Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Life of Michelangelo Buonarroti by John Addington Symonds

Part 5 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

picturesque effect, and a strong inclination to subordinate the
building to sculpture.

It may be questioned who were the four Medici for whom these tombs
were intended. Cambi, in a passage quoted above, writing at the end of
March 1520(?), says that two were raised for Giuliano, Duke of
Nemours, and Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, and that the Cardinal meant one
to be for himself. The fourth he does not speak about. It has been
conjectured that Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano,
fathers respectively of Leo and of Clement, were to occupy two of the
sarcophagi; and also, with greater probability, that the two Popes,
Leo and Clement, were associated with the Dukes.

Before 1524 the scheme expanded, and settled into a more definite
shape. The sarcophagi were to support statue-portraits of the Dukes
and Popes, with Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano. At
their base, upon the ground, were to repose six rivers, two for each
tomb, showing that each sepulchre would have held two figures. The
rivers were perhaps Arno, Tiber, Metauro, Po, Taro, and Ticino. This
we gather from a letter written to Michelangelo on the 23rd of May in
that year. Michelangelo made designs to meet this plan, but whether
the tombs were still detached from the wall does not appear. Standing
inside the sacristy, it seems impossible that six statue-portraits and
six river-gods on anything like a grand scale could have been crowded
into the space, especially when we remember that there was to be an
altar, with other objects described as ornaments--"gli altri
ornamenti." Probably the Madonna and Child, with SS. Cosimo and
Damiano, now extant in the chapel, formed an integral part of the
successive schemes.

One thing is certain, that the notion of placing the tombs in the
middle of the sacristy was soon abandoned. All the marble panelling,
pilasters, niches, and so forth, which at present clothe the walls and
dominate the architectural effect, are clearly planned for mural
monuments. A rude sketch preserved in the Uffizi throws some light
upon the intermediate stages of the scheme. It is incomplete, and was
not finally adopted; but we see in it one of the four sides of the
chapel, divided vertically above into three compartments, the middle
being occupied by a Madonna, the two at the sides filled in with
bas-reliefs. At the base, on sarcophagi or _cassoni_, recline two nude
male figures. The space between these and the upper compartments seems
to have been reserved for allegorical figures, since a colossal naked
boy, ludicrously out of scale with the architecture and the recumbent
figures, has been hastily sketched in. In architectural proportion and
sculpturesque conception this design is very poor. It has the merit,
however, of indicating a moment in the evolution of the project when
the mural scheme had been adopted. The decorative details which
surmount the composition confirm the feeling every one must have,
that, in their present state, the architecture of the Medicean
monuments remains imperfect.

In this process of endeavouring to trace the development of
Michelangelo's ideas for the sacristy, seven original drawings at the
British Museum are of the greatest importance. They may be divided
into three groups. One sketch seems to belong to the period when the
tombs were meant to be placed in the centre of the chapel. It shows a
single facet of the monument, with two sarcophagi placed side by side
and seated figures at the angles. Five are variations upon the mural
scheme, which was eventually adopted. They differ considerably in
details, proving what trouble the designer took to combine a large
number of figures in a single plan. He clearly intended at some time
to range the Medicean statues in pairs, and studied several types of
curve for their sepulchral urns. The feature common to all of them is
a niche, of door or window shape, with a powerfully indented
architrave. Reminiscences of the design for the tomb of Julius are not
infrequent; and it may be remarked, as throwing a side-light upon that
irrecoverable project of his earlier manhood, that the figures posed
upon the various spaces of architecture differ in their scale. Two
belonging to this series are of especial interest, since we learn from
them how he thought of introducing the rivers at the basement of the
composition. It seems that he hesitated long about the employment of
circular spaces in the framework of the marble panelling. These were
finally rejected. One of the finest and most comprehensive of the
drawings I am now describing contains a rough draft of a curved
sarcophagus, with an allegorical figure reclining upon it, indicating
the first conception of the Dawn. Another, blurred and indistinct,
with clumsy architectural environment, exhibits two of these
allegories, arranged much as we now see them at S. Lorenzo. A
river-god, recumbent beneath the feet of a female statue, carries the
eye down to the ground, and enables us to comprehend how these
subordinate figures were wrought into the complex harmony of flowing
lines he had imagined. The seventh study differs in conception from
the rest; it stands alone. There are four handlings of what begins
like a huge portal, and is gradually elaborated into an architectural
scheme containing three great niches for statuary. It is powerful and
simple in design, governed by semicircular arches--a feature which is
absent from the rest.

All these drawings are indubitably by the hand of Michelangelo, and
must be reckoned among his first free efforts to construct a working
plan. The Albertina Collection at Vienna yields us an elaborate design
for the sacristy, which appears to have been worked up from some of
the rougher sketches. It is executed in pen, shaded with bistre, and
belongs to what I have ventured to describe as office work. It may
have been prepared for the inspection of Leo and the Cardinal. Here we
have the sarcophagi in pairs, recumbent figures stretched upon a
shallow curve inverted, colossal orders of a bastard Ionic type, a
great central niche framing a seated Madonna, two male figures in side
niches, suggestive of Giuliano and Lorenzo as they were at last
conceived, four allegorical statues, and, to crown the whole
structure, candelabra of a peculiar shape, with a central round,
supported by two naked genii. It is difficult, as I have before
observed, to be sure how much of the drawings executed in this way can
be ascribed with safety to Michelangelo himself. They are carefully
outlined, with the precision of a working architect; but the
sculptural details bear the aspect of what may be termed a generic
Florentine style of draughtsmanship.

Two important letters from Michelangelo to Fattucci, written in
October 1525 and April 1526, show that he had then abandoned the
original scheme, and adopted one which was all but carried into
effect. "I am working as hard as I can, and in fifteen days I shall
begin the other captain. Afterwards the only important things left
will be the four rivers. The four statues on the 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 what I mean to do with my own hand. Of these I have begun
six; and I have good hope of finishing them in due time, and carrying
the others forward in part, which do not signify so much." The six he
had begun are clearly the Dukes and their attendant figures of Day,
Night, Dawn, Evening. The Madonna, one of his noblest works, came
within a short distance of completion. SS. Cosimo and Damiano passed
into the hands of Montelupo and Montorsoli. Of the four rivers we have
only fragments in the shape of some exquisite little models. Where
they could have been conveniently placed is difficult to imagine;
possibly they were abandoned from a feeling that the chapel would be


According to the plan adopted in this book, I shall postpone such
observations as I have to make upon the Medicean monuments until the
date when Michelangelo laid down his chisel, and shall now proceed
with the events of his life during the years 1525 and 1526.

He continued to be greatly troubled about the tomb of Julius II. The
lawsuit instituted by the Duke of Urbino hung over his head; and
though he felt sure of the Pope's powerful support, it was extremely
important, both for his character and comfort, that affairs should be
placed upon a satisfactory basis. Fattucci in Rome acted not only as
Clement's agent in business connected with S. Lorenzo; he also was
intrusted with negotiations for the settlement of the Duke's claims.
The correspondence which passed between them forms, therefore, our
best source of information for this period. On Christmas Eve in 1524
Michelangelo writes from Florence to his friend, begging him not to
postpone a journey he had in view, if the only business which detained
him was the trouble about the tomb. A pleasant air of manly affection
breathes through this document, showing Michelangelo to have been
unselfish in a matter which weighed heavily and daily on his spirits.
How greatly he was affected can be inferred from a letter written to
Giovanni Spina on the 19th of April 1525. While reading this, it must
be remembered that the Duke laid his action for the recovery of a
considerable balance, which he alleged to be due to him upon
disbursements made for the monument. Michelangelo, on the contrary,
asserted that he was out of pocket, as we gather from the lengthy
report he forwarded in 1524 to Fattucci. The difficulty in the
accounts seems to have arisen from the fact that payments for the
Sistine Chapel and the tomb had been mixed up. The letter to Spina
runs as follows: "There is no reason for sending a power of attorney
about the tomb of Pope Julius, because I do not want to plead. They
cannot bring a suit if I admit 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 the
matter--and this would be the greatest satisfaction to me, seeing I am
too old and ill to finish the work--he might, as intermediary, express
his pleasure that I should repay what I have received for its
performance, so as to release me from this burden, and to enable the
relatives of Pope Julius to carry out the undertaking by any master
whom they may choose to employ. In this way his Holiness could be of
very great assistance to me. Of course I desire to reimburse as little
as possible, always consistently with justice. His Holiness might
employ some of my arguments, as, for instance, the time spent for the
Pope at Bologna, and other times wasted without any compensation,
according to the statements I have made in full to Ser Giovan
Francesco (Fattucci). Directly the terms of restitution have been
settled, I will engage my property, sell, and put myself in a position
to repay the money. I shall then be able to think of the Pope's orders
and to work; as it is, I can hardly be said to live, far less to work.
There is no other way of putting an end to the affair more safe for
myself, nor more agreeable, nor more certain to ease my mind. It can
be done amicably without a lawsuit. I pray to God that the Pope may be
willing to accept the mediation, for I cannot see that any one else is
fit to do it."

Giorgio Vasari says that he came in the year 1525 for a short time as
pupil to Michelangelo. In his own biography he gives the date, more
correctly, 1524. At any rate, the period of Vasari's brief
apprenticeship was closed by a journey which the master made to Rome,
and Buonarroti placed the lad in Andrea del Sarto's workshop. "He left
for Rome in haste. Francesco Maria, Duke of Urbino, was again
molesting him, asserting that he had received 16,000 ducats to
complete the tomb, while he stayed idling at Florence for his own
amusement. He threatened that, if he did not attend to the work, he
would make him suffer. So, when he arrived there, Pope Clement, who
wanted to command his services, advised him to reckon with the Duke's
agents, believing that, for what he had already done, he was rather
creditor than debtor. The matter remained thus." We do not know when
this journey to Rome took place. From a hint in the letter of December
24, 1524, to Fattucci, where Michelangelo observes that only he in
person would be able to arrange matters, it is possible that we may
refer it to the beginning of 1525. Probably he was able to convince,
not only the Pope, but also the Duke's agents that he had acted with
scrupulous honesty, and that his neglect of the tomb was due to
circumstances over which he had no control, and which he regretted as
acutely as anybody. There is no shadow of doubt that this was really
the case. Every word written by Michelangelo upon the subject shows
that he was heart-broken at having to abandon the long-cherished

Some sort of arrangement must have been arrived at. Clement took the
matter into his own hands, and during the summer of 1525 amicable
negotiations were in progress. On the 4th of September Michelangelo
writes again to Fattucci, saying that he is quite willing to complete
the tomb upon the same plan as that of the Pope Pius (now in the
Church of S. Andrea della Valle)--that is, to adopt a mural system
instead of the vast detached monument. This would take less time. He
again urges his friend not to stay at Rome for the sake of these
affairs. He hears that the plague is breaking out there. "And I would
rather have you alive than my business settled. If I die before the
Pope, I shall not have to settle any troublesome affairs. If I live, I
am sure the Pope will settle them, if not now, at some other time. So
come back. I was with your mother yesterday, and advised her, in the
presence of Granacci and John the turner, to send for you home."

While in Rome Michelangelo conferred with Clement about the sacristy
and library at S. Lorenzo. For a year after his return to Florence he
worked steadily at the Medicean monuments, but not without severe
annoyances, as appears from the following to Fattucci: "The four
statues I have in hand are not yet finished, and much has still to be
done upon them. The four rivers are not begun, because the marble is
wanting, and yet it is here. I do not think it opportune to tell you
why. With regard to the affairs of Julius, I am well disposed to make
the tomb like that of Pius in S. Peter's, 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 keep my pension and my house, as you promised me. I
mean, of course, the house at Rome, and the marbles and other things I
have there. So that, in fine, I should not have to restore to the
heirs of Julius, in order to be quit of the contract, anything which I
have hitherto received; the tomb itself, completed after the pattern
of that of Pius, sufficing for my full discharge. Moreover, I
undertake to perform the work within a reasonable time, and to finish
the statues with my own hand." He then turns to his present troubles
at Florence. The pension was in arrears, and busybodies annoyed him
with interferences of all sorts. "If my pension were paid, as was
arranged, I would never stop working for Pope Clement with all the
strength I have, small though that be, since I am old. At the same
time I must not be slighted and affronted as I am now, for such
treatment weighs greatly on my spirits. The petty spites I speak of
have prevented me from doing what I want to do these many months; one
cannot work at one thing with the hands, another with the brain,
especially in marble. 'Tis said here that these annoyances are meant
to spur me on; but I maintain that those are scurvy spurs which make a
good steed jib. I have not touched my pension during the past year,
and struggle with poverty. I am left in solitude to bear my troubles,
and have so many that they occupy me more than does my art; I cannot
keep a man to manage my house through lack of means."

Michelangelo's dejection caused serious anxiety to his friends. Jacopo
Salviati, writing on the 30th October from Rome, endeavoured to
restore his courage. "I am greatly distressed to hear of the fancies
you have got into your head. What hurts me most is that they should
prevent your working, for that rejoices your ill-wishers, and confirms
them in what they have always gone on preaching about your habits." He
proceeds to tell him how absurd it is to suppose that Baccio
Bandinelli is preferred before him. "I cannot perceive how Baccio
could in any way whatever be compared to you, or his work be set on
the same level as your own." The letter winds up with exhortations to
work. "Brush these cobwebs of melancholy away; have confidence in his
Holiness; do not give occasion to your enemies to blaspheme, and be
sure that your pension will be paid; I pledge my word for it."
Buonarroti, it is clear, wasted his time, not through indolence, but
through allowing the gloom of a suspicious and downcast
temperament--what the Italians call _accidia_--to settle on his

Skipping a year, we find that these troublesome negotiations about the
tomb were still pending. He still hung suspended between the devil and
the deep sea, the importunate Duke of Urbino and the vacillating Pope.
Spina, it seems, had been writing with too much heat to Rome, probably
urging Clement to bring the difficulties about the tomb to a
conclusion. Michelangelo takes the correspondence up again with
Fattucci on November 6, 1526. What he says at the beginning of the
letter is significant. He knows that the political difficulties in
which Clement had become involved were sufficient to distract his
mind, as Julius once said, from any interest in "stones small or big."
Well, the letter starts thus: "I know that Spina wrote in these days
past to Rome very hotly about my affairs with regard to the tomb of
Julius. If he blundered, seeing the times in which we live, I am to
blame, for I prayed him urgently to write. It is possible that the
trouble of my soul made me say more than I ought. Information reached
me lately about the affair which alarmed me greatly. It seems that the
relatives of Julius are very ill-disposed towards me. And not without
reason.--The suit is going on, and they are demanding capital and
interest to such an amount that a hundred of my sort could not meet
the claims. This has thrown me into terrible agitation, and makes me
reflect where I should be if the Pope failed me. I could not live a
moment. It is that which made me send the letter alluded to above.
Now, I do not want anything but what the Pope thinks right. I know
that he does not desire my ruin and my disgrace."

He proceeds to notice that the building work at S. Lorenzo is being
carried forward very slowly, and money spent upon it with increasing
parsimony. Still he has his pension and his house; and these imply no
small disbursements. He cannot make out what the Pope's real wishes
are. If he did but know Clement's mind, he would sacrifice everything
to please him. "Only if I could obtain permission to begin something
either here or in Rome, for the tomb of Julius, I should be extremely
glad; for, indeed, I desire to free myself from that obligation more
than to live." The letter closes on a note of sadness: "If I am unable
to write what you will understand, do not be surprised, for I have
lost my wits entirely."

After this we hear nothing more about the tomb in Michelangelo's
correspondence till the year 1531. During the intervening years Italy
was convulsed by the sack of Rome, the siege of Florence, and the
French campaigns in Lombardy and Naples. Matters only began to mend
when Charles V. met Clement at Bologna in 1530, and established the
affairs of the peninsula upon a basis which proved durable. That fatal
lustre (1526-1530) divided the Italy of the Renaissance from the Italy
of modern times with the abruptness of an Alpine watershed. Yet
Michelangelo, aged fifty-one in 1526, was destined to live on another
thirty-eight years, and, after the death of Clement, to witness the
election of five successive Popes. The span of his life was not only
extraordinary in its length, but also in the events it comprehended.
Born in the mediaeval pontificate of Sixtus IV., brought up in the
golden days of Lorenzo de' Medici, he survived the Franco-Spanish
struggle for supremacy, watched the progress of the Reformation, and
only died when a new Church and a new Papacy had been established by
the Tridentine Council amid states sinking into the repose of


We must return from this digression and resume the events of
Michelangelo's life in 1525.

The first letter to Sebastiano del Piombo is referred to April of that
year. He says that a picture, probably the portrait of Anton Francesco
degli Albizzi, is eagerly expected at Florence. When it arrived in
May, he wrote again under the influence of generous admiration for his
friend's performance: "Last evening our friend the Captain Cuio and
certain other gentlemen were so kind as to invite me to sup with them.
This gave me exceeding great pleasure, since it drew me forth a little
from my melancholy, or shall we call it my mad mood. Not only did I
enjoy the supper, which was most agreeable, but far more the
conversation. Among the topics discussed, what gave me most delight
was to hear your name mentioned by the Captain; nor was this all, for
he still added to my pleasure, nay, to a superlative degree, by saying
that, in the art of painting he held you to be sole and without peer
in the whole world, and that so you were esteemed at Rome. I could not
have been better pleased. You see that my judgment is confirmed; and
so you must not deny that you are peerless, when I write it, since I
have a crowd of witnesses to my opinion. There is a picture too of
yours here, God be praised, which wins credence for me with every one
who has eyes."

Correspondence was carried on during this year regarding the library
at S. Lorenzo; and though I do not mean to treat at length about that
building in this chapter, I cannot omit an autograph postscript added
by Clement to one of his secretary's missives: "Thou knowest that
Popes 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. Likewise, as regards the library. Wherefore
we recommend both to thy diligence. Meantime we will betake us (as
thou saidst erewhile) 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." [Julius was the
Pope's baptismal name.--ED.]

Michelangelo began the library in 1526, as appears from his _Ricordi._
Still the work went on slowly, not through his negligence, but, as we
have seen, from the Pope's preoccupation with graver matters. He had a
great many workmen in his service at this period, and employed
celebrated masters in their crafts, as Tasso and Carota for
wood-carving, Battista del Cinque and Ciapino for carpentry, upon the
various fittings of the library. All these details he is said to have
designed; and it is certain that he was considered responsible for
their solidity and handsome appearance. Sebastiano, for instance,
wrote to him about the benches: "Our Lord wishes that the whole work
should be of carved walnut. He does not mind spending three florins
more; for that is a trifle, if they are Cosimesque in style, I mean
resemble the work done for the magnificent Cosimo." Michelangelo could
not have been the solitary worker of legend and tradition. The nature
of his present occupations rendered this impossible. For the
completion of his architectural works he needed a band of able
coadjutors. Thus in 1526 Giovanni da Udine came from Rome to decorate
the vault of the sacristy with frescoed arabesques. His work was
nearly terminated in 1533, when some question arose about painting the
inside of the lantern. Sebastiano, apparently in good faith, made the
following burlesque suggestion: "For myself, I think that the Ganymede
would go there very well; one could put an aureole about him, and turn
him into a S. John of the Apocalypse when he is being caught up into
the heavens." The whole of one side of the Italian Renaissance, its
so-called neo-paganism, is contained in this remark.

While still occupied with thoughts about S. Lorenzo, Clement ordered
Michelangelo to make a receptacle for the precious vessels and
reliques collected by Lorenzo the Magnificent. It was first intended
to place this chest, in the form of a ciborium, above the high altar,
and to sustain it on four columns. Eventually, the Pope resolved that
it should be a sacrarium, or cabinet for holy things, and that this
should stand above the middle entrance door to the church. The chest
was finished, and its contents remained there until the reign of the
Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, when they were removed to the chapel next
the old sacristy.

Another very singular idea occurred to his Holiness in the autumn of
1525. He made Fattucci write that he wished to erect a colossal statue
on the piazza of S. Lorenzo, opposite the Stufa Palace. The giant was
to surmount the roof of the Medicean 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 composed of separate pieces fitted
together. Michelangelo speedily knocked this absurd plan on the head
in a letter which gives a good conception of his dry and somewhat
ponderous humour.

"About the Colossus of forty cubits, which you tell me is to go or to
be placed at the corner of the loggia in the Medicean garden, opposite
the corner of Messer Luigi della Stufa, I have meditated not a little,
as you bade me. In my opinion that is not the proper place for it,
since it would take up too much room on the roadway. I should prefer
to put it at the other, where the barber's shop is. This would be far
better in my judgment, since it has the square in front, and would not
encumber the street. There might be some difficulty about pulling down
the shop, because of the rent. So it has occurred to me that the
statue might be carved in a sitting position; the Colossus would be so
lofty that if we made it hollow inside, as indeed is the proper method
for a thing which has to be put together from pieces, the shop might
be enclosed within it, and the rent be saved. And inasmuch as the shop
has a chimney in its present state, I thought of placing a cornucopia
in the statue's hand, hollowed out for the smoke to pass through. The
head too would be hollow, like all the other members of the figure.
This might be turned to a useful purpose, according to the suggestion
made me by a huckster on the square, who is my good friend. He privily
confided to me that it would make an excellent dovecote. Then another
fancy came into my head, which is still better, though the statue
would have to be considerably heightened. That, however, is quite
feasible, since towers are built up of blocks; and then the head might
serve as bell-tower to San Lorenzo, which is much in need of one.
Setting up the bells inside, and the sound booming through the mouth,
it would seem as though the Colossus were crying mercy, and mostly
upon feast-days, when peals are rung most often and with bigger

Nothing more is heard of this fantastic project; whence we may
conclude that the irony of Michelangelo's epistle drove it out of the
Pope's head.



It lies outside the scope of this work to describe the series of
events which led up to the sack of Rome in 1527. Clement, by his
tortuous policy, and by the avarice of his administration, had
alienated every friend and exasperated all his foes. The Eternal City
was in a state of chronic discontent and anarchy. The Colonna princes
drove the Pope to take refuge in the Castle of S. Angelo; and when the
Lutheran rabble raised by Frundsberg poured into Lombardy, the Duke of
Ferrara assisted them to cross the Po, and the Duke of Urbino made no
effort to bar the passes of the Apennines. Losing one leader after the
other, these ruffians, calling themselves an Imperial army, but being
in reality the scum and offscourings of all nations, without any aim
but plunder and ignorant of policy, reached Rome upon the 6th of May.
They took the city by assault, and for nine months Clement, leaning
from the battlements of Hadrian's Mausoleum, watched smoke ascend from
desolated palaces and desecrated temples, heard the wailing of women
and the groans of tortured men, mingling with the ribald jests of
German drunkards and the curses of Castilian bandits. Roaming those
galleries and gazing from those windows, he is said to have exclaimed
in the words of Job: "Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give
up the ghost when I came out of the belly?"

The immediate effect of this disaster was that the Medici lost their
hold on Florence. The Cardinal of Cortona, with the young princes
Ippolito and Alessandro de' Medici, fled from the city on the 17th of
May, and a popular government was set up under the presidency of
Niccolo Capponi.

During this year and the next, Michelangelo was at Florence; but we
know very little respecting the incidents of his life. A _Ricordo_
bearing the date April 29 shows the disturbed state of the town. "I
record how, some days ago, Piero di Filippo Gondi asked for permission
to enter the new sacristy at S. Lorenzo, in order to hide there
certain goods belonging to his family, by reason of the perils in
which we are now. To-day, upon the 29th of April 1527, he has begun to
carry in some bundles, which he says are linen of his sisters; and I,
not wishing to witness what he does or to know where he hides the gear
away, have given him the key of the sacristy this evening."

There are only two letters belonging to the year 1527. Both refer to a
small office which had been awarded to Michelangelo with the right to
dispose of the patronage. He offered it to his favourite brother,
Buonarroto, who does not seem to have thought it worth accepting.

The documents for 1528 are almost as meagre. We do not possess a
single letter, and the most important _Ricordi_ relate to Buonarroto's
death and the administration of his property. He died of the plague
upon the 2nd of July, to the very sincere sorrow of his brother. It is
said that Michelangelo held him in his arms while he was dying,
without counting the risk to his own life. Among the minutes of
disbursements made for Buonarroto's widow and children after his
burial, we find that their clothes had been destroyed because of the
infection. All the cares of the family now fell on Michelangelo's
shoulders. He placed his niece Francesca in a convent till the time
that she should marry, repaid her dowry to the widow Bartolommea, and
provided for the expenses of his nephew Lionardo.

For the rest, there is little to relate which has any bearing on the
way in which he passed his time before the siege of Florence began.
One glimpse, however, is afforded of his daily life and conversation
by Benvenuto Cellini, who had settled in Florence after the sack of
Rome, and was working in a shop he opened at the Mercato Nuovo. The
episode is sufficiently interesting to be quoted. A Sienese gentleman
had commissioned Cellini to make him a golden medal, to be worn in the
hat. "The subject was to be Hercules wrenching the lion's mouth. While
I was working at this piece, Michel Agnolo Buonarroti came oftentimes
to see it. I had spent infinite pains upon the design, so that the
attitude of the figure and the fierce passion of the beast were
executed in quite a different style from that of any craftsman who had
hitherto attempted such groups. This, together with the fact that the
special branch of art was totally unknown to Michel Agnolo, made the
divine master give such praises to my work that I felt incredibly
inspired for further effort.

"Just then I met with Federigo Ginori, a young man of very lofty
spirit. He had lived some years in Naples and being endowed with great
charms of person and presence, had been the lover of a Neapolitan
princess. He wanted to have a medal made with Atlas bearing the world
upon his shoulders, and applied to Michel Agnolo for a design. Michel
Agnolo made this answer: 'Go and find out a young goldsmith named
Benvenuto; he will serve you admirably, and certainly he does not
stand in need of sketches by me. However, to prevent your thinking
that I want to save myself the trouble of so slight a matter, I will
gladly sketch you something; but meanwhile speak to Benvenuto, and let
him also make a model; he can then execute the better of the two
designs.' Federigo Ginori came to me and told me what he wanted,
adding thereto how Michel Agnolo had praised me, and how he had
suggested I should make a waxen model while he undertook to supply a
sketch. The words of that great man so heartened me, that I set myself
to work at once with eagerness upon the model; and when I had finished
it, a painter who was intimate with Michel Agnolo, called Giuliano
Bugiardini, brought me the drawing of Atlas. On the same occasion I
showed Giuliano my little model in wax, which was very different from
Michel Agnolo's drawing; and Federigo, in concert with Bugiardini,
agreed that I should work upon my model. So I took it in hand, and
when Michel Agnolo saw it, he praised me to the skies."

The courtesy shown by Michelangelo on this occasion to Cellini may be
illustrated by an inedited letter addressed to him from Vicenza. The
writer was Valerio Belli, who describes himself as a cornelian-cutter.
He reminds the sculptor of a promise once made to him in Florence of a
design for an engraved gem. A remarkably fine stone has just come into
his hands, and he should much like to begin to work upon it. These
proofs of Buonarroti's liberality to brother artists are not
unimportant, since he was unjustly accused during his lifetime of
stinginess and churlishness.


At the end of the year 1528 it became clear to the Florentines that
they would have to reckon with Clement VII. As early as August 18,
1527, France and England leagued together, and brought pressure upon
Charles V., in whose name Rome had been sacked. Negotiations were
proceeding, which eventually ended in the peace of Barcelona (June 20,
1529), whereby the Emperor engaged to sacrifice the Republic to the
Pope's vengeance. It was expected that the remnant of the Prince of
Orange's army would be marched up to besiege the town. Under the
anxiety caused by these events, the citizens raised a strong body of
militia, enlisted Malatesta Baglioni and Stefano Colonna as generals,
and began to take measures for strengthening the defences. What may be
called the War Office of the Florentine Republic bore the title of
Dieci della Guerra, or the Ten. It was their duty to watch over and
provide for all the interests of the commonwealth in military matters,
and now at this juncture serious measures had to be taken for putting
the city in a state of defence. Already in the year 1527, after the
expulsion of the Medici, a subordinate board had been created, to whom
very considerable executive and administrative faculties were
delegated. This board, called the Nove della Milizia, or the Nine,
were empowered to enrol all the burghers under arms, and to take
charge of the walls, towers, bastions, and other fortifications. It
was also within their competence to cause the destruction of
buildings, and to compensate the evicted proprietors at a valuation
which they fixed themselves. In the spring of 1529 the War Office
decided to gain the services of Michelangelo, not only because he was
the most eminent architect of his age in Florence, but also because
the Buonarroti family had always been adherents of the Medicean party,
and the Ten judged that his appointment to a place on the Nove di
Milizia would be popular with the democracy. The patent conferring
this office upon him, together with full authority over the work of
fortification, was issued on the 6th of April. Its terms were highly
complimentary. "Considering the genius and practical attainments of
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti, our citizen, and knowing how
excellent he is in architecture, beside his other most singular
talents in the liberal arts, by virtue whereof the common consent of
men regards him as unsurpassed by any masters of our times; and,
moreover, being assured that in love and affection toward the country
he is the equal of any other good and loyal burgher; bearing in mind,
too, the labour he has undergone and the diligence he has displayed,
gratis and of his free will, in the said work (of fortification) up to
this day; and wishing to employ his industry and energies to the like
effect in future; we, of our motion and initiative, do appoint him to
be governor and procurator-general over the construction and
fortification of the city walls, as well as every other sort of
defensive operation and munition for the town of Florence, for one
year certain, beginning with the present date; adding thereto full
authority over all persons in respect to the said work of reparation
or pertaining to it." From this preamble it appears that Michelangelo
had been already engaged in volunteer service connected with the
defence of Florence. A stipend of one golden florin per diem was fixed
by the same deed; and upon the 22nd of April following a payment of
thirty florins was decreed, for one month's salary, dating from the
6th of April.

If the Government thought to gain popular sympathy by Michelangelo's
appointment, they made the mistake of alienating the aristocracy. It
was the weakness of Florence at this momentous crisis in her fate, to
be divided into parties, political, religious, social; whose internal
jealousies deprived her of the strength which comes alone from unity.
When Giambattista Busini wrote that interesting series of letters to
Benedetto Varchi from which the latter drew important materials for
his annals of the siege, he noted this fact. "Envy must always be
reckoned as of some account in republics, especially when the nobles
form a considerable element, as in ours: for they were angry, among
other matters, to see a Carducci made Gonfalonier, Michelangelo a
member of the Nine, a Cei or a Giugni elected to the Ten."

Michelangelo had scarcely been chosen to control the general scheme
for fortifying Florence, when the Signory began to consider the
advisability of strengthening the citadels of Pisa and Livorno, and
erecting lines along the Arno. Their commissary at Pisa wrote urging
the necessity of Buonarroti's presence on the spot. In addition to
other pressing needs, the Arno, when in flood, threatened the ancient
fortress of the city. Accordingly we find that Michelangelo went to
Pisa on the 5th of June, and that he stayed there over the 13th,
returning to Florence perhaps upon the 17th of the month. The
commissary, who spent several days in conferring with him and in
visiting the banks of the Arno, was perturbed in mind because
Michelangelo refused to exchange the inn where he alighted for an
apartment in the official residence. This is very characteristic of
the artist. We shall soon find him, at Ferrara, refusing to quit his
hostelry for the Duke's palace, and, at Venice, hiring a remote
lodging on the Giudecca in order to avoid the hospitality of S. Mark.

An important part of Michelangelo's plan for the fortification of
Florence was to erect bastions covering the hill of S. Miniato. Any
one who stands upon the ruined tower of the church there will see at a
glance that S. Miniato is the key to the position for a beleaguering
force; and "if the enemy once obtained possession of the hill, he
would become immediately master of the town." It must, I think, have
been at this spot that Buonarroti was working before he received the
appointment of controller-general of the works. Yet he found some
difficulty in persuading the rulers of the state that his plan was the
right one. Busini, using information supplied by Michelangelo himself
at Rome in 1549, speaks as follows: "Whatever the reason may have
been, Niccolo Capponi, while he was Gonfalonier, would not allow the
hill of S. Miniato to be fortified, and Michelangelo, who is a man of
absolute veracity, tells me that he had great trouble in convincing
the other members of the Government, but that he could never convince
Niccolo. However, he began the work, in the way you know, with those
fascines of tow. But Niccolo made him abandon it, and sent him to
another post; and when he was elected to the Nine, they despatched him
twice or thrice outside the city. Each time, on his return, he found
the hill neglected, whereupon he complained, feeling this a blot upon
his reputation and an insult to his magistracy. Eventually, the works
went on, until, when the besieging army arrived, they were tenable."

Michelangelo had hitherto acquired no practical acquaintance with the
art of fortification. That the system of defence by bastions was an
Italian invention (although Albert Duerer first reduced it to written
theory in his book of 1527, suggesting improvements which led up to
Vauban's method) is a fact acknowledged by military historians. But it
does not appear that Michelangelo did more than carry out defensive
operations in the manner familiar to his predecessors. Indeed, we
shall see that some critics found reason to blame him for want of
science in the construction of his outworks. When, therefore, a
difference arose between the controller-general of defences and the
Gonfalonier upon this question of strengthening S. Miniato, it was
natural that the War Office should have thought it prudent to send
their chief officer to the greatest authority upon fortification then
alive in Italy. This was the Duke of Ferrara. Busini must serve as our
text in the first instance upon this point. "Michelangelo says that,
when neither Niccolo Capponi nor Baldassare Carducci would agree to
the outworks at S. Miniato, he convinced all the leading men except
Niccolo of their necessity, showing that Florence could not hold out a
single day without them. Accordingly he began to throw up bastions
with fascines of tow; but the result was far from perfect, as he
himself confessed. Upon this, the Ten resolved to send him to Ferrara
to inspect that renowned work of defence. Thither accordingly he went;
nevertheless, he believes that Niccolo did this in order to get him
out of the way, and to prevent the construction of the bastion. In
proof thereof he adduces the fact that, upon his return, he found the
whole work interrupted."

Furnished with letters to the Duke, and with special missives from the
Signory and the Ten to their envoy, Galeotto Giugni, Michelangelo left
Florence for Ferrara after the 28th of July, and reached it on the and
of August. He refused, as Giugni writes with some regret, to abandon
his inn, but was personally conducted with great honour by the Duke
all round the walls and fortresses of Ferrara. On what day he quitted
that city, and whither he went immediately after his departure, is
uncertain. The Ten wrote to Giugni on the 8th of August, saying that
his presence was urgently required at Florence, since the work of
fortification was going on apace, "a multitude of men being employed,
and no respect being paid to feast-days and holidays." It would also
seem that, toward the close of the month, he was expected at Arezzo,
in order to survey and make suggestions on the defences of the city.

These points are not insignificant, since we possess a _Ricordo_ by
Michelangelo, written upon an unfinished letter bearing the date
"Venice, September 10," which has been taken to imply that he had been
resident in Venice fourteen days--that is, from the 28th of August.
None of his contemporaries or biographers mention a visit to Venice at
the end of August 1529. It has, therefore, been conjectured that he
went there after leaving Ferrara, but that his mission was one of a
very secret nature. This seems inconsistent with the impatient desire
expressed by the War Office for his return to Florence after the 8th
of August. Allowing for exchange of letters and rate of travelling,
Michelangelo could not have reached home much before the 15th. It is
also inconsistent with the fact that he was expected in Arezzo at the
beginning of September. I shall have to return later on to the
_Ricordo_ in question, which has an important bearing on the next and
most dramatic episode in his biography.


Michelangelo must certainly have been at Florence soon after the
middle of September. One of those strange panics to which he was
constitutionally subject, and which impelled him to act upon a
suddenly aroused instinct, came now to interrupt his work at S.
Miniato, and sent him forth into outlawry. It was upon the 21st of
September that he fled from Florence, under circumstances which have
given considerable difficulty to his biographers. I am obliged to
disentangle the motives and to set forth the details of this escapade,
so far as it is possible for criticism to connect them into a coherent
narrative. With this object in view, I will begin by translating what
Condivi says upon the subject.

"Michelangelo's sagacity with regard to the importance of S. Miniato
guaranteed the safety of the town, and proved a source of great damage
to the enemy. Although he had taken care to secure the position, he
still remained at his post there, in case of accidents; and after
passing some six months, rumours began to circulate among the soldiers
about expected treason. Buonarroti, then, noticing these reports, and
being also warned by certain officers who were his friends, approached
the Signory, and laid before them what he had heard and seen. He
explained the danger hanging over the city, and told them there was
still time to provide against it, if they would. Instead of receiving
thanks for this service, he was abused, and rebuked as being timorous
and too suspicious. The man who made him this answer would have done
better had he opened his ears to good advice; for when the Medici
returned he was beheaded, whereas he might have kept himself alive.
When Michelangelo perceived how little his words were worth, and in
what certain peril the city stood, he caused one of the gates to be
opened, by the authority which he possessed, and went forth with two
of his comrades, and took the road for Venice."

As usual with Condivi, this paragraph gives a general and yet
substantially accurate account of what really took place. The decisive
document, however, which throws light upon Michelangelo's mind in the
transaction, is a letter written by him from Venice to his friend
Battista della Palla on the 25th of September. Palla, who was an agent
for Francis I. in works of Italian art, antiques, and bric-a-brac, had
long purposed a journey into France; and Michelangelo, considering the
miserable state of Italian politics, agreed to join him. These
explanations will suffice to make the import of Michelangelo's letter

"Battista, dearest friend, I left Florence, as I think you know,
meaning to go to France. When I reached Venice, I inquired about the
road, and they told me I should have to pass through German territory,
and that the journey is both perilous and difficult. Therefore I
thought it well to ask you, at your pleasure, whether you are still
inclined to go, and to beg you; and so I entreat you, let me know, and
say where you want me to wait for you, and we will travel together, I
left home without speaking to any of my friends, and in great
confusion. You know that I wanted in any case to go to France, and
often asked for leave, but did not get it. Nevertheless I was quite
resolved, and without any sort of fear, to see the end of the war out
first. But on Tuesday morning, September 21, a certain person came out
by the gate at S. Niccolo, where I was attending to the bastions, and
whispered in my ear that, if I meant to save my life, I must not stay
at Florence. He accompanied me home, dined there, brought me horses,
and never left my side till he got me outside the city, declaring that
this was my salvation. Whether God or the devil was the man, I do not

"Pray answer the questions in this letter as soon as possible, because
I am burning with impatience to set out. If you have changed your
mind, and do not care to go, still let me know, so that I may provide
as best I can for my own journey."

What appears manifest from this document is that Michelangelo was
decoyed away from Florence by some one, who, acting on his sensitive
nervous temperament, persuaded him that his life was in danger. Who
the man was we do not know, but he must have been a person delegated
by those who had a direct interest in removing Buonarroti from the
place. If the controller-general of the defences already scented
treason in the air, and was communicating his suspicions to the
Signory, Malatesta Baglioni, the archtraitor, who afterwards delivered
Florence over for a price to Clement, could not but have wished to
frighten him away.

From another of Michelangelo's letters we learn that he carried 3000
ducats in specie with him on the journey. It is unlikely that he could
have disposed so much cash upon his person. He must have had

Talking with Michelangelo in 1549--that is, twenty years after the
event--Busini heard from his lips this account of the flight. "I asked
Michelangelo what was the reason of his departure from Florence. He
spoke as follows: 'I was one of the Nine when the Florentine troops
mustered within our lines under Malatesta Baglioni and Mario Orsini
and the other generals: whereupon the Ten distributed the men along
the walls and bastions, assigning to each captain his own post, with
victuals and provisions; and among the rest, they gave eight pieces of
artillery to Malatesta for the defence of part of the bastions at S.
Miniato. He did not, however, mount these guns within the bastions,
but below them, and set no guard.' Michelangelo, as architect and
magistrate, having to inspect the lines at S. Miniato, asked Mario
Orsini how it was that Malatesta treated his artillery so carelessly.
The latter answered: 'You must know that the men of his house are all
traitors, and in time he too will betray this town.' These words
inspired him with such terror that he was obliged to fly, impelled by
dread lest the city should come to misfortune, and he together with
it. Having thus resolved, he found Rinaldo Corsini, to whom he
communicated his thought, and Corsini replied lightly: 'I will go with
you.' So they mounted horse with a sum of money, and road to the Gate
of Justice, where the guards would not let them pass. While waiting
there, some one sung out: 'Let him by, for he is of the Nine, and it
is Michelangelo.' So they went forth, three on horseback, he, Rinaldo,
and that man of his who never left him. They came to Castelnuovo (in
the Garfagnana), and heard that Tommaso Soderini and Niccolo Capponi
were staying there. Michelangelo refused to go and see them, but
Rinaldo went, and when he came back to Florence, as I shall relate, he
reported how Niccolo had said to him: 'O Rinaldo, I dreamed to-night
that Lorenzo Zampalochi had been made Gonfalonier;' alluding to
Lorenzo Giacomini, who had a swollen leg, and had been his adversary
in the Ten. Well, they took the road for Venice; but when they came to
Polesella, Rinaldo proposed to push on to Ferrara and have an
interview with Galeotto Giugni. This he did, and Michelangelo awaited
him, for so he promised. Messer Galeotto, who was spirited and sound
of heart, wrought so with Rinaldo that he persuaded him to turn back
to Florence. But Michelangelo pursued his journey to Venice, where he
took a house, intending in due season to travel into France."

Varchi follows this report pretty closely, except that he represents
Rinaldo Corsini as having strongly urged him to take flight,
"affirming that the city in a few hours, not to say days, would be in
the hands of the Medici." Varchi adds that Antonio Mini rode in
company with Michelangelo, and, according to his account of the
matter, the three men came together to Ferrara. There the Duke offered
hospitality to Michelangelo, who refused to exchange his inn for the
palace, but laid all the cash he carried with him at the disposition
of his Excellency.

Segni, alluding briefly to this flight of Michelangelo from Florence,
says that he arrived at Castelnuovo with Rinaldo Corsini, and that
what they communicated to Niccolo Capponi concerning the treachery of
Malatesta and the state of the city, so affected the ex-Gonfalonier
that he died of a fever after seven days. Nardi, an excellent
authority on all that concerns Florence during the siege, confirms the
account that Michelangelo left his post together with Corsini under a
panic; "by common agreement, or through fear of war, as man's
fragility is often wont to do." Vasari, who in his account of this
episode seems to have had Varchi's narrative under his eyes, adds a
trifle of information, to the effect that Michelangelo was accompanied
upon his flight, not only by Antonio Mini, but also by his old friend
Piloto. It may be worth adding that while reading in the Archivio
Buonarroti, I discovered two letters from a friend named Piero Paesano
addressed to Michelangelo on January 1, 1530, and April 21, 1532, both
of which speak of his having "fled from Florence." The earlier plainly
says: "I heard from Santi Quattro (the Cardinal, probably) that you
have left Florence in order to escape from the annoyance and also from
the evil fortune of the war in which the country is engaged." These
letters, which have not been edited, and the first of which is
important, since it was sent to Michelangelo in Florence, help to
prove that Michelangelo's friends believed he had run away from

It was necessary to enter into these particulars, partly in order that
the reader may form his own judgment of the motives which prompted
Michelangelo to desert his official post at Florence, and partly
because we have now to consider the _Ricordo_ above mentioned, with
the puzzling date, September 10. This document is a note of expenses
incurred during a residence of fourteen days at Venice. It runs as

"Honoured Sir. In Venice, this tenth day of September.... Ten ducats
to Rinaldo Corsini. Five ducats to Messer Loredan for the rent of the
house. Seventeen lire for the stockings of Antonio (Mini, perhaps).
For two stools, a table to eat on, and a coffer, half a ducat. Eight
soldi for straw. Forty soldi for the hire of the bed. Ten lire to the
man (_fante_) who came from Florence. Three ducats to Bondino for the
journey to Venice with boats. Twenty soldi to Piloto for a pair of
shoes. Fourteen days' board in Venice, twenty lire."

It has been argued from the date of the unfinished letter below which
these items are jotted down, that Michelangelo must have been in
Venice early in September, before his flight from Florence at the end
of that month. But whatever weight we may attach to this single date,
there is no corroborative proof that he travelled twice to Venice, and
everything in the _Ricordo_ indicates that it refers to the period of
his flight from Florence. The sum paid to Corsini comes first, because
it must have been disbursed when that man broke the journey at
Ferrara. Antonio Mini and Piloto are both mentioned: a house has been
engaged, and furnished with Michelangelo's usual frugality, as though
he contemplated a residence of some duration. All this confirms
Busini, Varchi, Segni, Nardi, and Vasari in the general outlines of
their reports. I am of opinion that, unassisted by further evidence,
the _Ricordo_, in spite of its date, will not bear out Gotti's view
that Michelangelo sought Venice on a privy mission at the end of
August 1529. He was not likely to have been employed as ambassador
extraordinary; the Signory required his services at home; and after
Ferrara, Venice had little of importance to show the
controller-general of defences in the way of earthworks and bastions.


Varchi says that Michelangelo, when he reached Venice, "wishing to
avoid visits and ceremonies, of which he was the greatest enemy, and
in order to live alone, according to his custom, far away from
company, retired quietly to the Giudecca; but the Signory, unable to
ignore the advent of so eminent a man, sent two of their first
noblemen to visit him in the name of the Republic, and to offer kindly
all things which either he or any persons of his train might stand in
need of. This public compliment set forth the greatness of his fame as
artist, and showed in what esteem the arts are held by their
magnificent and most illustrious lordships." Vasari adds that the
Doge, whom he calls Gritti, gave him commission to design a bridge for
the Rialto, marvellous alike in its construction and its ornament.

Meanwhile the Signory of Florence issued a decree of outlawry against
thirteen citizens who had quitted the territory without leave. It was
promulgated on the 30th of September, and threatened them with extreme
penalties if they failed to appear before the 8th of October. On the
7th of October a second decree was published, confiscating the
property of numerous exiles. But this document does not contain the
name of Michelangelo; and by a third decree, dated November 16, it
appears that the Government were satisfied with depriving him of his
office and stopping his pay. We gather indeed, from what Condivi and
Varchi relate, that they displayed great eagerness to get him back,
and corresponded to this intent with their envoy at Ferrara.
Michelangelo's flight from Florence seemed a matter of sufficient
importance to be included in the despatches of the French ambassador
resident at Venice. Lazare de Baif, knowing his master's desire to
engage the services of the great sculptor, and being probably informed
of Buonarroti's own wish to retire to France, wrote several letters in
the month of October, telling Francis that Michelangelo might be
easily persuaded to join his court. We do not know, however, whether
the King acted on this hint.

His friends at home took the precaution of securing his effects,
fearing that a decree for their confiscation might be issued. We
possess a schedule of wine, wheat, and furniture found in his house,
and handed over by the servant Caterina to his old friend Francesco
Granacci for safe keeping. They also did their best to persuade
Michelangelo that he ought to take measures for returning under a
safe-conduct. Galeotto Giugni wrote upon this subject to the War
Office, under date October 13, from Ferrara. He says that Michelangelo
has begged him to intercede in his favour, and that he is willing to
return and lay himself at the feet of their lordships. In answer to
this despatch, news was sent to Giugni on the 20th that the Signory
had signed a safe-conduct for Buonarroti. On the 22nd Granacci paid
Sebastiano di Francesco, a stone-cutter, to whom Michelangelo was much
attached, money for his journey to Venice. It appears that this man
set out upon the 23rd, carrying letters from Giovan Battista della
Palla, who had now renounced all intention of retiring to France, and
was enthusiastically engaged in, the defence of Florence. On the
return of the Medici, Palla was imprisoned in the castle of Pisa, and
paid the penalty of his patriotism by death. A second letter which he
wrote to Michelangelo on this occasion deserves to be translated,
since it proves the high spirit with which the citizens of Florence
were now awaiting the approach of the Prince of Orange and his veteran
army. "Yesterday I sent you a letter, together with ten from other
friends, and the safe-conduct granted by the Signory for the whole
month of November and though I feel sure that it will reach you
safely, I take the precaution of enclosing a copy under this cover. I
need hardly repeat what I wrote at great length in my last, nor shall
I have recourse to friends for the same purpose. They all of them, I
know, with one voice, without the least disagreement or hesitation,
have exhorted you, immediately upon the receipt of their letters and
the safe-conduct, to return home, in order to preserve your life, your
country, your friends, your honour, and your property, and also to
enjoy those times so earnestly desired and hoped for by you. If any
one had foretold that I could listen without the least affright to
news of an invading army marching on our walls, this would have seemed
to me impossible. And yet I now assure you that I am not only quite
fearless, but also full of confidence in a glorious victory. For many
days past my soul has been filled with such gladness, that if God,
either for our sins or for some other reason, according to the
mysteries of His just judgment, does not permit that army to be broken
in our hands, my sorrow will be the same as when one loses, not a good
thing hoped for, but one gained and captured. To such an extent am I
convinced in my fixed imagination of our success, and have put it to
my capital account. I already foresee our militia system, established
on a permanent basis, and combined with that of the territory,
carrying our city to the skies. I contemplate a fortification of
Florence, not temporary, as it now is, but with walls and bastions to
be built hereafter. The principal and most difficult step has been
already taken; the whole space round the town swept clean, without
regard for churches or for monasteries, in accordance with the public
need. I contemplate in these our fellow-citizens a noble spirit of
disdain for all their losses and the bygone luxuries of villa-life; an
admirable unity and fervour for the preservation of liberty; fear of
God alone; confidence in Him and in the justice of our cause;
innumerable other good things, certain to bring again the age of gold,
and which I hope sincerely you will enjoy in company with all of us
who are your friends. For all these reasons, I most earnestly entreat
you, from the depth of my heart, to come at once and travel through
Lucca, where I will meet you, and attend you with due form and
ceremony until here: such is my intense desire that our country should
not lose you, nor you her. If, after your arrival at Lucca, you should
by some accident fail to find me, and you should not care to come to
Florence without my company, write a word, I beg. I will set out at
once, for I feel sure that I shall get permission.... God, by His
goodness, keep you in good health, and bring you back to us safe and

Michelangelo set forth upon his journey soon after the receipt of this
letter. He was in Ferrara on the 9th of November, as appears from a
despatch written by Galeotto Giugni, recommending him to the
Government of Florence. Letters patent under the seal of the Duke
secured him free passage through the city of Modena and the province
of Garfagnana. In spite of these accommodations, he seems to have met
with difficulties on the way, owing to the disturbed state of the
country. His friend Giovan Battista Palla was waiting for him at
Lucca, without information of his movements, up to the 18th of the
month. He had left Florence on the 11th, and spent the week at Pisa
and Lucca, expecting news in vain. Then, "with one foot in the
stirrup," as he says, "the license granted by the Signory" having
expired, he sends another missive to Venice, urging Michelangelo not
to delay a day longer. "As I cannot persuade myself that you do not
intend to come, I urgently request you to reflect, if you have not
already started, that the property of those who incurred outlawry with
you is being sold, and if you do not arrive within the term conceded
by your safe-conduct--that is, during this month--the same will happen
to yourself without the possibility of any mitigation. If you do come,
as I still hope and firmly believe, speak with my honoured friend
Messer Filippo Calandrini here, to whom I have given directions for
your attendance from this town without trouble to yourself. God keep
you safe from harm, and grant we see you shortly in our country, by
His aid, victorious."

With this letter, Palla, who was certainly a good friend to the
wayward artist, and an amiable man to boot, disappears out of this
history. At some time about the 20th of November, Michelangelo
returned to Florence. We do not know how he finished the journey, and
how he was received; but the sentence of outlawry was commuted, on the
23rd, into exclusion from the Grand Council for three years. He set to
work immediately at S. Miniato, strengthening the bastions, and
turning the church-tower into a station for sharpshooters. Florence by
this time had lost all her territory except a few strong places, Pisa,
Livorno, Arezzo, Empoli, Volterra. The Emperor Charles V. signed her
liberties away to Clement by the peace of Barcelona (June 20,1529),
and the Republic was now destined to be the appanage of his
illegitimate daughter in marriage with the bastard Alessandro de'
Medici. It only remained for the army of the Prince of Orange to
reduce the city. When Michelangelo arrived, the Imperial troops were
leaguered on the heights above the town. The inevitable end of the
unequal struggle could be plainly foreseen by those who had not
Palla's enthusiasm to sustain their faith. In spite of Ferrucci's
genius and spirit, in spite of the good-will of the citizens, Florence
was bound to fall. While admitting that Michelangelo abandoned his
post in a moment of panic, we must do him the justice of remembering
that he resumed it when all his darkest prognostications were being
slowly but surely realised. The worst was that his old enemy,
Malatesta Baglioni, had now opened a regular system of intrigue with
Clement and the Prince of Orange, terminating in the treasonable
cession of the city. It was not until August 1530 that Florence
finally capitulated. Still the months which intervened between that
date and Michelangelo's return from Venice were but a dying close, a
slow agony interrupted by spasms of ineffectual heroism.

In describing the works at S. Miniato, Condivi lays great stress upon
Michelangelo's plan for arming the bell-tower. "The incessant
cannonade of the enemy had broken it in many places, and there was a
serious risk that it might come crashing down, to the great injury of
the troops within the bastion. He caused a large number of mattresses
well stuffed with wool to be brought, and lowered these by night from
the summit of the tower down to its foundations, protecting those
parts which were exposed to fire. Inasmuch as the cornice projected,
the mattresses hung free in the air, at the distance of six cubits
from the wall; so that when the missiles of the enemy arrived, they
did little or no damage, partly owing to the distance they had
travelled, and partly to the resistance offered by this swinging,
yielding panoply." An anonymous writer, quoted by Milanesi, gives a
fairly intelligible account of the system adopted by Michelangelo.
"The outer walls of the bastion were composed of unbaked bricks, the
clay of which was mingled with chopped tow. Its thickness he filled in
with earth; and," adds this critic, "of all the buildings which
remained, this alone survived the siege." It was objected that, in
designing these bastions, he multiplied the flanking lines and
embrasures beyond what was either necessary or safe. But, observes the
anonymous writer, all that his duty as architect demanded was that he
should lay down a plan consistent with the nature of the ground,
leaving details to practical engineers and military men. "If, then, he
committed any errors in these matters, it was not so much his fault as
that of the Government, who did not provide him with experienced
coadjutors. But how can mere merchants understand the art of war,
which needs as much science as any other of the arts, nay more,
inasmuch as it is obviously more noble and more perilous?" The
confidence now reposed in him is further demonstrated by a license
granted on the 22nd of February 1530, empowering him to ascend the
cupola of the Duomo on one special occasion with two companions, in
order to obtain a general survey of the environs of Florence.

Michelangelo, in the midst of these serious duties, could not have had
much time to bestow upon his art. Still there is no reason to doubt
Vasari's emphatic statement that he went on working secretly at the
Medicean monuments. To have done so openly while the city was in
conflict to the death with Clement, would have been dangerous; and yet
every one who understands the artist's temperament must feel that a
man like Buonarroti was likely to seek rest and distraction from
painful anxieties in the tranquillising labour of the chisel. It is
also certain that, during the last months of the siege, he found
leisure to paint a picture of Leda for the Duke of Ferrara, which will
be mentioned in its proper place.

Florence surrendered in the month of August 1530. The terms were drawn
up by Don Ferrante Gonzaga, who commanded the Imperial forces after
the death of Filiberto, Prince of Orange, in concert with the Pope's
commissary-general, Baccio Valori. Malatesta Baglioni, albeit he went
about muttering that Florence "was no stable for mules" (alluding to
the fact that all the Medici were bastards), approved of the articles,
and showed by his conduct that he had long been plotting treason. The
act of capitulation was completed on the 12th, and accepted
unwillingly by the Signory. Valori, supported by Baglioni's military
force, reigned supreme in the city, and prepared to reinstate the
exiled family of princes. It said that Marco Dandolo of Venice, when
news reached the Pregadi of the fall of Florence, exclaimed aloud:
"Baglioni has put upon his head the cap of the biggest traitor upon


The city was saved from wreckage by a lucky quarrel between the
Italian and Spanish troops in the Imperial camp. But no sooner was
Clement aware that Florence lay at his mercy, than he disregarded the
articles of capitulation, and began to act as an autocratic despot.
Before confiding the government to his kinsmen, the Cardinal Ippolito
and Alessandro Duke of Penna, he made Valori institute a series of
criminal prosecutions against the patriots. Battista della Palla and
Raffaello Girolami were sent to prison and poisoned. Five citizens
were tortured and decapitated in one day of October. Those who had
managed to escape from Florence were sentenced to exile, outlawry, and
confiscation of goods by hundreds. Charles V. had finally to interfere
and put a stop to the fury of the Pope's revenges. How cruel and
exasperated the mind of Clement was, may be gathered from his
treatment of Fra Benedetto da Foiano, who sustained the spirit of the
burghers by his fiery preaching during the privations of the siege.
Foiano fell into the clutches of Malatesta Baglioni, who immediately
sent him down to Rome. By the Pope's orders the wretched friar was
flung into the worst dungeon in the Castle of S. Angelo, and there
slowly starved to death by gradual diminution of his daily dole of
bread and water. Readers of Benvenuto Cellini's Memoirs will remember
the horror with which he speaks of this dungeon and of its dreadful
reminiscences, when it fell to his lot to be imprisoned there.

Such being the mood of Clement, it is not wonderful that Michelangelo
should have trembled for his own life and liberty. As Varchi says, "He
had been a member of the Nine, had fortified the hill and armed the
bell-tower of S. Miniato. What was more annoying, he was accused,
though falsely, of proposing to raze the palace of the Medici, where
in his boyhood Lorenzo and Piero de' Medici had shown him honour as a
guest at their own tables, and to name the space on which it stood the
Place of Mules." For this reason he hid himself, as Condivi and Varchi
assert, in the house of a trusty friend. The Senator Filippo
Buonarroti, who diligently collected traditions about his illustrious
ancestor, believed that his real place of retreat was the bell-tower
of S. Nicolo, beyond the Arno. "When Clement's fury abated," says
Condivi, "he wrote to Florence ordering that search should be made for
Michelangelo, and adding that when he was found, if he agreed to go on
working at the Medicean monuments, he should be left at liberty and
treated with due courtesy. On hearing news of this, Michelangelo came
forth from his hiding-place, and resumed the statues in the sacristy
of S. Lorenzo, moved thereto more by fear of the Pope than by love for
the Medici." From correspondence carried on between Rome and Florence
during November and December, we learn that his former pension of
fifty crowns a month was renewed, and that Giovan Battista Figiovanni,
a Prior of S. Lorenzo, was appointed the Pope's agent and paymaster.

An incident of some interest in the art-history of Florence is
connected with this return of the Medici, and probably also with
Clement's desire to concentrate Michelangelo's energies upon the
sacristy. So far back as May 10, 1508, Piero Soderini wrote to the
Marquis of Massa-Carrara, begging him to retain a large block of
marble until Michelangelo could come in person and superintend its
rough-hewing for a colossal statue to be placed on the Piazza. After
the death of Leo, the stone was assigned to Baccio Bandinelli; but
Michelangelo, being in favour with the Government at the time of the
expulsion of the Medici, obtained the grant of it. His first
intention, in which Bandinelli followed him, was to execute a Hercules
trampling upon Cacus, which should stand as pendant to his own David.

By a deliberation of the Signory, under date August 22, 1528, we are
informed that the marble had been brought to Florence about three
years earlier, and that Michelangelo now received instructions,
couched in the highest terms of compliment, to proceed with a group of
two figures until its accomplishment. If Vasari can be trusted,
Michelangelo made numerous designs and models for the Cacus, but
afterwards changed his mind, and thought that he would extract from
the block a Samson triumphing over two prostrate Philistines. The
evidence for this change of plan is not absolutely conclusive. The
deliberation of August 22, 1528, indeed left it open to his discretion
whether he should execute a Hercules and Cacus, or any other group of
two figures; and the English nation at South Kensington possesses one
of his noble little wax models for a Hercules. We may perhaps,
therefore, assume that while Bandinelli adhered to the Hercules and
Cacus, Michelangelo finally decided on a Samson. At any rate, the
block was restored in 1530 to Bandinelli, who produced the misbegotten
group which still deforms the Florentine Piazza.

Michelangelo had some reason to be jealous of Bandinelli, who
exercised considerable influence at the Medicean court, and was an
unscrupulous enemy both in word and deed. A man more widely and worse
hated than Bandinelli never lived. If any piece of mischief happened
which could be fixed upon him with the least plausibility, he bore the
blame. Accordingly, when Buonarroti's workshop happened to be broken
open, people said that Bandinelli was the culprit. Antonio Mini left
the following record of the event: "Three months before the siege,
Michelangelo's studio in Via Mozza was burst into with chisels, about
fifty drawings of figures were stolen, and among them the designs for
the Medicean tombs, with others of great value; also four models in
wax and clay. The young men who did it left by accident a chisel
marked with the letter M., which led to their discovery. When they
knew they were detected, they made off or hid themselves, and sent to
say they would return the stolen articles, and begged for pardon." Now
the chisel branded with an M. was traced to Michelangelo, the father
of Baccio Bandinelli, and no one doubted that he was the burglar.

The history of Michelangelo's Leda, which now survives only in
doubtful reproductions, may be introduced by a passage from Condivi's
account of his master's visit to Ferrara in 1529. "The Duke received
him with great demonstrations of joy, no less by reason of his eminent
fame than because Don Ercole, his son, was Captain of the Signory of
Florence. Riding forth with him in person, there was nothing
appertaining to the business of his mission which the Duke did not
bring beneath his notice, whether fortifications or artillery. Beside
this, he opened his own private treasure-room, displaying all its
contents, and particularly some pictures and portraits of his
ancestors, executed by masters in their time excellent. When the hour
approached for Michelangelo's departure, the Duke jestingly said to
him: 'You are my prisoner now. If you want me to let you go free, I
require that you shall promise to make me something with your own
hand, according to your will and fancy, be it sculpture or painting.'
Michelangelo agreed; and when he arrived at Florence, albeit he was
overwhelmed with work for the defences, he began a large piece for a
saloon, representing the congress of the swan with Leda. The breaking
of the egg was also introduced, from which sprang Castor and Pollux,
according to the ancient fable. The Duke heard of this; and on the
return of the Medici, he feared that he might lose so great a treasure
in the popular disturbance which ensued. Accordingly he despatched one
of his gentlemen, who found Michelangelo at home, and viewed the
picture. After inspecting it, the man exclaimed: 'Oh! this is a mere
trifle.' Michelangelo inquired what his own art was, being aware that
men can only form a proper judgment in the arts they exercise. The
other sneered and answered: 'I am a merchant.' Perhaps he felt
affronted at the question, and at not being recognised in his quality
of nobleman; he may also have meant to depreciate the industry of the
Florentines, who for the most part are occupied with trade, as though
to say: 'You ask me what my art is? Is it possible you think a man
like me could be a trader?' Michelangelo, perceiving his drift,
growled out: 'You are doing bad business for your lord! Take yourself
away!' Having thus dismissed the ducal messenger, he made a present of
the picture, after a short while, to one of his serving-men, who,
having two sisters to marry, begged for assistance. It was sent to
France, and there bought by King Francis, where it still exists."

As a matter of fact, we know now that Antonio Mini, for a long time
Michelangelo's man of all work, became part owner of this Leda, and
took it with him to France. A certain Francesco Tedaldi acquired
pecuniary interest in the picture, of which one Benedetto Bene made a
copy at Lyons in 1532. The original and the copy were carried by Mini
to Paris in 1533, and deposited in the house of Giuliano Buonaccorsi,
whence they were transferred in some obscure way to the custody of
Luigi Alamanni, and finally passed into the possession of the King.
Meanwhile, Antonio Mini died, and Tedaldi wrote a record of his losses
and a confused account of money matters and broker business, which he
sent to Michelangelo in 1540. The Leda remained at Fontainebleau till
the reign of Louis XIII., when M. Desnoyers, Minister of State,
ordered the picture to be destroyed because of its indecency. Pierre
Mariette says that this order was not carried into effect; for the
canvas, in a sadly mutilated state, reappeared some seven or eight
years before his date of writing, and was seen by him. In spite of
injuries, he could trace the hand of a great master; "and I confess
that nothing I had seen from the brush of Michelangelo showed better
painting." He adds that it was restored by a second-rate artist and
sent to England. What became of Mini's copy is uncertain. We possess a
painting in the Dresden Gallery, a Cartoon in the collection of the
Royal Academy of England, and a large oil picture, much injured, in
the vaults of the National Gallery. In addition to these works, there
is a small marble statue in the Museo Nazionale at Florence. All of
them represent Michelangelo's design. If mere indecency could justify
Desnoyers in his attempt to destroy a masterpiece, this picture
deserved its fate. It represented the act of coition between a swan
and a woman; and though we cannot hold Michelangelo responsible for
the repulsive expression on the face of Leda, which relegates the
marble of the Bargello to a place among pornographic works of art,
there is no reason to suppose that the general scheme of his
conception was abandoned in the copies made of it.

Michelangelo, being a true artist, anxious only for the presentation
of his subject, seems to have remained indifferent to its moral
quality. Whether it was a crucifixion, or a congress of the swan with
Leda, or a rape of Ganymede, or the murder of Holofernes in his tent,
or the birth of Eve, he sought to seize the central point in the
situation, and to accentuate its significance by the inexhaustible
means at his command for giving plastic form to an idea. Those,
however, who have paid attention to his work will discover that he
always found emotional quality corresponding to the nature of the
subject. His ways of handling religious and mythological motives
differ in sentiment, and both are distinguished from his treatment of
dramatic episodes. The man's mind made itself a mirror to reflect the
vision gloating over it; he cared not what that vision was, so long as
he could render it in lines of plastic harmony, and express the utmost
of the feeling which the theme contained.

Among the many statues left unfinished by Michelangelo is one
belonging to this period of his life. "In order to ingratiate himself
with Baccio Valori," says Vasari, "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 thing of rarest beauty, though not quite completed." This
noble piece of sculpture illustrates the certainty and freedom of the
master's hand. Though the last touches of the chisel are lacking,
every limb palpitates and undulates with life. The marble seems to be
growing into flesh beneath the hatched lines left upon its surface.
The pose of the young god, full of strength and sinewy, is no less
admirable for audacity than for ease and freedom. Whether Vasari was
right in his explanation of the action of this figure may be
considered more than doubtful. Were we not accustomed to call it an
Apollo, we should rather be inclined to class it with the Slaves of
the Louvre, to whom in feeling and design it bears a remarkable
resemblance. Indeed, it might be conjectured with some probability
that, despairing of bringing his great design for the tomb of Julius
to a conclusion, he utilised one of the projected captives for his
present to the all-powerful vizier of the Medicean tyrants. It ought,
in conclusion, to be added, that there was nothing servile in
Michelangelo's desire to make Valori his friend. He had accepted the
political situation; and we have good reason, from letters written at
a later date by Valori from Rome, to believe that this man took a
sincere interest in the great artist. Moreover, Varchi, who is
singularly severe in his judgment on the agents of the Medici,
expressly states that Baccio Valori was "less cruel than the other
Palleschi, doing many and notable services to some persons out of
kindly feeling, and to others for money (since he had little and spent
much); and this he was well able to perform, seeing he was then the
lord of Florence, and the first citizens of the land paid court to him
and swelled his train."


During the siege Lodovico Buonarroti passed his time at Pisa. His
little grandson, Lionardo, the sole male heir of the family, was with
him. Born September 25, 1519, the boy was now exactly eleven years
old, and by his father's death in 1528 he had been two years an
orphan. Lionardo was ailing, and the old man wearied to return. His
two sons, Gismondo and Giansimone, had promised to fetch him home when
the country should be safe for travelling. But they delayed; and at
last, upon the 30th of September, Lodovico wrote as follows to
Michelangelo: "Some time since I directed a letter to Gismondo, from
whom you have probably learned that I am staying here, and, indeed,
too long; for the flight of Buonarroto's pure soul to heaven, and my
own need and earnest desire to come home, and Nardo's state of health,
all makes me restless. The boy has been for some days out of health
and pining, and I am anxious about him." It is probable that some
means were found for escorting them both safely to Settignano. We hear
no more about Lodovico till the period of his death, the date of which
has not been ascertained with certainty.

From the autumn of 1530 on to the end of 1533 Michelangelo worked at
the Medicean monuments. His letters are singularly scanty during all
this period, but we possess sufficient information from other sources
to enable us to reconstruct a portion of his life. What may be called
the chronic malady of his existence, that never-ending worry with the
tomb of Julius, assumed an acute form again in the spring of 1531. The
correspondence with Sebastiano del Piombo, which had been interrupted
since 1525, now becomes plentiful, and enables us to follow some of
the steps which led to the new and solemn contract of May 1532.

It is possible that Michelangelo thought he ought to go to Rome in the
beginning of the year. If we are right in ascribing a letter written
by Benvenuto della Volpaia from Rome upon the 18th of January to the
year 1531, and not to 1532, he must have already decided on this step.
The document is curious in several respects. "Yours of the 13th
informs me that you want a room. I shall be delighted if I can be of
service to you in this matter; indeed, it is nothing in respect to
what I should like to do for you. I can offer you a chamber or two
without the least inconvenience; and you could not confer on me a
greater pleasure than by taking up your abode with me in either of the
two places which I will now describe. His Holiness has placed me in
the Belvedere, and made me guardian there. To-morrow my things will be
carried thither, for a permanent establishment; and I can place at
your disposal a room with a bed and everything you want. You can even
enter by the gate outside the city, which opens into the spiral
staircase, and reach your apartment and mine without passing through
Rome. From here I can let you into the palace, for I keep a key at
your service; and what is better, the Pope comes every day to visit
us. If you decide on the Belvedere, you must let me know the day of
your departure, and about when you will arrive. In that case I will
take up my post at the spiral staircase of Bramante, where you will be
able to see me. If you wish, nobody but my brother and Mona Lisabetta
and I shall know that you are here, and you shall do just as you
please; and, in short, I beg you earnestly to choose this plan.
Otherwise, come to the Borgo Nuovo, to the houses which Volterra
built, the fifth house toward S. Angelo. I have rented it to live
there, and my brother Fruosino is also going to live and keep shop in
it. There you will have a room or two, if you like, at your disposal.
Please yourself, and give the letter to Tommaso di Stefano Miniatore,
who will address it to Messer Lorenzo de' Medici, and I shall have it

Nothing came of these proposals. But that Michelangelo did not abandon
the idea of going to Rome appears from a letter of Sebastiano's
written on the 24th of February. It was the first which passed between
the friends since the terrible events of 1527 and 1530. For once, the
jollity of the epicurean friar has deserted him. He writes as though
those awful months of the sack of Rome were still present to his
memory. "After all those trials, hardships, and perils, God Almighty
has left us alive and in health, by His mercy and piteous kindness. A
thing, in sooth, miraculous, when I reflect upon it; wherefore His
Majesty be ever held in gratitude.... Now, gossip mine, since we have
passed through fire and water, and have experienced things we never
dreamed of, let us thank God for all; and the little remnant left to
us of life, may we at least employ it in such peace as can be had. For
of a truth, what fortune does or does not do is of slight importance,
seeing how scurvy and how dolorous she is. I am brought to this, that
if the universe should crumble round me, I should not care, but laugh
at all. Menighella will inform you what my life is, how I am. I do not
yet seem to myself to be the same Bastiano I was before the Sack. I
cannot yet get back into my former frame of mind." In a postscript to
this letter, eloquent by its very naivete, Sebastiano says that he
sees no reason for Michelangelo's coming to Rome, except it be to look
after his house, which is going to ruin, and the workshop tumbling to
pieces. In another letter, of April 29, Sebastiano repeats that there
is no need for Michelangelo to come to Rome, if it be only to put
himself right with the Pope. Clement is sincerely his friend, and has
forgiven the part he played during the siege of Florence. He then
informs his gossip that, having been lately at Pesaro, he met the
painter Girolamo Genga, who promised to be serviceable in the matter
of the tomb of Julius. The Duke of Urbino, according to this man's
account, was very eager to see it finished. "I replied that the work
was going forward, but that 8000 ducats were needed for its
completion, and we did not know where to get this money. He said that
the Duke would provide, but his Lordship was afraid of losing both the
ducats and the work, and was inclined to be angry. After a good deal
of talking, he asked whether it would not be possible to execute the
tomb upon a reduced scale, so as to satisfy both parties. I answered
that you ought to be consulted." We have reason to infer from this
that the plan which was finally adopted, of making a mural monument
with only a few figures from the hand of Michelangelo, had already
been suggested. In his next letter, Sebastiano communicates the fact
that he has been appointed to the office of Piombatore; "and if you
could see me in my quality of friar, I am sure you would laugh. I am
the finest friar loon in Rome." The Duke of Urbino's agent, Hieronimo
Staccoli, now appears for the first time upon the stage. It was
through his negotiations that the former contracts for the tomb of
Julius were finally annulled and a new design adopted. Michelangelo
offered, with the view of terminating all disputes, to complete the
monument on a reduced scale at his own cost, and furthermore to
disburse the sum of 2000 ducats in discharge of any claims the Della
Rovere might have against him. This seemed too liberal, and when
Clement was informed of the project, he promised to make better terms.
Indeed, during the course of these negotiations the Pope displayed the
greatest interest in Michelangelo's affairs. Staccoli, on the Duke's
part, raised objections; and Sebastiano had to remind him that, unless
some concessions were made, the scheme of the tomb might fall through:
"for it does not rain Michelangelos, and men could hardly be found to
preserve the work, far less to finish it." In course of time the
Duke's ambassador at Rome, Giovan Maria della Porta, intervened, and
throughout the whole business Clement was consulted upon every detail.

Sebastiano kept up his correspondence through the summer of 1531.
Meanwhile the suspense and anxiety were telling seriously on
Michelangelo's health. Already in June news must have reached Rome
that his health was breaking down; for Clement sent word recommending
him to work less, and to relax his spirits by exercise. Toward the
autumn he became alarmingly ill. We have a letter from Paolo Mini, the
uncle of his servant Antonio, written to Baccio Valori on the 29th of
September. After describing the beauty of two statues for the Medicean
tombs, Mini says he fears that "Michelangelo 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; and for his heart, the best remedy would be if his Holiness
could accommodate matters with the Duke of Urbino." In a second
letter, of October 8, Mini insists again upon the necessity of freeing
Michelangelo's mind from his anxieties. The upshot was that Clement,
on the 21st of November, 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 Medicean
monuments, and to take better care of his health. On the 26th of the
same month Benvenuto della Volpaia wrote, repeating what the Pope had
written in his brief, and adding that his Holiness desired him to
select some workshop more convenient for his health than the cold and
cheerless sacristy.

In spite of Clement's orders that Michelangelo should confine himself
strictly to working on the Medicean monuments, he continued to be
solicited with various commissions. Thus the Cardinal Cybo wrote in
December begging him to furnish a design for a tomb which he intended
to erect. Whether Michelangelo consented is not known.

Early in December Sebastiano resumed his communications on the subject
of the tomb of Julius, saying that Michelangelo must not expect to
satisfy the Duke without executing the work, in part at least,
himself. "There is no one but yourself that harms you: I mean, your
eminent fame and the greatness of your works. I do not say this to
flatter you. Therefore, I am of opinion that, without some shadow of
yourself, we shall never induce those parties to do what we want. It
seems to me that you might easily make designs and models, and
afterwards assign the completion to any master whom you choose. But
the shadow of yourself there must be. If you take the matter in this
way, it will be a trifle; you will do nothing, and seem to do all; but
remember that the work must be carried out under your shadow." A
series of despatches, forwarded between December 4, 1531, and April
29, 1532, by Giovan Maria della Porta to the Duke of Urbino, confirm
the particulars furnished by the letters which Sebastiano still
continued to write from Rome. At the end of 1531 Michelangelo
expressed his anxiety to visit Rome, now that the negotiations with
the Duke were nearly complete. Sebastiano, hearing this, replies: "You
will effect more in half an hour than I can do in a whole year. I
believe that you will arrange everything after two words with his
Holiness; for our Lord is anxious to meet your wishes." He wanted to
be present at the drawing up and signing of the contract. Clement,
however, although he told Sebastiano that he should be glad to see
him, hesitated to send the necessary permission, and it was not until
the month of April 1532 that he set out. About the 6th, as appears
from the indorsement of a letter received in his absence, he must have
reached Rome. The new contract was not ready for signature before the
29th, and on that date Michelangelo left for Florence, having, as he
says, been sent off by the Pope in a hurry on the very day appointed
for its execution. In his absence it was duly signed and witnessed
before Clement; the Cardinals Gonzaga and da Monte and the Lady Felice
della Rovere attesting, while Giovan Maria della Porta and Girolamo
Staccoli acted for the Duke of Urbino. When Michelangelo returned and
saw the instrument, he found that several clauses prejudicial to his
interests had been inserted by the notary. "I discovered more than
1000 ducats charged unjustly to my debit, also the house in which I
live, and certain other hooks and crooks to ruin me. The Pope would
certainly not have tolerated this knavery, as Fra Sebastiano can bear
witness, since he wished me to complain to Clement and have the notary
hanged. I swear I never received the moneys which Giovan Maria della
Porta wrote against me, and caused to be engrossed upon the contract."

It is difficult to understand why Michelangelo should not have
immediately taken measures to rectify these errors. He seems to have
been well aware that he was bound to refund 2000 ducats, since the
only letter from his pen belonging to the year 1532 is one dated May,
and addressed to Andrea Quarantesi in Pisa. In this document he
consults Quarantesi about the possibility of raising that sum, with
1000 ducats in addition. "It was in my mind, in order that I might not
be left naked, to sell houses and possessions, and to let the lira go
for ten soldi." As the contract was never carried out, the fraudulent
passages inserted in the deed did not prove of practical importance.
Delia Porta, on his part, wrote in high spirits to his master:
"Yesterday we executed the new contract with Michelangelo, for the
ratification of which by your Lordship we have fixed a limit of two
months. It is of a nature to satisfy all Rome, and reflects great
credit on your Lordship for the trouble you have taken in concluding
it. Michelangelo, who shows a very proper respect for your Lordship,
has promised to make and send you a design. Among other items, I have
bound him to furnish six statues by his own hand, which will be a
world in themselves, because they are sure to be incomparable. The
rest he may have finished by some sculptor at his own choice, provided
the work is done under his direction. The Pope allows him to come
twice a year to Rome, for periods of two months each, in order to push
the work forward. And he is to execute the whole at his own costs." He
proceeds to say, that since the tomb cannot be put up in S. Peter's,
S. Pietro in Vincoli has been selected as the most suitable church. It
appears that the Duke's ratification was sent upon the 5th of June and
placed in the hands of Clement, so that Michelangelo probably did not
see it for some months. Della Porta, writing to the Duke again upon
the 19th of June, says that Clement promised to allow Michelangelo to
come to Rome in the winter, and to reside there working at the tomb.
But we have no direct information concerning his doings after the
return to Florence at the end of April 1532.

It will be worth while to introduce Condivi's account of these
transactions relating to the tomb of Julius, since it throws some
light upon the sculptor's private feelings and motives, as well as
upon the falsification of the contract as finally engrossed.

"When Michelangelo had been called to Rome by Pope Clement, he began
to be harassed by the agents of the Duke of Urbino about the sepulchre
of Julius. Clement, who wished to employ him in Florence, did all he
could to set him free, and gave him for his attorney in this matter
Messer Tommaso da Prato, who was afterwards datary. Michelangelo,
however, knowing the devil disposition of Duke Alessandro toward him,
and being in great dread on this account, also because he bore love
and reverence to the memory of Pope Julius and to the illustrious
house of Della Rovere, strained every nerve to remain in Rome and busy
himself about the tomb. What made him more anxious was that every one
accused him of having received from Pope Julius at least 16,000
crowns, and of having spent them on himself without fulfilling his
engagements. Being a man sensitive about his reputation, he could not
bear the dishonour of such reports, and wanted the whole matter to be
cleared up; nor, although he was now old, did he shrink from the very
onerous task of completing what he had begun so long ago. Consequently
they came to strife together, and his antagonists were unable to prove
payments to anything like the amount which had first been noised
abroad; indeed, on the contrary, more than two thirds of the whole sum
first stipulated by the two Cardinals was wanting. Clement then
thinking he had found an excellent opportunity for setting him at
liberty and making use of his whole energies, called Michelangelo to
him, and said: 'Come, now, confess that you want to make this tomb,
but wish to know who will pay you the balance.' Michelangelo, knowing
well that the Pope was anxious to employ him on his own work,
answered: 'Supposing some one is found to pay me.' To which Pope
Clement: 'You are a great fool if you let yourself believe that any
one will come forward to offer you a farthing.' Accordingly, his
attorney, Messer Tommaso, and the agents of the Duke, after some
negotiations, came to an agreement that a tomb should at least be made
for the amount he had received. Michelangelo, thinking the matter had
arrived at a good conclusion, consented with alacrity. He was much
influenced by the elder Cardinal di Monte, who owed his advancement to
Julius II., and was uncle of Julius III., our present Pope by grace of
God. The arrangement was as follows: That he should make a tomb of one
facade only; should utilise those marbles which he had already blocked
out for the quadrangular monument, adapting them as well as
circumstances allowed; and finally, that he should be bound to furnish
six statues by his own hand. In spite of this arrangement, Pope
Clement was allowed to employ Michelangelo in Florence or where he
liked during four months of the year, that being required by his
Holiness for his undertakings at S. Lorenzo. Such then was the
contract made between the Duke and Michelangelo. But here it has to be
observed, that after all accounts had been made up, Michelangelo
secretly agreed with the agents of his Excellency that it should be
reported that he had received some thousands of crowns above what had
been paid to him; the object being to make his obligation to the Duke
of Urbino seem more considerable, and to discourage Pope Clement from
sending him to Florence, whither he was extremely unwilling to go.
This acknowledgment was not only bruited about in words, but, without
his knowledge or consent, was also inserted into the deed; not when
this was drawn up, but when it was engrossed; a falsification which
caused Michelangelo the utmost vexation. The ambassador, however,
persuaded him that this would do him no real harm: it did not signify,
he said, whether the contract specified a thousand or twenty thousand
crowns, seeing they were agreed that the tomb should be reduced to
suit the sums actually received; adding, that nobody was concerned in
the matter except himself, and that Michelangelo might feel safe with
him on account of the understanding between them. Upon this
Michelangelo grew easy in his mind, partly because he thought he might
have confidence, and partly because he wished the Pope to receive the
impression I have described above. In this way the thing was settled
for the time, but it did not end there; for when he had worked his
four months in Florence and came back to Rome, the Pope set him to
other tasks, and ordered him to paint the wall above the altar in the
Sistine Chapel. He was a man of excellent judgment in such matters,
and had meditated many different subjects for this fresco. At last he
fixed upon the Last Judgment, considering that the variety and
greatness of the theme would enable the illustrious artist to exhibit
his powers in their full extent. Michelangelo, remembering the
obligation he was under to the Duke of Urbino, did all he could to
evade this new engagement; but when this proved impossible, he began
to procrastinate, and, pretending to be fully occupied with the
cartoons for his huge picture, he worked in secret at the statues
intended for the monument."


Michelangelo's position at Florence was insecure and painful, owing to
the undisguised animosity of the Duke Alessandro. This man ruled like
a tyrant of the worst sort, scandalising good citizens by his brutal
immoralities, and terrorising them by his cruelties. "He remained,"
says Condivi, "in continual alarm; because the Duke, a young man, as
is known to every one, of ferocious and revengeful temper, hated him
exceedingly. There is no doubt that, but for the Pope's protection, he
would have been removed from this world. What added to Alessandro's
enmity was that when he was planning the fortress which he afterwards
erected, he sent Messer Vitelli for Michelangelo, ordering him to ride
with them, and to select a proper position for the building.
Michelangelo refused, saying that he had received no commission from
the Pope. The Duke waxed very wroth; and so, through this new
grievance added to old grudges and the notorious nature of the Duke,
Michelangelo not unreasonably lived in fear. It was certainly by God's
aid that he happened to be away from Florence when Clement died."
Michelangelo was bound under solemn obligations to execute no work but
what the Pope ordered for himself or permitted by the contract with
the heirs of Julius. Therefore he acted in accordance with duty when
he refused to advise the tyrant in this scheme for keeping the city
under permanent subjection. The man who had fortified Florence against
the troops of Clement could not assist another bastard Medici to build
a strong place for her ruin. It may be to this period of his life that
we owe the following madigral, written upon the loss of Florentine
liberty and the bad conscience of the despot:--

_Lady, for joy of lovers numberless
Thou wast created fair as angels are.
Sure God hath fallen asleep in heaven afar
When one man calls the bliss of many his!
Give back to streaming eyes
The daylight of thy face, that seems to shun
Those who must live defrauded of their bliss!

Vex not your pure desire with tears and sighs:
For he who robs you of my light hath none.
Dwelling in fear, sin hath no happiness;
Since, amid those who love, their joy is less,
Whose great desire great plenty still curtails,
Than theirs who, poor, have hope that never fails._

During the siege Michelangelo had been forced to lend the Signory a
sum of about 1500 ducats. In the summer of 1533 he corresponded with
Sebastiano about means for recovering this loan. On the 16th of August
Sebastiano writes that he has referred the matter to the Pope. "I
repeat, what I have already written, that I presented your memorial to
his Holiness. It was about eight in the evening, and the Florentine
ambassador was present. The Pope then ordered the ambassador to write
immediately to the Duke; and this he did with such vehemence and
passion as I do not think he has displayed on four other occasions
concerning the affairs of Florence. His rage and fury were tremendous,
and the words he used to the ambassador would stupefy you, could you
hear them. Indeed, they are not fit to be written down, and I must
reserve them for _viva voce_. I burn to have half an hour's
conversation with you, for now I know our good and holy master to the
ground. Enough, I think you must have already seen something of the
sort. In brief, he has resolved that you are to be repaid the 400
ducats of the guardianship and the 500 ducats lent to the old
Government." It may be readily imagined that this restitution of a
debt incurred by Florence when she was fighting for her liberties, to
which act of justice her victorious tyrant was compelled by his Papal
kinsman, did not soften Alessandro's bad feeling for the creditor.

Several of Sebastiano's letters during the summer and autumn of 1533
refer to an edition of some madrigals by Michelangelo, which had been
set to music by Bartolommeo Tromboncino, Giacomo Archadelt, and
Costanzo Festa. We have every reason to suppose that the period we
have now reached was the richest in poetical compositions. It was also
in 1532 or 1533 that he formed the most passionate attachment of which
we have any knowledge in his life; for he became acquainted about this
time with Tommaso Cavalieri. A few years later he was destined to meet
with Vittoria Colonna. The details of these two celebrated friendships
will be discussed in another chapter.

Clement VII. journeyed from Rome in September, intending to take ship
at Leghorn for Nice and afterwards Marseilles, where his young cousin,
Caterina de' Medici, was married to the Dauphin. He had to pass
through S. Miniato al Tedesco, and thither Michelangelo went to wait
upon him on the 22nd. This was the last, and not the least imposing,
public act of the old Pope, who, six years after his imprisonment and
outrage in the Castle of S. Angelo, was now wedding a daughter of his
plebeian family to the heir of the French crown. What passed between
Michelangelo and his master on this occasion is not certain.

The years 1532-1534 form a period of considerable chronological
perplexity in Michelangelo's life. This is in great measure due to the
fact that he was now residing regularly part of the year in Rome and
part in Florence. We have good reason to believe that he went to Rome
in September 1532, and stayed there through the winter. It is probable
that he then formed the friendship with Cavalieri, which played so
important a part in his personal history. A brisk correspondence
carried on between him and his two friends, Bartolommeo Angelini and
Sebastiano del Piombo, shows that he resided at Florence during the
summer and early autumn of 1533. From a letter addressed to Figiovanni
on the 15th of October, we learn that he was then impatient to leave
Florence for Rome. But a _Ricordo,_ bearing date October 29, 1533,
renders it almost certain that he had not then started. Angelini's
letters, which had been so frequent, stop suddenly in that month. This
renders it almost certain that Michelangelo must have soon returned to
Rome. Strangely enough there are no letters or _Ricordi_ in his
handwriting which bear the date 1534. When we come to deal with this
year, 1534, we learn from Michelangelo's own statement to Vasari that
he was in Florence during the summer, and that he reached Rome two
days before the death of Clement VII., _i.e._, upon September 23.
Condivi observes that it was lucky for him that the Pope did not die
while he was still at Florence, else he would certainly have been
exposed to great peril, and probably been murdered or imprisoned by
Duke Alessandro.

Nevertheless, Michelangelo was again in Florence toward the close of
1534. An undated letter to a certain Febo (di Poggio) confirms this
supposition. It may probably be referred to the month of December. In
it he says that he means to leave Florence next day for Pisa and Rome,
and that he shall never return. Febo's answer, addressed to Rome, is
dated January 14, 1534, which, according to Florentine reckoning,
means 1535.

We may take it, then, as sufficiently well ascertained that
Michelangelo departed from Florence before the end of 1534, and that
he never returned during the remainder of his life. There is left,
however, another point of importance referring to this period, which
cannot be satisfactorily cleared up. We do not know the exact date of
his father, Lodovico's, death. It must have happened either in 1533 or
in 1534. In spite of careful researches, no record of the event has
yet been discovered, either at Settignano or in the public offices of
Florence. The documents of the Buonarroti family yield no direct
information on the subject. We learn, however, from the Libri delle
Eta, preserved at the Archivio di Stato, that Lodovico di Lionardo di
Buonarrota Simoni was born upon the 11th of June 1444. Now
Michelangelo, in his poem on Lodovico's death, says very decidedly
that his father was ninety when he breathed his last. If we take this
literally, it must be inferred that he died after the middle of June
1534. There are many reasons for supposing that Michelangelo was in
Florence when this happened. The chief of these is that no
correspondence passed between the Buonarroti brothers on the occasion,
while Michelangelo's minutes regarding the expenses of his father's
burial seem to indicate that he was personally responsible for their
disbursement. I may finally remark that the schedule of property
belonging to Michelangelo, recorded under the year 1534 in the
archives of the Decima at Florence, makes no reference at all to
Lodovico. We conclude from it that, at the time of its redaction,
Michelangelo must have succeeded to his father's estate.

The death of Lodovico and Buonarroto, happening within a space of
little more than five years, profoundly affected Michelangelo's mind,
and left an indelible mark of sadness on his life. One of his best
poems, a _capitolo_, or piece of verse in _terza rima_ stanzas, was
written on the occasion of his father's decease. In it he says that
Lodovico had reached the age of ninety. If this statement be literally
accurate, the old man must have died in 1534, since he was born upon
the 11th of June 1444. But up to the present time, as I have observed
above, the exact date of his death has not been discovered. One
passage of singular and solemn beauty may be translated from the

_Thou'rt dead of dying, and art made divine,
Nor fearest now to change or life or will;
Scarce without envy can I call this thine.
Fortune and time beyond your temple-sill
Dare not advance, by whom is dealt for us
A doubtful gladness, and too certain ill.
Cloud is there none to dim you glorious:
The hours distinct compel you not to fade:
Nor chance nor fate o'er you are tyrannous.
Your splendour with the night sinks not in shade,
Nor grows with day, howe'er that sun ride high
Which on our mortal hearts life's heat hath rayed.
Thus from thy dying I now learn to die,
Dear father mine! In thought I see thy place,
Where earth but rarely lets men climb the sky._
_Not, as some deem, is death the worst disgrace
For one whose last day brings him to the first,
The next eternal throne to God's by grace.
There by God's grace I trust that thou art nursed,
And hope to find thee, If but my cold heart
High reason draw from earthly slime accursed._



The collegiate church of S. Lorenzo at Florence had long been
associated with the Medicean family, who were its most distinguished
benefactors, Giovanni d'Averardo de' Medici, together with the heads
of six other Florentine houses, caused it to be rebuilt at the
beginning of the fifteenth century. He took upon himself the entire
costs of the sacristy and one chapel; it was also owing to his
suggestion that Filippo Brunelleschi, in the year 1421, designed the
church and cloister as they now appear. When he died, Giovanni was
buried in its precincts, while his son Cosimo de' Medici, the father
of his country, continued these benevolences, and bestowed a capital
of 40,000 golden florins on the Chapter. He too was buried in the
church, a simple monument in the sacristy being erected to his memory.
Lorenzo the Magnificent followed in due course, and found his last
resting-place at S. Lorenzo.

We have seen in a previous chapter how and when Leo X. conceived the
idea of adding a chapel which should serve as mausoleum for several
members of the Medicean family at S. Lorenzo, and how Clement
determined to lodge the famous Medicean library in a hall erected over
the west side of the cloister. Both of these undertakings, as well as
the construction of a facade for the front of the church, were
assigned to Michelangelo. The ground plan of the monumental chapel
corresponds to Brunelleschi's sacristy, and is generally known as the
Sagrestia Nuova. Internally Buonarroti altered its decorative
panellings, and elevated the vaulting of the roof into a more
ambitious cupola. This portion of the edifice was executed in the
rough during his residence at Florence. The facade was never begun in
earnest, and remains unfinished. The library was constructed according
to his designs, and may be taken, on the whole, as a genuine specimen
of his style in architecture.

The books which Clement lodged there were the priceless manuscripts
brought together by Cosimo de' Medici in the first enthusiasm of the
Revival, at that critical moment when the decay of the Eastern Empire
transferred the wrecks of Greek literature from Constantinople to
Italy. Cosimo built a room to hold them in the Convent of S. Marco,
which Flavio Biondo styled the first library opened for the use of
scholars. Lorenzo the Magnificent enriched the collection with
treasures acquired during his lifetime, buying autographs wherever it
was possible to find them, and causing copies to be made. In the year
1508 the friars of S. Marco sold this inestimable store of literary
documents, in order to discharge the debts contracted by them during
their ill-considered interference in the state affairs of the
Republic. It was purchased for the sum of 2652 ducats by the Cardinal
Giovanni de' Medici, a second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and
afterwards Pope Leo X. He transferred them to his Roman villa, where
the collection was still further enlarged by all the rarities which a
prince passionate for literature and reckless in expenditure could
there assemble. Leo's cousin and executor, Giulio de' Medici, Pope
Clement VII., fulfilled his last wishes by transferring them to
Florence, and providing the stately receptacle in which they still

The task assigned to Michelangelo, when he planned the library, was
not so simple as that of the new sacristy. Some correspondence took
place before the west side of the cloister was finally decided on.
What is awkward in the approach to the great staircase must be
ascribed to the difficulty of fitting this building into the old
edifice; and probably, if Michelangelo had carried out the whole work,
a worthier entrance from the piazza into the loggia, and from the
loggia into the vestibule, might have been devised.


Vasari, in a well-known passage of his Life of Michelangelo, reports
the general opinion of his age regarding the novelties introduced by
Buonarroti into Italian architecture. The art of building was in a
state of transition. Indeed, it cannot be maintained that the
Italians, after they abandoned the traditions of the Romanesque
manner, advanced with certitude on any line of progress in this art.
Their work, beautiful as it often is, ingenious as it almost always
is, marked invariably by the individuality of the district and the
builder, seems to be tentative, experimental. The principles of the
Pointed Gothic style were never seized or understood by Italian
architects. Even such cathedrals as those of Orvieto and Siena are
splendid monuments of incapacity, when compared with the Romanesque
churches of Pisa, S. Miniato, S. Zenone at Verona, the Cathedral of
Parma. The return from Teutonic to Roman standards of taste, which
marked the advent of humanism, introduced a hybrid manner. This, in
its first commencement, was extremely charming. The buildings of Leo
Battista Alberti, of Brunelleschi, and of Bramante are distinguished
by an exquisite purity and grace combined with picturesqueness. No
edifice in any style is more stately, and at the same time more
musical in linear proportions, than the Church of S. Andrea at Mantua.
The Cappella dei Pazzi and the Church of S. Spirito at Florence are
gems of clear-cut and harmonious dignity. The courtyard of the
Cancelleria at Rome, the Duomo at Todi, show with what supreme ability
the great architect of Casteldurante blended sublimity with suavity,
largeness and breadth with naivete and delicately studied detail. But
these first endeavours of the Romantic spirit to assimilate the
Classic mannerism--essays no less interesting than those of Boiardo in
poetry, of Botticelli in painting, of Donatello and Omodei in
sculpture--all of them alike, whether buildings, poems, paintings, or
statues, displaying the genius of the Italic race, renascent,
recalcitrant against the Gothic style, while still to some extent
swayed by its influence (at one and the same time both Christian and
chivalrous, Pagan and precociously cynical; yet charmingly fresh,
unspoiled by dogma, uncontaminated by pedantry)--these first
endeavours of the Romantic spirit to assimilate the Classic mannerism
could not create a new style representative of the national life. They
had the fault inherent in all hybrids, however fanciful and graceful.
They were sterile and unprocreative. The warring elements, so deftly
and beautifully blent in them, began at once to fall asunder. The San
Galli attempted to follow classical precedent with stricter severity.
Some buildings of their school may still be reckoned among the purest
which remain to prove the sincerity of the Revival of Learning. The
Sansovini exaggerated the naivete of the earlier Renaissance manner,
and pushed its picturesqueness over into florid luxuriance or
decorative detail. Meanwhile, humanists and scholars worked slowly but
steadily upon the text of Vitruvius, impressing the paramount
importance of his theoretical writings upon practical builders.
Neither students nor architects reflected that they could not
understand Vitruvius; that, if they could understand him, it was by no
means certain he was right; and that, if he was right for his own age,
he would not be right for the sixteenth century after Christ. It was
just at this moment, when Vitruvius began to dominate the Italian
imagination, that Michelangelo was called upon to build. The genial
adaptation of classical elements to modern sympathies and uses, which
had been practised by Alberti, Brunelleschi, Bramante, yielded now to
painful efforts after the appropriation of pedantic principles.
Instead of working upon antique monuments with their senses and
emotions, men approached them through the medium of scholastic
erudition. Instead of seeing and feeling for themselves, they sought
by dissection to confirm the written precepts of a defunct Roman
writer. This diversion of a great art from its natural line of
development supplies a striking instance of the fascination which
authority exercises at certain periods of culture. Rather than trust
their feeling for what was beautiful and useful, convenient and
attractive, the Italians of the Renaissance surrendered themselves to
learning. Led by the spirit of scholarship, they thought it their duty
to master the text of Vitruvius, to verify his principles by the
analysis of surviving antique edifices, and, having formed their own
conception of his theory, to apply this, as well as they were able, to
the requirements of contemporary life.

Two exits from the false situation existed: one was the
picturesqueness of the Barocco style; the other was the specious vapid
purity of the Palladian. Michelangelo, who was essentially the genius

Book of the day: