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The Life of Michelangelo Buonarroti by John Addington Symonds

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If we seek to penetrate the genius of an artist, not merely forming a
correct estimate of his technical ability and science, but also
probing his personality to the core, as near as this is possible for
us to do, we ought to give our undivided study to his drawings. It is
there, and there alone, that we come face to face with the real man,
in his unguarded moments, in his hours of inspiration, in the
laborious effort to solve a problem of composition, or in the happy
flow of genial improvisation. Michelangelo was wont to maintain that
all the arts are included in the art of design. Sculpture, painting,
architecture, he said, are but subordinate branches of
draughtsmanship. And he went so far as to assert that the mechanical
arts, with engineering and fortification, nay, even the minor arts of
decoration and costume, owe their existence to design. The more we
reflect upon this apparent paradox, the more shall we feel it to be
true. At any rate, there are no products of human thought and feeling
capable of being expressed by form which do not find their common
denominator in a linear drawing. The simplicity of a sketch, the
comparative rapidity with which it is produced, the concentration of
meaning demanded by its rigid economy of means, render it more
symbolical, more like the hieroglyph of its maker's mind, than any
finished work can be. We may discover a greater mass of interesting
objects in a painted picture or a carved statue; but we shall never
find exactly the same thing, never the involuntary revelation of the
artist's soul, the irrefutable witness to his mental and moral
qualities, to the mysteries of his genius and to its limitations.

If this be true of all artists, it is in a peculiar sense true of
Michelangelo. Great as he was as sculptor, painter, architect, he was
only perfect and impeccable as draughtsman. Inadequate realisation,
unequal execution, fatigue, satiety, caprice of mood, may sometimes be
detected in his frescoes and his statues; but in design we never find
him faulty, hasty, less than absolute master over the selected realm
of thought. His most interesting and instructive work remains what he
performed with pen and chalk in hand. Deeply, therefore, must we
regret the false modesty which made him destroy masses of his
drawings, while we have reason to be thankful for those marvellous
photographic processes which nowadays have placed the choicest of his
masterpieces within the reach of every one.

The following passages from Vasari's and Condivi's Lives deserve
attention by those who approach the study of Buonarroti's drawings.
Vasari says: "His powers of imagination were such, that he was
frequently compelled to abandon his purpose, because he could not
express by the hand those grand and sublime ideas which he had
conceived in his mind; nay, he has spoiled and destroyed many works
for this cause; and I know, too, that some short time before his death
he burnt a large number of his designs, sketches, and cartoons, that
none might see the labours he had endured, and the trials to which he
had subjected his spirit, in his resolve not to fall short of
perfection. I have myself secured some drawings by his hand, which
were found in Florence, and are now in my book of designs, and these,
although they give evidence of his great genius, yet prove also that
the hammer of Vulcan was necessary to bring Minerva from the head of
Jupiter. He would construct an ideal shape out of nine, ten and even
twelve different heads, for no other purpose than to obtain a certain
grace of harmony and composition which is not to be found in the
natural form, and would say that the artist must have his measuring
tools, not in the hand, but in the eye, because the hands do but
operate, it is the eye that judges; he pursued the same idea in
architecture also." Condivi adds some information regarding his
extraordinary fecundity and variety of invention: "He was gifted with
a most tenacious memory, the power of which was such that, though he
painted so many thousands of figures, as any one can see, he never
made one exactly like another or posed in the same attitude. Indeed, I
have heard him say that he never draws a line without remembering
whether he has drawn it before; erasing any repetition, when the
design was meant to be exposed to public view. His force of
imagination is also most extraordinary. This has been the chief reason
why he was never quite satisfied with his own work, and always
depreciated its quality, esteeming that his hand failed to attain the
idea which he had formed within his brain."


The four greatest draughtsmen of this epoch were Lionardo da Vinci,
Michelangelo, Raffaello, and Andrea del Sarto. They are not to be
reckoned as equals; for Lionardo and Michelangelo outstrip the other
two almost as much as these surpass all lesser craftsmen. Each of the
four men expressed his own peculiar vision of the world with pen, or
chalk, or metal point, finding the unique inevitable line, the exact
touch and quality of stroke, which should present at once a lively
transcript from real Nature, and a revelation of the artist's
particular way of feeling Nature. In Lionardo it is a line of subtlety
and infinite suggestiveness; in Michelangelo it compels attention, and
forcibly defines the essence of the object; in Raffaello it carries
melody, the charm of an unerring rhythm; in Andrea it seems to call
for tone, colour, atmosphere, and makes their presence felt. Raffaello
was often faulty: even in the wonderful pen-drawing of two nudes he
sent to Albrecht Duerer as a sample of his skill, we blame the knees
and ankles of his models. Lionardo was sometimes wilful, whimsical,
seduced by dreamland, like a god born amateur. Andrea allowed his
facility to lead him into languor, and lacked passion. Michelangelo's
work shows none of these shortcomings; it is always technically
faultness, instinct with passion, supereminent in force. But we crave
more of grace, of sensuous delight, of sweetness, than he chose, or
perhaps was able, to communicate. We should welcome a little more of
human weakness if he gave a little more of divine suavity.

Michelangelo's style of design is that of a sculptor, Andrea's of a
colourist, Lionardo's of a curious student, Raffaello's of a musician
and improvisatore. These distinctions are not merely fanciful, nor
based on what we know about the men in their careers. We feel similar
distinctions in the case of all great draughtsmen. Titian's
chalk-studies, Fra Bartolommeo's, so singularly akin to Andrea del
Sarto's, Giorgione's pen-and-ink sketch for a Lucretia, are seen at
once by their richness and blurred outlines to be the work of
colourists. Signorelli's transcripts from the nude, remarkably similar
to those of Michelangelo, reveal a sculptor rather than a painter.
Botticelli, with all his Florentine precision, shows that, like
Lionardo, he was a seeker and a visionary in his anxious feeling after
curve and attitude. Mantegna seems to be graving steel or cutting into
marble. It is easy to apply this analysis in succession to any
draughtsman who has style. To do so would, however, be superfluous: we
should only be enforcing what is a truism to all intelligent students
of art--namely, that each individual stamps his own specific quality
upon his handiwork; reveals even in the neutral region of design his
innate preference for colour or pure form as a channel of expression;
betrays the predominance of mental energy or sensuous charm, of
scientific curiosity or plastic force, of passion or of tenderness,
which controls his nature. This inevitable and unconscious revelation
of the man in art-work strikes us as being singularly modern. We do
not apprehend it to at all the same extent in the sculpture of the
ancients, whether it be that our sympathies are too remote from Greek
and Roman ways of feeling, or whether the ancients really conceived
art more collectively in masses, less individually as persons.

No master exhibits this peculiarly modern quality more decisively than
Michelangelo, and nowhere is the personality of his genius, what marks
him off and separates him from all fellow-men, displayed with fuller
emphasis than in his drawings. To use the words of a penetrative
critic, from whom it is a pleasure to quote: "The thing about
Michelangelo is this; he is not, so to say, at the head of a class,
but he stands apart by himself: he is not possessed of a skill which
renders him unapproached or unapproachable; but rather, he is of so
unique an order, that no other artist whatever seems to suggest
comparison with him." Mr. Selwyn Image goes on to define in what a
true sense the words "creator" and "creative" may be applied to him:
how the shows and appearances of the world were for him but
hieroglyphs of underlying ideas, with which his soul was familiar, and
from which he worked again outward; "his learning and skill in the
arts supplying to his hand such large and adequate symbols of them as
are otherwise beyond attainment." This, in a very difficult and
impalpable region of aesthetic criticism, is finely said, and accords
with Michelangelo's own utterances upon art and beauty in his poems.
Dwelling like a star apart, communing with the eternal ideas, the
permanent relations of the universe, uttering his inmost thoughts
about these mysteries through the vehicles of science and of art, for
which he was so singularly gifted, Michelangelo, in no loose or
trivial sense of that phrase, proved himself to be a creator. He
introduces us to a world seen by no eyes except his own, compels us to
become familiar with forms unapprehended by our senses, accustoms us
to breathe a rarer and more fiery atmosphere than we were born into.

The vehicles used by Michelangelo in his designs were mostly pen and
chalk. He employed both a sharp-nibbed pen of some kind, and a broad
flexible reed, according to the exigencies of his subject or the
temper of his mood. The chalk was either red or black, the former
being softer than the latter. I cannot remember any instances of those
chiaroscuro washes which Raffaello handled in so masterly a manner,
although Michelangelo frequently combined bistre shading with pen
outlines. In like manner he does not seem to have favoured the metal
point upon prepared paper, with which Lionardo produced unrivalled
masterpieces. Some drawings, where the yellow outline bites into a
parchment paper, blistering at the edges, suggest a rusty metal in the
instrument. We must remember, however, that the inks of that period
were frequently corrosive, as is proved by the state of many documents
now made illegible through the gradual attrition of the paper by
mineral acids. It is also not impossible that artists may have already
invented what we call steel pens. Sarpi, in the seventeenth century,
thanks a correspondent for the gift of one of these mechanical
devices. Speaking broadly, the reed and the quill, red and black
chalk, or _matita,_ were the vehicles of Michelangelo's expression as
a draughtsman. I have seen very few examples of studies heightened
with white chalk, and none produced in the fine Florentine style of
Ghirlandajo by white chalk alone upon a dead-brown surface. In this
matter it is needful to speak with diffidence; for the sketches of our
master are so widely scattered that few students can have examined the
whole of them; and photographic reproductions, however admirable in
their fidelity to outline, do not always give decisive evidence
regarding the materials employed.

One thing seems manifest. Michelangelo avoided those mixed methods
with which Lionardo, the magician, wrought wonders. He preferred an
instrument which could be freely, broadly handled, inscribing form in
strong plain strokes upon the candid paper. The result attained,
whether wrought by bold lines, or subtly hatched, or finished with the
utmost delicacy of modulated shading, has always been traced out
conscientiously and firmly, with one pointed stylus (pen, chalk, or
matita), chosen for the purpose. As I have said, it is the work of a
sculptor, accustomed to wield chisel and mallet upon marble, rather
than that of a painter, trained to secure effects by shadows and

It is possible, I think, to define, at least with some approximation
to precision, Michelangelo's employment of his favourite vehicles for
several purposes and at different periods of his life. A broad-nibbed
pen was used almost invariably in making architectural designs of
cornices, pilasters, windows, also in plans for military engineering.
Sketches of tombs and edifices, intended to be shown to patrons, were
partly finished with the pen; and here we find a subordinate and very
limited use of the brush in shading. Such performances may be regarded
as products of the workshop rather than as examples of the artist's
mastery. The style of them is often conventional, suggesting the
intrusion of a pupil or the deliberate adoption of an office
mannerism. The pen plays a foremost part in all the greatest and most
genial creations of his fancy when it worked energetically in
preparation for sculpture or for fresco. The Louvre is rich in
masterpieces of this kind--the fiery study of a David; the heroic
figures of two male nudes, hatched into stubborn salience like pieces
of carved wood; the broad conception of the Madonna at S. Lorenzo in
her magnificent repose and passionate cascade of fallen draperies; the
repulsive but superabundantly powerful profile of a goat-like faun.
These, and the stupendous studies of the Albertina Collection at
Vienna, including the supine man with thorax violently raised, are
worked with careful hatchings, stroke upon stroke, effecting a
suggestion of plastic roundness. But we discover quite a different use
of the pen in some large simple outlines of seated female figures at
the Louvre; in thick, almost muddy, studies at Vienna, where the form
emerges out of oft-repeated sodden blotches; in the grim light and
shade, the rapid suggestiveness of the dissection scene at Oxford. The
pen in the hand of Michelangelo was the tool by means of which he
realised his most trenchant conceptions and his most picturesque
impressions. In youth and early manhood, when his genius was still
vehement, it seems to have been his favourite vehicle.

The use of chalk grew upon him in later life, possibly because he
trusted more to his memory now, and loved the dreamier softer medium
for uttering his fancies. Black chalk was employed for rapid notes of
composition, and also for the more elaborate productions of his
pencil. To this material we owe the head of Horror which he gave to
Gherardo Perini (in the Uffizi), the Phaethon, the Tityos, the
Ganymede he gave to Tommaso Cavalieri (at Windsor). It is impossible
to describe the refinements of modulated shading and the precision of
predetermined outlines by means of which these incomparable drawings
have been produced. They seem to melt and to escape inspection, yet
they remain fixed on the memory as firmly as forms in carven basalt.

The whole series of designs for Christ's Crucifixion and Deposition
from the Cross are executed in chalk, sometimes black, but mostly red.
It is manifest, upon examination, that they are not studies from the
model, but thoughts evoked and shadowed forth on paper. Their
perplexing multiplicity and subtle variety--as though a mighty
improvisatore were preluding again and yet again upon the clavichord
to find his theme, abandoning the search, renewing it, altering the
key, changing the accent--prove that this continued seeking with the
crayon after form and composition was carried on in solitude and
abstract moments. Incomplete as the designs may be, they reveal
Michelangelo's loftiest dreams and purest visions. The nervous energy,
the passionate grip upon the subject, shown in the pen-drawings, are
absent here. These qualities are replaced by meditation and an air of
rapt devotion. The drawings for the Passion might be called the
prayers and pious thoughts of the stern master.

Red chalk he used for some of his most brilliant conceptions. It is
not necessary to dwell upon the bending woman's head at Oxford, or the
torso of the lance-bearer at Vienna. Let us confine our attention to
what is perhaps the most pleasing and most perfect of all
Michelangelo's designs--the "Bersaglio," or the "Arcieri," in the
Queen's collection at Windsor.

It is a group of eleven naked men and one woman, fiercely footing the
air, and driving shafts with all their might to pierce a classical
terminal figure, whose face, like that of Pallas, and broad breast are
guarded by a spreading shield. The draughtsman has indicated only one
bow, bent with fury by an old man in the background. Yet all the
actions proper to archery are suggested by the violent gestures and
strained sinews of the crowd. At the foot of the terminal statue,
Cupid lies asleep upon his wings, with idle bow and quiver. Two little
genii of love, in the background, are lighting up a fire, puffing its
flames, as though to drive the archers onward. Energy and ardour,
impetuous movement and passionate desire, could not be expressed with
greater force, nor the tyranny of some blind impulse be more
imaginatively felt. The allegory seems to imply that happiness is not
to be attained, as human beings mostly strive to seize it, by the
fierce force of the carnal passions. It is the contrast between
celestial love asleep in lustful souls, and vulgar love inflaming
tyrannous appetites:--

_The one love soars, the other downward tends;
The soul lights this, while that the senses stir,
And still lust's arrow at base quarry flies._

This magnificent design was engraved during Buonarroti's lifetime, or
shortly afterwards, by Niccolo Beatrizet. Some follower of Raffaello
used the print for a fresco in the Palazzo Borghese at Rome. It forms
one of the series in which Raffaello's marriage of Alexander and
Roxana is painted. This has led some critics to ascribe the drawing
itself to the Urbinate. Indeed, at first sight, one might almost
conjecture that the original chalk study was a genuine work of
Raffaello, aiming at rivalry with Michelangelo's manner. The calm
beauty of the statue's classic profile, the refinement of all the
faces, the exquisite delicacy of the adolescent forms, and the
dominant veiling of strength with grace, are not precisely
Michelangelesque. The technical execution of the design, however,
makes its attribution certain. Well as Raffaello could draw, he could
not draw like this. He was incapable of rounding and modelling the
nude with those soft stipplings and granulated shadings which bring
the whole surface out like that of a bas-relief in polished marble.
His own drawing for Alexander and Roxana, in red chalk, and therefore
an excellent subject for comparison with the Arcieri, is hatched all
over in straight lines; a method adopted by Michelangelo when working
with the pen, but, so far as I am aware, never, or very rarely, used
when he was handling chalk. The style of this design and its exquisite
workmanship correspond exactly with the finish of the Cavalieri series
at Windsor. The paper, moreover, is indorsed in Michelangelo's
handwriting with a memorandum bearing the date April 12, 1530. We have
then in this masterpiece of draughtsmanship an example, not of
Raffaello in a Michelangelising mood, but of Michelangelo for once
condescending to surpass Raffaello on his own ground of loveliness and
rhythmic grace.



Julius died upon the 21st of February 1513. "A prince," says
Guicciardini, "of inestimable courage and tenacity, but headlong, and
so extravagant in the schemes he formed, that his own prudence and
moderation had less to do with shielding him from ruin than the
discord of sovereigns and the circumstances of the times in Europe:
worthy, in all truth, of the highest glory had he been a secular
potentate, or if the pains and anxious thought he employed in
augmenting the temporal greatness of the Church by war had been
devoted to her spiritual welfare in the arts of peace."

Italy rejoiced when Giovanni de' Medici was selected to succeed him,
with the title of Leo X. "Venus ruled in Rome with Alexander, Mars
with Julius, now Pallas enters on her reign with Leo." Such was the
tenor of the epigrams which greeted Leo upon his triumphal progress to
the Lateran. It was felt that a Pope of the house of Medici would be a
patron of arts and letters, and it was hoped that the son of Lorenzo
the Magnificent might restore the equilibrium of power in Italy. Leo
X. has enjoyed a greater fame than he deserved. Extolled as an
Augustus in his lifetime, he left his name to what is called the
golden age of Italian culture. Yet he cannot be said to have raised
any first-rate men of genius, or to have exercised a very wise
patronage over those whom Julius brought forward. Michelangelo and
Raffaello were in the full swing of work when Leo claimed their
services. We shall see how he hampered the rare gifts of the former by
employing him on uncongenial labours; and it was no great merit to
give a free rein to the inexhaustible energy of Raffaello. The project
of a new S. Peter's belonged to Julius. Leo only continued the scheme,
using such assistants as the times provided after Bramante's death in
1514. Julius instinctively selected men of soaring and audacious
genius, who were capable of planning on a colossal scale. Leo
delighted in the society of clever people, poetasters, petty scholars,
lutists, and buffoons. Rome owes no monumental work to his inventive
brain, and literature no masterpiece to his discrimination. Ariosto,
the most brilliant poet of the Renaissance, returned in disappointment
from the Vatican. "When I went to Rome and kissed the foot of Leo,"
writes the ironical satirist, "he bent down from the holy chair, and
took my hand and saluted me on both cheeks. Besides, he made me free
of half the stamp-dues I was bound to pay; and then, breast full of
hope, but smirched with mud, I retired and took my supper at the Ram."

The words which Leo is reported to have spoken to his brother Giuliano
when he heard the news of his election, express the character of the
man and mark the difference between his ambition and that of Julius.
"Let us enjoy the Papacy, since God has given it us." To enjoy life,
to squander the treasures of the Church on amusements, to feed a
rabble of flatterers, to contract enormous debts, and to disturb the
peace of Italy, not for some vast scheme of ecclesiastical
aggrandisement, but in order to place the princes of his family on
thrones, that was Leo's conception of the Papal privileges and duties.
The portraits of the two Popes, both from the hand of Raffaello, are
eminently characteristic. Julius, bent, white-haired, and emaciated,
has the nervous glance of a passionate and energetic temperament. Leo,
heavy-jawed, dull-eyed, with thick lips and a brawny jowl, betrays the
coarser fibre of a sensualist.


We have seen already that Julius, before his death, provided for his
monument being carried out upon a reduced scale. Michelangelo entered
into a new contract with the executors, undertaking to finish the work
within the space of seven years from the date of the deed, May 6,
1513. He received in several payments, during that year and the years
1514, 1515, 1516, the total sum of 6100 golden ducats. This proves
that he must have pushed the various operations connected with the
tomb vigorously forward, employing numerous workpeople, and ordering
supplies of marble. In fact, the greater part of what remains to us of
the unfinished monument may be ascribed to this period of
comparatively uninterrupted labour. Michelangelo had his workshop in
the Macello de' Corvi, but we know very little about the details of
his life there. His correspondence happens to be singularly scanty
between the years 1513 and 1516. One letter, however, written in May
1518, to the Capitano of Cortona throws a ray of light upon this
barren tract of time, and introduces an artist of eminence, whose
intellectual affinity to Michelangelo will always remain a matter of
interest. "While I was at Rome, in the first year of Pope Leo, there
came the Master Luca Signorelli of Cortona, painter. I met him one day
near Monte Giordano, and he told me that he was come to beg something
from the Pope, I forget what: he had run the risk of losing life and
limb for his devotion to the house of Medici, and now it seemed they
did not recognise him: and so forth, saying many things I have
forgotten. After these discourses, he asked me for forty giulios [a
coin equal in value to the more modern paolo, and worth perhaps eight
shillings of present money], and told me where to send them to, at the
house of a shoemaker, his lodgings. I not having the money about me,
promised to send it, and did so by the hand of a young man in my
service, called Silvio, who is still alive and in Rome, I believe.
After the lapse of some days, perhaps because his business with the
Pope had failed, Messer Luca came to my house in the Macello de'
Corvi, the same where I live now, and found me working on a marble
statue, four cubits in height, which has the hands bound behind the
back, and bewailed himself with me, and begged another forty, saying
that he wanted to leave Rome. I went up to my bedroom, and brought the
money down in the presence of a Bolognese maid I kept, and I think the
Silvio above mentioned was also there. When Luca got the cash, he went
away, and I have never seen him since; but I remember complaining to
him, because I was out of health and could not work, and he said:
'Have no fear, for the angels from heaven will come to take you in
their arms and aid you.'" This is in several ways an interesting
document. It brings vividly before our eyes magnificent expensive
Signorelli and his meanly living comrade, each of them mighty masters
of a terrible and noble style, passionate lovers of the nude, devoted
to masculine types of beauty, but widely and profoundly severed by
differences in their personal tastes and habits. It also gives us a
glimpse into Michelangelo's workshop at the moment when he was
blocking out one of the bound Captives at the Louvre. It seems from
what follows in the letter that Michelangelo had attempted to recover
the money through his brother Buonarroto, but that Signorelli refused
to acknowledge his debt. The Capitano wrote that he was sure it had
been discharged. "That," adds Michelangelo, "is the same as calling me
the biggest blackguard; and so I should be, if I wanted to get back
what had been already paid. But let your Lordship think what you like
about it, I am bound to get the money, and so I swear." The remainder
of the autograph is torn and illegible; it seems to wind up with a

The records of this period are so scanty that every detail acquires a
certain importance for Michelangelo's biographer. By a deed executed
on the 14th of June 1514, we find that he contracted to make a figure
of Christ in marble, "life-sized, naked, erect, with a cross in his
arms, and in such attitude as shall seem best to Michelangelo." The
persons who ordered the statue were Bernardo Cencio (a Canon of S.
Peter's), Mario Scappucci, and Metello Varj dei Porcari, a Roman of
ancient blood. They undertook to pay 200 golden ducats for the work;
and Michelangelo promised to finish it within the space of four years,
when it was to be placed in the Church of S. Maria sopra Minerva.
Metello Varj, though mentioned last in the contract, seems to have
been the man who practically gave the commission, and to whom
Michelangelo was finally responsible for its performance. He began to
hew it from a block, and discovered black veins in the working. This,
then, was thrown aside, and a new marble had to be attacked. The
statue, now visible at the Minerva, was not finished until the year
1521, when we shall have to return to it again.

There is a point of some interest in the wording of this contract, on
which, as facts to dwell upon are few and far between at present, I
may perhaps allow myself to digress. The master is here described as
_Michelangelo (di Lodovico) Simoni, Scultore_. Now Michelangelo always
signed his own letters Michelangelo Buonarroti, although he addressed
the members of his family by the surname of Simoni. This proves that
the patronymic usually given to the house at large was still Simoni,
and that Michelangelo himself acknowledged that name in a legal
document. The adoption of Buonarroti by his brother's children and
descendants may therefore be ascribed to usage ensuing from the
illustration of their race by so renowned a man. It should also be
observed that at this time Michelangelo is always described in deeds
as sculptor, and that he frequently signs with Michelangelo, Scultore.
Later on in life he changed his views. He wrote in 1548 to his nephew
Lionardo: "Tell the priest not to write to me again as _Michelangelo
the sculptor_, for I am not known here except as Michelangelo
Buonarroti. Say, too, that if a citizen of Florence wants to have an
altar-piece painted, he must find some painter; for I was never either
sculptor or painter in the way of one who keeps a shop. I have always
avoided that, for the honour of my father and my brothers. True, I
have served three Popes; but that was a matter of necessity." Earlier,
in 1543, he had written to the same effect: "When you correspond with
me, do not use the superscription _Michelangelo Simoni_, nor
_sculptor_; it is enough to put _Michelangelo Buonarroti_, for that is
how I am known here." On another occasion, advising his nephew what
surname the latter ought to adopt, he says: "I should certainly use
_Simoni_, and if the whole (that is, the whole list of patronymics in
use at Florence) is too long, those who cannot read it may leave it
alone." These communications prove that, though he had come to be
known as Buonarroti, he did not wish the family to drop their old
surname of Simoni. The reason was that he believed in their legendary
descent from the Counts of Canossa through a Podesta of Florence,
traditionally known as Simone da Canossa. This opinion had been
confirmed in 1520, as we have seen above, by a letter he received from
the Conte Alessandro da Canossa, addressing him as "Honoured kinsman."
In the correspondence with Lionardo, Michelangelo alludes to this act
of recognition: "You will find a letter from the Conte Alessandro da
Canossa in the book of contracts. He came to visit me at Rome, and
treated me like a relative. Take care of it." The dislike expressed by
Michelangelo to be called _sculptor_, and addressed upon the same
terms as other artists, arose from a keen sense of his nobility. The
feeling emerges frequently in his letters between 1540 and 1550. I
will give a specimen: "As to the purchase of a house, I repeat that
you ought to buy one of honourable condition, at 1500 or 2000 crowns;
and it ought to be in our quarter (Santa Croce), if possible. I say
this, because an honourable mansion in the city does a family great
credit. It makes more impression than farms in the country; and we are
truly burghers, who claim a very noble ancestry. I always strove my
utmost to resuscitate our house, but I had not brothers able to assist
me. Try then to do what I write you, and make Gismondo come back to
live in Florence, so that I may not endure the shame of hearing it
said here that I have a brother at Settignano who trudges after oxen.
One day, when I find the time, I will tell you all about our origin,
and whence we sprang, and when we came to Florence. Perhaps you know
nothing about it; still we ought not to rob ourselves of what God gave
us." The same feeling runs through the letters he wrote Lionardo about
the choice of a wife. One example will suffice: "I believe that in
Florence there are many noble and poor families with whom it would be
a charity to form connections. If there were no dower, there would
also be no arrogance. Pay no heed should people say you want to
ennoble yourself, since it is notorious that we are ancient citizens
of Florence, and as noble as any other house."

Michelangelo, as we know now, was mistaken in accepting his supposed
connection with the illustrious Counts of Canossa, whose castle played
so conspicuous a part in the struggle between Hildebrand and the
Empire, and who were imperially allied through the connections of the
Countess Matilda. Still he had tradition to support him, confirmed by
the assurance of the head of the Canossa family. Nobody could accuse
him of being a snob or parvenu. He lived like a poor man, indifferent
to dress, establishment, and personal appearances. Yet he prided
himself upon his ancient birth; and since the Simoni had been
indubitably noble for several generations, there was nothing
despicable in his desire to raise his kinsfolk to their proper
station. Almost culpably careless in all things that concerned his
health and comfort, he spent his earnings for the welfare of his
brothers, in order that an honourable posterity might carry on the
name he bore, and which he made illustrious. We may smile at his
peevishness in repudiating the title of sculptor after bearing it
through so many years of glorious labour; but when he penned the
letters I have quoted, he was the supreme artist of Italy, renowned as
painter, architect, military engineer; praised as a poet; befriended
with the best and greatest of his contemporaries; recognised as
unique, not only in the art of sculpture. If he felt some pride of
race, we cannot blame the plain-liver and high-thinker, who, robbing
himself of luxuries and necessaries even, enabled his kinsmen to
maintain their rank among folk gently born and nobly nurtured.


In June 1515 Michelangelo was still working at the tomb of Julius. But
a letter to Buonarroto shows that he was already afraid of being
absorbed for other purposes by Leo: "I am forced to put great strain
upon myself this summer in order to complete my undertaking; for I
think that I shall soon be obliged to enter the Pope's service. For
this reason, I have bought some twenty migliaia [measure of weight] of
brass to cast certain figures." The monument then was so far advanced
that, beside having a good number of the marble statues nearly
finished, he was on the point of executing the bronze reliefs which
filled their interspaces. We have also reason to believe that the
architectural basis forming the foundation of the sepulchre had been
brought well forward, since it is mentioned, in the next ensuing

Just at this point, however, when two or three years of steady labour
would have sufficed to terminate this mount of sculptured marble, Leo
diverted Michelangelo's energies from the work, and wasted them in
schemes that came to nothing. When Buonarroti penned that sonnet in
which he called the Pope his Medusa, he might well have been thinking
of Leo, though the poem ought probably to be referred to the earlier
pontificate of Julius. Certainly the Medici did more than the Delia
Rovere to paralyse his power and turn the life within him into stone.
Writing to Sebastiano del Piombo in 1521, Michelangelo shows how fully
he was aware of this. He speaks of "the three years I have lost."

A meeting had been arranged for the late autumn of 1515 between Leo X.
and Francis I. at Bologna. The Pope left Rome early in November, and
reached Florence on the 30th. The whole city burst into a tumult of
jubilation, shouting the Medicean cry of _"Palle"_ as Leo passed
slowly through the streets, raised in his pontifical chair upon the
shoulders of his running footmen. Buonarroto wrote a long and
interesting account of this triumphal entry to his brother in Rome. He
describes how a procession was formed by the Pope's court and guard
and the gentlemen of Florence. "Among the rest, there went a bevy of
young men, the noblest in our commonwealth, all dressed alike with
doublets of violet satin, holding gilded staves in their hands. They
paced before the Papal chair, a brave sight to see. And first there
marched his guard, and then his grooms, who carried him aloft beneath
a rich canopy of brocade, which was sustained by members of the
College, while round about the chair walked the Signory." The
procession moved onward to the Church of S. Maria del Fiore, where the
Pope stayed to perform certain ceremonies at the high altar, after
which he was carried to his apartments at S. Maria Novella. Buonarroto
was one of the Priors during this month, and accordingly he took an
official part in all the entertainments and festivities, which
continued for three days. On the 3rd of December Leo left Florence for
Bologna, where Francis arrived upon the 11th. Their conference lasted
till the 15th, when Francis returned to Milan. On the 18th Leo began
his journey back to Florence, which he re-entered on the 22nd. On
Christmas day (Buonarroto writes _Pasgua_) a grand Mass was celebrated
at S. Maria Novella, at which the Signory attended. The Pope
celebrated in person, and, according to custom on high state
occasions, the water with which he washed his hands before and during
the ceremony had to be presented by personages of importance. "This
duty," says Buonarroto, "fell first to one of the Signori, who was
Giannozzo Salviati; and as I happened that morning to be Proposto, I
went the second time to offer water to his Holiness; the third time,
this was done by the Duke of Camerino, and the fourth time by the
Gonfalonier of Justice." Buonarroto remarks that "he feels pretty
certain it will be all the same to Michelangelo whether he hears or
does not hear about these matters. Yet, from time to time, when I have
leisure, I scribble a few lines."

Buonarroto himself was interested in this event; for, having been one
of the Priors, he received from Leo the title of Count Palatine, with
reversion to all his posterity. Moreover, for honourable addition to
his arms, he was allowed to bear a chief charged with the Medicean
ball and fleur-de-lys, between the capital letters L. and X.

Whether Leo conceived the plan of finishing the facade of S. Lorenzo
at Florence before he left Rome, or whether it occurred to him during
this visit, is not certain. The church had been erected by the Medici
and other magnates from Brunelleschi's designs, and was perfect except
for the facade. In its sacristy lay the mortal remains of Cosimo,
Lorenzo the Magnificent, and many other members of the Medicean
family. Here Leo came on the first Sunday in Advent to offer up
prayers, and the Pope is said to have wept upon his father's tomb. It
may possibly have been on this occasion that he adopted the scheme so
fatal to the happiness of the great sculptor. Condivi clearly did not
know what led to Michelangelo's employment on the facade of S.
Lorenzo, and Vasari's account of the transaction is involved. Both,
however, assert that he was wounded, even to tears, at having to
abandon the monument of Julius, and that he prayed in vain to be
relieved of the new and uncongenial task.


Leo at first intended to divide the work between several masters,
giving Buonarroti the general direction of the whole. He ordered
Giuliano da San Gallo, Raffaello da Urbino, Baccio d'Agnolo, Andrea
and Jacopo Sansovino to prepare plans. While these were in progress,
Michelangelo also thought that he would try his hand at a design. As
ill-luck ruled, Leo preferred his sketch to all the rest. Vasari adds
that his unwillingness to be associated with any other artist in the
undertaking, and his refusal to follow the plans of an architect,
prevented the work from being executed, and caused the men selected by
Leo to return in desperation to their ordinary pursuits. There may be
truth in the report; for it is certain that, after Michelangelo had
been forced to leave the tomb of Julius and to take part in the
facade, he must have claimed to be sole master of the business. The
one thing we know about his mode of operation is, that he brooked no
rival near him, mistrusted collaborators, and found it difficult to
co-operate even with the drudges whom he hired at monthly wages.

Light is thrown upon these dissensions between Michelangelo and his
proposed assistants by a letter which Jacopo Sansovino wrote to him at
Carrara, on the 30th of June 1517. He betrays his animus at the
commencement by praising Baccio Bandinelli, to mention whom in the
same breath with Buonarroti was an insult. Then he proceeds: "The
Pope, the Cardinal, and Jacopo Salviati are men who when they say yes,
it is a written contract, inasmuch as they are true to their word, and
not what you pretend them to be. You measure them with your own rod;
for neither contracts nor plighted troth avail with you, who are
always saying nay and yea, according as you think it profitable. I
must inform you, too, that the Pope promised me the sculptures, and so
did Salviati; and they are men who will maintain me in my right to
them. In what concerns you, I have done all I could to promote your
interests and honour, not having earlier perceived that you never
conferred a benefit on any one, and that, beginning with myself, to
expect kindness from you, would be the same as wanting water not to
wet. I have reason for what I say, since we have often met together in
familiar converse, and may the day be cursed on which you ever said
any good about anybody on earth." How Michelangelo answered this
intemperate and unjust invective is not known to us. In some way or
other the quarrel between the two sculptors must have been made
up--probably through a frank apology on Sansovino's part. When
Michelangelo, in 1524, supplied the Duke of Sessa with a sketch for
the sepulchral monument to be erected for himself and his wife, he
suggested that Sansovino should execute the work, proving thus by acts
how undeserved the latter's hasty words had been.

The Church of S. Lorenzo exists now just as it was before the scheme
for its facade occurred to Leo. Not the smallest part of that scheme
was carried into effect, and large masses of the marbles quarried for
the edifice lay wasted on the Tyrrhene sea-shore. We do not even know
what design Michelangelo adopted. A model may be seen in the Accademia
at Florence ascribed to Baccio d'Agnolo, and there is a drawing of a
facade in the Uffizi attributed, to Michelangelo, both of which have
been supposed to have some connection with S. Lorenzo. It is hardly
possible, however, that Buonarroti's competitors could have been
beaten from the field by things so spiritless and ugly. A pen-and-ink
drawing at the Museo Buonarroti possesses greater merit, find may
perhaps have been a first rough sketch for the facade. It is not drawn
to scale or worked out in the manner of practical architects; but the
sketch exhibits features which we know to have existed in Buonarroti's
plan--masses of sculpture, with extensive bas-reliefs in bronze. In
form the facade would not have corresponded to Brunelleschi's
building. That, however, signified nothing to Italian architects, who
were satisfied when the frontispiece to a church or palace agreeably
masked what lay behind it. As a frame for sculpture, the design might
have served its purpose, though there are large spaces difficult to
account for; and spiteful folk were surely justified in remarking to
the Pope that no one life sufficed for the performance of the whole.

Nothing testifies more plainly to the ascendancy which this strange
man acquired over the imagination of his contemporaries, while yet
comparatively young, than the fact that Michelangelo had to relinquish
work for which he was pre-eminently fitted (the tomb of Julius) for
work to which his previous studies and his special inclinations in
no-wise called him. He undertook the facade of S. Lorenzo reluctantly,
with tears in his eyes and dolour in his bosom, at the Pope Medusa's
bidding. He was compelled to recommence art at a point which hitherto
possessed for him no practical importance. The drawings of the tomb,
the sketch of the facade, prove that in architecture he was still a
novice. Hitherto, he regarded building as the background to sculpture,
or the surface on which frescoes might be limned. To achieve anything
great in this new sphere implied for him a severe course of
preliminary studies. It depends upon our final estimate of
Michelangelo as an architect whether we regard the three years spent
in Leo's service for S. Lorenzo as wasted. Being what he was, it is
certain that, when the commission had been given, and he determined to
attack his task alone, the man set himself down to grasp the
principles of construction. There was leisure enough for such studies
in the years during which we find him moodily employed among Tuscan
quarries. The question is whether this strain upon his richly gifted
genius did not come too late. When called to paint the Sistine, he
complained that painting was no art of his. He painted, and produced a
masterpiece; but sculpture still remained the major influence in all
he wrought there. Now he was bidden to quit both sculpture and
painting for another field, and, as Vasari hints, he would not work
under the guidance of men trained to architecture. The result was that
Michelangelo applied himself to building with the full-formed spirit
of a figurative artist. The obvious defects and the salient qualities
of all he afterwards performed as architect seem due to the forced
diversion of his talent at this period to a type of art he had not
properly assimilated. Architecture was not the natural mistress of his
spirit. He bent his talents to her service at a Pontiff's word, and,
with the honest devotion to work which characterised the man, he
produced renowned monuments stamped by his peculiar style.
Nevertheless, in building, he remains a sublime amateur, aiming at
scenical effect, subordinating construction to decoration, seeking
ever back toward opportunities for sculpture or for fresco, and
occasionally (as in the cupola of S. Peter's) hitting upon a thought
beyond the reach of inferior minds.

The paradox implied in this diversion of our hero from the path he
ought to have pursued may be explained in three ways. First, he had
already come to be regarded as a man of unique ability, from whom
everything could be demanded. Next, it was usual for the masters of
the Renaissance, from Leo Battista Alberti down to Raffaello da Urbino
and Lionardo da Vinci, to undertake all kinds of technical work
intrusted to their care by patrons. Finally, Michelangelo, though he
knew that sculpture was his goddess, and never neglected her first
claim upon his genius, felt in him that burning ambition for
greatness, that desire to wrestle with all forms of beauty and all
depths of science, which tempted him to transcend the limits of a
single art and try his powers in neighbour regions. He was a man born
to aim at all, to dare all, to embrace all, to leave his personality
deep-trenched on all the provinces of art he chose to traverse.


The whole of 1516 and 1517 elapsed before Leo's plans regarding S.
Lorenzo took a definite shape. Yet we cannot help imagining that when
Michelangelo cancelled his first contract with the executors of
Julius, and adopted a reduced plan for the monument, he was acting
under Papal pressure. This was done at Rome in July, and much against
the will of both parties. Still it does not appear that any one
contemplated the abandonment of the scheme; for Buonarroti bound
himself to perform his new contract within the space of nine years,
and to engage "in no work of great importance which should interfere
with its fulfilment." He spent a large part of the year 1516 at
Carrara, quarrying marbles, and even hired the house of a certain
Francesco Pelliccia in that town. On the 1st of November he signed an
agreement with the same Pelliccia involving the purchase of a vast
amount of marble, whereby the said Pelliccia undertook to bring down
four statues of 4-1/2 cubits each and fifteen of 4-1/4 cubits from the
quarries where they were being rough-hewn. It was the custom to block
out columns, statues, &c., on the spot where the stone had been
excavated, in order, probably, to save weight when hauling. Thus the
blocks arrived at the sea-shore with rudely adumbrated outlines of the
shape they were destined to assume under the artist's chisel. It has
generally been assumed that the nineteen figures in question were
intended for the tomb. What makes this not quite certain, however, is
that the contract of July specifies a greatly reduced quantity and
scale of statues. Therefore they may have been intended for the
facade. Anyhow, the contract above-mentioned with Francesco Pelliccia
was cancelled on the 7th of April following, for reasons which will
presently appear.

During the month of November 1516 Michelangelo received notice from
the Pope that he was wanted in Rome. About the same time news reached
him from Florence of his father's severe illness. On the 23rd he wrote
as follows to Buonarroto: "I gathered from your last that Lodovico was
on the point of dying, and how the doctor finally pronounced that if
nothing new occurred he might be considered out of danger. Since it is
so, I shall not prepare to come to Florence, for it would be very
inconvenient. Still, if there is danger, I should desire to see him,
come what might, before he died, if even I had to die together with
him. I have good hope, however, that he will get well, and so I do not
come. And if he should have a relapse--from which may God preserve him
and us--see that he lacks nothing for his spiritual welfare and the
sacraments of the Church, and find out from him if he wishes us to do
anything for his soul. Also, for the necessaries of the body, take
care that he lacks nothing; for I have laboured only and solely for
him, to help him in his needs before he dies. So bid your wife look
with loving-kindness to his household affairs. I will make everything
good to her and all of you, if it be necessary. Do not have the least
hesitation, even if you have to expend all that we possess."

We may assume that the subsequent reports regarding Lodovico's health
were satisfactory; for on the 5th of December Michelangelo set out for
Rome. The executors of Julius had assigned him free quarters in a
house situated in the Trevi district, opposite the public road which
leads to S. Maria del Loreto. Here, then, he probably took up his
abode. We have seen that he had bound himself to finish the monument
of Julius within the space of nine years, and to engage "in no work of
great moment which should interfere with its performance." How this
clause came to be inserted in a deed inspired by Leo is one of the
difficulties with which the whole tragedy of the sepulchre bristles.
Perhaps we ought to conjecture that the Pope's intentions with regard
to the facade of S. Lorenzo only became settled in the late autumn. At
any rate, he had now to transact with the executors of Julius, who
were obliged to forego the rights over Michelangelo's undivided
energies which they had acquired by the clause I have just cited. They
did so with extreme reluctance, and to the bitter disappointment of
the sculptor, who saw the great scheme of his manhood melting into
air, dwindling in proportions, becoming with each change less capable
of satisfactory performance.

Having at last definitely entered the service of Pope Leo,
Michelangelo travelled to Florence, and intrusted Baccio d'Agnolo with
the construction of the model of his facade. It may have been upon the
occasion of this visit that one of his father's whimsical fits of
temper called out a passionate and sorry letter from his son. It
appears that Pietro Urbano, Michelangelo's trusty henchman at this
period, said something which angered Lodovico, and made him set off in
a rage to Settignano:--

"Dearest Father,--I marvelled much at what had happened to you the
other day, when I did not find you at home. And now, hearing that you
complain of me, and say that I have turned you out of doors, I marvel
much the more, inasmuch as I know for certain that never once from the
day that I was born till now had I a single thought of doing anything
or small or great which went against you; and all this time the
labours I have undergone have been for the love of you alone. Since I
returned from Rome to Florence, you know that I have always cared for
you, and you know that all that belongs to me I have bestowed on you.
Some days ago, then, when you were ill, I promised solemnly never to
fail you in anything within the scope of my whole faculties so long as
my life lasts; and this I again affirm. Now I am amazed that you
should have forgotten everything so soon. And yet you have learned to
know me by experience these thirty years, you and your sons, and are
well aware that I have always thought and acted, so far as I was able,
for your good. How can you go about saying I have turned you out of
doors? Do you not see what a reputation you have given me by saying I
have turned you out? Only this was wanting to complete my tale of
troubles, all of which I suffer for your love. You repay me well,
forsooth. But let it be as it must: I am willing to acknowledge that I
have always brought shame and loss on you, and on this supposition I
beg your pardon. Reckon that you are pardoning a son who has lived a
bad life and done you all the harm which it is possible to do. And so
I once again implore you to pardon me, scoundrel that I am, and not
bring on me the reproach of having turned you out of doors; for that
matters more than you imagine to me. After all, I am your son."

From Florence Michelangelo proceeded again to Carrara for the
quarrying of marble. This was on the last day of December. From his
domestic correspondence we find that he stayed there until at least
the 13th of March 1517; but he seems to have gone to Florence just
about that date, in order to arrange matters with Baccio d'Agnolo
about the model. A fragmentary letter to Buonarroto, dated March 13,
shows that he had begun a model of his own at Carrara, and that he no
longer needed Baccio's assistance. On his arrival at Florence he wrote
to Messer Buoninsegni, who acted as intermediary at Rome between
himself and the Pope in all things that concerned the facade: "Messer
Domenico, I have come to Florence to see the model which Baccio has
finished, and find it a mere child's plaything. If you think it best
to have it sent, write to me. I leave again to-morrow for Carrara,
where I have begun to make a model in clay with Grassa [a stone-hewer
from Settignano]." Then he adds that, in the long run, he believes
that he shall have to make the model himself, which distresses him on
account of the Pope and the Cardinal Giulio. Lastly, he informs his
correspondent that he has contracted with two separate companies for
two hundred cartloads of Carrara marble.

An important letter to the same Domenico Buoninsegni, dated Carrara,
May 2, 1517, proves that Michelangelo had become enthusiastic about
his new design. "I have many things to say to you. So I beg you to
take some patience when you read my words, because it is a matter of
moment. Well, then, I feel it in me to make this facade of S. Lorenzo
such that it shall be a mirror of architecture and of sculpture to all
Italy. But the Pope and the Cardinal must decide at once whether they
want to have it done or not. If they desire it, then they must come to
some definite arrangement, either intrusting the whole to me on
contract, and leaving me a free hand, or adopting some other plan
which may occur to them, and about which I can form no idea." He
proceeds at some length to inform Buoninsegni of various transactions
regarding the purchase of marble, and the difficulties he encounters
in procuring perfect blocks. His estimate for the costs of the whole
facade is 35,000 golden ducats, and he offers to carry the work
through for that sum in six years. Meanwhile he peremptorily demands
an immediate settlement of the business, stating that he is anxious to
leave Carrara. The vigorous tone of this document is unmistakable. It
seems to have impressed his correspondents; for Buoninsegni replies
upon the 8th of May that the Cardinal expressed the highest
satisfaction at "the great heart he had for conducting the work of the
facade." At the same time the Pope was anxious to inspect the model.

Leo, I fancy, was always more than half-hearted about the facade. He
did not personally sympathise with Michelangelo's character; and,
seeing what his tastes were, it is impossible that he can have really
appreciated the quality of his genius. Giulio de' Medici, afterwards
Pope Clement VII., was more in sympathy with Buonarroti both as artist
and as man. To him we may with probability ascribe the impulse given
at this moment to the project. After several visits to Florence during
the summer, and much correspondence with the Medici through their
Roman agent, Michelangelo went finally, upon the 31st of August, to
have the model completed under his own eyes by a workman in his native
city. It was carefully constructed of wood, showing the statuary in
wax-relief. Nearly four months were expended on this miniature. The
labour was lost, for not a vestige of it now remains. Near the end of
December he despatched his servant, Pietro Urbano, with the finished
work to Rome. On the 29th of that month, Urbano writes that he exposed
the model in Messer Buoninsegni's apartment, and that the Pope and
Cardinal were very well pleased with it. Buoninsegni wrote to the same
effect, adding, however, that folk said it could never be finished in
the sculptor's lifetime, and suggesting that Michelangelo should hire
assistants from Milan, where he, Buoninsegni, had seen excellent
stonework in progress at the Duomo.

Some time in January 1518, Michelangelo travelled to Rome, conferred
with Leo, and took the facade of S. Lorenzo on contract. In February
he returned by way of Florence to Carrara, where the quarry-masters
were in open rebellion against him, and refused to carry out their
contracts. This forced him to go to Genoa, and hire ships there for
the transport of his blocks. Then the Carraresi corrupted the captains
of these boats, and drove Michelangelo to Pisa (April 7), where he
finally made an arrangement with a certain Francesco Peri to ship the
marbles lying on the sea-shore at Carrara.

The reason of this revolt against him at Carrara may be briefly
stated. The Medici determined to begin working the old marble quarries
of Pietra Santa, on the borders of the Florentine domain, and this
naturally aroused the commercial jealousy of the folk at Carrara.
"Information," says Condivi, "was sent to Pope Leo that marbles could
be found in the high-lands above Pietra Santa, fully equal in quality
and beauty to those of Carrara. Michelangelo, having been sounded on
the subject, chose to go on quarrying at Carrara rather than to take
those belonging to the State of Florence. This he did because he was
befriended with the Marchese Alberigo, and lived on a good
understanding with him. The Pope wrote to Michelangelo, ordering him
to repair to Pietra Santa, and see whether the information he had
received from Florence was correct. He did so, and ascertained that
the marbles were very hard to work, and ill-adapted to their purpose;
even had they been of the proper kind, it would be difficult and
costly to convey them to the sea. A road of many miles would have to
be made through the mountains with pick and crowbar, and along the
plain on piles, since the ground there was marshy. Michelangelo wrote
all this to the Pope, who preferred, however, to believe the persons
who had written to him from Florence. So he ordered him to construct
the road." The road, it may parenthetically be observed, was paid for
by the wealthy Wool Corporation of Florence, who wished to revive this
branch of Florentine industry. "Michelangelo, carrying out the Pope's
commands, had the road laid down, and transported large quantities of
marbles to the sea-shore. Among these were five columns of the proper
dimensions, one of which may be seen upon the Piazza di S. Lorenzo.
The other four, forasmuch as the Pope changed his mind and turned his
thoughts elsewhere, are still lying on the sea-beach. Now the Marquis
of Carrara, deeming that Michelangelo had developed the quarries at
Pietra Santa out of Florentine patriotism, became his enemy, and would
not suffer him to return to Carrara, for certain blocks which had been
excavated there: all of which proved the source of great loss to

When the contract with Francesco Pellicia was cancelled, April 7,
1517, the project for developing the Florentine stone-quarries does
not seem to have taken shape. We must assume, therefore, that the
motive for this step was the abandonment of the tomb. The _Ricordi_
show that Michelangelo was still buying marbles and visiting Carrara
down to the end of February 1518. His correspondence from Pietra Santa
and Serravezza, where he lived when he was opening the Florentine
quarries of Monte Altissimo, does not begin, with any certainty, until
March 1518. We have indeed one letter written to Girolamo del Bardella
of Porto Venere upon the 6th of August, without date of year. This was
sent from Serravezza, and Milanesi, when he first made use of it,
assigned it to 1517. Gotti, following that indication, asserts that
Michelangelo began his operations at Monte Altissimo in July 1517; but
Milanesi afterwards changed his opinion, and assigned it to the year
1519. I believe he was right, because the first letter, bearing a
certain date from Pietra Santa, was written in March 1518 to Pietro
Urbano. It contains the account of Michelangelo's difficulties with
the Carraresi, and his journey to Genoa and Pisa. We have, therefore,
every reason to believe that he finally abandoned Carrara, for Pietra
Santa at the end of February 1518.

Pietra Santa is a little city on the Tuscan seaboard; Serravezza is a
still smaller fortress-town at the foot of the Carrara mountains.
Monte Altissimo rises above it; and on the flanks of that great hill
lie the quarries Della Finocchiaja, which Michelangelo opened at the
command of Pope Leo. It was not without reluctance that Michelangelo
departed from Carrara, offending the Marquis Malaspina, breaking his
contracts, and disappointing the folk with whom he had lived on
friendly terms ever since his first visit in 1505. A letter from the
Cardinal Giulio de' Medici shows that great pressure was put upon him.
It runs thus: "We have received yours, and shown it to our Lord the
Pope. Considering that all your doings are in favour of Carrara, you
have caused his Holiness and us no small astonishment. What we heard
from Jacopo Salviati contradicts your opinion. He went to examine the
marble-quarries at Pietra Santa, and informed us that there are
enormous quantities of stone, excellent in quality and easy to bring
down. This being the case, some suspicion has arisen in our minds that
you, for your own interests, are too partial to the quarries of
Carrara, and want to depreciate those of Pietra Santa. This of a
truth, would be wrong in you, considering the trust we have always
reposed in your honesty. Wherefore we inform you that, regardless of
any other consideration, his Holiness wills that all the work to be
done at S. Peter's or S. Reparata, or on the facade of S. Lorenzo,
shall be carried out with marbles supplied from Pietra Santa, and no
others, for the reasons above written. Moreover, we hear that they
will cost less than those of Carrara; but, even should they cost more,
his Holiness is firmly resolved to act as I have said, furthering the
business of Pietra Santa for the public benefit of the city. Look to
it, then, that you carry out in detail all that we have ordered
without fail; for if you do otherwise, it will be against the
expressed wishes of his Holiness and ourselves, and we shall have good
reason to be seriously wroth with you. Our agent Domenico
(Buoninsegni) is bidden to write to the same effect. Reply to him how
much money you want, and quickly, banishing from your mind every kind
of obstinacy."

Michelangelo began to work with his usual energy at roadmaking and
quarrying. What he learned of practical business as engineer,
architect, master of works, and paymaster during these years among the
Carrara mountains must have been of vast importance for his future
work. He was preparing himself to organise the fortifications of
Florence and the Leonine City, and to crown S. Peter's with the
cupola. Quarrying, as I have said, implied cutting out and
rough-hewing blocks exactly of the right dimensions for certain
portions of a building or a piece of statuary. The master was
therefore obliged to have his whole plan perfect in his head before he
could venture to order marble. Models, drawings made to scale, careful
measurements, were necessary at each successive step. Day and night
Buonarroti was at work; in the saddle early in the morning, among
stone-cutters and road-makers; in the evening, studying, projecting,
calculating, settling up accounts by lamplight.


The narrative of Michelangelo's personal life and movements must here
be interrupted in order to notice an event in which he took no common
interest. The members of the Florentine Academy addressed a memorial
to Leo X., requesting him to authorise the translation of Dante
Alighieri's bones from Ravenna to his native city. The document was
drawn up in Latin, and dated October 20, 1518. Among the names and
signatures appended, Michelangelo's alone is written in Italian: "I,
Michelangelo, the sculptor, pray the like of your Holiness, offering
my services to the divine poet for the erection of a befitting
sepulchre to him in some honourable place in this city." Nothing
resulted from this petition, and the supreme poet's remains still rest
beneath "the little cupola, more neat than solemn," guarded by Pietro
Lombardi's half-length portrait.

Of Michelangelo's special devotion to Dante and the "Divine Comedy" we
have plenty of proof. In the first place, there exist the two fine
sonnets to his memory, which were celebrated in their author's
lifetime, and still remain among the best of his performances in
verse. It does not appear when they were composed. The first is
probably earlier than the second; for below the autograph of the
latter is written, "Messer Donato, you ask of me what I do not
possess." The Donato is undoubtedly Donato Giannotti, with whom
Michelangelo lived on very familiar terms at Rome about 1545. I will
here insert my English translation of these sonnets:--

_From heaven his spirit came, and, robed in clay,
The realms of justice and of mercy trod:
Then rose a living man to gaze on God,
That he might make the truth as clear as day._
_For that pure star, that brightened with his ray
The undeserving nest where I was born,
The whole wide world would be a prize to scorn;
None but his Maker can due guerdon pay.
I speak of Dante, whose high work remains
Unknown, unhonoured by that thankless brood,
Who only to just men deny their wage.
Were I but he! Born for like lingering pains,
Against his exile coupled with his good
I'd gladly change the world's best heritage!

No tongue can tell of him what should be told,
For on blind eyes his splendour shines too strong;
'Twere easier to blame those who wrought him wrong,
Than sound his least praise with a mouth of gold.
He to explore the place of pain was bold,
Then soared to God, to teach our souls by song;
The gates heaven oped to bear his feet along,
Against his just desire his country rolled.
Thankless I call her, and to her own pain
The nurse of fell mischance; for sign take this,
That ever to the best she deals more scorn;
Among a thousand proofs let one remain;
Though ne'er was fortune more unjust than his,
His equal or his better ne'er was born._

The influence of Dante over Buonarroti's style of composition
impressed his contemporaries. Benedetto Varchi, in the proemium to a
lecture upon one of Michelangelo's poems, speaks of it as "a most
sublime sonnet, full of that antique purity and Dantesque gravity."
Dante's influence over the great artist's pictorial imagination is
strongly marked in the fresco of the Last Judgment, where Charon's
boat, and Minos with his twisted tail, are borrowed direct from the
_Inferno._ Condivi, moreover, informs us that the statues of the Lives
Contemplative and Active upon the tomb of Julius were suggested by the
Rachel and Leah of the _Purgatorio._ We also know that he filled a
book with drawings illustrative of the "Divine Comedy." By a miserable
accident this most precious volume, while in the possession of Antonio
Montauti, the sculptor, perished at sea on a journey from Livorno to

But the strongest proof of Michelangelo's reputation as a learned
student of Dante is given in Donato Giannotti's Dialogue upon the
number of days spent by the poet during his journey through Hell and
Purgatory. Luigi del Riccio, who was a great friend of the sculptor's,
is supposed to have been walking one day toward the Lateran with
Antonio Petreo. Their conversation fell upon Cristoforo Landino's
theory that the time consumed by Dante in this transit was the whole
of the night of Good Friday, together with the following day. While
engaged in this discussion, they met Donato Giannotti taking the air
with Michelangelo. The four friends joined company, and Petreo
observed that it was a singular good fortune to have fallen that
morning upon two such eminent Dante scholars. Donato replied: "With
regard to Messer Michelangelo, you have abundant reason to say that he
is an eminent Dantista, since I am acquainted with no one who
understands him better and has a fuller mastery over his works." It is
not needful to give a detailed account of Buonarroti's Dantesque
criticism, reported in these dialogues, although there are good
grounds for supposing them in part to represent exactly what Giannotti
heard him say. This applies particularly to his able interpretation of
the reason why Dante placed Brutus and Cassius in hell--not as being
the murderers of a tyrant, but as having laid violent hands upon the
sacred majesty of the Empire in the person of Caesar. The narrative of
Dante's journey through Hell and Purgatory, which is put into
Michelangelo's mouth, if we are to believe that he really made it
extempore and without book, shows a most minute knowledge of the


Michelangelo's doings at Serravezza can be traced with some accuracy
during the summers of 1518 and 1519. An important letter to
Buonarroto, dated April 2, 1518, proves that the execution of the road
had not yet been decided on. He is impatient to hear whether the Wool
Corporation has voted the necessary funds and appointed him to
engineer it. "With regard to the construction of the road here, please
tell Jacopo Salviati that I shall carry out his wishes, and he will
not be betrayed by me. I do not look after any interests of my own in
this matter, but seek to serve my patrons and my country. If I begged
the Pope and Cardinal to give me full control over the business, it
was that I might be able to conduct it to those places where the best
marbles are. Nobody here knows anything about them. I did not ask for
the commission in order to make money; nothing of the sort is in my
head." This proves conclusively that much which has been written about
the waste of Michelangelo's abilities on things a lesser man might
have accomplished is merely sentimental. On the contrary, he was even
accused of begging for the contract from a desire to profit by it. In
another letter, of April 18, the decision of the Wool Corporation was
still anxiously expected. Michelangelo gets impatient. "I shall mount
my horse, and go to find the Pope and Cardinal, tell them how it is
with me, leave the business here, and return to Carrara. The folk
there pray for my return as one is wont to pray to Christ." Then he
complains of the worthlessness and disloyalty of the stone-hewers he
brought from Florence, and winds up with an angry postscript: "Oh,
cursed a thousand times the day and hour when I left Carrara! This is
the cause of my utter ruin. But I shall go back there soon. Nowadays
it is a sin to do one's duty." On the 22nd of April the Wool
Corporation assigned to Michelangelo a contract for the quarries,
leaving him free to act as he thought best. Complaints follow about
his workmen. One passage is curious: "Sandro, he too has gone away
from here. He stopped several months with a mule and a little mule in
grand style, doing nothing but fish and make love. He cost me a
hundred ducats to no purpose; has left a certain quantity of marble,
giving me the right to take the blocks that suit my purpose. However,
I cannot find among them what is worth twenty-five ducats, the whole
being a jumble of rascally work. Either maliciously or through
ignorance, he has treated me very ill."

Upon the 17th April 1517, Michelangelo had bought a piece of ground in
Via Mozza, now Via S. Zanobi, at Florence, from the Chapter of S.
Maria del Fiore, in order to build a workshop there. He wished, about
the time of the last letter quoted, to get an additional lot of land,
in order to have larger space at his command for the finishing of
marbles. The negotiations went on through the summer of 1518, and on
the 24th of November he records that the purchase was completed.
Premises adapted to the sculptor's purpose were erected, which
remained in Michelangelo's possession until the close of his life.

In August 1518 he writes to a friend at Florence that the road is now
as good as finished, and that he is bringing down his columns. The
work is more difficult than he expected. One man's life had been
already thrown away, and Michelangelo himself was in great danger.
"The place where we have to quarry is exceedingly rough, and the
workmen are very stupid at their business. For some months I must make
demands upon my powers of patience until the mountains are tamed and
the men instructed. Afterwards we shall proceed more quickly. Enough,
that I mean to do what I promised, and shall produce the finest thing
that Italy has ever seen, if God assists me."

There is no want of heart and spirit in these letters. Irritable at
moments, Michelangelo was at bottom enthusiastic, and, like Napoleon
Buonaparte, felt capable of conquering the world with his sole arm.

In September we find him back again at Florence, where he seems to
have spent the winter. His friends wanted him to go to Rome; they
thought that his presence there was needed to restore the confidence
of the Medici and to overpower calumniating rivals. In reply to a
letter of admonition written in this sense by his friend Lionardo di
Compagno, the saddle-maker, he writes: "Your urgent solicitations are
to me so many stabs of the knife. I am dying of annoyance at not being
able to do what I should like to do, through my ill-luck." At the same
time he adds that he has now arranged an excellent workshop, where
twenty statues can be set up together. The drawback is that there are
no means of covering the whole space in and protecting it against the
weather. This yard, encumbered with the marbles for S. Lorenzo, must
have been in the Via Mozza.

Early in the spring he removed to Serravezza, and resumed the work of
bringing down his blocked-out columns from the quarries. One of these
pillars, six of which he says were finished, was of huge size,
intended probably for the flanks to the main door at S. Lorenzo. It
tumbled into the river, and was smashed to pieces. Michelangelo
attributed the accident solely to the bad quality of iron which a
rascally fellow had put into the lewis-ring by means of which the
block was being raised. On this occasion he again ran considerable
risk of injury, and suffered great annoyance. The following letter of
condolence, written by Jacopo Salviati, proves how much he was
grieved, and also shows that he lived on excellent terms with the
Pope's right-hand man and counsellor: "Keep up your spirits and
proceed gallantly with your great enterprise, for your honour requires
this, seeing you have commenced the work. Confide in me; nothing will
be amiss with you, and our Lord is certain to compensate you for far
greater losses than this. Have no doubt upon this point, and if you
want one thing more than another, let me know, and you shall be served
immediately. Remember that your undertaking a work of such magnitude
will lay our city under the deepest obligation, not only to yourself,
but also to your family for ever. Great men, and of courageous spirit,
take heart under adversities, and become more energetic."

A pleasant thread runs through Michelangelo's correspondence during
these years. It is the affection he felt for his workman Pietro
Urbano. When he leaves the young man behind him at Florence, he writes
frequently, giving him advice, bidding him mind his studies, and also
telling him to confess. It happened that Urbano fell ill at Carrara,
toward the end of August. Michelangelo, on hearing the news, left
Florence and travelled by post to Carrara. Thence he had his friend
transported on the backs of men to Serravezza, and after his recovery
sent him to pick up strength in his native city of Pistoja. In one of
the _Ricordi_ he reckons the cost of all this at 33-1/2 ducats.

While Michelangelo was residing at Pietra Santa in 1518, his old
friend and fellow-worker, Pietro Rosselli, wrote to him from Rome,
asking his advice about a tabernacle of marble which Pietro Soderini
had ordered. It was to contain the head of S. John the Baptist, and to
be placed in the Church of the Convent of S. Silvestro. On the 7th of
June Soderini wrote upon the same topic, requesting a design. This
Michelangelo sent in October, the execution of the shrine being
intrusted to Federigo Frizzi. The incident would hardly be worth
mentioning, except for the fact that it brings to mind one of
Michelangelo's earliest patrons, the good-hearted Gonfalonier of
Justice, and anticipates the coming of the only woman he is known to
have cared for, Vittoria Colonna. It was at S. Silvestro that she
dwelt, retired in widowhood, and here occurred those Sunday morning
conversations of which Francesco d'Olanda has left us so interesting a

During the next year, 1519, a certain Tommaso di Dolfo invited him to
visit Adrianople. He reminded him how, coming together in Florence,
when Michelangelo lay there in hiding from Pope Julius, they had
talked about the East, and he had expressed a wish to travel into
Turkey. Tommaso di Dolfo dissuaded him on that occasion, because the
ruler of the province was a man of no taste and careless about the
arts. Things had altered since, and he thought there was a good
opening for an able sculptor. Things, however, had altered in Italy
also, and Buonarroti felt no need to quit the country where his fame
was growing daily.

Considerable animation is introduced into the annals of Michelangelo's
life at this point by his correspondence with jovial Sebastiano del
Piombo. We possess one of this painter's letters, dating as early as
1510, when he thanks Buonarroti for consenting to be godfather to his
boy Luciano; a second of 1512, which contains the interesting account
of his conversation with Pope Julius about Michelangelo and Raffaello;
and a third, of 1518, turning upon the rivalry between the two great
artists. But the bulk of Sebastiano's gossipy and racy communications
belongs to the period of thirteen years between 1520 and 1533; then it
suddenly breaks off, owing to Michelangelo's having taken up his
residence at Rome during the autumn of 1533. A definite rupture at
some subsequent period separated the old friends. These letters are a
mine of curious information respecting artistic life at Rome. They
prove, beyond the possibility of doubt, that, whatever Buonarroti and
Sanzio may have felt, their flatterers, dependants, and creatures
cherished the liveliest hostility and lived in continual rivalry. It
is somewhat painful to think that Michelangelo could have lent a
willing ear to the malignant babble of a man so much inferior to
himself in nobleness of nature--have listened when Sebastiano taunted
Raffaello as "Prince of the Synagogue," or boasted that a picture of
his own was superior to "the tapestries just come from Flanders." Yet
Sebastiano was not the only friend to whose idle gossip the great
sculptor indulgently stooped. Lionardo, the saddle-maker, was even
more offensive. He writes, for instance, upon New Year's Day, 1519, to
say that the Resurrection of Lazarus, for which Michelangelo had
contributed some portion of the design, was nearly finished, and adds:
"Those who understand art rank it far above Raffaello. The vault, too,
of Agostino Chigi has been exposed to view, and is a thing truly
disgraceful to a great artist, far worse than the last hall of the
Palace. Sebastiano has nothing to fear."

We gladly turn from these quarrels to what Sebastiano teaches us about
Michelangelo's personal character. The general impression in the world
was that he was very difficult to live with. Julius, for instance,
after remarking that Raffaello changed his style in imitation of
Buonarroti, continued: "'But he is terrible, as you see; one cannot
get on with him.' I answered to his Holiness that your terribleness
hurt nobody, and that you only seem to be terrible because of your
passionate devotion to the great works you have on hand." Again, he
relates Leo's estimate of his friend's character:

"I know in what esteem the Pope holds you, and when he speaks of you,
it would seem that he were talking about a brother, almost with tears
in his eyes; for he has told me you were brought up together as boys"
(Giovanni de' Medici and the sculptor were exactly of the same age),
"and shows that he knows and loves you. But you frighten everybody,
even Popes!" Michelangelo must have complained of this last remark,
for Sebastiano, in a letter dated a few days later, reverts to the
subject: "Touching what you reply to me about your terribleness, I,
for my part, do not esteem you terrible; and if I have not written on
this subject do not be surprised, seeing you do not strike me as
terrible, except only in art--that is to say, in being the greatest
master who ever lived: that is my opinion; if I am in error, the loss
is mine." Later on, he tells us what Clement VII. thought: "One letter
to your friend (the Pope) would be enough; you would soon see what
fruit it bore; because I know how he values you. He loves you, knows
your nature, adores your work, and tastes its quality as much as it is
possible for man to do. Indeed, his appreciation is miraculous, and
such as ought to give great satisfaction to an artist. He speaks of
you so honourably, and with such loving affection, that a father could
not say of a son what he does of you. It is true that he has been
grieved at times by buzzings in his ear about you at the time of the
siege of Florence. He shrugged his shoulders and cried, 'Michelangelo
is in the wrong; I never did him any injury.'" It is interesting to
find Sebastiano, in the same letter, complaining of Michelangelo's
sensitiveness. "One favour I would request of you, that is, that you
should come to learn your worth, and not stoop as you do to every
little thing, and remember that eagles do not prey on flies. Enough! I
know that you will laugh at my prattle; but I do not care; Nature has
made me so, and I am not Zuan da Rezzo."


The year 1520 was one of much importance for Michelangelo. A _Ricordo_
dated March 10 gives a brief account of the last four years, winding
up with the notice that "Pope Leo, perhaps because he wants to get the
facade at S. Lorenzo finished quicker than according to the contract
made with me, and I also consenting thereto, sets me free ... and so
he leaves me at liberty, under no obligation of accounting to any one
for anything which I have had to do with him or others upon his
account." It appears from the draft of a letter without date that some
altercation between Michelangelo and the Medici preceded this rupture.
He had been withdrawn from Serravezza to Florence in order that he
might plan the new buildings at S. Lorenzo; and the workmen of the
Opera del Duomo continued the quarrying business in his absence.
Marbles which he had excavated for S. Lorenzo were granted by the
Cardinal de' Medici to the custodians of the cathedral, and no attempt
was made to settle accounts. Michelangelo's indignation was roused by
this indifference to his interests, and he complains in terms of
extreme bitterness. Then he sums up all that he has lost, in addition
to expected profits. "I do not reckon the wooden model for the said
facade, which I made and sent to Rome; I do not reckon the period of
three years wasted in this work; I do not reckon that I have been
ruined (in health and strength perhaps) by the undertaking; I do not
reckon the enormous insult put on me by being brought here to do the
work, and then seeing it taken away from me, and for what reason I
have not yet learned; I do not reckon my house in Rome, which I left,
and where marbles, furniture and blocked-out statues have suffered to
upwards of 500 ducats. Omitting all these matters, out of the 2300
ducats I received, only 500 remain in my hands."

When he was an old man, Michelangelo told Condivi that Pope Leo
changed his mind about S. Lorenzo. In the often-quoted letter to the
prelate he said: "Leo, not wishing me to work at the tomb of Julius,
_pretended that he wanted to complete_ the facade of S. Lorenzo at
Florence." What was the real state of the case can only be
conjectured. It does not seem that the Pope took very kindly to the
facade; so the project may merely have been dropped through
carelessness. Michelangelo neglected his own interests by not going to
Rome, where his enemies kept pouring calumnies into the Pope's ears.
The Marquis of Carrara, as reported by Lionardo, wrote to Leo that "he
had sought to do you honour, and had done so to his best ability. It
was your fault if he had not done more--the fault of your sordidness,
your quarrelsomeness, your eccentric conduct." When, then, a dispute
arose between the Cardinal and the sculptor about the marbles, Leo may
have felt that it was time to break off from an artist so impetuous
and irritable. Still, whatever faults of temper Michelangelo may have
had, and however difficult he was to deal with, nothing can excuse the
Medici for their wanton waste of his physical and mental energies at
the height of their development.

On the 6th of April 1520 Raffaello died, worn out with labour and with
love, in the flower of his wonderful young manhood. It would be rash
to assert that he had already given the world the best he had to
offer, because nothing is so incalculable as the evolution of genius.
Still we perceive now that his latest manner, both as regards style
and feeling, and also as regards the method of execution by
assistants, shows him to have been upon the verge of intellectual
decline. While deploring Michelangelo's impracticability--that
solitary, self-reliant, and exacting temperament which made him reject
collaboration, and which doomed so much of his best work to
incompleteness--we must remember that to the very end of his long life
he produced nothing (except perhaps in architecture) which does not
bear the seal and superscription of his fervent self. Raffaello, on
the contrary, just before his death, seemed to be exhaling into a
nebulous mist of brilliant but unsatisfactory performances. Diffusing
the rich and facile treasures of his genius through a host of lesser
men, he had almost ceased to be a personality. Even his own work, as
proved by the Transfiguration, was deteriorating. The blossom was
overblown, the bubble on the point of bursting; and all those pupils
who had gathered round him, drawing like planets from the sun their
lustre, sank at his death into frigidity and insignificance. Only
Giulio Romano burned with a torrid sensual splendour all his own.
Fortunately for the history of the Renaissance, Giulio lived to evoke
the wonder of the Mantuan villa, that climax of associated crafts of
decoration, which remains for us the symbol of the dream of art
indulged by Raffaello in his Roman period.

These pupils of the Urbinate claimed now, on their master's death, and
claimed with good reason, the right to carry on his great work in the
Borgian apartments of the Vatican. The Sala de' Pontefici, or the Hall
of Constantine, as it is sometimes called, remained to be painted.
They possessed designs bequeathed by Raffaello for its decoration, and
Leo, very rightly, decided to leave it in their hands. Sebastiano del
Piombo, however, made a vigorous effort to obtain the work for
himself. His Raising of Lazarus, executed in avowed competition with
the Transfiguration, had brought him into the first rank of Roman
painters. It was seen what the man, with Michelangelo to back him up,
could do. We cannot properly appreciate this picture in its present
state. The glory of the colouring has passed away; and it was
precisely here that Sebastiano may have surpassed Raffaello, as he was
certainly superior to the school. Sebastiano wrote letter after letter
to Michelangelo in Florence. He first mentions Raffaello's death,
"whom may God forgive;" then says that the _"garzoni"_ of the Urbinate
are beginning to paint in oil upon the walls of the Sala de'
Pontefici. "I pray you to remember me, and to recommend me to the
Cardinal, and if I am the man to undertake the job, I should like you
to set me to work at it; for I shall not disgrace you, as indeed I
think I have not done already. I took my picture (the Lazarus) once
more to the Vatican, and placed it beside Raffaello's (the
Transfiguration), and I came without shame out of the comparison." In
answer, apparently, to this first letter on the subject, Michelangelo
wrote a humorous recommendation of his friend and gossip to the
Cardinal Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena. It runs thus: "I beg your most
reverend Lordship, not as a friend or servant, for I am not worthy to
be either, but as a low fellow, poor and brainless, that you will
cause Sebastian, the Venetian painter, now that Rafael is dead, to
have some share in the works, at the Palace. If it should seem to your
Lordship that kind offices are thrown away upon a man like me, I might
suggest that on some rare occasions a certain sweetness may be found
in being kind even to fools, as onions taste well, for a change of
food, to one who is tired of capons. You oblige men of mark every day.
I beg your Lordship to try what obliging me is like. The obligation
will be a very great one, and Sebastian is a worthy man. If, then,
your kind offers are thrown away on me, they will not be so on
Sebastian, for I am certain he will prove a credit to your Lordship."

In his following missives Sebastiano flatters Michelangelo upon the
excellent effect produced by the letter. "The Cardinal informed me
that the Pope had given the Hall of the Pontiffs to Raffaello's
'prentices, and they have begun with a figure in oils upon the wall, a
marvellous production which eclipses all the rooms painted by their
master, and proves that when it is finished, this hall will beat the
record, and be the finest thing done in painting since the ancients.
Then he asked if I had read your letter. I said, No. He laughed
loudly, as though at a good joke, and I quitted him with compliments.
Bandinelli, who is copying the Laocoon, tells me that the Cardinal
showed him your letter, and also showed it to the Pope; in fact,
nothing is talked about at the Vatican except your letter, and it
makes everybody laugh." He adds that he does not think the hall ought
to be committed to young men. Having discovered what sort of things
they meant to paint there, battle-pieces and vast compositions, he
judges the scheme beyond their scope. Michelangelo alone is equal to
the task. Meanwhile, Leo, wishing to compromise matters, offered
Sebastiano the great hall in the lower apartments of the Borgias,
where Alexander VI. used to live, and where Pinturicchio
painted--rooms shut up in pious horror by Julius when he came to
occupy the palace of his hated and abominable predecessor.
Sebastiano's reliance upon Michelangelo, and his calculation that the
way to get possession of the coveted commission would depend on the
latter's consenting to supply him with designs, emerge in the
following passage: "The Cardinal told me that he was ordered by the
Pope to offer me the lower hall. I replied that I could accept nothing
without your permission, or until your answer came, which is not to
hand at the date of writing. I added that, unless I were engaged to
Michelangelo, even if the Pope commanded me to paint that hall, I
would not do so, because I do not think myself inferior to Raffaello's
'prentices, especially after the Pope, with his own mouth, had offered
me half of the upper hall; and anyhow, I do not regard it as
creditable to myself to paint the cellars, and they to have the gilded
chambers. I said they had better be allowed to go on painting. He
answered that the Pope had only done this to avoid rivalries. The men
possessed designs ready for that hall, and I ought to remember that
the lower one was also a hall of the Pontiffs. My reply was that I
would have nothing to do with it; so that now they are laughing at me,
and I am so worried that I am well-nigh mad." Later on he adds: "It
has been my object, through you and your authority, to execute
vengeance for myself and you too, letting malignant fellows know that
there are other demigods alive beside Raffael da Urbino and his
'prentices." The vacillation of Leo in this business, and his desire
to make things pleasant, are characteristic of the man, who acted just
in the same way while negotiating with princes.


When Michelangelo complained that he was "rovinato per detta opera di
San Lorenzo," he probably did not mean that he was ruined in purse,
but in health and energy. For some while after Leo gave him his
liberty, he seems to have remained comparatively inactive. During this
period the sacristy at S. Lorenzo and the Medicean tombs were probably
in contemplation. Giovanni Cambi says that they were begun at the end
of March 1520. But we first hear something definite about them in a
_Ricordo_ which extends from April 9 to August 19, 1521. Michelangelo
says that on the former of these dates he received money from the
Cardinal de' Medici for a journey to Carrara, whither he went and
stayed about three weeks, ordering marbles for "the tombs which are to
be placed in the new sacristy at S. Lorenzo. And there I made out
drawings to scale, and measured models in clay for the said tombs." He
left his assistant Scipione of Settignano at Carrara as overseer of
the work and returned to Florence. On the 20th of July following he
went again to Carrara, and stayed nine days. On the 16th of August the
contractors for the blocks, all of which were excavated from the old
Roman quarry of Polvaccio, came to Florence, and were paid for on
account. Scipione returned on the 19th of August. It may be added that
the name of Stefano, the miniaturist, who acted as Michelangelo's
factotum through several years, is mentioned for the first time in
this minute and interesting record.

That the commission for the sacristy came from the Cardinal Giulio,
and not from the Pope, appears in the document I have just cited. The
fact is confirmed by a letter written to Fattucci in 1523: "About two
years have elapsed since I returned from Carrara, whither I had gone
to purchase marbles for the tombs of the Cardinal." The letter is
curious in several respects, because it shows how changeable through
many months Giulio remained about the scheme; at one time bidding
Michelangelo prepare plans and models, at another refusing to listen
to any proposals; then warming up again, and saying that, if he lived
long enough, he meant to erect the facade as well. The final issue of
the affair was, that after Giulio became Pope Clement VII., the
sacristy went forward, and Michelangelo had to put the sepulchre of
Julius aside. During the pontificate of Adrian, we must believe that
he worked upon his statues for that monument, since a Cardinal was
hardly powerful enough to command his services; but when the Cardinal
became Pope, and threatened to bring an action against him for moneys
received, the case was altered. The letter to Fattucci, when carefully
studied, leads to these conclusions.

Very little is known to us regarding his private life in the year
1521. We only possess one letter, relating to the purchase of a house.
In October he stood godfather to the infant son of Niccolo Soderini,
nephew of his old patron, the Gonfalonier.

This barren period is marked by only one considerable event--that is,
the termination of the Cristo Risorto, or Christ Triumphant, which had
been ordered by Metello Varj de' Porcari in 1514. The statue seems to
have been rough-hewn at the quarries, packed up, and sent to Pisa on
its way to Florence as early as December 1518, but it was not until
March 1521 that Michelangelo began to occupy himself about it
seriously. He then despatched Pietro Urbano to Rome with orders to
complete it there, and to arrange with the purchaser for placing it
upon a pedestal. Sebastiano's letters contain some references to this
work, which enable us to understand how wrong it would be to accept it
as a representative piece of Buonarroti's own handicraft. On the 9th
of November 1520 he writes that his gossip, Giovanni da Reggio, "goes
about saying that you did not execute the figure, but that it is the
work of Pietro Urbano. Take good care that it should be seen to be
from your hand, so that poltroons and babblers may burst." On the 6th
of September 1521 he returns to the subject. Urbano was at this time
resident in Rome, and behaving himself so badly, in Sebastiano's
opinion, that he feels bound to make a severe report. "In the first
place, you sent him to Rome with the statue to finish and erect it.
What he did and left undone you know already. But I must inform you
that he has spoiled the marble wherever he touched it. In particular,
he shortened the right foot and cut the toes off; the hands too,
especially the right hand, which holds the cross, have been mutilated
in the fingers. Frizzi says they seem to have been worked by a
biscuit-maker, not wrought in marble, but kneaded by some one used to
dough. I am no judge, not being familiar with the method of
stone-cutting; but I can tell you that the fingers look to me very
stiff and dumpy. It is clear also that he has been peddling at the
beard; and I believe my little boy would have done so with more sense,
for it looks as though he had used a knife without a point to chisel
the hair. This can easily be remedied, however. He has also spoiled
one of the nostrils. A little more, and the whole nose would have been
ruined, and only God could have restored it." Michelangelo apparently
had already taken measures to transfer the Christ from Urbano's hands
to those of the sculptor Federigo Frizzi. This irritated his former
friend and workman. "Pietro shows a very ugly and malignant spirit
after finding himself cast off by you. He does not seem to care for
you or any one alive, but thinks he is a great master. He will soon
find out his mistake, for the poor young man will never be able to
make statues. He has forgotten all he knew of art, and the knees of
your Christ are worth more than all Rome together." It was
Sebastiano's wont to run babbling on this way. Once again he returns
to Pietro Urbano. "I am informed that he has left Rome; he has not
been seen for several days, has shunned the Court, and I certainly
believe that he will come to a bad end. He gambles, wants all the
women of the town, struts like a Ganymede in velvet shoes through
Rome, and flings his cash about. Poor fellow! I am sorry for him
since, after all, he is but young."

Such was the end of Pietro Urbano. Michelangelo was certainly
unfortunate with his apprentices. One cannot help fancying he may have
spoiled them by indulgence. Vasari, mentioning Pietro, calls him "a
person of talent, but one who never took the pains to work."

Frizzi brought the Christ Triumphant into its present state, patching
up what "the lither lad" from Pistoja had boggled. Buonarroti, who was
sincerely attached to Varj, and felt his artistic reputation now at
stake, offered to make a new statue. But the magnanimous Roman
gentleman replied that he was entirely satisfied with the one he had
received. He regarded and esteemed it "as a thing of gold," and, in
refusing Michelangelo's offer, added that "this proved his noble soul
and generosity, inasmuch as, when he had already made what could not
be surpassed and was incomparable, he still wanted to serve his friend
better." The price originally stipulated was paid, and Varj added an
autograph testimonial, strongly affirming his contentment with the
whole transaction.

These details prove that the Christ of the Minerva must be regarded as
a mutilated masterpiece. Michelangelo is certainly responsible for the
general conception, the pose, and a large portion of the finished
surface, details of which, especially in the knees, so much admired by
Sebastiano, and in the robust arms, are magnificent. He designed the
figure wholly nude, so that the heavy bronze drapery which now
surrounds the loins, and bulges drooping from the left hip, breaks the
intended harmony of lines. Yet, could this brawny man have ever
suggested any distinctly religious idea? Christ, victor over Death and
Hell, did not triumph by ponderosity and sinews. The spiritual nature
of his conquest, the ideality of a divine soul disencumbered from the
flesh, to which it once had stooped in love for sinful man, ought
certainly to have been emphasised, if anywhere through art, in the
statue of a Risen Christ. Substitute a scaling-ladder for the cross,
and here we have a fine life-guardsman, stripped and posing for some
classic battle-piece. We cannot quarrel with Michelangelo about the
face and head. Those vulgarly handsome features, that beard, pomaded
and curled by a barber's 'prentice, betray no signs of his
inspiration. Only in the arrangement of the hair, hyacinthine locks
descending to the shoulders, do we recognise the touch of the divine

The Christ became very famous. Francis I. had it cast and sent to
Paris, to be repeated in bronze. What is more strange, it has long
been the object of a religious cult. The right foot, so mangled by
poor Pietro, wears a fine brass shoe, in order to prevent its being
kissed away. This almost makes one think of Goethe's hexameter:
"Wunderthaetige Bilder sind meist nur schlechte Gemaelde." Still it must
be remembered that excellent critics have found the whole work
admirable. Gsell-Fels says: "It is his second Moses; in movement and
physique one of the greatest masterpieces; as a Christ-ideal, the
heroic conception of a humanist." That last observation is just. We
may remember that Vida was composing his _Christiad_ while Frizzi was
curling the beard of the Cristo Risorto. Vida always speaks of Jesus
as _Heros_ and of God the Father as _Superum Pater Nimbipotens_ or
_Regnator Olympi_.



Leo X. expired upon the 1st day of December 1521. The vacillating game
he played in European politics had just been crowned with momentary
success. Some folk believed that the Pope died of joy after hearing
that his Imperial allies had entered the town of Milan; others thought
that he succumbed to poison. We do not know what caused his death. But
the unsoundness of his constitution, over-taxed by dissipation and
generous living, in the midst of public cares for which the man had
hardly nerve enough, may suffice to account for a decease certainly
sudden and premature. Michelangelo, born in the same year, was
destined to survive him through more than eight lustres of the life of

Leo was a personality whom it is impossible to praise without reserve.
The Pope at that time in Italy had to perform three separate
functions. His first duty was to the Church. Leo left the See of Rome
worse off than he found it: financially bankrupt, compromised by vague
schemes set on foot for the aggrandisement of his family, discredited
by many shameless means for raising money upon spiritual securities.
His second duty was to Italy. Leo left the peninsula so involved in a
mesh of meaningless entanglements, diplomatic and aimless wars, that
anarchy and violence proved to be the only exit from the situation.
His third duty was to that higher culture which Italy dispensed to
Europe, and of which the Papacy had made itself the leading
propagator. Here Leo failed almost as conspicuously as in all else he
attempted. He debased the standard of art and literature by his
ill-placed liberalities, seeking quick returns for careless
expenditure, not selecting the finest spirits of his age for timely
patronage, diffusing no lofty enthusiasm, but breeding round him
mushrooms of mediocrity.

Nothing casts stronger light upon the low tone of Roman society
created by Leo than the outburst of frenzy and execration which
exploded when a Fleming was elected as his successor. Adrian Florent,
belonging to a family surnamed Dedel, emerged from the scrutiny of the
Conclave into the pontifical chair. He had been the tutor of Charles
V., and this may suffice to account for his nomination. Cynical wits
ascribed that circumstance to the direct and unexpected action of the
Holy Ghost. He was the one foreigner who occupied the seat of S. Peter
after the period when the metropolis of Western Christendom became an
Italian principality. Adrian, by his virtues and his failings, proved
that modern Rome, in her social corruption and religious indifference,
demanded an Italian Pontiff. Single-minded and simple, raised
unexpectedly by circumstances into his supreme position, he shut his
eyes absolutely to art and culture, abandoned diplomacy, and
determined to act only as the chief of the Catholic Church. In
ecclesiastical matters Adrian was undoubtedly a worthy man. He
returned to the original conception of his duty as the Primate of
Occidental Christendom; and what might have happened had he lived to
impress his spirit upon Rome, remains beyond the reach of calculation.
Dare we conjecture that the sack of 1527 would have been averted?

Adrian reigned only a year and eight months. He had no time to do
anything of permanent value, and was hardly powerful enough to do it,
even if time and opportunity had been afforded. In the thunderstorm
gathering over Rome and the Papacy, he represents that momentary lull
during which men hold their breath and murmur. All the place-seekers,
parasites, flatterers, second-rate artificers, folk of facile talents,
whom Leo gathered round him, vented their rage against a Pope who
lived sparsely, shut up the Belvedere, called statues "idols of the
Pagans," and spent no farthing upon twangling lutes and frescoed
chambers. Truly Adrian is one of the most grotesque and significant
figures upon the page of modern history. His personal worth, his
inadequacy to the needs of the age, and his incompetence to control
the tempest loosed by Della Roveres, Borgias, and Medici around him,
give the man a tragic irony.

After his death, upon the 23rd of September 1523, the Cardinal Giulio
de' Medici was made Pope. He assumed the title of Clement VII. upon
the 9th of November. The wits who saluted Adrian's doctor with the
title of "Saviour of the Fatherland," now rejoiced at the election of
an Italian and a Medici. The golden years of Leo's reign would
certainly return, they thought; having no foreknowledge of the tragedy
which was so soon to be enacted, first at Rome, and afterwards at
Florence, Michelangelo wrote to his friend Topolino at Carrara: "You
will have heard that Medici is made Pope; all the world seems to me to
be delighted, and I think that here at Florence great things will soon
be set on foot in our art. Therefore, serve well and faithfully."


Our records are very scanty, both as regards personal details and
art-work, for the life of Michelangelo during the pontificate of
Adrian VI. The high esteem in which he was held throughout Italy is
proved by three incidents which may shortly be related. In 1522, the
Board of Works for the cathedral church of S. Petronio at Bologna
decided to complete the facade. Various architects sent in designs;
among them Peruzzi competed with one in the Gothic style, and another
in that of the Classical revival. Great differences of opinion arose
in the city as to the merits of the rival plans, and the Board in July
invited Michelangelo, through their secretary, to come and act as
umpire. They promised to reward him magnificently. It does not appear
that Michelangelo accepted the offer. In 1523, Cardinal Grimani, who
was a famous collector of art-objects, wrote begging for some specimen
of his craft. Grimani left it open to him "to choose material and
subject; painting, bronze, or marble, according to his fancy."
Michelangelo must have promised to fulfill the commission, for we have
a letter from Grimani thanking him effusively. He offers to pay fifty
ducats at the commencement of the work, and what Michelangelo thinks
fit to demand at its conclusion: "for such is the excellence of your
ability, that we shall take no thought of money-value." Grimani was
Patriarch of Aquileja. In the same year, 1523, the Genoese entered
into negotiations for a colossal statue of Andrea Doria, which they
desired to obtain from the hand of Michelangelo. Its execution must
have been seriously contemplated, for the Senate of Genoa banked 300
ducats for the purpose. We regret that Michelangelo could not carry
out a work so congenial to his talent as this ideal portrait of the
mighty Signer Capitano would have been; but we may console ourselves
by reflecting that even his energies were not equal to all tasks
imposed upon him. The real matter for lamentation is that they
suffered so much waste in the service of vacillating Popes.

To the year 1523 belongs, in all probability, the last extant letter
which Michelangelo wrote to his father. Lodovico was dissatisfied with
a contract which had been drawn up on the 16th of June in that year,
and by which a certain sum of money, belonging to the dowry of his
late wife, was settled in reversion upon his eldest son. Michelangelo
explains the tenor of the deed, and then breaks forth into the,
following bitter and ironical invective: "If my life is a nuisance to
you, you have found the means of protecting yourself, and will inherit
the key of that treasure which you say that I possess. And you will be
acting rightly; for all Florence knows how mighty rich you were, and
how I always robbed you, and deserve to be chastised. Highly will men
think of you for this. Cry out and tell folk all you choose about me,
but do not write again, for you prevent my working. What I have now to
do is to make good all you have had from me during the past
five-and-twenty years. I would rather not tell you this, but I cannot
help it. Take care, and be on your guard against those whom it
concerns you. A man dies but once, and does not come back again to
patch up things ill done. You have put off till the death to do this.
May God assist you!"

In another draft of this letter Lodovico is accused of going about the
town complaining that he was once a rich man, and that Michelangelo
had robbed him. Still, we must not take this for proved; one of the
great artist's main defects was an irritable suspiciousness, which
caused him often to exaggerate slights and to fancy insults. He may
have attached too much weight to the grumblings of an old man, whom at
the bottom of his heart he loved dearly.


Clement, immediately after his election, resolved on setting
Michelangelo at work in earnest on the Sacristy. At the very beginning
of January he also projected the building of the Laurentian Library,
and wrote, through his Roman agent, Giovanni Francesco Fattucci,
requesting to have two plans furnished, one in the Greek, the other in
the Latin style. Michelangelo replied as follows: "I gather from your
last that his Holiness our Lord wishes that I should furnish the
design for the library. I have received no information, and do not
know where it is to be erected. It is true that Stefano talked to me
about the scheme, but I paid no heed. When he returns from Carrara I
will inquire, and will do all that is in my power, _albeit
architecture is not my profession_." There is something pathetic in
this reiterated assertion that his real art was sculpture. At the same
time Clement wished to provide for him for life. He first proposed
that Buonarroti should promise not to marry, and should enter into
minor orders. This would have enabled him to enjoy some ecclesiastical
benefice, but it would also have handed him over firmly bound to the
service of the Pope. Circumstances already hampered him enough, and
Michelangelo, who chose to remain his own master, refused. As Berni
wrote: "Voleva far da se, non comandato." As an alternative, a pension
was suggested. It appears that he only asked for fifteen ducats a
month, and that his friend Pietro Gondi had proposed twenty-five
ducats. Fattucci, on the 13th of January 1524, rebuked him in
affectionate terms for his want of pluck, informing him that "Jacopo
Salviati has given orders that Spina should be instructed to pay you a
monthly provision of fifty ducats." Moreover, all the disbursements
made for the work at S. Lorenzo were to be provided by the same agent
in Florence, and to pass through Michelangelo's hands. A house was
assigned him, free of rent, at S. Lorenzo, in order that he might be
near his work. Henceforth he was in almost weekly correspondence with
Giovanni Spina on affairs of business, sending in accounts and drawing
money by means of his then trusted servant, Stefano, the miniaturist.

That Stefano did not always behave himself according to his master's
wishes appears from the following characteristic letter addressed by
Michelangelo to his friend Pietro Gondi: "The poor man, who is
ungrateful, has a nature of this sort, that if you help him in his
needs, he says that what you gave him came out of superfluities; if
you put him in the way of doing work for his own good, he says you
were obliged, and set him to do it because you were incapable; and all
the benefits which he received he ascribes to the necessities of the
benefactor. But when everybody can see that you acted out of pure
benevolence, the ingrate waits until you make some public mistake,
which gives him the opportunity of maligning his benefactor and
winning credence, in order to free himself from the obligation under
which he lies. This has invariably happened in my case. No one ever
entered into relations with me--I speak of workmen--to whom I did not
do good with all my heart. Afterwards, some trick of temper, or some
madness, which they say is in my nature, which hurts nobody except
myself, gives them an excuse for speaking evil of me and calumniating
my character. Such is the reward of all honest men."

These general remarks, he adds, apply to Stefano, whom he placed in a
position of trust and responsibility, in order to assist him. "What I
do is done for his good, because I have undertaken to benefit the man,
and cannot abandon him; but let him not imagine or say that I am doing
it because of my necessities, for, God be praised, I do not stand in
need of men." He then begs Gondi to discover what Stefano's real mind
is. This is a matter of great importance to him for several reasons,
and especially for this: "If I omitted to justify myself, and were to
put another in his place, I should be published among the Piagnoni for
the biggest traitor who ever lived, even though I were in the right."

We conclude, then, that Michelangelo thought of dismissing Stefano,
but feared lest he should get into trouble with the powerful political
party, followers of Savonarola, who bore the name of Piagnoni at
Florence. Gondi must have patched the quarrel up, for we still find
Stefano's name in the _Ricordi_ down to April 4, 1524. Shortly after
that date, Antonio Mini seems to have taken his place as
Michelangelo's right-hand man of business. These details are not so
insignificant as they appear. They enable us to infer that the
Sacristy of S. Lorenzo may have been walled and roofed in before the
end of April 1524; for, in an undated letter to Pope Clement,
Michelangelo says that Stefano has finished the lantern, and that it
is universally admired. With regard to this lantern, folk told him
that he would make it better than Brunelleschi's. "Different perhaps,
but better, no!" he answered. The letter to Clement just quoted is
interesting in several respects. The boldness of the beginning makes
one comprehend how Michelangelo was terrible even to Popes:--

"Most Blessed Father,--Inasmuch as intermediates are often the cause
of grave misunderstandings, I have summoned up courage to write
without their aid to your Holiness about the tombs at S. Lorenzo. I
repeat, I know not which is preferable, the evil that does good, or
the good that hurts. I am certain, mad and wicked as I may be, that if
I had been allowed to go on as I had begun, all the marbles needed for
the work would have been in Florence to-day, and properly blocked out,
with less cost than has been expended on them up to this date; and
they would have been superb, as are the others I have brought here."

After this he entreats Clement to give him full authority in carrying
out the work, and not to put superiors over him. Michelangelo, we
know, was extremely impatient of control and interference; and we
shall see, within a short time, how excessively the watching and
spying of busybodies worried and disturbed his spirits.

But these were not his only sources of annoyance. The heirs of Pope
Julius, perceiving that Michelangelo's time and energy were wholly
absorbed at S. Lorenzo, began to threaten him with a lawsuit. Clement,
wanting apparently to mediate between the litigants, ordered Fattucci
to obtain a report from the sculptor, with a full account of how
matters stood. This evoked the long and interesting document which has
been so often cited. There is no doubt whatever that Michelangelo
acutely felt the justice of the Duke of Urbino's grievances against
him. He was broken-hearted at seeming to be wanting in his sense of
honour and duty. People, he says, accused him of putting the money
which had been paid for the tomb out at usury, "living meanwhile at
Florence and amusing himself." It also hurt him deeply to be
distracted from the cherished project of his early manhood in order to
superintend works for which he had no enthusiasm, and which lay
outside his sphere of operation.

It may, indeed, be said that during these years Michelangelo lived in
a perpetual state of uneasiness and anxiety about the tomb of Julius.
As far back as 1518 the Cardinal Leonardo Grosso, Bishop of Agen, and
one of Julius's executors, found it necessary to hearten him with
frequent letters of encouragement. In one of these, after commending
his zeal in extracting marbles and carrying on the monument, the
Cardinal proceeds: "Be then of good courage, and do not yield to any
perturbations of the spirit, for we put more faith in your smallest
word than if all the world should say the contrary. We know your
loyalty, and believe you to be wholly devoted to our person; and if
there shall be need of aught which we can supply, we are willing, as
we have told you on other occasions, to do so; rest then in all
security of mind, because we love you from the heart, and desire to do
all that may be agreeable to you." This good friend was dead at the
time we have now reached, and the violent Duke Francesco Maria della
Rovere acted as the principal heir of Pope Julius.

In a passion of disgust he refused to draw his pension, and abandoned
the house at S. Lorenzo. This must have happened in March 1524, for
his friend Leonardo writes to him from Rome upon the 24th: "I am also
told that you have declined your pension, which seems to me mere
madness, and that you have thrown the house up, and do not work.
Friend and gossip, let me tell you that you have plenty of enemies,
who speak their worst; also that the Pope and Pucci and Jacopo
Salviati are your friends, and have plighted their troth to you. It is
unworthy of you to break your word to them, especially in an affair of
honour. Leave the matter of the tomb to those who wish you well, and
who are able to set you free without the least encumbrance, and take
care you do not come short in the Pope's work. Die first. And take the
pension, for they give it with a willing heart." How long he remained
in contumacy is not quite certain; apparently until the 29th of
August. We have a letter written on that day to Giovanni Spina: "After
I left you yesterday, I went back thinking over my affairs; and,
seeing that the Pope has set his heart on S. Lorenzo, and how he
urgently requires my service, and has appointed me a good provision in
order that I may serve him with more convenience and speed; seeing
also that not to accept it keeps me back, and that I have no good
excuse for not serving his Holiness; I have changed my mind, and
whereas I hitherto refused, I now demand it (_i.e._, the salary),
considering this far wiser, and for more reasons than I care to write;
and, more especially, I mean to return to the house you took for me at
S. Lorenzo, and settle down there like an honest man: inasmuch as it
sets gossip going, and does me great damage not to go back there."
From a _Ricordo_ dated October 19, 1524, we learn in fact that he then
drew his full pay for eight months.


Since Michelangelo was now engaged upon the Medicean tombs at S.
Lorenzo, it will be well to give some account of the several plans he
made before deciding on the final scheme, which he partially executed.
We may assume, I think, that the sacristy, as regards its general form
and dimensions, faithfully represents the first plan approved by
Clement. This follows from the rapidity and regularity with which the
structure was completed. But then came the question of filling it with
sarcophagi and statues. As early as November 28, 1520, Giulio de'
Medici, at that time Cardinal, wrote from the Villa Magliana. to
Buonarroti, addressing him thus: "_Spectabilis vir, amice noster
charissime_." He says that he is pleased with the design for the
chapel, and with the notion of placing the four tombs in the middle.
Then he proceeds to make some sensible remarks upon the difficulty of
getting these huge masses of statuary into the space provided for
them. Michelangelo, as Heath Wilson has pointed out, very slowly
acquired the sense of proportion on which technical architecture
depends. His early sketches only show a feeling for mass and

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