states his mind.166
"To Messer Giorgio, Excellent Painter, in Florence.
"I was set to work upon Saint Peter's by force, and I have served now about eight years, not only for nothing, but with the utmost injury and discomfort to myself. [pg 246]Now that the work is getting forward, and there is money to spend, and I am about to turn the vault of the cupola, if I left Rome it would be the ruin of the edifice, and for me a great disgrace throughout all Christendom, and to my soul a grievous sin. Therefore, Messer Giorgio, my friend, I pray you that on my part you will thank the Duke for his most gracious offer, and that you will ask his Lordship to give me leave to continue here until such time as I can depart with fame and honour and without sin.
"The eleventh day of May, 1555.
"Your Michael Angelo Buonarroti, in Rome."
Early in the year 1557 serious illness seized Michael Angelo, and his good friends the Cardinal of Carpi, Donato Giannotti, Tomaso Cavalieri, Francesco Bandini, and Lottino ultimately succeeded in persuading him to make a model of his cupola, that the work might not be impeded or altered in the event of his death. He mentions this in a letter to his nephew, Lionardo.167 "I prayed his Lordship that he would concede me so much time that I could leave the works at St. Peter's at such a point that my plans could not be changed. As yet this point has not been reached; and more, I am now obliged to construct a large wooden model for the cupola and lantern, to secure its being finished as it was meant to be. All Rome, and especially the Cardinal of Carpi, prayed me to do this, so that I believe that I shall have to remain here not less than a year; and so much time I beg the Duke to allow me for the love of Christ and Saint Peter, so that I may come home to Florence without such a grief, [pg 247]but with a mind free from the necessity of returning to Rome." This model was constructed by a French master, named Jean, and took a year to make, as Michael Angelo expected.
Continuous intrigues caused Michael Angelo to send in his resignation in a haughty letter dated February 13, 1560, but Pius IV. confirmed the aged artist in his office, and forbade any alteration of his design for Saint Peter's after his death. Nanni di Baccio Bigio managed to influence the deputies so that they appointed him Clerk of the Works instead of Pier Luigi, surnamed Gaeta, who was recommended by Michael Angelo in a letter168 to them.
Nanni then made a report, severely blaming Michael Angelo. The Pope had an interview with the artist, and sent his relative, Gabrio Serbelloni to report on the works. It was found that the irrepressible Nanni had again calumniated Michael Angelo, and he was therefore dismissed.
Notwithstanding the Pope's brief Michael Angelo's design was most seriously altered after his death by the erection of a long nave, making the ground plan a Latin instead of Greek Cross. His idea appears to have been that people should enter the church up a majestic flight of steps through a gigantic door, and the hollow recesses of the huge dome should be the dominant impression as soon as the portal was passed. To get his effect it is necessary to proceed half-way up the present nave with closed eyes, or merely looking at the pavement, the eyes religiously kept down. Any one who will make this simple experiment (it is necessary to have a friend as guide to tell you when you have arrived at the right point of view) will see that Michael Angelo intended his building [pg 248]to have the effect of a coherent geometrical whole. The sublime concave of the dome, with the four arms of the great cross of equal size, will be all at once grasped by the eye. The huge building is like a great naturally-formed crystal with mathematically proportioned limbs, beautiful in large things as in small. An old writer has well said: "The cross, which Michael Angelo made Greek, is now Latin; and if it be thus with the essential form, judge ye of the details!" The wooden model of the dome made under Michael Angelo's eyes is still in existence, and was followed fairly accurately by Giacomo della Porta, who completed that portion of the work.
Amongst the other schemes that occupied Michael Angelo was the plan of the improvements upon the Campidoglio, undertaken by a society of gentlemen and artists. Paul III. approved their design, and we may believe, as all Roman citizens will tell us, that Michael Angelo conceived, at least in its broad lines, the present effect of the Capitol. Vasari informs us that Michael Angelo's old friend, Tomaso dei Cavalieri, superintended the work after the great sculptor's death; we may trust him not to have departed from the master's plans. Another scheme that interested Michael Angelo considerably was the design for the church that the Florentine residents in Rome wished to erect to their patron saint, San Giovanni. A letter to his nephew Lionardo mentions it.169 "The Florentines are minded to erect a great edifice, that is to say, their church, and all of them with one accord put pressure on me to attend to this. I have answered that I am here by the Duke's [pg 249]licence for the work at Saint Peter's, and that without his leave they will get nothing out of me." The Duke not only gave his permission but was enthusiastic about the scheme. Michael Angelo promised to send him his plan. "This I have had copied and drawn out more clearly than I have been able to do it, on account of old age, and will send it to your most Illustrious Lordship." Vasari tells us that Tiberio Calcagni, "of gentle manners and discreet behaviour," not only copied this design, but also made a model in clay under the master's supervision. Michael Angelo informed the building committee that "if they carried it out, neither the Romans or the Greeks ever erected so fine an edifice in any of their temples; words, the like of which neither before or afterwards issued from his lips, for he was exceedingly modest," says Vasari. Money was lacking and the scheme fell through; both model and drawing were allowed to perish. The present church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, in Strada Giulia, is the work of Giacomo della Porta; the west part is by Alessandro Galilei.
Tiberio Calcagni was appointed to finish the bust of Brutus, now in the Bargello at Florence. Michael Angelo began it for Cardinal Ridolfi at the request of his friend, Donato Giannotti. Tiberio had the sense and good feeling not to touch his master's own work, but only carved the base and the drapery; the face of the bust remains a magnificent specimen of the great sculptor's handiwork. This powerfully-conceived head is said to have been taken from a small intaglio cut in cornelian. It has been pointed out that the chisel marks are cut by both the right and left hand. The vigour of the workmanship indicates that the bust was begun soon after [pg 250]Michael Angelo left Florence in 1584, and may indicate Michael Angelo's feelings towards the tyrant Alessandro de' Medici. We may remember in this connection that the exiles nicknamed Lorenzino, his murderer, Brutus.
The Duke of Florence, through Vasari,170 attempted to get at the ideas of Michael Angelo with regard to the Medici Chapel and the entrance to the Laurenziana, but the old man had lost and forgotten the plans, if he had ever made them. The difficulties that beset the Duke and the academicians in completing the designs, and the meagreness of Michael Angelo's instructions to them, must give us pause when we attempt to attribute the faults of these monuments to the master mind. "About the staircase of the Library, of which so much has been said to me, believe that if I could remember how I had arranged it I should not need to be begged for information. There comes into my mind, as in a dream, the image of a certain staircase, but I do not believe this can be the one I then thought of, for it seems so stupid. Nevertheless, I will write about it."
Leone Leoni erected the monument of Giangiacomo de' Medici in Milan Cathedral from a design supplied by Michael Angelo at the request of Pope Pius IV. It is a fine monument and the bronzes are excellent. In criticising the design we must remember that Michael Angelo had never seen the church where it was to be placed, and that Leone was not the man to hesitate in taking liberties with another's design, good sculptor as he was, and no doubt Michael Angelo would have approved of a good sculptor like him making the design fit the workmanship.
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM, THE BARGELLO, FLORENCE
The old master is supposed to have supplied designs [pg 251]for many other buildings in Rome, such as the Porta Pia and the Porta del Popolo, but there is nothing about them to tell us that his genius is in them; probably slight sketches were handed over to journeymen, who did pretty much as they liked with them. It was otherwise with the great restoration of the Baths of Diocletian. Michael Angelo was commissioned by Pius IV. to convert them into the Christian Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The design has been altered by Vansitelli in 1749, and horrible coloured imitations of clumsy marble altars have been painted on the walls. Churchwardens' whitewash would here be well applied. If the visitor will wait in this church until dusk, when all the tawdry paintings vanish into darkness, then the great columns will stand out in all their dignity, and the noble cornice cast a splendid shadow over the pillars of the huge hall. The roof and the pavement, with their expression of space and distance, will whisper "Michael Angelo!"
When Henry II. of France died, in 1559, his widow, Catherine de' Medici, wrote to Michael Angelo asking him to supply at least the design for the equestrian statue of the late King she desired to set up in the courtyard of the royal château at Blois. The sketch was prepared and the work given to Daniele da Volterra. Catherine wrote again in 1560,171 telling the sculptor that she had deposited 6000 golden scudi with Gianbattista Gondi for the said work, "therefore, since on my side nothing remains to be done, I entreat you by the love you have always shown to my house, to our country,172 and lastly to genius, that you will endeavour with all diligence and assiduity, so far as your years permit, to carry out this noble work, so that [pg 252]we may see and recognise my lord as in life by the accustomed excellence of your unique genius. Although you cannot add to your fame, yet you will at least augment your reputation for a most grateful and loving spirit toward myself and my ancestors, and will through centuries keep fresh the memory of my lawful and only love, for which I shall be ready and willing to reward you liberally." The Queen had seen Michael Angelo's sketch, and she adds in a postscript that "the king's head must be without curls, and the modern rich style of armour and trappings must be employed." She is very particular about the likeness and sends a portrait; evidently she did not want anything like the Roman generals in the Medici Chapel at Florence. When Michael Angelo died the work was left in the hands of Daniele, who was a slow workman, as Cellini tells us. In 1566 Daniele died also, and only the horse was cast; it now serves as part of Biard's statue of Louis XIII.
In 1560 Leone Leoni made the well-known medal of Michael Angelo, which is our best portrait of him. It represents him in old age. Vasari relates the incident: "At this time the Cavaliere Leone made a very lovely portrait of Michael Angelo upon a medal, and to meet his wishes modelled on the reverse a blind man led by a dog, with this legend round the rim:
DOCEBO INIQUOS VIAS TVAS, ET IMPII AD TE CONVERTENTUR
It pleased Michael Angelo so much that he gave Leone a wax model of a Hercules strangling Antæus, by his own hand, together with some drawings. There exist no other portraits of Michael Angelo, except two in painting, one by Bugiardini, the other by Jacopo del Conte; and one in [pg 253]bronze, in full relief, made by Daniele da Volterra. These, and Leoni's medal, from which many copies have been made, and a great number of them have been seen by me in several parts of Italy and abroad." Francesco d'Olanda made a drawing of the old man in hat and mantle.173 Another portrait of Michael Angelo is introduced into Marcello Venusti's copy of the Last Judgment, now in the Picture Gallery at Naples. The original study for it may be the portrait in the Casa Buonarroti, at Florence; it was frequently repeated by him. One replica may be the portrait, said to be by Michael Angelo's own hand, at the Capitol. The apostle in red on the spectator's right of the picture of the Assumption, by Daniele da Volterra, in the Church of the Trinità de' Monti, in Rome, is also said to be a portrait of Daniele's friend and master, who had supplied him with the design for his great Crucifixion in the same church. There is a life-size, full-face charcoal drawing of the master in the Teyler Museum at Haarlem which may be by the hand of Daniele, it has been pricked for tracing. Bonasoni engraved a profile portrait of Michael Angelo; it is dated 1546. It is a very faithful and beautiful piece of work, and tells us what he looked like at the age of seventy-two.174 The bronze bust by Daniele da Volterra, of which there are several copies, looks as if it had been modelled from a mask taken after death; at least, it was finished from one. Battista Lorenzi executed the bronze bust on Michael Angelo's tomb at Santa Croce, in Florence, from a similar mask.175
Giovan Simone, the elder of Michael Angelo's surviving brothers, died in 1548.176
"Lionardo,—I hear from your last of Giovan Simone's death. It gives me the greatest sorrow, for I still hoped, although I am old, to have seen him before he died, and before I died. God has willed it so. Patience! I should like to hear particularly how he died, and if he confessed and communicated with all the ordinances of the Church. For if he did so, and I know it, I shall suffer less." All through his life Michael Angelo is most punctilious about the observances of the Church.
Lionardo was now the only hope of continuing the family, so his uncle reminds him that if he does not soon marry and get children, his property will all go to the Hospital of San Martino.177 Old bachelor as he is, he gives his nephew advice, in another letter, as to the choice of a wife: "You ought not to look for a dower, but only to consider whether the girl is well brought up, healthy, of good character, and noble blood. You are not yourself of such parts and person as to be worthy of the first beauty of Florence. Let me tell you not to run after money, but only look for virtue and good name."
Lionardo married Cassandra Ridolfi in the year 1553, and the first child born of this marriage was a boy, by [pg 255]Michael Angelo's wish he was named Buonarroto. "I shall be very pleased if the name of Buonarroto does not die out of our family, it having lasted three hundred years with us."178 Vasari wrote to Michael Angelo describing the festivities at the christening. Giorgio held the child at the font in the Baptistry, "Mio bel Giovanni," as Michael Angelo always called it.
The letters to Vasari are full of a courtly friendship and regard; they are very pleasant reading. One of them is the most beautiful and touching letter by his hand, referring to the death of his servant Francesco, called Urbino.179
"Messer Giorgio, dear friend,—Although I write but badly, yet will I say a few words in reply to yours. You know that Urbino is dead, for which I owe the greatest thanks to God; at the same time my loss is heavy and sorrow infinite. The grace is this, that while Urbino living kept me alive, in dying he has taught me to die not unwillingly, but rather with a desire for death. I had him with me twenty-six years, and always found him faithful and true. Now that I had made him rich, and thought to keep him as the staff and rest of my old age, he has departed, and the only hope left to me is that of seeing him again in Paradise, and of this God has given a sign in his most happy death. Even more than dying, it grieved him to leave me alive in this treacherous world, with so many troubles; the better part of me went with him, nothing is left to me but endless sorrow. I commend myself to you, and beg you, if it is not a [pg 256]trouble to you, to make my excuses to Messer Benvenuto180 for not answering his letter, for grief abounds in such thoughts as these, so that I cannot write. Commend me to him, and I commend myself to you.
"Your Michael Angelo Buonarrota, in Rome.
"The 23 day of February, 1556."
Was ever servant loved after this fashion by his master?
Urbino appointed Michael Angelo as one of his executors, and the old man fulfilled his irksome duties with fidelity. Urbino's brother was Raphael's well-known pupil Il Fattore. Cornelia, Urbino's wife, corresponded about the children and other affairs. Michael Angelo had to approve her choice of a second husband, and interviewed him, and made him promise to be a second father to Urbino's children.
The unusual event of an excursion by Michael Angelo into the country took place in 1556, possibly with a view to avoiding the troubles feared in Rome from the Duke of Alva, Spanish Viceroy of Naples. Michael Angelo informed his nephew that he was making a pilgrimage to Loreto, but feeling tired stopped to rest at Spoleto. To Vasari he says: "I have in these days had a great pleasure, but with great discomfort and expense, among the mountains of Spoleto, visiting the hermits there. Less than half of me has come back to Rome, for truly there is no peace except among the woods."181
Michael Angelo's little circle of devoted friends in Rome were very anxious about him during the winter of 1563-64. Although almost fourscore years and ten he would still walk abroad in all weathers, and took none of the precautions usual for a man of his age. Tiberio Calcagni, writing on February 14 to Lionardo, says in the letter published by Daelli:182 "Walking through Rome to-day I heard from many persons that Messer Michael Angelo was ill, so I went at once to visit him, and although it was raining I found him out of doors on foot. When I saw him I said that I did not think it right and seemly for him to be going about in such weather. 'What do you want?' he answered; 'I am ill, and cannot find rest anywhere!' The uncertainty of his speech, with the look and colour of his face, made me extremely uneasy about his life. The end may not be just now, but I fear greatly that it cannot be far off." The gray colour and the uneasiness of an old man who has suffered a slight stroke are evidently indicated here. During the next four days he lived in his arm-chair. On the 15th, Diomede Leoni wrote to Lionardo, with a letter enclosed, signed by Michael Angelo but written by Daniele da Volterra.183 After exhorting [pg 258]Lionardo to come to Rome, but to run no risks by travelling too fast, he adds, "as you may be certain Messer Tomaso dei Cavalieri, Messer Daniele, and I will not fail during your absence in every possible service in your place. Besides, Antonio, the old and faithful servant of the master, will give a good account of himself under any circumstances. ... If the illness of the master be dangerous, which God forbid, you could not be in time to find him alive, even if you could make more haste than is possible. But to give you a little account of the state of Messere up to this hour, which is the third of the night,184 I inform you that just now I left him quite composed and fully conscious, but oppressed with continual drowsiness. In order to shake it off, between twenty-two and twenty-three,185 this very day he tried to mount his horse and go for a ride, as he was wont to do every evening in good weather, but the coolness of the season and the weakness of his head and legs prevented him, so he went back to his seat a little way from the fire. He greatly prefers this chair to his bed. We all pray God to preserve him unto us still for some years and that He may bring you here in safety, to whom I earnestly commend myself."
Two days later, on the 17th, Tiberio Calcagni wrote:186 "This is only to beg you to hasten your coming as much as possible, even though the weather be bad. For your Messer Michael Angelo is going to leave us indeed, and he would have this one satisfaction the more."
Michael Angelo died a little before five o'clock on the afternoon of February 18, 1564. His physicians, Federigo Donati and Gherardo Fidelissimi, were with him at the [pg 259]last. Giorgio Vasari tells us "he made his will in three words, committing his soul into the hands of God, his body to the earth, and his goods to his nearest relatives, telling them when their hour came to remember the Passion of Jesus Christ."
The Florentine envoy sent a despatch to inform the Duke of the event, and he tells him the arrangements made as to the inventory of property and the disposal for safe-keeping of seven or eight thousand crowns found in a sealed box, opened in the presence of Messer Tomaso dei Cavalieri and Maestro Daniele da Volterra. The people of the house are to be examined whether anything has been carried away from it. This is not supposed to have been the case. "As far as drawings are concerned they say that he burned what he had by him before he died. What there is shall be handed over to his nephew when he comes, and this your Excellency can inform him." The list of works of art found in the house is very small. They were:
A blocked-out statue of Saint Peter.
An unfinished Christ with another figure.
A statuette of Christ with the Cross, like the Risen Christ in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva; and
Ten original drawings, one, a Pietà, belonged to Tommaso dei Cavalieri.
A little design for the façade of a palace.
A design for a window in the Church of Saint Peters.
An old plan of the Church of Saint Peter's, said to be after the model of San Gallo, on several pieces of paper glued together.
A drawing of three small figures.
Architectural drawings for a window and other details.
Another large cartoon, with three large figures and two putti.
Another large cartoon, with one large figure only.
Another large cartoon, with the figures of our Lord Jesus Christ and the glorious Virgin Mary, His mother.
Another, the Epiphany.
This last drawing was presented to the notary who drew up the will, and is supposed to be the cartoon now in the British Museum; all the others went to Lionardo Buonarroti. Lionardo arrived three days after the death. The body was deposited upon a catafalque in the Church of the Santissimi Apostoli, where the funeral was celebrated by all the artists and Florentines in Rome. In fulfilment of the wish of Michael Angelo, repeated two days before his death, Lionardo made arrangements for the removal of his uncle's remains to Florence. But the Romans, who regarded him as a fellow citizen, resented this, and Lionardo was obliged to send the body away disguised as a bale of merchandise, addressed to the custom-house at Florence. Vasari wrote, on March 10, duly informing him that the packing-case had arrived, and had been left under seals until Lionardo's arrival at the custom-house. Notwithstanding this letter from Vasari, it appears that the body was removed, on March 11, to the oratory of the Assunta, beneath the Church of San Pietro Maggiore. Next day the painters, sculptors, and architects of the newly-founded Academy, of which Michael Angelo had been elected Principal after the Duke, met at the church, intending to bring the body secretly to Santa Croce. They had with them only an embroidered pall of velvet and a crucifix to [pg 261]place upon the bier. At night the elder men lighted torches and the younger strove with one another to bear the coffin. Meantime the curious Florentines found out that something was going forward, and a great concourse assembled as the news spread that Michael Angelo was being carried to Santa Croce, and huge crowds followed the humble procession, lighted by the flaring torches such as the Misericordia carry to this day. The vast church of Santa Croce was so crowded that the pall-bearers had difficulty in reaching the sacristy with their burden. When they at last got there, Don Vincenzo Borghini, Lieutenant of the Academy, "thinking he would do what was pleasing to many, and also, as he afterwards confessed, desiring to behold in death one whom he had never seen in life, or, at any rate, at such an age that he did not remember it, ordered the coffin to be opened. When this was done, whereas he and all of us present expected to find the corpse already corrupted and defaced, inasmuch as Michael Angelo had been dead twenty-five days and twenty-two in his coffin, lo! we beheld him instead perfect in all his parts and without any evil odour; indeed, we might have believed that he was resting in a sweet and very tranquil slumber. Not only were the features of his face exactly the same as when he was in life (except that the colour was a little like that of death), none of his limbs were injured or repulsive; the head and cheeks to the touch felt as though he had passed away only a few hours before. When the eagerness of the multitude who crowded round had calmed down a little, the coffin was deposited in the church, behind the altar of the Cavalcanti."
Those who would read of the gorgeous catafalque of [pg 262]stucco, woodwork, and painting erected in the Church of San Lorenzo by the Academy, may do so in the pages of Vasari, and in the book called "Esequie del Divino Michel Angelo Buonarroti, celebrate in Firenze dall' Academia, &c., Firenze, i Giunti, 1564," and Varchi's "Orazione Funerali," published by the same house at the same date. The great artist is dead: let us leave him to his rest in Santa Croce, the Westminster Abbey of his city and the church of his ward.
Vasari received from Lionardo Buonarroti the commission to design the tomb for Santa Croce. He did his best to get the Pietà now in the Duomo to serve as the principal part of the monument, asserting that it had been intended by Michael Angelo for his monument. "Besides, there is an old man in the group who represents the sculptor." This plan did not succeed, and the ugly monument now in existence was designed instead. The Duke supplied the marbles, and the figures were carved by Giovanni dall' Opera, Lorenzi and Valerio Cioli. The bust portrait in bronze was modelled by Battista Lorenzi. It was erected in 1570, and bears the inscription:
MICHAELI ANGELO BONAROTIO
The Romans also erected a monument in the church where they had hoped to keep the bones of the artist who [pg 263]did more for their Immortal City than any man who ever lived. Over this monument is the following epitaph:
Michael Angelo formed no school, his love of excellence would not permit him to leave any inferior work behind him, as Raphael did in certain portions of the Stanze and Loggia of the Vatican. Michael Angelo's disposition was not so genial nor were his manners so universally pleasing as those of the gentle Raphael, so he was unable to keep a body of workmen together in good temper; the result is, we have no Sala of Constantine, or Palazzo del Tè, to remind us of the passing of the master of a school. At the same time, to his few assistants and workmen Michael Angelo was as kind as father to son, when once he became accustomed to them about him. He gave help to various other artists, and it may be noted that all those he influenced became men devoted to high finish and the utmost perfection possible. Decadence in Italian art began long before his death; but the imitators of Michael Angelo are by far the best and most interesting figures of that unfortunate period. They, at least, have great intentions, and strive to attain a style of dignity and distinction, and do not grudge any labour that may help [pg 264]them to their ideals. Vasari tells us of some of these men and their works: "He loved his workmen and was on friendly terms with them. Among them were Jacopo Sansovino, Il Pontormo, Daniele da Volterra, and Giorgio Vasari Aretino, to whom he showed infinite kindness...." He goes on to say that "he was unfortunate in those who lived with him, since he chanced upon natures unfit to follow him. For Pietro Urbano, of Pistoja, his pupil, was a man of talent, but would never work hard. Antonio Mini had the will but not the brain, and hard wax takes a bad impression. Ascanio della Ripa Transone (Condivi) worked very hard, but nothing came of it either in work or in designs." Jacopo l'Indaco and Mineghella were boon companions of the master. A stone-cutter Domenico Fancelli nicknamed Topolino, Pilote the goldsmith, Giuliano Bugiardini the painter, were of this company. The melancholy Michael Angelo is said to have burst his sides with laughing at Mineghella's stupidity. The very proper Vasari describes the latter as "a mean and stupid painter of Valdarno, but a very amusing person; and Michael Angelo, who could with difficulty be made to work for kings, would leave everything to make simple drawings for this fellow, San Rocco, San Antonio, or San Francesco, to be coloured for one of the man's many peasant patrons; among others Michael Angelo made him a very beautiful model of a Christ on the Cross, made a mould from it, and Mineghella cast it in papier-maché and went about selling it all over the country-side." It may be that the familiar and often-repeated Crucifix in common use is an adaptation or copy, far removed from this original; it has something of the style of Michael Angelo's later work, the figure is most beautifully disposed.
[pg 265]Sebastiano del Piombo lightened the old man's labour by his genial humour and jovial companionship; Sebastiano followed his teaching with great industry and skill, as all his later works show; such as the Scourging of Christ, in San Pietro in Montorio, and the Raising of Lazarus, in our own National Gallery: drawings by the hand of Michael Angelo still exist for the principal figures in both these pictures. There is a Pietà by Sebastiano, at Viterbo, evidently following the lines of one of Michael Angelo's religious drawings; it is so beautiful in the expression of its colour and the high finish of the nude, that we cannot but think that Michael Angelo's exacting eyes were peering over the shoulder of Sebastiano when he painted it.
Per ritornar là donde venne fora,
L' immortal forma al tuo carcer terreno
Venne com' angel di pietà si pieno
Che sana ogn' intelletto, e'l mondo onora.
Questo sol m' arde, eqesto m' innamora;
Non pur di fora il tuo volto sereno:
Ch' amor non già di cosa che vien meno
Tien ferma speme, in cu' virtù dimora.
Nè altro avvien di cose altere e nuove
In cui si preme la natura; e'l cielo
E ch' a lor parto largo s' apparecchia.
Nè Dio, suo grazia, mi si mostra altrove,
Più che 'n alcun leggiadro e mortal velo;
È quel sol amo, perchè 'n quel si specchia.
THREE DIALOGUES ON PAINTING COMPOSED
My intention in going to Italy was not to seek for advantage or honour, but to study. I was sent there by my King, and I had no other interest in view (such as having intercourse with the Pope or with the Cardinals of the Court; and this God knows and Rome knows, if I had wished to dwell there per-adventure I did not lack opportunities, both for myself and by the favour of the principal persons in the Pope's household), but all ideas of this kind were so subdued in me, that I did not even allow them to enter into my imagination; others I had, more noble and more to my taste, which had much more power over me than covetousness or expectation of benefits such as many people have who go to Rome. What alone was always present to me was how I, with my art, might serve the king our Lord, who had sent me there, communing always with myself how I could steal and convey away to Portugal the excellencies and beauties of Italy to please the King and the Infantas and the most serene Infante D. Luiz. I used to say to myself: What fortresses or foreign cities have I not yet in my book? What immortal buildings and what noble statues does this city still possess which I have not already stolen from it and carried away without carts or ships on thin paper? What painting, stucco, or grotesque has been discovered amongst these grottoes and antiquities of Rome, Puzol, and Baias, of which the most rare is not to be found in my sketch-books? Thus I beheld nothing either antique or modern in painting, sculpture or architecture of [pg 270]which I did not make some record of its best part, it appearing to me that these were the greatest benefits that I could carry away with me, more honourable and profitable to the service of my King and to my own taste. I do not think I have made a mistake (although some people tell me I have), for as these things alone were my care, my dispute and demand, no great Cardinal Fernes had to help me, nor had I a greater Dattario to obtain, in order to go one day to see D. Julio de Macedonia, a most famous illuminator, and another day Master Michael Angelo, now Baccio the noble sculptor; then Master Perino, or Bastiäo Veneziano, and sometimes Valerio de Vicença, or Jacopo Mellequino, architect, and Lactancio Tolomei, the acquaintance and friendship of these men I valued much more than others of more parade and pretension (as if there could be greater in the world, and so Rome values them); because from them, and from their works in my art, I obtained some fruit and knowledge. I amused myself in discussing with them many rare and noble works both of ancient and modern times. Master Michael especially I esteemed so much that if I met him either in the palace of the Pope or in the street, we could not part until the stars sent us to rest. D. Pedro Mascarenhas, the Ambassador, is my witness what a great thing this was and how difficult; and, too, of the tales M. Angelo, when coming out of vespers one day, told about me and about a book of mine in which I had drawn some things in Rome and Italy, to Cardinal Santtiquatro and to him. Now my habit was to go round the solemn temple of the Pantheon and note all its columns and proportions; the Mausoleum of Adrian and that of Augustus, the Coliseum, the Thermæ of Antoninus and those of Diocletian, the Arch of Titus and that of Severus, the Capitol, the theatre of Marcellus and all the other notable things in that city, the names of which have already escaped me. At times, too, I was not turned out of the magnificent [pg 271]chambers of the Pope, I only went there because they were painted by the noble hand of Raphael of Urbino. I loved more those antique men of stone sculptured on the arches and columns of the old buildings, than those more inconstant which everywhere weary one with talking, I learned more from them and from their grave silence.
Now amongst the days which I thus passed in that Court there was a Sunday on which I went to see Messer Lactancio Tolomei, as others did; it was he, with the assistance of Messer Blosio, the Pope's secretary, who gave me the friendship of Michael Angelo. And this M. Lactancio was a very important personage, both on account of nobility of mind and of blood (he being a nephew of the Cardinal of Siena), as well as through his knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew letters, and for the authority of his years. But finding in his house a message that he was at Monte Cavallo, in the church of St. Silvester, with the Lady Marchioness of Pescara, listening to a lecture from the Epistles of St. Paul, I went to Monte Cavallo and to St. Silvester. Now Senhora Vittoria Colonna, Marchioness of Pescara, and sister of Senhor Ascanio Colonna, is one of the most illustrious and famous ladies in Italy and in all Europe, which is the world, chaste yet beautiful, a Latin scholar, well-informed and with all the other parts of virtue and fairness to be praised in woman. She, after the death of her great husband, took to a private and simple life, contenting herself with the fact that she had already lived in her estate, and loving henceforward only Jesu Christ and good deeds, doing good to poor women and bearing the fruits of a true Catholic. For my friendship with this lady also I was indebted to M. Lactancio, who was the most intimate friend that she had.
Having commanded me to sit down, the lecture and its praises over, the Marchioness looking at me and at M. Lactancio, if I remember rightly, said:
Then I, almost angry, answered her:
Why, madam, does it appear to your Excellency that I can attend to nothing but painting? Truly I shall always be pleased to hear M. Angelo, but when the Epistles of St. Paul are read, I prefer to hear Brother Ambrosio."
"Do not be angry, M. Francisco," M. Lactancio then said, "for the Marchioness does not think that the man who is a painter will not be everything. We esteem painting higher in Italy. But perchance she said that to you in order to give you, beyond what you already have, the further pleasure of hearing Michael."
I then replied:
"Her Excellency will be doing no more than she is in the habit of doing, giving always greater favours than one dares to ask."
The Marchioness, knowing my mind, called one of her servants, and said, smiling:
"To those who know how to express thanks one must study how to give, especially as I get as much in the giving as Francisco d'Ollanda does in receiving. Foao, go to the house of M. Angelo and tell him that I and M. Lactancio are here in this quiet chapel, and that the church is closed and very pleasant, if he cares to come and lose a little of the day with us, so that we may gain it with him. And do not tell him that Francisco d'Ollanda, the Spaniard, is here."
As I was whispering something about the discretion of the Marchioness in everything, in the ear of Lactancio, she desired to know what it was about.
"He was telling me," said Lactancio, "how well your Excellency knows how to preserve decorum in everything, even in a message. M. Michael is already more his friend [pg 273]than mine, for he tells me that when they meet, Michael Angelo does all he can to shun his company, seeing that when they once come together they never can part."
"I know that, for I know Master Michael Angelo," she returned; "but I do not know in what manner we shall treat him so that we may lead him on to talk of painting."
Brother Ambrosio of Siena (one of the appointed preachers to the Pope), who had not yet gone, said: "I do not believe that if Michael knows the Spaniard to be a painter, he will talk about painting at all, therefore let him hide himself that he may hear him."
"It is perhaps not so easy to hide this Portuguese," I replied with emphasis to the Friar, "from the eyes of Master Michael Angelo; he will know me better hidden than your reverence does here where I am, even if you put on spectacles; and you will see that, being here, he will see me very plainly if he comes."
Then the Marchioness and Lactancio laughed, but not I nor yet the Friar, who however heard the Marchioness say that he would find me to be something more than a painter.
After remaining but a short time silent, we heard a knocking at the door, and all began to fear that Michael would not come, as the messenger had returned so quickly. But Michael, who resides at the foot of Monte Cavallo, happened by good luck to be walking towards St. Silvester, on his way to the Thermae by the Esquiline road with his Orbino, philosophising by the way; being informed of the message, he could not run away from us, nor did he fail to be the person knocking at the door. The Marchioness rose to receive him, and remained standing awhile before causing him to take a seat between her and M. Lactancio. I sat a little way off, but the Marchioness, remaining awhile without speaking, not wishing to delay her practice of honouring those who conversed with her, and the place where she was, commenced, with an art that [pg 274]I could not describe, to say many things very well expressed, and with thoughts most graciously stated, without ever touching on painting, in order to ensure the great painter to us; and I saw her as one wishing to reduce a well armed city by discretion and guile; and we saw the painter, too, standing watchful and vigilant, as if he were besieged, placing sentries in one place and ordering bridges to be raised in another, making mines and defending all the walls and towers; but finally the Marchioness had to conquer, nor do I know who could defend himself against her.
She said: "It is known that whoever comes into conflict with M. Angelo in his own speciality, which is discretion, cannot but be vanquished. It is necessary, M. Lactancio, that we should talk with him about actions or briefs or painting to put him to silence and to obtain any advantage over him."
"Nay," I then said, "I know of no better way of wearying M. Angelo than by informing him that I am here, as he has not seen me hitherto. But I already know that the way not to see a person is to have him before one's eyes."
You should then have seen Michael turn himself towards me with astonishment, and say:
"Forgive me, M. Francisco, for not having seen you for had I not the Marchioness before my eyes, but as God has sent you here, assist and help me as a comrade."
"For that reason only will I forgive you; but it seems to me that the Marchioness causes with one light contrary effects, as the sun does, which with the same rays melts and hardens, because you were blinded by seeing her and I both hear and see you, because I see her; and also because I know how much a wise person will occupy himself with her Excellency, and how little time she leaves for others; and therefore at times I do not take the advice of some friars."
Here the Marchioness laughed again.
And now the Marchioness began to speak thus:
"His Holiness has done me the favour of allowing me to build a nunnery for ladies here at the foot of Monte Cavallo, by the broken portico, where it is said that Nero saw Rome burning, so that the wicked footprints of such a man may be trodden out by others more honest of holy women. I do not know, M. Angelo, what shape and proportions to give to the house, where the door should be placed, and whether some of the old work may be adapted to the new?"
"Yes, madam," said Michael, "the broken portico might be used as a campanile."
And this was so pleasant, and Michael said it so seriously and in such a manner that M. Lactancio could not help calling attention to it; and the great painter added these words:
"I quite think your Excellency may build the nunnery; and when we leave here, with your permission, we may very well go and look at the site, so as to give you some drawing for it."
"I did not dare to ask you for so much," she said, "but I already knew that in everything you follow the doctrine of the Lord: deposuit potentes, exaltavit humiles; and in that also you are excellent, for you acknowledge yourself at last as discreetly generous and not as an ignorant prodigal. And therefore in Rome those who know you esteem you even more than your works; and those who do not know you esteem only the least of you, which are the works of your hands. And certainly I do not give any less praise to your knowledge of how to retire within yourself and fly from our useless conversations, and to your wisdom in not painting for all the princes who ask you to do so, but confining yourself to the painting of a single work during all your life as you have done,"
"Madam," said Michael, "perchance you attribute to me [pg 276]more than I deserve; but in doing so you remind me that I wish to make a complaint against many persons, on my own behalf and on behalf of painters of my temperament, and also on behalf of M. Francisco here.
"There are many persons who maintain a thousand lies, and one is that eminent painters are eccentric and that their conversation is intolerable and harsh, they are only human all the while, and thus fools and unreasonable persons consider them fantastic and fanciful, allowing them with much difficulty the conditions necessary to a painter. It is quite true that such conditions are only necessary where there is a real painter, which is in very few places, as in Italy, where there is the perfection of all things; but foolish, idle persons are unreasonable in expecting so many compliments from a busy man: few mortals fulfil their duty well, one who does will not accuse another who is fulfilling his; painters are not in any way unsociable through pride, but either because they find few pursuits equal to painting, or in order not to corrupt themselves with the useless conversation of idle people, and debase the intellect from the lofty imaginations in which they are always absorbed. And I affirm to your Excellency that even his Holiness annoys and wearies me when at times he talks to me and asks me somewhat roughly why do I not come to see him, for I believe that I serve him better in not going when he asks me, little needing me, when I wish to work for him in my house; and I tell him that, as M. Angelo, I serve him more thus than by standing before him all day, as others do,"
"Oh, happy M. Angelo," said I at this stage, "my prince is not a Pope, can he forgive me such a sin?"
"Such sins, M. Francisco, are just those which kings pardon," said he, and added: "Sometimes, I may tell you, my important duties have given me so much licence that when, as I am talking to the Pope, I put this old felt hat non-chalantly [pg 277]on my head, and talk to him very frankly, but even for that he does not kill me; on the contrary, he has given me a livelihood.187 And as I say, I have paid him more compliments in his service than unnecessary ones to his person. If perchance a man were so blind as to invent such an unprofitable exchange, as it is for a man to separate himself and content himself with himself whilst he loses his friends and makes enemies of all, would it not be very wrong if they bore him ill-will for that? But whoever has such a complexion both because the force of his duty demands it, and because of his having been born with a dislike of ceremony and dissimulation, it seems very foolish not to allow him to live. And if such a man is so moderate that he does not want anything of you, what do you want with him? And why should you wish to use him in those vanities for which his quietness is not fitted? Do you not know that there are sciences that require the whole man without ever leaving him free for your idle trivialities? When he has as little to do as you have, let him be killed if he does not observe your rules of etiquette and compliment even better than you. You only seek his company and praise him in order to obtain honour through him for yourselves, nor do you really mind what sort of man he is, so long as a pope or an emperor converse with him. And I dare affirm that he cannot be a great man who tries to satisfy idle persons rather than the men of his own craft, nor can one who is in nowise singular and reserved or whatever you may be pleased to call it, be better than the ordinary and vulgar talents which are to be found without a lantern in the market-places of the world...."
Here Michael ceased speaking, and a little while afterwards the Marchioness said:
[pg 278]"If those friends of whom you are speaking had the discretion of the friends of old, the evil would be smaller; when Arcesilaus went one day to see Apelles, who was ill and in need, this good friend raised his artist's head so as to arrange the pillow and put underneath a sum of money for his cure, which sum, having been found by the old woman attending him, who was frightened at the amount, Apelles, smiling, said: 'This money was stolen from Arcesilaus; do not be astonished.'"
Then Lactancio added, in this manner, his opinion: "Skilful artists would not exchange places with any other kind of men however great they may be, so satisfied are they with some special joyousness which they get from their art; but I would counsel them to exchange at least with the happy ones, if it seemed to me that they wished to do so, and were it not that they consider themselves the most happy of mortals. The mind which is capable of the very highest painting knows where the lives and pleasures of the pre-sumptuous lead them and what they are, and how they die nameless and without knowledge of the things which in the world are most worthy of being known and esteemed, and how we cannot even remember that such a man was born however much money he may have kept in his coffers. And thus he understands that good work and the good name of immortal virtue is the felicity of this life and all or almost all that is to be desired; and therefore he esteems himself more because he is on the road to attain that glory than one who does not know this and never even knew how to desire it. Many are content with much less power than that of imitating a work of God as in painting; and if one never attained to the distinction of governing a great province, it is but human to be satisfied with things which are more difficult and more uncertain than governing a country which stretched from the Columns of Hercules to the Indian River [pg 279]Ganges. Such an one never killed an enemy more difficult to conquer than is the conforming the work to the desire or idea of the great painter, and the one was never so satisfied drinking out of a golden cup as the other drinking out of an earthen pot. Nor was the Emperor Maximilian wrong in saying that he could indeed make a duke or a count, but as for an excellent painter God alone could make him when He so pleased, for which reason he abstained from putting to death a painter who deserved to die."
"What do you advise me to do, Master Lactancio," the Marchioness then said; "shall I put a question to M. Angelo about painting, as he now, in order to prove to me that great men are justified in their ways and not eccentric, may take measures like those he is accustomed to take?"
And Lactancio: "For your Excellency, Madam, M. Michael cannot help constraining himself and giving out here that which it is well that he keeps close elsewhere."
M. Angelo said: "I beg of your Excellency to tell me what I can give to her and it shall be given."
And she, smiling: "I very much wish to know, as we are dealing with this subject, what you think of the painting of Flanders and whom it will satisfy, because it appears to me more devout than the Italian style."
"The painting of Flanders, Madam," answered the artist slowly, "will generally satisfy any devout person more than the painting of Italy, which will never cause him to drop a single tear, but that of Flanders will cause him to shed many; this is not owing to the vigour and goodness of that painting, but to the goodness of such devout person; women will like it, especially very old ones, or very young ones. It will please likewise friars and nuns, and also some noble persons who have no ear for true harmony. They paint in Flanders, only to deceive the external eye, things that gladden you and of which you cannot speak ill, and saints and prophets. [pg 280]Their painting is of stuffs, bricks and mortar, the grass of the fields, the shadows of trees, and bridges and rivers, which they call landscapes, and little figures here and there; and all this, although it may appear good to some eyes, is in truth done without reasonableness or art, without symmetry or proportion, without care in selecting or rejecting, and finally without any substance or verve, and in spite of all this, painting in some other parts is worse than it is in Flanders. Neither do I speak so badly of Flemish painting because it is all bad, but because it tries to do so many things at once (each of which alone would suffice for a great work) so that it does not do anything really well.
"Only works which are done in Italy can be called true painting, and therefore we call good painting Italian, for if it were done so well in another country, we should give it the name of that country or province. As for the good painting of this country, there is nothing more noble or devout, for with wise persons nothing causes devotion to be remembered, or to arise, more than the difficulty of the perfection which unites itself with and joins God; because good painting is nothing else but a copy of the perfections of God and a reminder of His painting. Finally, good painting is a music and a melody which intellect only can appreciate, and with great difficulty. This painting is so rare that few are capable of doing or attaining to it. And I further say (which whoever notes it will consider important) that of all the climates or countries lighted by the sun and the moon, in no other can one paint well but in the kingdom of Italy; and it is a thing which is nearly impossible to do well except here, even though there were more talented men in the other provinces, if there could be such, and this for reasons which we will give you. Take a great man from another kingdom, and tell him to paint whatever he likes and can do best, and let him do it; and take a bad Italian apprentice and order [pg 281]him to make a drawing, or to paint whatever you like, and let him do it; you will find, if you understand it well, that the drawing of that apprentice, as regards art, has more substance than that of the other master, and what he attempted to do is worth more than everything that the other ever did. Order a great master, who is not an Italian, even though it be Alberto,188 a man delicate in his manner, in order to deceive me, or Francisco d'Ollanda there, to counterfeit a work which shall be like an Italian work, and if it cannot be a very good one let it be an ordinary or a bad painting, and I assure you that it will be immediately recognised that the work was not done in Italy, nor by the hand of an Italian. I likewise affirm that no nation or people (I except one or two Spaniards) can perfectly satisfy or imitate the Italian manner of painting (which is the old Greek manner) without his being immediately recognised as a foreigner, whatever efforts he may make, and however hard he may work to do so. And if by some great miracle such a foreigner should succeed in painting well, then, although he may not have done it in order to imitate Italian work, it will be said that he painted like an Italian. Thus it is that all painting done in Italy is not called Italian painting, but all that is good and direct is, for in this country works of illustrious painting are done in a more masterly and more serious manner than in any other place. We call good painting Italian, which painting, even though it be done in Flanders or in Spain (which approaches us most) if it be good, will be Italian painting, for this most noble science does not belong to any country, as it came from heaven; but even from ancient times it remained in our Italy more than in any other kingdom in the world, and I think that it will end in it."
So he spoke. Seeing that Michael was now silent, I urged [pg 282]him on in this manner. "So, Master Michael Angelo, you assert that out of all the nations of the world it is only Italians who can paint? (Ollanda continues.)
"But what wonder in that? You must know that in Italy painting is done well for many reasons, and outside Italy painting is done badly for many reasons. Firstly, the nature of the Italians is studious in the extreme, and the talented already bring with them, when they are born, power of work, taste and love of that to which they are inclined, and of that which demands their genius; and if any one determines to make a profession, and to pursue some art or liberal science, he does not content himself with what is sufficient for him to become rich thereby, and one of the number of the craftsmen, but in order to be unique and distinguished he watches and works continuously, and keeps before his eyes the great hope of being a paragon of perfection (I speak where I know I am believed) and not a mere mediocrity in that art or science. This is because Italy does not esteem mediocrity, deeming it an exceedingly poor thing; and speaks only of those, and even praises them to the skies, who, like eagles, surpass all others, and penetrating the clouds approach the light of the sun. Then, again, you are born in a province (is not this an advantage?) which is the mother and protectress of all sciences and disciplines, amongst so many relics of your ancestors, which do not exist anywhere else, that already as children you find before your eyes in the streets a great part of whatever your inclination or genius may be inclined to; and from youth upwards you are accustomed to see those things which old men never saw in other kingdoms. Then, growing up, although you may have been rude and rough, by nature you are already so accustomed to have your eyes full of the forms of the many old things of renown, that you cannot fail to imitate them; and to all this are joined (as I say) distinguished talent and indefatigable study and taste. You [pg 283]have remarkable masters to imitate, and their works, and as regards new works the cities are full of the curious things and novelties which are discovered and found every day. And if all these things do not suffice, although I should consider them quite sufficient for the perfection of any science, at least this is quite enough; namely, that we, Portuguese, although some of us may be born with nice talent and minds—as many are born—have a contempt for and consider it fine to take little account of the arts, and we almost feel it a disgrace to know much about them, wherefore we always leave them imperfect and unfinished. You Italians alone, (I cannot even say Germans or Frenchmen), give the greatest honour, the greatest nobility and the power to be more, to a man who is a splendid painter or splendid in some faculty; and of all your noblemen, captains, wise men, satirists, cardinals and Popes, that man only who may attain the reputation of being perfect and rare in his profession is ever exalted or thought much of by you. And as great princes are not esteemed nor have any name in Italy, so it is a painter alone that they call the divine—Michael Angelo, as you will find in letters which Aretino, satirist of all Christian gentlemen, wrote you. Now, the payments and prices that in Italy are given for paintings also appear to me to have a great deal to do with the fact that painting cannot be done anywhere but here, because frequently for a head or face from nature one thousand 'cruzados' are paid, and many other works are paid for as you, gentlemen, know better than I, very differently from the way they are paid for in other kingdoms, seeing that mine is among the magnificent and wide. Now, your Excellency, please to judge whether these be hindrances or helps."
"It seems to me," answered the Marchioness, "that before these hindrances you must place talent and knowledge, which are not transalpine but belong to the good Italian; however, [pg 284]everywhere virtue is the same, good is the same, and evil is the same, although they may have a different civilisation from ours."
"If that," I answered, "were heard in my country, well, Madam, they would be astonished both at your Excellency praising me and in that manner, and by your making that difference between Italians and other men whom you call 'transalpine,' or from beyond the mountains:
'Non adeo obtusa gestamos pectora Poeni,
Nec tam auersus equos, Lysia, sol iungit ab urbe.'
"We have, Madam, in Portugal, good and ancient cities, and principally my birthplace, Lisbon; we have good manners, and good courtiers and valiant cavaliers and courageous princes, both in war and in peace, and above all we have a very powerful and splendid king, who with great calmness tempers and governs us, and commands very distant provinces of barbarians, whom he has converted to the Faith; and he is feared by the whole East and by the whole of Mauritania and is a patron of the Fine Arts, so much so that, through making a mistake as to my talent, which in my youth promised some fruit, he sent me to see Italy and its civilisation, and Master Michael Angelo, whom I see here. It is quite true that we have not such buildings and pictures as you have, but they are already being made, and little by little they are losing that barbarian superfluity that the Goths and Moors sowed throughout Spain. I also hope that, on arriving in Portugal after leaving here, I may assist either in the elegance of building or in the nobility of painting, so that we may be able to compete with you. Our science is almost entirely lost, and without honour or renown in those kingdoms, and not through the fault of others, but through the fault of the place and disusage, to such extent that very few esteem it or understand it unless it be our most serene king, by supporting all virtue [pg 285]and patronising it; and likewise the most serene infante D. Luiz, his brother, a very valorous and wise prince, who has a very nice knowledge and discretion in every liberal art. All the others neither understand nor esteem painting."
"They do well," said M. Angelo.
But Master Lactancio Tolomei, who had not spoken for some time, proceeded in this manner:
"We Italians have this very great advantage over all other nations in this great world, in the knowledge and honour of all the illustrious and most worthy arts and sciences. But I would have you to know, M. Francisco d'Ollanda, that whoever does not understand and esteem the most noble art of painting does so because of his own defects and not because of the art, which is very noble and clear; and because he is a barbarian and without judgment, and has no honourable part in being a man. And this is proved by the example of the most powerful old and modern emperors and kings, and of the philosophers and wise persons who attained everything, and who so greatly esteemed and appreciated the knowledge of painting, and spoke of it with such high praises and examples, and in making use of it and paying for it so liberally and magnificently and, finally, by the great honour that the Mother Church does it, with the holy Pontiffs, cardinals, and great princes and prelates. And so you will find in all the past centuries, all the past valorous peoples and nations held this art in so much honour, that they admired nothing more nor considered anything as a greater wonder. And then we see Alexander the Great, Demetrius, and Ptolomy, famous kings, together with many other princes, who readily boast of understanding it; and amongst the Cæsars, Augustus the divine Cæsar, Octavian Augustus, M. Agrippa, Claudius, and Caligula and Nero, in this alone virtuous, likewise Vespasian and Titus, as was shown in the famous retable of the Temple of Peace, which he built after having vanquished the Jews and their [pg 286]Jerusalem. What shall I say of the great Emperor Trajan? What of Helius Adrianus, who with his own hand painted singularly well, as the Greek Dion writes in his life, and Spartianus? Then the divine Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Julius Capitolinus, says how he learned to paint, Diognetus being his teacher; and even Ælius Lampridius relates that the Emperor Severus Alexander, who was an exceedingly powerful prince, himself painted his genealogy to show that he descended from the lineage of the Metelos. Of the great Pompey, Plutarch says that in the city of Mitylene he drew with a style the plan and shape of the theatre, in order to have it afterwards built in Rome, which he did.
"And although, owing to its great effects and beauties, noble painting merits all veneration without seeking praise from other virtues, beside those proper to it, I still wished to show here, before one who knows it, by what sort of men it was esteemed. And if by chance, at any time or in any place, there should be found any one who, because of being highly placed and great, refuses to esteem this art, let him know that others still greater appreciated it greatly. Who can compare himself with Alexander the Greek? Who will exceed the prowess of Cæsar the Roman? Who is of greater glory than Pompey? Who more a prince than Trajan? For these Alexanders and Cæsars not only dearly loved the divine painting, and paid great prices for it, but with their own hands they occupied themselves with it and touched it. Or who, out of bravery and presumption, will despise it and be not rather very humble and very unworthy before painting, before her severe and grave face?"
Thus it seemed that Lactancio was finishing, when the Marchioness proceeded, saying:
"Or who will be the virtuous and serene man (if he despises it for its sanctity) who will not show great reverence and adore the spiritual contemplation and devotion of holy [pg 287]painting? I think that time would sooner be lacking than material for the praises of this virtue. It produces joy in the melancholy, it brings both the contented and the angry man to the knowledge of human misery; it moves the obstinate to compunction, the mundane to penitence, the contemplative to contemplation, and the fearful to shame. It shows us death and what we are, more gently than in any other way; the torments and dangers of hell; so far as is possible, it represents to us the glory and peace of the blessed, and the incomprehensible image of our Lord God. It represents to us the modesty of His saints, the constancy of the martyrs, the purity of the virgins, the beauty of the angels, and the love and ardour with which the seraphim burn, better than in any other way, and lifts up our spirit and plunges our mind into the depths beyond the stars, to imagine the empirean that there exists. What shall I say of how it brings before us the worthies who passed away so long ago, and whose bones even are not now upon this earth, to enable us to imitate them in their bright deeds? Or how it shows us their councils and battles by examples and delightful histories? Their great deeds, their piety and their manners? To captains it shows the manoeuvres of the old armies, the cohorts and their disposition, their discipline and their military order. It animates and creates daring, by emulation and an honest envy of the famous ones, as Scipio the African confessed.
"It leaves a memorial of the present times for those who come after. Painting shows us the garb of the pilgrim or of antiquity, the variety of foreign peoples and nations, buildings, animals, and monsters, which in writing it would be prolix to hear about, and even then it would be but badly understood. And not only these things does this noble art, but it places before our eyes the image of any great man who should be seen and known because of his deeds, and [pg 288]likewise the beauty of a woman who is separated from us by many leagues, a thing on which Pliny reflects much. To one who dies it gives many years of life, his own face remaining behind painted, and his wife is consoled, seeing daily before her the image of her deceased husband, and the sons who were left little children rejoice when men to know the presence and the aspect of their dear father, and fear to shame him."
As the Marchioness, almost weeping, made a pause here, M. Lactancio, in order to draw her out of her sorrowful imagination and memories, said:
"Besides all these things, which are great, what is there that more ennobles or makes other things more beautiful than painting, whether on arms, in temples, in palaces, or fortresses, or anywhere else where beauty and order may have a place? And so great minds assert that there is nothing a man can find to fight against his mortality or against the flight of time but painting only. Nor did Pithagoras depart from this view when he said that only in three things were men similar to the immortal God: in science, in painting, and in music."
Here Master Michael said:
"I am sure that if in your Portugal, M. Francisco, they were to see the beauty of the painting that is in some houses in Italy, they could not be so uncultured as not to esteem it greatly, and wish to attain to it; but it is not surprising that they do not know or appreciate what they have never seen and what they do not possess." Here M. Angelo rose, showing that it was already time for him to retire and go; and likewise the Marchioness rose; I asked her as a favour to invite all that distinguished company for the following day in that same place, and that M. Angelo should not fail to appear. She did so, and he promised that he would come. And the Marchioness going with the rest, M. Lactancio left with [pg 289]Michael, and I and Diogo Zapata, a Spaniard, went with the Marchioness from the monastery of St. Silvester at Monte Cavallo to the other monastery where there is the head of St. John the Baptist, and where the Marchioness resides, and we left her with the mothers and nuns, and I went to my residence.
All that night I thought of the past day, and was preparing myself for the one to come; but it frequently happens that our arrangements prove uncertain and vain, and very contrary to what we expect, as I then learnt. On the following day M. Lactancio sent me word that we could not meet as we had arranged, owing to certain business matters which had cropped up both for the Lady Marchioness and likewise for Michael Angelo himself, but he asked me to be at St. Silvester's in eight days' time, as that day had been agreed upon.
I found those eight days long, but finally, when Sunday came, the time appeared to me to have been but short, for I should have liked to have been better armed with knowledge for such a noble company. When I arrived at St. Silvester the lesson from the Epistles which Friar Ambrose read was finished and he was gone, and they were beginning to complain of my being late and about me.
After they had pardoned me, I having confessed to being a laggard, and after the Marchioness had bantered me a little, and I Messer Angelo in my turn, I obtained permission to proceed with the former conversation about painting; I commenced saying:
"I think, Senhor Michael Angelo, that last Sunday, when we were about to part, you told me that if in the kingdom of Portugal, which you here call Spain, they were to see the noble [pg 290]pictures of Italy, they would esteem them greatly, for which reason I beg as a favour (for I have come here for nothing else) that you will not disdain to inform me what famous works in painting there are in Italy, so that I may know how many I have already seen, and how many I still have to see."
"You ask me a question which would take long to answer, M. Francisco," said M. Angelo, "wide and difficult to put together, for we know that there is no prince or private person or nobleman in Italy, or any one of any pretension, however little curious he may be about painting (to say nothing of those excellent ones who adore it), who does not take steps to have some relic of divine painting, or who at least, in so far as he can, does not order many works to be executed. So that a good portion of the beauty of our art is spread over many noble cities, castles, country-seats, palaces and temples, and other private and public buildings; but as I have not seen them all in an orderly manner, I can only speak of some which are the principal ones.
"In Siena there is some singular painting in the Municipal Chamber and in other places; in Florence, my native place, in the Palaces of the Medici, there is a grotesque by Giovanni da Udine, and so throughout Tuscany. In Urbino, the Palace of the Duke, who was himself half a painter, has a great deal of praiseworthy work, and also in his country-seat called 'Imperial,' near Pesaro, erected by his wife, there is some very magnificent painting. So, too, the Palace of the Duke of Mantua, where Andrea painted the Triumph of Caius Cæsar, is noble; but more so still is the work of the Stable, painted by Julius, a pupil of Raphael, who now flourishes in Mantua. In Ferrara we have the painting of Dosso in the Palace of Castello, and in Padua they also praise the loggia of M. Luis, and the Fortress of Lenhago. Now in Venice there are admirable works by Chevalier Titian, a valiant man in painting and in drawing from nature, in the [pg 291]Library of St. Mark, some in the House of the Germans, and others in churches and in other good hands; and the whole of that city is a good painting.
"So in Pisa, in Lucca, in Bologna, in Piacenza, in Parma, where there is the Parmesano,189 in Milan, and in Naples. So in Genoa there is the house of Prince Doria, painted by Master Perino, with great judgment, especially the Storm of the Vessels of Æneas, in oils, and the ferocity of Neptune and his sea-horses; and likewise in another room there is a fresco, Jupiter fighting against the giants in Phlegra, overthrowing them with thunderbolts; and nearly the whole city is painted inside and out. And in many other castles and cities of Italy, such as Orvieto, Esi,190 Ascoli, and Como, there are pictures nobly painted, and all of great price, for I only speak of such; and if we were to speak of the private paintings and pictures that every one holds dearer than life, it would be to speak of the innumerable, and there are to be found in Italy some cities which are nearly all painted with tolerable painting, inside and out."
It seemed that Michael was coming to a conclusion, when the Lady Marchioness, looking at me, said:
"Do you not remark, M. Francisco, that M. Michael abstained from speaking of Rome, the mother of painting, so as not to talk of his own works? Now what he would not do, let us not fail to do for the purpose of ensnaring him the more, for when one deals with famous paintings, no other has such value as the fount from which they are derived and proceed. And this work is in the head and fount of the Church, I mean in St. Peter's in Rome; a great vault, in fresco, with its circuit and curvatures of arches, and a façade, in which M. Angelo divinely made us understand and divided into histories how God first created the world, with many images of Sibyls and figures of exceedingly great artistic beauty [pg 292]and artifice. And what is singular is, that doing nothing more than this work, which as yet he has not completed, and having commenced it when a youth, there is therein comprised the work of twenty painters united in that vault alone. Raphael of Urbino painted in this city a second work of such art that it would have been the first if the other had not existed. It is a hall and two chambers and a loggia in fresco, in the palaces of the said St. Peter, a magnificent thing of many elegant stories of a very decorous description. And the story of Apollo playing his harp amongst the nine muses in the Parnasus is singular. In the house191 of Augustimguis (Chigi) Raphael has painted very preciously a poetry, the story of Psyche, and very gracefully he surrounded Galatea by mermen in the middle of the waves and by cupids in the air. The picture in S. Pietro in Montorio of the Transfiguration of our Lord,192 in oils, is very good, and another in Aracœli, and in the Temple of Peace, in fresco.193 The picture in S. Pietro in Montorio by the hand of Bastiäo Veneziano194 is famous; he did it in competition with Raphael. There are many facades of palaces in this city, in white and black,195 by Baltesar196 di Siena, architect, and by Marturino and by Polidoro, a man who in that manner of working magnificently enriched Rome. Further, there are here many palaces of Cardinals and other men painted in grotesque and in stucco and with many other varieties of art, for the city is more painted than any other in the whole world, apart from the private pictures that every one holds dearer than life itself. But of the things outside the city, the Vigna, begun by Pope Clement VII., at the foot of Monte Mario, is most worth seeing; [pg 293]it is ornamented by the fine painting and sculpture of Raphael and Julius, where the giant lies sleeping, whose feet the satyrs are measuring with shepherds' crooks. You now see whether these are works which would lead us to be silent about our city."
And she was already ceasing to speak, when I remembered me, and said:
"No doubt your Excellency also forgot the famous tomb or chapel of the Medici in San Lorenzo, at Florence, painted in marble by M. Angelo, with such a generous number of statues in full relief that it can certainly compete with any of the great works of antiquity; where the goddess or image of Night, sleeping above the nocturnal bird, and the melancholy Death in Life pleased me the most, although there are there many noble sculptures around the Dawn. But I cannot omit the mention of a painting which I saw, even though it was outside Italy, in France or Provence, in the City of Avignon, in a Franciscan monastery: it is that of a dead woman who had been very beautiful, she was called the Beautiful Anna; a king of France who liked painting and who painted (if I am not mistaken) called Reynel, came to Avignon and inquired whether the Beautiful Anna was there because he greatly desired to see her to paint her from life, and having been told that she had died shortly before, the king caused her to be disinterred to see whether still in her bones there were some traces of her beauty. He found her clothed, in the old style, as if she were alive, with her golden hair dressed on her head, but all the gay beauty of the face, which alone was uncovered, had changed into a skull; notwithstanding this, the painter king considered it so beautiful that he painted her from nature, surrounding his work with verses which mourn and are still mourning for her. Which work I saw in that place and I thought it very worthy."
"In France there is some good painting, and the King of France has many palaces and pleasure houses with innumerable paintings, both in Fontainebleau, where the king kept together two hundred painters, well paid, for a certain time; and in Madrid, the pleasure house which he built, where he voluntarily imprisons himself at times, in memory of Madrid in Spain where he was a prisoner."
"I think," said M. Lactancio, "that I heard a while ago Francisco d'Ollanda name amongst paintings the tomb that you, Senhor Michael, sculptured in marble; but I do not understand how sculpture can be called painting."
Then I began to laugh heartily, and begging permission of the Master, said:
"To save Senhor Michael trouble I will reply to Senhor Lactancio concerning this doubt of his, which has followed me here from my own country.
"As you will find that all the employments which have most art and reasonableness and grace are those which most nearly approach the drawing or painting, so those which most nearly approach it proceed from it and are a part or member of it, such as sculpture or statuary, which is nothing else but painting itself, although it may well appear to some to be a separate art; it is, however, condemned to serve painting, its mistress.
"And this I will give as a sufficient proof (as your Excellencies well know), that in the books we find Phidias and Praxiteles called painters, whilst it is certain that they were sculptors in marble, seeing that the statues from their hands in stone are here near us, on this hill, the horses which they made, which King Teridade sent to Nero as a present, for which reason in recent times this place is called Monte Cavallo. And should this not be enough, I will add how [pg 295]Donatello (who, with the permission of Master Michael, was one of the first modern ones who in sculpture merited fame and name in Italy) never said anything else to his pupils, when teaching them, but draw, telling them in a single word of doctrine: 'Pupils, I give you the whole art of sculpture when I tell you—draw!' And so Pomponio Gaurico, sculptor, also affirms in the book he wrote 'De Re Statuaria.' But why do I seek examples and proofs afar, when perchance they are near me? And so as not to speak of myself, I say the great draughtsman, M. Angelo, who is here, also sculptures in marble, which is not his art, and better even (if one may say it) than he paints with the brush on a panel, and he himself has told me sometimes that he finds the sculpture of stone less difficult than the using of colours, and that he deems it to be a very much greater thing to make a masterly stroke with the brush than with the chisel. And even a famous draughtsman, if he so desires, will by himself sculpture and carve in hard marble, in bronze and in silver, exceedingly large statues in full relief (which is a great thing), without ever having taken a chisel in his hand; and this is owing to the great virtue and power of drawing. It does not, therefore, follow that a sculptor will know how to paint or how to hold a brush, nor will he know how to paint and make a stroke like a master, as I learnt a few days ago on going to see Baccio Blandino,197 the sculptor, whom I found trying to paint in oils and unable to do so. The draughtsman will be a master in building palaces or temples, and will carve statues and will paint pictures; for the said Master Michael and Raphael and Baltesar di Siena,198 famous painters, taught architecture and sculpture, and Baltesar di Siena, after briefly studying that art, equalled Bramante, a most eminent architect, who passed all his life in its discipline, and yet he used to say that it gave him an advantage, for he appreciated the invention, [pg 296]fancy and freedom of drawing. I am speaking of true painters."
"But I say, Senhor Lactancio," said Michael, assisting M. Francisco, "that the painter of whom he speaks not only will be instructed in liberal arts and other sciences such as architecture and sculpture, which are his own province, but also in all other manual crafts which are practised throughout the world; should he wish, he will do them with more art than the actual masters of them. However that may be, I sometimes set myself thinking and imagining that I find amongst men but one single art or science, and that is drawing or painting, all others being members proceeding therefrom; for if you carefully consider all that is being done in this life you will find that each person is, without knowing it, painting this world, creating and producing new forms and figures here, in dress and the various garbs, in building and occupying spaces with painted buildings and houses, in cultivating the fields and ploughing the land into pictures and sketches, in navigating the seas with sails, in fighting and dividing the spoil, and finally in the 'firmamentos' and burials and in all other operations, movements and actions. I leave out all the handicrafts and arts, of which painting is the principal fount, of which some are rivers which spring from it, such as sculpture and architecture; some are brooks, such as mechanical trades; and some are stagnant ponds, which do not flow (such as useless handicrafts like cutting out with scissors and such like), formed from the waters of the flood when drawing overflowed its banks in old time and inundated everything under its dominion and empire, as one sees in the works of the Romans, all done in the manner of painting. In all their painted buildings and fabrics, in all works in gold, silver, or in metals, in all their vases and ornaments, and even in the elegance of their coins, and in their dress and armour, in their triumphs as well as in all [pg 297]their other operations and works, one easily recognises how, in the time when they held sway over all the earth, my lady painting was the universal sovereign and mistress of all their deeds and trades and sciences, extending herself even to writing, and composing or writing histories. So that whosoever well considers and understands human works, will find without doubt that they are all either painting itself or some part of painting; and although the painter be capable of inventing what has not as yet been found, and of doing all the handicrafts of the others with much more grace and elegance than their own professors, yet no one but he can be a true painter or draughtsman."
"I am satisfied," answered Lactancio, "and understand better the great power of painting, which, as you stated, is seen in all things of the ancients and even in writing and composing. And perhaps notwithstanding your great imagination you will not have been as much struck as I have been with the conformity which letters have with painting (for you will certainly hold letters to be a part of painting); nor by how these two sciences are such legitimate sisters that, if one be separated from the other, neither is perfect, although it seems that these present times keep them in some way separated. But yet every learned and consummate man will find that in all his works he is always exercising to a great extent the office of a good painter, painting and colouring some intention of his with much care and devotion. Now in opening the old books, the famous ones are few which are not like painting; and it is certain that those which are the heaviest and most confused are so for no other reason but because the writers are not good draughtsmen and are not very skilful in drawing and dividing up their work; and the most facile and terse are those of the best draughtsman. And even Quintilian in the perfection of his Rhetoric lays it down that not only in the division of the words his orator [pg 298]should draw, but that with his own hand he should know how to sketch and draw; and hence it is, Senhor M. Angelo, that you may at times call a great man of letters or a great preacher a good painter; and a great draughtsman you may call a man of letters, and whosoever most penetrates into real antiquity will find that painting and sculpture were both called painting, and that in the time of Demosthenes they called writing 'antigraphia,' which means drawing, and it was a word common to both these sciences, and that the writings of Agatharco can be called the painting of Agatharco. And I think that the Egyptians also—all of them who had to write or express anything—were accustomed to know how to paint, and even their hieroglyphic signs were painted animals and birds, as is shown by some obelisks in this city which came from Egypt. But if I speak of poetry, it seems to me that it will not be very difficult for me to show how true a sister she is to painting. But so that Senhor Francisco may know how much necessity he has for poetry, and how much he may gain from the best of it, I will show him here how much care the poets take (although this is matter for a young man rather than for me) of their profession and intelligence, and how much they praise and celebrate their art as being free from penalties and blots; and it does not seem that the poets worked for anything except to teach the beauties of painting, and what ought to be avoided or done in it, with all their suavity and music of verses, and with so many just and fluent words that I do not know how I can repay them. Now one of the things in which they put the most study and work (I speak of the famous poets) is in painting well or in imitating a good painting; and this is due to the accuracy which, with the greatest promptness and care, they desire to express and attain. And the one who can attain this is the one who is the most excellent and clear. I remember that the prince of them, Virgil, threw himself down to sleep at the foot of a [pg 299]beech-tree, and how he has painted in words the forms of two vases that Alcimedon had made in a cavern covered with a wild vine, with some goats chewing willows, and some blue hills smoking in the distance; then he remains resting on one hand the whole day, to study how many winds and clouds he will put into the Tempest of Æolus, and how he will paint the Port of Carthage in a bay, with an island standing apart, and with how many rocks and woods he will surround it. Afterwards he paints Troy burning; then some feasts in Sicily, and beyond near Cumas the gate of hell with a thousand monsters, and chimeras, and many souls passing Acheron; then the Elysian Fields, the host of the Blest, the pains and torments of the Impious, and afterwards the Arms of Vulcan, a fine piece of work; shortly afterwards a painted Amazon, and the ferocity of capless Turnus. He paints the routs in battle, the many dead, the fates of noble men, the many spoils and trophies. Read the whole of Virgil and you will not find in it anything but the handicraft of a Michael Angelo. Lucan employs a hundred pages in painting an enchantress and the breaking up of a fine battle. Ovid is nothing else but a 'retavolo' (copyist). Statius paints the house of sleep and the walls of great Thebes. The poet Lucretius likewise paints, and Tibullus and Catullus and Propertius. One paints a fountain, and a wood close by, with Pan, the shepherd, playing a flute amongst the ewes. Another paints a shrine with nymphs around dancing. Another draws the drunken Bacchus, surrounded by wild women, with old Silenus, half falling from an ass, who would have fallen were he not held up by a satyr who carries a leathern bottle. Even the satirical poet paints the picture of the labyrinth. Now what do the lyric poets do, or the wits of Martial, or the tragic or comic ones? What do they do but paint reasonably? And what I say I do not invent, for each one of them himself confesses that he paints: they called painting dumb poetry."
[pg 300]At this point I said: "Senhor Lactancio, in calling painting dumb poetry it seems to me that the poets did not know how to paint well, because, if they understood how much more painting declares and speaks than poetry, her sister, they would not say it was dumb, and I will maintain rather that poetry is the more dumb."
The Marchioness said: "How will you prove, Spaniard, what you say? how will you prove that painting is not dumb and that poetry is? Let us hear, for in no more worthy discourse could this day be spent, hearing what you maintain on that subject; afterwards it may be possible to bring this company together again, in another place."
"How can your Excellency wish," I answered, "that I should dare to do so at once, and how should I be able to interest this company with my little knowledge, especially as I am a pupil of the lady who is dumb and has no tongue? Particularly, too, as it is already late, if the light through these windows does not deceive me; how can you order me to praise my innamorata before her own husband and in such an honourable court of those who know her worth? If there were some powerful adversaries here I might attempt it, although in this I am wrong, for it would be much easier to vanquish enemies than to please these friends. But if your Excellency desires so much to see me put to silence I will speak, not as an enemy of poetry, for I am much indebted to her, and I owe her much in the virtue of my profession, and in the perfection which I so much desire, but to defend the other lady, who is still more mine, for whose sake only I rejoice to live, and for whom I confess I have a voice and speak, she being dumb, solely because I one day saw her move her eyes; and as she teaches one to speak by her eyes, what would she do if she were to move her wise lips? Good poets (as Senhor Lactancio said) do not do more with words than even mediocre painters do with their works, for the [pg 301]former recount what the latter express and declare. They with fastidious meanings do not always engage one's ears, whilst the latter satisfy one's eyes, as with some beautiful spectacle they hold all men prisoners and entranced; and the passage over which good poets most trouble themselves, and which they hold as the greatest finesse, is to show you in words (perchance too many and too long), as if painting a storm on the sea, or the burning of a city, which storm, if they were able, they would rather paint, for when you finish the work of reading, you have already forgotten the commencement, and you have only present the short verse on which your eyes were last fixed; and the one who shows you this best is the best poet.
"Now, how much more does painting say which shows you that storm altogether with the thunder, lightning, waves, vessels, and reefs, and you see: omniaque viris ostentant praesentem mortem, and in the same place: ex-templo Aeneas tendens ad sidera palmas and tres Eurus abreptas in saxa latentia torquet emissamque hyemem sensit Neptunus et imis, and likewise it shows very present and visibly all the burning of the city, in every part, represented and seen as if it were really true; on one side those who run through the streets and squares, on the other those who jump from the walls and towers; here the temples half demolished and the reflection of the flames in the rivers, and the surrounded shores illuminated; how Pantheus as he runs away limping with his idols, leading his grandchild by the hand; how the Trojan horse gives birth in the centre of a great square to armed men; how Neptune, very wrath, throws down the walls; how Pyrrhus beheads Priam; Æneas with his father on his shoulders, and Ascanius and Creusa who follow him in the darkness of night, full of fear; and all this so present and so connected and natural that very often you are moved to think that you are not safe before it, and you are glad to know they are only colours and that they cannot [pg 302]inspire or do harm. It does not show you this spread out in words, whilst you remember only the part which is before your eyes having already forgotten the past and not knowing the future, and which verses only the ears of a grammarian can understand with difficulty, but one's eyes visibly enjoy that spectacle as being true, and one's ears seem to hear the actual cries and clamour of the painted figures; it seems as if you smell the smoke, you fly from the flames, you fear the fall of the buildings; you are ready to give a hand to those who are falling, you defend those who are fighting against numbers; you run away with those who run away and stand firm with the courageous. Not only the learned are satisfied, but also the simple, the countryman, the old woman; not only these, but also the Sarmatian stranger, the Indian, and the Persian (who never understood the verses of Virgil, or Homer, which are dumb to them), delight themselves with and understand that work with great pleasure and quickness; the barbarian ceases to be barbarian, and understands, by virtue of the eloquent painting, that which no poetry or numbered feet could teach him. And the law of painting says: in ipsa legunt qui literas nesciunt, and further on says: pro lectione pictura est. When Cebes, a Theban, wished to write an opinion of his for a law of human life, he simulated and painted it on a 'panel,' as he thought that he would express it better thus, and that it would be more noble and more easily understood by all men; he then desired more to know how to paint, in order to speak, than how to write. But even, if after all this, poetry still affirms that a Venus painted at the feet of a Jupiter does not speak, nor Turnus painted, showing his valour before King Latinus, even this reason cannot render learned painting dumb so that she does not speak, and show in all things that she is in this also the first, or perhaps the companion, of my lady poetry. For the great painter will paint Venus weeping at the feet of Jupiter, with all the following advantages, [pg 303]which the poet will not have: the first one is that he paints heaven where it is supposed to be, and the person, dress, and action or movement of Jupiter and his eagle with the thunderbolt; and he will paint fully the luxurious beauty of Venus, and her robe of gauzy raiment with all her graceful movements, so elegant and light and with such skill that, although she may not speak with her mouth, yet it appears from her eyes, hands, and mouth that she is really speaking (nor do you hear the soft and sweet speech of Venus, when a croaking school-master reads the words and sayings of Venus). She appears to be uttering all those pious sayings and complaints which Virgil Maro writes concerning her. And also the great painter will make even King Latinus more copious in his work and the Councillors of the Laurentes more defined, clearer, some with perturbed face, and others more collected and quiet, different in appearance and physiognomy and age, different in movements, which the poet cannot do without too much prolixity and confusion. And even then he will not do it; and the painter will do it so that it may be seen with greater pleasure and move the spectator more, and likewise he will place before your eyes the brave image of Turnus, boastful and furious with the coward Drances, that it seems as if you fear him yourself and that he is saying: Larga quidem semper, Drance, tibi copia fandi. Therefore I with my small talent, as a pupil of a mistress without a tongue, still deem the power of painting to be greater than that of poetry in making greater effects and in having more force and vehemence whether to move mind and soul to joy and laughter, or to sorrow and tears, with more effective eloquence. But let the muse Calliope be the judge in this matter, for I will be content with her judgment."
And having said that I ceased. The Marchioness honoured me in bantering terms thus:
"You, Senhor Francisco, have done so well for your [pg 304]innamorata, painting, that, if Master Michael does not show just as great a sign of love for her, we may perhaps get her to divorce him and go with you to Portugal."
And, smiling, Michael said: "He knows, Madam, that I have already done so, and that I have already released her entirely to him; for as I do not possess such powers as such great love demands, he has said what he has said, as of one who belongs to him."
"I confess," said I, "Madam, that he has released her to me, but she does not wish to go with me, so that she still remains at home with him; neither would I, although she is so worthy, like to see her come to my country, for there are but few there who know how to esteem her, and my most serene king, unless it were in his unoccupied moments, would not favour her, especially if there happened to be any unrest through war, in which she is of no use; and so she would become angry and perhaps in a fit of temper she would one day throw herself into the ocean, which is hard by, and cause me to sing many times the verse:
Audieras: et fama fuit; sed opera tantum
nostra valent, Lycida, tela inter maria, quantum
chaonias dicunt aquila veniente columbas.
But if she were of use in time of war, I would desire her to come at once."
"I quite understand," said the Marchioness, "but as now the day is far spent, let your question be for next Sunday." And as she said this she rose, and all of us with her, and we went away.
Not only were we unable to meet together on the following Sunday with the Marchioness and M. Angelo, but even on the next one, eight days later, we were almost prevented, and indeed did not wish to meet, because at that time was being celebrated in the city of Rome the feast of the twelve triumphal cars in the Camp Nagao199 in the ancient manner. Starting from the Capitol with such magnificence and ancient pomp that it seemed as if one were back in the old times of the Emperors and the triumphs of the Romans. This feast was celebrated on the occasion of the marriage200 of Senhor Ottavio,201 son of Pedro Luiz, and grand-nephew of our Lord Pope Paul III., to Senhora Margarida,202 adopted daughter of the Emperor. She had been a short time previously the wife of Alessandro de Medici, Duke of Florence, who was killed through treason in Florence. And now, she being a widow and very young and beautiful, his Holiness and his Majesty married her to Senhor Ottavio, a very young and estimable man, consequently the city and the Court feasted them as much as could be at night with serenades and banquets, and the whole of Rome ablaze with lights and illuminations, especially the Castle of St. Angelo, and every day feasts and great expenditure. Such as the feast of Monte Trestacho, with its twenty bulls attached to twenty carts, killed as a public spectacle in the square of St. Peter's; and the race which was run between buffaloes and horses along the entire Via di Nostra Signora Transpontina to the square of the said palace. And also those festivals which I have mentioned of the twelve triumphal cars, gilded and ornamented with many fine figures and very noble devices; there were Romans and [pg 306]the heads of the districts of Rome, dressed in the old style, with all the pomp and pride that could be desired; one hundred sons of citizens on horseback, so brave and so bizarre in their gallantry of painted antiquity, that in comparison with them the velvet mantles and plumes and the infinity of novelties and costumes in which Italy exceeds every other province of Europe, appeared very ordinary. But when I had seen this noble phalanx and company descending from the Capitol with many infantry, and had viewed all the bravery of the cars and the ediles, dressed in the old fashion, and had seen Senhor Giulio Cesarino pass with the standard of the city of Rome, on a horse with trappings covered with a white coat of arms and black brocade, I at once turned my horse towards Monte Cavallo, and thus went riding along the Thermae road pondering over many things of the olden times, in which I then felt myself to be more than in the present.
Then I ordered my servant to go without fail to St. Silvester and learn whether perchance the Marchioness or Senhor M. Angelo happened to be there. The servant was not long in returning, telling me that Senhor M. Angelo and Senhor Lactancio and Brother Ambrose were all together in the friar's cell, which was itself in St. Silvester, but that no mention whatever had been made of the Marchioness. I went on towards St. Silvester, but the truth is that I intended to pass before it and to return to the city, when I saw coming a certain Çapata, a great servitor of the Marchioness, and a very honourable person and my friend. I being on horseback and he on foot, I was obliged to dismount; and he having told me that he had been sent by the Marchioness, we went into St. Silvester. As we were entering Senhores, M. Angelo and M. Lactancio were coming out by way of the garden or court, in order to take their siesta under the trees by the running water.
"Oh! welcome," said Senhor Lactancio, "both of you; you could not arrive at a better moment; you have been very wise [pg 307]to fly from the confusion in the city and take shelter in this quiet haven."
"That is all very well," we said, "but this flattery does not console us, nor is it sufficient to compensate us for the loss of the absent one."
"He said that for the Marchioness," said Senhor Michael, "and you are so far right, that if you had not come this instant I might have gone."
Conversing thus we sat down on a stone bench in the garden at the foot of some laurels, on which there was room for all of us, and we were very comfortable, leaning back against the green ivy which covered the wall, and from there we could see a good part of the city, very graceful and full of ancient majesty.
"Let us not lose everything," said Senhor Çapata, after making excuses for the Marchioness; "let us get some profit out of such a goodly assembly as we have here; please continue the same noble discussion which you held a few days ago, on the most noble art of painting, seeing that the Marchioness very reluctantly commissioned me to that end, for she herself would have liked to be present. But you must know that she sent me here to report to her everything stored in my memory, to relate to her everything treated of, without losing a single point. And therefore we are bound, gentlemen, I to hear and to be silent about what I do not understand, and you to give me something to remember and report."
"Senhor Michael," I answered, "must fulfil the wishes of the Marchioness when she heard me in the last discussion, and practically promised to show me whether painting would be entirely useless in time of war, for I remember that her Excellency named last Sunday, in which we did not meet, for that purpose."
Here M. Angelo laughed, and added:
All said that it would be well, and then M. Angelo began to say:
"And what is there more profitable in the business and undertaking of war, or what is of more use in the operations of sieges and assaults than painting? Do you not know that when Pope Clement and the Spaniards besieged Florence, it was only by the work and virtue of the painter M. Angelo that the besieged were defended a good while, not to say, the city released, and the captains and soldiers outside were for a good while astonished and oppressed and killed through the defences and strongholds which I made on the tower, lining them in one night on the outside with bags of wool and other materials, emptying them of earth and filling them with fine powder, with which I burnt a little the blood of the Castillians, whom I sent through the air torn in pieces? So that I consider great painting as not only profitable in war, but exceedingly necessary; for the engines and instruments of war and for catapults, rams, mantlets, testudines, and iron-shod towers and bridges, and (as this bad and iron time does not make any use of these arms now, but rejects them) mortars; for the shaping of the mortars, battering-rams, strengthened cannons, and arquebuses, and especially for the shape and proportions of all fortresses and rocks, bastions, strongholds, fences, mines, countermines, trenches, loop-holes, casemates; for the entrenchments for horsemen, ravelins, gabions, battlements, for the invention of bridges and ladders, for the emplacement of camps, for the order of the lines, measurement of the squadrons, for the difference and design of arms, for the designs of the banners and standards, for the devices on the shields and helmets, and also for new coats of arms, crests and medals which are given on the field to those who show [pg 309]great prowess, for the painting of trappings (I mean, the giving of instruction to other lesser painters as to how they ought to be painted, and seeing that the excellent painters can paint the trappings of the horses and the shields and even the tents for valorous princes); for the manner of dividing and selecting everything; for the description and assortment of the colours and liveries, which but few can determine. Moreover, drawing is of exceedingly great use in war to show in sketches the position of distant places and the shape of the mountains and the harbours, as well as that of the ranges of mountains and of the bays and seaports, for the shape of the cities and fortresses, high and low, the walls and the gates and their position, to show the roads and the rivers, the beaches and the lagoons and marshes which have to be avoided or passed; for the course and spaces of the deserts and sandy pits of the bad roads and of the woods and forests; all this done in any other way is badly understood, but by drawing and sketching all is very clear and intelligible; all of these are great things in warlike undertakings, and the drawings of the painter greatly aid and assist the intentions and plans of the captain. What better thing can any brave cavalier do than show before the eyes of the raw and inexperienced soldiers the shape of the city that they have to attack before they approach it, what river, what mountains and what towns have to be passed on the morrow? And the Italians, at least, say that, if the Emperor when he entered Provence had first ordered the course of the river Rodano to be drawn, he would not have sustained such great losses, nor retired his army in disorder, nor would he have been painted afterwards in Rome as a crab, which crawls sideways, with the words borne by the columns of Hercules, Plus ultra, for, wishing to go forward, he went back. And I well believe that Alexander the Great in his great undertakings frequently made use of the skill of Apelles, even if he himself did not [pg 310]know how to draw. And in the works and commentaries, written by the monarch Julius Cæsar, we may see how much he availed himself of drawing, through some capable man whom he had in his army. And I even think that the said Cæsar was extremely intelligent in painting, that the great Captain Pompey drew very well and with style, he being vanquished by Cæsar, as Cæsar was a better draughtsman. And I assert that a modern captain who commands a great army and who is not capable and intelligent in painting and cannot draw, cannot do any great feats or deeds of arms; and that he who understands and esteems it will do deeds of renown which will be long remembered, and will know his ways and how he stands, and how and where he will break through, and how he will order his retreat, and he will know how to make his victory appear much greater. For painting in war is not only advantageous but very necessary. What country warmed by the sun is more bellicose and better armed than our Italy, or where are there more continuous wars and greater routs and sieges? and in what country warmed by the sun is painting more esteemed and celebrated than in Italy?"
M. Angelo was already reposing when João Çapata said:
"It indeed seems to me, Master Michael, that in arming excellently Francisco d'Ollanda's lady you disarmed the Emperor Charles, not remembering that we here are more Colonna than Orsino. I do not wish to revenge myself for that except by asking you, since you have shown the worth of painting in war, to now say what it can do in peace, because it appears to me that you have said so many profitable things of it in the time of arms that I doubt whether you will find as many in the time of the toga."
He laughed and answered:
"If it was a trouble for me to show the advantage of this our art in time of war, I hope it will not be so to show its worth in the time of the toga and of peace; then princes are in the habit of availing themselves with pleasure and cost of things of very little importance and almost of no value at all; and we see that some men are so clever in idle things that by works of no nobility or profit, and without any learning or substance, they are able to acquire a name, honour, profit and substance for themselves and loss to whomsoever may give them their profit. We see that in the domains and states which are governed by a senate and republic they make much use of painting in public places, in the cathedrals, in the temples, in halls of justice, in courts, porticos, basilicas and palaces, in libraries, and generally for public ornament; and every noble citizen has privately in his palaces or chapels, country seats or 'vignas,' a good portion of painting. But as it is not lawful in such a country for any one to make more show than his neighbour, by giving commissions to painters so as to make themselves out rich and well-to-do, with how much more reason ought this profitable art and science to be made use of in the obedient and peaceful kingdoms where God permits one man to incur all these magnificent expenses and carry out all the sumptuous works that his taste and honour may desire and demand, particularly as it is such a generous art that one person can do alone and without any adviser what many men together cannot do? And a prince would be doing a great wrong to himself—to say nothing of the fine arts—if, when he obtains quietness and saintly peace, he does not undertake great enterprises in painting both for the ornamentation and glory of his estate and for his private contentment and the recreation of his mind. And then in times of peace there are so many things in which [pg 312]painting may be of use, that it seems to me that peace is obtained with so much labour of arms, for nothing else but in order to do her work, and carry out enterprises with the quiet which she merits and demands, after the great services she has rendered in war. For what name will remain alive in consequence of a great victory or a great feat of arms, if afterwards, when quiet comes, it be not kept in perpetual memory (a thing so important and necessary amongst men), by virtue of painting and architecture, in arches, triumphs and tombs, and in many other ways. And Augustus Cæsar departed not from my saying when, during the universal peace in all lands, he closed the doors of the Temple of Janus, because in closing those doors of iron he opened the doors of gold of the treasures of the Empire, in order to spend more largely in peace than he had done even in war; and perhaps amongst such ambitious and magnificent works as those with which he ornamented Mount Palatine and the Forum, he paid as much for a figure in painting as he would have paid to a regiment of soldiers in a month. So that the peace of great princes should be desired in order that they may give their country great works in painting for the ornamentation of their estate and their glory, and receive from them spiritual and special contentments and beautiful things to behold."
"I do not know, Senhor Michael," said I, "how you will prove to me that Augustus paid as much for a painted figure as he would pay to a regiment of soldiers for a month; if you were to say that in Spain it would be more difficult to believe you, than if you said that there were such bad painters in Italy that they painted the Emperor with the legs of a crab and with the label, Plus ultra!"
Senhor Michael laughed once more, without the Marchioness, and afterwards said:
"I well know that in Spain people do not pay so well for painting as in Italy, and therefore you will be surprised [pg 313]at the great sums paid for it, as you are only accustomed to small sums; and I have been well informed of this by a Portuguese servant that I had, and therefore painters live and exist here, and not in the Spains. Of the Spaniards, the finest nobility in the whole world, you will find some who applaud and praise and like painting to a certain extent, but on pressing them further, they have no mind to order even a small work, nor to pay for it; and, what I consider baser still they are astonished when they are told that there are persons in Italy who give good prices for paintings; indeed, in my judgment they do not act in this like such noble people as they say they are, even though it were for nothing else but not to undervalue that which they have no experience of and cannot do; it recoils on their own head, however, they demean themselves and disgrace the nobility of which they boast; and not indeed that virtue, which will always be esteemed so long as there are men here in Italy and in this city. And for this reason a painter ought not to desire to be away from this land in which we are; and you, M. Francisco d'Ollanda, if you hope to be appreciated through the art of painting in Spain or in Portugal, I tell you at once that you are living in a vain and false hope, and that in my judgment you ought rather to live in France or in Italy, where talent is recognised and great painting is much esteemed, because you will find here private persons and gentlemen, even those who at present do not take much pleasure in painting, as for instance Andrea Doria, who nevertheless had his palace painted magnificently, and magnificently paid Master Perino his painter; and like Cardinal Fernes, who does not know what painting is, but who made a very nice allowance to the said Master Perino, merely to call him his painter, giving him twenty 'cruzados' per month and rations for him and for a horse and servant, besides paying him very well for his works. See what Cardinal Della Valla or Cardinal de Cesis did. [pg 314]Likewise Pope Paul, who, although not very musical nor interested in painting, yet treats me well, and at least better than I ask; and then there is Urbino, my servant, to whom he gives solely for grinding my colour ten 'cruzados' a month besides rations in the palace. I say nothing of his vain favours and kindnesses, of which I sometimes feel ashamed. Now, what shall I say of the diverting Sebastian Veneziano? to whom (although he did not come at a favourable time) the Pope gave the Leaden Seal, with the honour and profit which appertain to that office, without the lazy painter having painted more than two things in Rome, which will not astonish Senhor Francisco much. So that in this our country, even those who do not esteem painting greatly, pay for it much better than those who are greatly delighted with it in Spain or Portugal; and therefore I advise you as a son that you ought not to depart from Italy, because I fear that if you do you will repent it."
"I thank, you, Senhor Michael Angelo, for your advice," I said to him, "but still I am serving the King of Portugal, and in Portugal I was born and hope to die, and not in Italy. But as you make such a difference in the value of painting in Italy and in Spain, do me the favour of teaching me how painting ought to be valued, because I am in this matter so scandalised that I do not trust myself to value any work."
"What do you call valuing?" he replied. "Do you wish the painting which we are discussing to be paid for according to a valuation, or do you think that any one knows how to value it? for I consider that work to be worth a great price which has been done by the hand of a very capable man, even though in a short time; if it were done in a very long time who will know how to value it? And I hold that to be of very little value which has been painted in many years by a person who does not know how to paint, although he be [pg 315]called a painter; for works ought not to be esteemed because of the amount of time employed and lost in the labour, but because of the merit of the knowledge and of the hand which did them; for if it were not so, they would not pay more to a lawyer for an hour's examination of an important case, than to a weaver for as much cloth as he may weave during the course of his whole life, or to a navvy who is bathed in sweat the whole day by his work. By such variation nature is beautiful, and that valuation is very foolish which is made by one who does not understand the good or the bad in the work: some paintings worth little are valued highly, and others, which are worth more, do not even pay for the care with which they are done or for the discomfort that the painter himself experiences when he knows that such persons have to value his work, or for the exceeding disgust he feels asking for payment from an unappreciative treasurer.
"It does not seem to me that the ancient painters were content with your Spanish payments and valuations; and I certainly think they were not, for we find that some were so magnificently liberal that, knowing that there was not sufficient money in the country to pay for their works, they presented them liberally for nothing, having spent on such work, labour of their mind, time and money. Such were Zeuxis, Heracleotes and Polygnotus Thasius and others. And there were others of a more impatient nature who used to waste and break up the works that they had done with so much trouble and study, on seeing that they were not paid for as they deserved; like the painter who was commanded by Cæsar to paint a picture, and having asked a sum of money for it that Cæsar would not give, perhaps in order to effect his intention the better, the painter took the picture and was about to break it up, his wife and children around him bemoaning such great loss; but Cæsar then delighted him, in a manner proper to a Cæsar, giving him double the sum which [pg 316]he had previously asked, telling him that he was a fool if he expected to vanquish Cæsar."
"Now, Senhor Michael," said João Çapata, a Spaniard, "one thing I cannot understand in the art of painting: it is customary at times to paint, as one sees in many places in this city, a thousand monsters and animals, some of them with faces of women and with legs and with tails of fishes, and others with arms like tigers' legs, and others with men's faces; in short, painting that which most delights the painter and which was never seen in the world."
"I am pleased," said Michael, "to tell you why it is usual to paint that which was never seen in the world, and how right such licence is, and how true it is, for some who do not understand him are accustomed to say that Horace, a lyric poet, wrote this verse in abuse of painters:
Pictoribus adque poetis
Quidlibet audendi semper fuit acqua potestas.
Scimus et hanc veniam petimusque damusque vicissim.
This verse does not in any way insult painters, but rather praises and honours them; for it says that poets and painters have power to dare, I mean to dare to do whatever they may approve of; and this good insight and this power they have always had, for whenever a great painter (which very seldom happens) does a work which appears to be false and lying, that falsity is very true, and if he were to put more truth into it it would be a lie, as he will never do a thing which cannot be in itself, nor make a man's hand with ten fingers, nor paint on a horse the ears of a bull or the hump of a camel, nor will he paint the foot of an elephant with the same feeling as for that of a horse, nor in the arm or face of a child will he put the senses of an old man, nor an ear nor an eye out of its place by as much as the thickness of a finger, nor is he even permitted to place a hidden vein in an arm anywhere he likes; for such things as these are very false. But should he, [pg 317]in order better to retain the decorum of the place and time, alter some of the limbs (as in grotesque work, which without that would indeed be without grace and therefore false) or a part of one thing into another species such as to change a griffin or a deer from the middle downwards into a dolphin, or from thence upwards into any figure he may wish, putting wings instead of arms, putting off arms if wings suit it better, that limb which he changes, whether of a lion, horse or bird, will be quite perfect of the species to which it belongs; and this although it may appear false can only be called well imagined and monstrous. The reason is it is better decoration when, in painting, some monstrosity is introduced for variety and a relaxation of the senses and to attract the attention of mortal eyes, which at times desire to see that which they have never yet seen, nor does it appear to them that it can be more unreasonable (although very admirable) than the usual figures of men or animals. And so it is that insatiable human desire took licence and neglected at times buildings with columns and windows and doors for others imitated in false grotesque, the columns of which are made of children springing from the leaves of flowers, with the architraves and summit of branches of myrtle and gates of canes and other things, which appear to be very impossible and out of reason, and yet all this is very grand if done by one who understands it."
He ended, and I said:
"Does it not seem to you, Senhor, that this feigned work is much more suitable for ornament in its proper place (such as a country seat or a pleasure house) rather than, for instance, a procession of friars, which is a very natural thing, or a King David doing penance, is it not a great insult to drag him from his oratory? And does not the god Pan playing on the pipes, or a woman with the tail of a fish and wings (which is seldom seen), appear to you to be a more suitable painting for [pg 318]a garden or for a fountain? And it is a much greater falsity to put an imagination in a place where the real is demanded, and this reasoning explains all the things which some call 'impossibilities' in painting. Still the obstinate will say: 'How can a woman with a beautiful face have the tail of a fish and the legs of the swift deer or panther, with wings on her back like an angel?' To such one may however reply that if such nonconformity is in just proportion in all its parts it is quite in harmony and is very natural; and that much praise is due to the painter who painted a thing which was never seen and is so impossible, with such wit and judgment that it seems to be alive and possible, so that men wish that such things did exist in the world, and say that they could pluck feathers from those wings and that it is moving hands and eyes. And so one who paints (as a book said) a hare which, in order to be distinguished from the dog following it, required a label indicating it, such a person, painting a thing so little deceitful, may be said to paint a great falsehood, more difficult to find amongst the perfect works of nature than a beautiful woman with the tail of a fish and wings."
They agreed with what I said, even João Çapata himself, who was not well instructed in the beauties of painting. And Master Michael, seeing that his conversation was not badly employed on us, said:
"Now what a high thing is decorum in painting! and how little the painters who are no painters try to observe it! and what attention the great man pays to this!"
"And are there painters who are not painters?" asked João Çapata."
"In many places," answered the painter, "but as the majority of people are without sense and always love that which they ought to abhor, and blame that which deserves most praise, it is not very surprising that they are so constantly mistaken about painting, an art worthy only of great understandings, [pg 319]because without any discretion or reason, and without making any difference, they call a painter both the person who has nothing more than the oils and brushes of painting and the illustrious painter who is not born in the course of many years (which I consider to be a very great thing); and as there are some who are called painters and are not painters, so there is also painting which is not painting, for they did it. And what is marvellous is that a bad painter neither can nor knows how to imagine, nor does he even desire to do good painting, his work mostly differs but little from his imagination, which is generally somewhat worse; for if he knew how to imagine well or in a masterly manner in his fantasy, he could not have a hand so corrupt as not to show some part or indication of his good will. But no one has ever known how to aspire well in this science, except the mind which understands what good work is, and what he can make of it. It is a serious thing, this distance and difference which exist between the high and the low understanding in painting."
At this point M. Lactancio, who had not spoken for some time, said:
"I cannot suffer at all one indiscretion of bad painters, the images which they paint without consideration or devotion in the churches. And I should like to direct our discussion to this end, being sure that the carelessness with which some paint the holy images cannot be good. Work which a very incapable painter or man dares to do, without any fear, so ignorantly that instead of moving mortals to devotion and tears, he sometimes provokes them to laughter."
"This sort of painting is a great undertaking," proceeded M. Angelo; "in order to imitate to some extent the venerable image of our Lord it is not sufficient merely to be a great master in painting and very wise, but I think that it is necessary for the painter to be very good in his mode of life, or [pg 320]even, if such were possible, a saint, so that the Holy Spirit may inspire his intellect. And we read that Alexander the Great put a heavy penalty upon any painter other than Apelles who should paint him, for he considered that man alone able to paint his appearance with that severity and liberal mind which could not be seen without being praised by the Greeks and feared and adored by the barbarians. And therefore if a poor man of this earth so commanded by edict concerning his image, how much more reason have the ecclesiastical or secular princes to take care to order that no one shall paint the benignity and meekness of our Redeemer or the purity of Our Lady and the Saints but the most illustrious painters to be found in their domains and provinces? And this would be a very famous and much praised work in any lord. And even in the Old Testament God the Father wished that those who only had to ornament and paint the arca foederis should be masters not merely excellent and great, but also touched by His grace and wisdom, God saying to Moses that He would imbue them with the knowledge and intelligence of His Spirit so that they might invent and do everything that He could invent and do. And therefore if God the Father willed that the ark of His Covenant should be well ornamented and painted, how much more study and consideration must He wish applied to the imitation of His Serene Face and that of His Son our Lord, and of the composure, chastity and beauty of the glorious Virgin Mary, who was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist, the work is in the Sancto Sanctorum, and the head of our Saviour which is in San Giovanni in Laterano, as we all know, and especially Messer Francisco. Frequently the images badly painted distract and cause devotion to be lost, at least in those who possess little; and, on the contrary, those that are divinely painted provoke and lead even those who are little devout and but little inclined to worship [pg 321]to contemplation and tears, and by their grave aspect imbue them with reverence and fear."
M. Lactancio then said, having turned towards me:
"Why did M. Angelo say of the picture of the Saviour, 'as we all know and especially Messer Francisco'?"
I answered: "Because, Senhor, he has already met me two or three times on the road to San Giovanni Laterano, going to obtain His grace for my salvation."
And I thereupon wished to cease speaking, but he desiring me to continue, I recommenced thus:
"Senhor, the Most Serene Queen of Portugal, being desirous of seeing the precious face of Our Saviour, ordered our ambassador to have it drawn from the original, but I, not trusting this to anybody, wished, with the desire that I have to serve her, to dare to undertake this enterprise myself, for it is very fine as regards execution and no less as regards accuracy. And thus I have sent it to her, done under such difficulties as Your Excellencies can suspect."
"You cannot be a friend of the Lady Marchioness," said João Çapata," for you did not show her a thing which is so much to her liking; but tell me, Messer Francisco, did you do it with that severe simplicity which the old painting has and with that fear in those divine eyes which in the original seem to belong to the very Saviour?"
"I did it that way," I said to him, "and in it I desired to put all the truth, neither to increase nor diminish anything of that grave severity. But I fear that this, which was my greatest work, will be the one the least known."
"No it will not," answered M. Lactancio Tolomei, "as in that they will trust to your knowledge, and it will be an image which will lead them to build a noble temple for it. I am astonished at your being able to reproduce and send it, for neither the Popes nor the Brothers of San Giovanni [pg 322]Laterano ever allowed the King of France or other devout princesses to do so."
Then M. Angelo said:
"It is astonishing how M. Francisco worked, and how he robbed Rome of this precious relic, and how he painted it in oils, although in all his life he had never been a painter in oils, and only made pictures hitherto easily contained on a small parchment."
"How can it be," said M. Lactancio, "that one who never painted in oils is capable of doing it, and that one who has always done little things can also do big ones?"
And as I did not reply, Michael Angelo answered him:
"Do not be surprised, sir, and as regards this I wish now to state my views about the noble art of painting. Let every man who is here understand this well: design, which by another name is called drawing, and consists of it, is the fount and body of painting and sculpture and architecture and of every other kind of painting, and the root of all sciences. Let whoever may have attained to so much as to have the power of drawing know that he holds a great treasure; he will be able to make figures higher than any tower, either in colours or carved from the block, and he will not be able to find a wall or enclosure which does not appear circumscribed and small to his brave imagination. And he will be able to paint in fresco in the manner of old Italy, with all the mixtures and varieties of colour usually employed in it. He will be able to paint in oils very suavely with more knowledge, daring and patience than painters. And, finally, on a small piece of parchment he will be most perfect and great, as in all other manners of painting. Because great, very great is the power of design and drawing. Senhor Francisco d'Ollanda can paint, if he wishes, everything that he knows how to draw."
"I will not ask again about another doubt," said M. Lactancio, "because I dare not."
He then said: "I wish finally to know what this painting that is so fine and rare must possess or what it is? Whether there must be tourneys painted, or battles, or kings and emperors covered with brocade, or well-dressed damsels, or landscapes and fields and towns? Or whether perchance it must be some angel or some saint painted and the actual form of this world? Or what must it be? Whether it must be done with gold or with silver, whether with very fine tints or with very brilliant ones?"
"Painting," M. Angelo began, "is not such a great work as any of those which you have mentioned, sir, only the painting which I so much vaunt and praise will be the imitation of some single thing amongst those which immortal God made with great care and knowledge and which He invented and painted, like to a Master: and so downwards, whether animals or birds, dispensing perfection according as each thing merits it. And in my judgment that is the excellent and divine painting which is most like and best imitates any work of immortal God, whether a human figure, or a wild and strange animal, or a simple and easy fish, or a bird of the air or any other creature. And this neither with gold nor silver nor with very fine tints, but drawn only with a pen or a pencil, or with a brush in black and white. To imitate perfectly each of these things in its species seems to me to be nothing else but to desire to imitate the work of immortal God. And yet that thing will be the most noble and perfect in the works of painting which in itself reproduced the thing which is most noble and of the greatest delicacy and knowledge. And what barbarous judge is there that cannot understand that the foot of a man is more noble than his shoe? His skin than that of the sheep from [pg 324]which his clothes are made? And who from this will proceed to find the merit and degree in everything? But I do not mean that, because a cat or a wolf is vile, the man who paints them skilfully has not as much merit as one who paints a horse, or the body of a lion, as even (as I have said above) in the simple shape of a fish there is the same perfection and proportion as in the form of man, and I may say the same of all the world itself with all its cities. But all must be ranked according to the work and study which one demands more than another, and this should be taught to some ignorant persons who have said that some painters painted faces well but that they could not paint anything else. Others have said that in Flanders they painted clothes and trees extremely well, and some have maintained that in Italy they paint the nude and symmetry or proportions better. And of others they say other things. But my opinion is that he who knows how to draw well and merely does a foot or a hand or a neck, can paint everything created in the world; and yet there are painters who paint everything there is in the world so imperfectly and so much without worth that it would be better not to do it at all. One recognises the knowledge of a great man in the fear with which he does a thing the more he understands it. And on the contrary, the ignorance of others in the foolhardy daring with which they fill pictures with what they know nothing about. There may be an excellent master who has never painted more than a single figure, and without painting anything more deserves more renown and honour than those who have painted a thousand pictures: he knows better how to do what he has not done than the others know what they do.
"And not only is this as I tell you, but there is another wonder which seems greater, namely, that if a capable man merely makes a simple outline, like a person about to begin something, he will at once be known by it—if Apelles, as [pg 325]Apelles; if an ignorant painter, as an ignorant painter. And there is no necessity for more, neither more time, nor more experience, nor examination, for eyes which understand it and for those who know that by a single straight line Apelles was distinguished from Protogenes, immortal Greek painters."
And Michael Angelo having stopped, I proceeded:
"It is also a great thing that a great master, although he may wish and work hard to do so, cannot so change or injure his hand as to paint something appearing to have been done by an apprentice, for whoever carefully examines such a thing, will find in it some sign by which he will know that it was done by the hand of a skilful person. And on the contrary, one who knows little, although he may endeavour to do the smallest thing so that it may appear to have been done by a great man, will have his trouble in vain, because immediately, when placed beside the work of a great man, it will be recognised as having been done by a prentice hand. But I should like now to know something more from Senhor Michael Angelo, to see whether he agrees with my opinion, and that is that he should tell me whether it is better to paint a work quickly or slowly?"
And he answered:
"I will tell you: to do anything quickly and swiftly is very profitable and good, and it is a gift received from the immortal God to do in a few hours what another is painting during many days; for if it were not so Pausias of Sicyon would not work so hard in order to paint in one day the perfection of a child in a picture. If he who paints quickly does not on that account paint worse than one who paints slowly, he deserves therefore much greater praise. But should he through the hurry of his hand pass the limits which it is not right to pass in art, he ought rather to paint more slowly and studiously; for an excellent and skilful man is not entitled to allow his [pg 326]taste to err through his haste when thereby some part is forgotten or neglected of the great object perfection, which is what must be always sought; hence it is not a vice to work a little slowly or even to be very slow, nor to spend much time and care on works, if this be done for more perfection; only the want of knowledge is a defect.
"And I wish to tell you, Francisco d'Ollanda, of an exceedingly great beauty in this science of ours, of which perhaps you are aware, and which I think you consider the highest, namely, that what one has most to work and struggle for in painting is to do the work with a great amount of labour and study in such a way that it may afterwards appear, however much it was laboured, to have been done almost quickly and almost without any labour, and very easily, although it was not. And this is a very excellent beauty, at times some things are done with little work in the way I have said, but very seldom: most are done by dint of hard work and appear to have been done very quickly.
"But Plutarch says in his book De Liberis educandis, that a poor painter showed Apelles what he was doing, telling him: 'This painting has just this moment been done by my hand,' Apelles answered: 'Even if you had not said so I should have known that it was by your hand and that it was done quickly, and I am surprised that you do not do many of them every day.'
"However I should prefer (if one had either to err or be correct) to err or be correct quickly rather than slowly, and that my painter should rather paint diligently and a little less well than one who is very slow, painting better, but not much better.
"But now I wish to know this of you, M. Francisco, to see whether you agree with my opinion, namely, that you should tell me if there are many different ways of painting almost of equal goodness; which of them will you consider the worst, or which of them are bad?"
[pg 327]"That is still a greater question," I replied, "Senhor Michael, than the one I put to you; but just as Mother Nature has produced in one place men and animals, and in another place men and animals, all made according to one art and proportion, and yet very different to each other, so it is, almost miraculously, with the hands of painters, as you will find many great men each of whom paints in his own manner and style men and women and animals, their styles greatly differing, and yet they all of them retain the same proportions and principles; and yet all these different styles may be good and worthy of being praised in their differences. For in Rome Polidoro, a painter, had a very different style to that of Balthazar, of Siena; M. Perino different from that of Julius, of Mantua; Martorino did not resemble Parmesano; Cavalliere Tiziano in Venice was softer than Leonardo da Vinci; the sprightliness of Raphael of Urbino and his softness does not resemble the work of Bastiāo Veneziano; your work does not resemble any other; nor is my small talent similar to any other. And although the famous ones whom I have mentioned have the light and shade, the design and the colours different from each other, they are none the less all great and famous men, and each distinguished by his difference and style, and their works very worthy of being valued at almost the same price, because each of them worked to imitate Nature and perfection in the manner that he considered to be the most proper, and his own, and in accordance with his idea and intention."
And this said, we rose and went away as it was already night.
THE WORKS OF MICHAEL ANGELO
The Rape of Deianira, or the Battle of the Centaurs, a bas-relief, 1490.
The Angel of the Shrine of Saint Dominic, a marble statuette, 1494.
The Bacchus, a marble statue, 1497.
The Madonna della Pietà, a marble group, 1499.
The David, a colossal marble statue, 1504.
St. Matthew, an unfinished heroic marble statue.
The Madonna and Child, marble statue, 1506.
The Madonna and Child, a tondo, marble bas-relief, unfinished.
The Holy Family, a tondo, painted on wood.
The Moses, a heroic marble statue.
The Vault of the Sistine Chapel, ceiling frescoes, 1512.
The Madonna and Infant Christ, St. John the Baptist and Angels, an unfinished painting on wood by Bugiardini, the Cartoon alone by Michael Angelo.
The Risen Christ, a marble statue, 1521.
The Tombs of Lorenzo dei Medici, Duke of Urbino and Giuliano, Duc de Nemours, heroic marble statues, the figures of Day and Evening and the architecture left unfinished by the master in 1534.
The Madonna and Child, heroic marble statue.
Four Slaves, unfinished heroic marble statues.
The Apollo, an unfinished marble statue.
The Leda, a painting, damaged and restored as to the head, arms, and shoulder, 1529.
The Brutus, an unfinished marble bust.
The Day of Judgment, fresco, 1541.
The Entombment of our Lord, an unfinished painting on wood, the figures of our Lord and the men very much repainted, the three women and the background by the master.
The Martyrdom of St. Peter, a fresco, 1549.
The Conversion of St. Paul, a fresco, 1549.
The Pietà of Santa Maria del Fiore, a marble group.
A LIST OF THE PRINCIPAL BOOKS CONSULTED BY THE AUTHOR
Black, Charles Christopher.
Hollanda, Francesco de.
Symonds, John Addington.
Wilson, Charles Heath.
Accursio: a messenger from Julius II., 51
Agnolo: Herald of Florence, 135
Agnolo: see Doni
Agostino: see Duccio
Agostino: San, the Isaiah of Raphael at, 177
Agnolo di Donnino: assistant, 151
Alberigo: Marchese, 52
Alberto: see Dürer
Albertina: Vienna, 193
Albertini: his statement, 164
Albizzi: Anton Francesco degli, portrait by Sebastiano, 197
Aldobrandini: sword-hilt designed for, 136
Aldovrandi: Gian Francesco, his kindness to the master, 18
Aldovrandi: Ulisse, sees a statue of Apollo, 108
Alessandro da Carnossa, 3, note
Alexander VI.: Pope, 29
Alva: Duke of, 265
Amanati: see Bartolomeo
Angelico: Fra, 219
Angeli: S.M. degli, 251
Anna: the Beautiful, 293
Antonio: Maria da Legnia, 145
Antonio: see Mini
Arcadelt: Giacomo, sets the master's madrigals to music, 207
Arezzo: fortifications at, 202
Arrigo Fiamingo: fresco, Sistine Chapel, 167
Ascanio: see Condivi
Assumption: by Daniele, with a portrait of the master, 253
Assunta: oratory of, 260
Baccio d'Agnolo, 116
[pg 336]Baglioni: the traitor, 203
Baldassare: see Peruzzi
Baldassari: del Milanese, buys the god of Love, 21
Baptistry: Florence, 255
Bartolomei: Messer, 231
Bartolomeo: Amanati, letter to, 238
Bartolommea: widow of Buonarroto, 201
Bas-relief: Florentine love of, 121
Bathers: see Cartoon
Battista Benti: carves details in the Tomb of Julius II., 226
Battista del Cinque: carpenter, 197
Beatrice: of Mantua, 3
Beaumont: Sir George, presents a tondo to the Royal Academy, 121
Belvedere: works ordered by Julius III., 78
Bene: Benedetto, copies the Leda, 204
Benvenuto: see Cellini
Bernardo da Bibbiena, 146
Bernardo della Ciecha, 116
Berugetta: Alonso, 126
Biagio da Cesena: objects to nude figures, 222
Bibbiena: Cardinal, rebukes Cardieri, l7
Blois: Chateau, 251
Bonifazio: Count, 3
Bononiensis: Tudius, engraves a Pietà, 230
Boon companions: of the master, 264
Borgerini: Pier Francesco, 182
Borghini: Don Vincenzo, opens the coffin, 261
Borgia: Cesare, see Valentino
Brancacci Chapel: see Masaccio
Bronze-coloured figures: Sistine Chapel, 169
Brothers of the master: see Buonarroto, Giovan Simone, Sigismondo
Bruciolo: invites the master to Venice, 78
Buonarroti: see Michael Angelo
Buonarroti: Senator Filippo, 203
Buoninsegna: Domenico, 183
[pg 337]Cain, 44
Calcagni: see Tiberio
Camerino: Duke of, writes to the master, 217
Capitol: see Campidoglio
Capponi: Niccolo, 201
Caprese: the master born at, 5
Carlino: chamberlain, 147
Carlo degli Albizzi, 147
Carota: woodcarver, 197
Carpi: Cardinal, 246
Cassandra Ridolfi: marries Leonardo, 254
Caterina: Santa, 31
Catherine de' Medici: letter from, 251
Cavalcanti: altar of, 261
Centaurs: battle of, see Deianira
Cesena: Bishop of, 85
Chiostro Verde: S.M. Novella, 173
Ciapino: carpenter, 197
Cioli: see Valerio
Colombo: Realdo, anatomist, 81
Connétable: de Montmorenci, and the Slaves, 227
Consiglio: Cartoon for the Sala del, 37
Conversion of St. Paul, 232
Cornelia: wife of Urbino, 256
Cortono: Cardinal, 201
Cosimo: see Medici
Cosmo: St., 194
Crispo: Cardinal, 84
Croce: see Santa Croce
Cuio: Capitano, the master sups with, 197
Cupid: see Love
Damino: St., 194
Dandolo: Marco, opinion of Baglioni, 203
[pg 338]Danti: Vincenzio, 229
Delphic Sibyl, 174
Deluge: see Flood
Deposition: see Pietà
Diocletian: the Baths of, a restoration, 251
Diomede Leoni: letter to Leonardo, 257
Diploma Gallery: Burlington House, the tondo, 121
Divina Commedia: the master's drawings for, 184
Domenico: see Ghirlandaio
Donati: Federigo, physician, 258
Donato: see Giannoti
Duccio: Agostino, and the block of marble, 27
Ecouen: the slaves at, 227
Enrico II., 3
Epiphany: a cartoon, 260
Ercole: Don, captain of Florence, 61
Esther: Queen, 46
Farnese: the House of, the master's love for, 84
Father of the master: see Lodovico
Fattore: Il, 256
Febbre: Madonna della, see Madonna
Fernando di Gonzaga: Signer, 205
Festa: Constanza, sets the master's madrigals to music, 208
Ficino: Masilio, 102
[pg 339]Fidelissimi: Gherardo, physician, 258
Figio Vanni: Battista, Pope's agent, 203
Filippiuo: see Lippi
Forli: Bishop of, Pier Giovanni, 83
Francesca: daughter of Buonarroto, 201
Francesca: mother of the master, 109
Francesco: see Bandini and Urbino
Francesco: Urbino, da, schoolmaster, 6
Franciabigio: Il, studies the Cartoon, 127
Francia: Il, 90
Frizzi: Frederigo, finishes the Risen Christ, 188
Gaeta: see Pier Luigi
Galatea: by Raphael, 292
Galli: owned the Bacchus and the little Cupid, 25
Gallio Subelloni, 247
Gallo: Antonio, 226
Ganymede: a drawing, 231
Gatta: Bartolommeo della, 166
George: St., by Donatello, 117
Giacomo del Duca: carves details on the Tomb of Julius II., 226
Giacomo della Porta, 249
Giangiacomo de' Medici: his monument at Milan, 250
Giant: see David
Gié: Maréchal de, 119
Giorgio: see Vasari
Giovanni dall' Opera, 262
Giovanni de' Marchesi: stone-carver, 224
Giovanni de' Medici, 17
Giovanni: a gem-engraver, 231
Giovanni: Michi, 150
Giovanni: San, dei Fiorentini, designs for, 248
Giovannino: San, a, 106
Girolamo da Fano: retouches the Day of Judgment, 223
Giugni: Galeotto, envoy, 202
Giuliano de' Medici: his courtesy, 17
Gondi: the bank of, 78
Gondi: Filippo, hides his goods, 201
[pg 340]Gondi: Giambattista, 251
Gonfaloniere: see Soderini
Grand Canal: a design for a bridge, 74
Guidobaldo: Duke of Urbino own's the god of Love, 23
Haarlem: drawings in the Teyler Museum, 253
Hawkwood: Sir John, 124
Henry II.: of France, 251
Hercules and Cacus, 204
Hercules strangling Antæus: a wax model, 252
Holy Family with Shepherds, the, 122
Human form: the master's love for the beauty of, 87
Imitators of the master, 263
Intaglio: see Gems
Ippolito de' Medici, 201
Isaiah: by Raphael, 177
Jacopo del Conte, 252
Jacopo di Sandro: an assistant, 151
Jacopo: see Galli, L'Indaco, Sansovino
Jean: makes a model of the Dome, 247
Jeremiah: the Prophet, 174
King of France gives the Slaves to Montmorenci, 227,
Lantern: of the New Sacristy, 192
Last Judgment: see Day of Judgment
Leicester: the Earl of, his cartoon at Holkham, 125
Lenoir: M., purchases the Slaves for France, 227
Libyan Sibyl, 174
Lignano: Antommaria, banks money for the Colossal Bronze, 40
Lionardo di Compago: saddle-maker, 184
Lippi: Filippino, 116
Lorenzetto: worked from the cartoon, 127
Lorenzino: nicknamed Brutus, 250
Louis XIII: 204
Louvre: the two Slaves, 116
Lucrezia: second wife of Lodovico, 109
Luiz: Infanta D., 169
Madonna and Child: a bas-relief in the Casa Buonarroti, 104
Madonna and Child: marble statue, Bruges, 29
Madonna and Child with Angela: National Gallery, from a cartoon by the master, 157
Madonna: medallion at Genoa, 237
Maffei: the Most Reverend, 84
Malaspina: Lionardo, 85
Manfidi: Angelo, second herald, 116
Mantegna: Andrea, 290
Mantua: Cardinal of, commends the Moses, 67
Marc Antonio Raimondi: his engraving of the Cartoon, 125
Marcello Venusti: his copy of the Day of Judgment, 253
Margarite: of Austria, 305
Maso del Bosco: carves the portrait of Julius II. for the Tomb, 226
Matilda: Countess, 3
Mattea da Lecce: Sistine Chapel, 167
Maximilian: Emperor, 279
Medal: Leone's, of the master, 252
Medici: Cardinal de', see Clement VII.
Medici rule, 215
Melozzo da Forli: vault painting of, 131
Milliarini: Professor, discovers a statue, 108
Mini: Paolo, 207
Monciatto: woodcarver, 115
Montanto: Antonio, 184
Montevarchi: Ser Giovanni di Guasparre, 151
Montevecchio; Cardinal, 63
Moscheroni: Flemish merchants, 29
Mother: of the Master, see Francesca
Mozza: Via, 184
Naples: copy of the Day of Judgment, 253
Nicholas V.: Pope, 34
Nicolo di Bari: the ark of San Domenico, 105
Nicolo: San, beyond Arno, 203
Novella: S.M., the first art school of the master, 99
Oil painting; the master's opinion of 217
Ollanda: see Francesco
Onofrio: San, the master's workshop at, 124
Ottavio Farnese: the marriage of, 306
Palla: Giovanni Battista della, 105
Paolina: Cappella, 224
Paolo Galli: owned the Bacchus and the little Cupid, 25
Paris: the Leda goes to, 204
Paul IV.: Pope, 223
Penseroso: Il, 203
Pescara: Marchioness of, see Colonna
Pesellino: studies from, 105
Peter: St., a blocked out statue, 259
Peter: St., crucifixion of, alfresco, 73
Petronio: San, a marble statuette finished by the master, 105
Petronio: San, the master hears mass in the church of, 39
Phæton: a drawing, 231
Piacenza: the ferry revenue goes to the master, 216
Piecolomini: Cardinal Francesco, orders fifteen statues, 114
Pico della Mirandola, 102
Pier Luigi: Gaeta, 247
Pierre Mariette: the fate of the Leda, 204
Pietà: a drawing, 259
Pietà: the Palazzo Rondini, 237
Pietà: Viterbo, by Sebastiano, 265
Pietà: see Madonna della Pietà
Pietro Matteo d'Amelia, 150
Pietro: San, Maggiore, Florence, 260
Pietro Urbano: a workman, 133
Pilote: goldsmith, 264
Pinti: Borgo, the master's house in, 120
Pintoricchio: Bernardino, 166
Piombo: see Sebastiano
Pisa: see Cartoon
Pisani: pulpits of the, 103
Pisano: Giovanni, 177
Pitti: Bartolomineo, 121
Pius III.: Pope, see Piccolomini.
Pius V.: injures the Day of Judgment, 228
Pole: Cardinal, a friend of the master, 84
Pollaiuolo: Salvestro del, nephew of Antonio, 139
Pollaiuolo: Simone il, 131
Polvaccio: Roman quarry, 187
Ponte Rotto, 245
Porta del Popolo, 251
Porta Pia, 251
Psyche: the Story of, by Raphael, 292
Pulci: Luigi, 102
Raffaellino: offers to come as assistant, 149
Raising of Lazarus: by Sebastiano, the master's design for, 265
Realdo: physician, 91
Reynel: King of France, 293
Riccio: Luigi del, nurses the master when ill, 227
Ridolfi: Cardinal, 85
Ridolfo: see Ghirlandaio
Rimini: a post on the Chancery bestowed on the master, 216
Risen Christ: see Christ
Rocco: a San, drawn for Minighella, 264
Rondini: Palazzo, Pietà in, 237
Rontini: Baccio, cures the master from the effects of his fall, 219
Romans: claim him as a citizen, 260
Rosselli: Piero di Jacopo, plasters the vault, 149
Rosselli: Pietro, letter to the master, 130
Rosselmini: Count Guarlandi, 106
Rosso: II, worked from the Cartoon, 127
Rovere: see Julius II.
Rovezzano: Benedetto da, 119
Rovano: Cardinal, see Dionigi
Royal Academy: see Diploma Gallery
Rucellai: recommendation to, 24
Ruffilni: Alessandro, groom of the Chamber, 83
Sacrarium: at San Lorenzo, design, 198
Sacristy of San Lorenzo: see Medici Tombs
Salt-cellar: design for, 217
Salvestro da Montanto, 226
Salvestro: jeweller, 116
Salviati: Alamano, 30
Salviati: Cardinal, 244
Salviati: Cecchino, rescues fragments of the arm of the David, 117
Salviati: Michael Angelo, father of Cecchino, 117
Salviati: Jacopo, 192
Sangallo: Aristotele, assistant, 151
San Gallo: Porta, 200
Sansovino: Andrea del Monte a, 27
Sansovino: Jacopo, 263
Santa Croce: Cardinal, 84
Santarelli: sculptor, discovers a statue, 108
Sarto: see Andrea
Schongauer: see Martin Scipio, 84
Sebastiano del Piombo, 101:
Settignano: the master nursed at, 6
Sigismondo: a brother, 109
Sixtus IV.: Pope, 41
Snow: a statue in, 15
Soderini: Cardinal, 39
Solari: Cristoforo, Il Gobbo, 113
Spanish Chapel, 99
Spirito: Santo, a crucifix for, 16
Staccoli: Hieronimo, his letter to the Duke of Camerino, 217
Stairway to the Library, 250
Strozzi: Filippo, a sword hilt given to, 136
Strozzi: Giovan Battista, verses on the Night, 218
Strozzi: Lorenzo, 161
Strozzi Palace: the Hercules there until the siege, 105
Sword-hilt: designed for Aldobrandini but given to Strozzi, 186
Tapestry: Raphael's cartoons for, 167
Tasio: wood-carver, 197
Taro: river, 193
Tè: Palazzo del, 263
Teridade: King, 294
Teyler Museum: Haarlem, 253
Ticino: river, 193
Tityos: drawing, 231
Tolemei: Claudio, 85
Tomaso: see Cavalieri
Tomaso: of Prato, attorney, 62
Tondi: see Madonna and Child
Tribolo: studied the Cartoon, 127
Trinità de' Monti, 253
Tromboncini: Bartolomeo, music to the madrigals, 207
Urbino: the master thinks of retiring to, 66
Urbino: the Palace of the Duke, 290
Valerio Cioli, 262
Valerio de Vincença, 270
Valpaio: Benvenuto, 207
Valuation of works of art, 314
Vari: see Metello
Vauban: studies the fortifications at San Miniato, 203
Venusti: see Marcello
Vincenzo: see Borghini
Vinci: see Lionardo
Vitelli: Alessandro, 60
Vittoria: see Colonna
Volterra: Cardinal, letter from Soderini to, 132
Volterra: see Daniele
Windsor: drawings, 230
Works of art in the house of the master when he died, 259
Zanobi: Via San, 184
Zanobi: Mona, land near her estate, 135
Zapata: Diogo, 289
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