The new project involved thirty-eight colossal statues; and, fortunately for our understanding of it, we may be said with almost absolute certainty to possess a drawing intended to represent it. Part of this is a pen-and-ink sketch at the Uffizi, which has frequently been published, and part is a sketch in the Berlin Collection. These have been put together by Professor Middleton of Cambridge, who has also made out a key-plan of the tomb. With regard to its proportions and dimensions as compared with Michelangelo's specification, there remain some difficulties, with which I cannot see that Professor Middleton has grappled. It is perhaps not improbable, as Heath Wilson suggested, that the drawing had been thrown off as a picturesque forecast of the monument without attention to scale. Anyhow, there is no doubt that in this sketch, so happily restored by Professor Middleton's sagacity and tact, we are brought close to Michelangelo's conception of the colossal work he never was allowed to execute. It not only answers to the description translated above from the sculptor's own appendix to the contract, but it also throws light upon the original plan of the tomb designed for the tribune of S. Peter's. The basement of the podium has been preserved, we may assume, in its more salient features. There are the niches spoken of by Condivi, with Vasari's conquered provinces prostrate at the feet of winged Victories. These are flanked by the terminal figures, against which, upon projecting consoles, stand the bound captives. At the right hand facing us, upon the upper platform, is seated Moses, with a different action of the hands, it is true, from that which Michelangelo finally adopted. Near him is a female figure, and the two figures grouped upon the left angle seem to be both female. To some extent these statues bear out Vasari's tradition that the platform in the first design was meant to sustain figures of the contemplative and active life of the soul—Dante's Leah and Rachel.
This great scheme was never carried out. The fragments which may be safely assigned to it are the Moses at S. Pietro in Vincoli and the two bound captives of the Louvre; the Madonna and Child, Leah and Rachel, and two seated statues also at S. Pietro in Vincoli, belong to the plan, though these have undergone considerable alterations. Some other scattered fragments of the sculptor's work may possibly be connected with its execution. Four male figures roughly hewn, which are now wrought into the rock-work of a grotto in the Boboli Gardens, together with the young athlete trampling on a prostrate old man (called the Victory) and the Adonis of the Museo Nazionale at Florence, have all been ascribed to the sepulchre of Julius in one or other of its stages. But these attributes are doubtful, and will be criticised in their proper place and time. Suffice it now to say that Vasari reports, beside the Moses, Victory, and two Captives at the Louvre, eight figures for the tomb blocked out by Michelangelo at Rome, and five blocked out at Florence.
Continuing the history of this tragic undertaking, we come to the year 1516. On the 8th of July in that year, Michelangelo signed a new contract, whereby the previous deed of 1513 was annulled. Both of the executors were alive and parties to this second agreement. "A model was made, the width of which is stated at twenty-one feet, after the monument had been already sculptured of a width of almost twenty-three feet. The architectural design was adhered to with the same pedestals and niches and the same crowning cornice of the first story. There were to be six statues in front, but the conquered provinces were now dispensed with. There was also to be one niche only on each flank, so that the projection of the monument from the wall was reduced more than half, and there were to be only twelve statues beneath the cornice and one relief, instead of twenty-four statues and three reliefs. On the summit of this basement a shrine was to be erected, within which was placed the effigy of the Pontiff on his sarcophagus, with two heavenly guardians. The whole of the statues described in this third contract amount to nineteen." Heath Wilson observes, with much propriety, that the most singular fact about these successive contracts is the departure from certain fixed proportions both of the architectural parts and the statues, involving a serious loss of outlay and of work. Thus the two Captives of the Louvre became useless, and, as we know, they were given away to Ruberto Strozzi in a moment of generosity by the sculptor. The sitting figures detailed in the deed of 1516 are shorter than the Moses by one foot. The standing figures, now at S. Pietro in Vincoli, correspond to the specifications. What makes the matter still more singular is, that after signing the contract under date July 8, 1516, Michelangelo in November of the same year ordered blocks of marble from Carrara, with measurements corresponding to the specifications of the deed of 1513.
The miserable tragedy of the sepulchre dragged on for another sixteen years. During this period the executors of Julius passed away, and the Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere replaced them. He complained that Michelangelo neglected the tomb, which was true, although the fault lay not with the sculptor, but with the Popes, his taskmasters. Legal proceedings were instituted to recover a large sum of money, which, it was alleged, had been disbursed without due work delivered by the master. Michelangelo had recourse to Clement VII., who, being anxious to monopolise his labour, undertook to arrange matters with the Duke. On the 29th of April 1532 a third and solemn contract was signed at Rome in presence of the Pope, witnessed by a number of illustrious personages. This third contract involved a fourth design for the tomb, which Michelangelo undertook to furnish, and at the same time to execute six statues with his own hand. On this occasion the notion of erecting it in S. Peter's was finally abandoned. The choice lay between two other Roman churches, that of S. Maria del Popolo, where monuments to several members of the Della Rovere family existed, and that of S. Pietro in Vincoli, from which Julius II. had taken his cardinal's title. Michelangelo decided for the latter, on account of its better lighting. The six statues promised by Michelangelo are stated in the contract to be "begun and not completed, extant at the present date in Rome or in Florence." Which of the several statues blocked out for the monument were to be chosen is not stated; and as there are no specifications in the document, we cannot identify them with exactness. At any rate, the Moses must have been one; and it is possible that the Leah and Rachel, Madonna, and two seated statues, now at S. Pietro, were the other five.
It might have been thought that at last the tragedy had dragged on to its conclusion. But no; there was a fifth act, a fourth contract, a fifth design. Paul III. succeeded to Clement VII., and, having seen the Moses in Michelangelo's workshop, declared that this one statue was enough for the deceased Pope's tomb. The Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere died in 1538, and was succeeded by his son, Guidobaldo II. The new Duke's wife was a granddaughter of Paul III., and this may have made him amenable to the Pope's influence. At all events, upon the 20th of August 1542 a final contract was signed, stating that Michelangelo had been prevented "by just and legitimate impediments from carrying out" his engagement under date April 29, 1532, releasing him from the terms of the third deed, and establishing new conditions. The Moses, finished by the hand of Michelangelo, takes the central place in this new monument. Five other statues are specified: "to wit, a Madonna with the child in her arms, which is already finished; a Sibyl, a Prophet, an Active Life and a Contemplative Life, blocked out and nearly completed by the said Michelangelo." These four were given to Raffaello da Montelupo to finish. The reclining portrait-statue of Julius, which was carved by Maso del Bosco, is not even mentioned in this contract. But a deed between the Duke's representative and the craftsmen Montelupo and Urbino exists, in which the latter undertakes to see that Michelangelo shall retouch the Pope's face.
Thus ended the tragedy of the tomb of Pope Julius II. It is supposed to have been finally completed in 1545, and was set up where it still remains uninjured at S. Pietro in Vincoli.
I judged it needful to anticipate the course of events by giving this brief history of a work begun in 1505, and carried on with so many hindrances and alterations through forty years of Michelangelo's life. We shall often have to return to it, since the matter cannot be lightly dismissed. The tomb of Julius empoisoned Michelangelo's manhood, hampered his energy, and brought but small if any profit to his purse. In one way or another it is always cropping up, and may be said to vex his biographers and the students of his life as much as it annoyed himself. We may now return to those early days in Rome, when the project had still a fascination both for the sculptor and his patron.
The old Basilica of S. Peter on the Vatican is said to have been built during the reign of Constantine, and to have been consecrated in 324 A.D. It was one of the largest of those Roman buildings, measuring 435 feet in length from the great door to the end of the tribune. A spacious open square or atrium, surrounded by a cloister-portico, gave access to the church. This, in the Middle Ages, gained the name of the Paradiso. A kind of tabernacle, in the centre of the square, protected the great bronze fir-cone, which was formerly supposed to have crowned the summit of Hadrian's Mausoleum, the Castle of S. Angelo. Dante, who saw it in the courtyard of S. Peter's, used it as a standard for his giant Nimrod. He says—
La faccia sua ml parea lunga e grossa, Come la pina di San Pietro a Roma. —(Inf. xxxi. 58.)
This mother-church of Western Christendom was adorned inside and out with mosaics in the style of those which may still be seen at Ravenna. Above the lofty row of columns which flanked the central aisle ran processions of saints and sacred histories. They led the eye onward to what was called the Arch of Triumph, separating this portion of the building from the transept and the tribune. The concave roof of the tribune itself was decorated with a colossal Christ, enthroned between S. Peter and S. Paul, surveying the vast spaces of his house: the lord and master, before whom pilgrims from all parts of Europe came to pay tribute and to perform acts of homage. The columns were of precious marbles, stripped from Pagan palaces and temples; and the roof was tiled with plates of gilded bronze, torn in the age of Heraclius from the shrine of Venus and of Roma on the Sacred Way.
During the eleven centuries which elapsed between its consecration and the decree for its destruction, S. Peter's had been gradually enriched with a series of monuments, inscriptions, statues, frescoes, upon which were written the annals of successive ages of the Church. Giotto worked there under Benedict II. in 1340. Pope after Pope was buried there. In the early period of Renaissance sculpture, Mino da Fiesole, Pollaiuolo, and Filarete added works in bronze and marble, which blent the grace of Florentine religious tradition with quaint neo-pagan mythologies. These treasures, priceless for the historian, the antiquary, and the artist, were now going to be ruthlessly swept away at a pontiff's bidding, in order to make room for his haughty and self-laudatory monument. Whatever may have been the artistic merits of Michelangelo's original conception for the tomb, the spirit was in no sense Christian. Those rows of captive Arts and Sciences, those Victories exulting over prostrate cities, those allegorical colossi symbolising the mundane virtues of a mighty ruler's character, crowned by the portrait of the Pope, over whom Heaven rejoiced while Cybele deplored his loss—all this pomp of power and parade of ingenuity harmonised but little with the humility of a contrite soul returning to its Maker and its Judge. The new temple, destined to supersede the old basilica, embodied an aspect of Latin Christianity which had very little indeed in common with the piety of the primitive Church. S. Peter's, as we see it now, represents the majesty of Papal Rome, the spirit of a secular monarchy in the hands of priests; it is the visible symbol of that schism between the Teutonic and the Latin portions of the Western Church which broke out soon after its foundation, and became irreconcilable before the cross was placed upon its cupola. It seemed as though in sweeping away the venerable traditions of eleven hundred years, and replacing Rome's time-honoured Mother-Church with an edifice bearing the brand-new stamp of hybrid neo-pagan architecture, the Popes had wished to signalise that rupture with the past and that atrophy of real religious life which marked the counter-reformation.
Julius II. has been severely blamed for planning the entire reconstruction of his cathedral. It must, however, be urged in his defence that the structure had already, in 1447, been pronounced insecure. Nicholas V. ordered his architects, Bernardo Rossellini and Leo Battista Alberti, to prepare plans for its restoration. It is, of course, impossible for us to say for certain whether the ancient fabric could have been preserved, or whether its dilapidation had gone so far as to involve destruction. Bearing in mind the recklessness of the Renaissance and the passion which the Popes had for engaging in colossal undertakings, one is inclined to suspect that the unsound state of the building was made a pretext for beginning a work which flattered the architectural tastes of Nicholas, but was not absolutely necessary. However this may have been, foundations for a new tribune were laid outside the old apse, and the wall rose some feet above the ground before the Pope's death. Paul II. carried on the building; but during the pontificates of Sixtus, Innocent, and Alexander it seems to have been neglected. Meanwhile nothing had been done to injure the original basilica; and when Julius announced his intention of levelling it to the ground, his cardinals and bishops entreated him to refrain from an act so sacrilegious. The Pope was not a man to take advice or make concessions. Accordingly, turning a deaf ear to these entreaties, he had plans prepared by Giuliano da San Gallo and Bramante. Those eventually chosen were furnished by Bramante; and San Gallo, who had hitherto enjoyed the fullest confidence of Julius, is said to have left Rome in disgust. For reasons which will afterwards appear, he could not have done so before the summer months of 1506.
It is not yet the proper time to discuss the building of S. Peter's. Still, with regard to Bramante's plan, this much may here be said. It was designed in the form of a Greek cross, surmounted with a huge circular dome and flanked by two towers. Bramante used to boast that he meant to raise the Pantheon in the air; and the plan, as preserved for us by Serlio, shows that the cupola would have been constructed after that type. Competent judges, however, declare that insuperable difficulties must have arisen in carrying out this design, while the piers constructed by Bramante were found in effect to be wholly insufficient for their purpose. For the aesthetic beauty and the commodiousness of his building we have the strongest evidence in a letter written by Michelangelo, who was by no means a partial witness. "It cannot be denied," he says, "that Bramante's talent as an architect was equal to that of any one from the times of the ancients until now. He laid the first plan of S. Peter's, not confused, but clear and simple, full of light and detached from surrounding buildings, so that it interfered with no part of the palace. It was considered a very fine design, and indeed any one can see with his own eyes now that it is so. All the architects who departed from Bramante's scheme, as did Antonio da San Gallo, have departed from the truth." Though Michelangelo gave this unstinted praise to Bramante's genius as a builder, he blamed him severely both for his want of honesty as a man, and also for his vandalism in dealing with the venerable church he had to replace. "Bramante," says Condivi, "was addicted, as everybody knows, to every kind of pleasure. He spent enormously, and, though the pension granted him by the Pope was large, he found it insufficient for his needs. Accordingly he made profit out of the works committed to his charge, erecting the walls of poor material, and without regard for the substantial and enduring qualities which fabrics on so huge a scale demanded. This is apparent in the buildings at S. Peter's, the Corridore of the Belvedere, the Convent of San Pietro ad Vincula, and other of his edifices, which have had to be strengthened and propped up with buttresses and similar supports in order to prevent them tumbling down." Bramante, during his residence in Lombardy, developed a method of erecting piers with rubble enclosed by hewn stone or plaster-covered brickwork. This enabled an unconscientious builder to furnish bulky architectural masses, which presented a specious aspect of solidity and looked more costly than they really were. It had the additional merit of being easy and rapid in execution. Bramante was thus able to gratify the whims and caprices of his impatient patron, who desired to see the works of art he ordered rise like the fabric of Aladdin's lamp before his very eyes. Michelangelo is said to have exposed the architect's trickeries to the Pope; what is more, he complained with just and bitter indignation of the wanton ruthlessness with which Bramante set about his work of destruction. I will again quote Condivi here, for the passage seems to have been inspired by the great sculptor's verbal reminiscences: "The worst was, that while he was pulling down the old S. Peter's, he dashed those marvellous antique columns to the ground, without paying the least attention, or caring at all when they were broken into fragments, although he might have lowered them gently and preserved their shafts intact. Michelangelo pointed out that it was an easy thing enough to erect piers by placing brick on brick, but that to fashion a column like one of these taxed all the resources of art."
On the 18th of April 1506, Julius performed the ceremony of laying the foundation-stone of the new S. Peter's. The place chosen was the great sustaining pier of the dome, near which the altar of S. Veronica now stands. A deep pit had been excavated, into which the aged Pope descended fearlessly, only shouting to the crowd above that they should stand back and not endanger the falling in of the earth above him. Coins and medals were duly deposited in a vase, over which a ponderous block of marble was lowered, while Julius, bareheaded, sprinkled the stone with holy water and gave the pontifical benediction. On the same day he wrote a letter to Henry VII. of England, informing the King that "by the guidance of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ he had undertaken to restore the old basilica which was perishing through age."
The terms of cordial intimacy which subsisted between Julius and Michelangelo at the close of 1505 were destined to be disturbed. The Pope intermitted his visits to the sculptor's workshop, and began to take but little interest in the monument. Condivi directly ascribes this coldness to the intrigues of Bramante, who whispered into the Pontiff's ear that it was ill-omened for a man to construct his own tomb in his lifetime. It is not at all improbable that he said something of the sort, and Bramante was certainly no good friend to Michelangelo. A manoeuvring and managing individual, entirely unscrupulous in his choice of means, condescending to flattery and lies, he strove to stand as patron between the Pope and subordinate craftsmen. Michelangelo had come to Rome under San Gallo's influence, and Bramante had just succeeded in winning the commission to rebuild S. Peter's over his rival's head. It was important for him to break up San Gallo's party, among whom the sincere and uncompromising Michelangelo threatened to be very formidable. The jealousy which he felt for the man was envenomed by a fear lest he should speak the truth about his own dishonesty. To discredit Michelangelo with the Pope, and, if possible, to drive him out of Rome, was therefore Bramante's interest: more particularly as his own nephew, Raffaello da Urbino, had now made up his mind to join him there. We shall see that he succeeded in expelling both San Gallo and Buonarroti during the course of 1506, and that in their absence he reigned, together with Raffaello, almost alone in the art-circles of the Eternal City.
I see no reason, therefore, to discredit the story told by Condivi and Vasari regarding the Pope's growing want of interest in his tomb. Michelangelo himself, writing from Rome in 1542, thirty-six years after these events, says that "all the dissensions between Pope Julius and me arose from the envy of Bramante and Raffaello da Urbino, and this was the cause of my not finishing the tomb in his lifetime. They wanted to ruin me. Raffaello indeed had good reason; for all he had of art he owed to me." But, while we are justified in attributing much to Bramante's intrigues, it must be remembered that the Pope at this time was absorbed in his plans for conquering Bologna. Overwhelmed with business and anxious about money, he could not have had much leisure to converse with sculptors.
Michelangelo was still in Rome at the end of January. On the 31st of that month he wrote to his father, complaining that the marbles did not arrive quickly enough, and that he had to keep Julius in good humour with promises. At the same time he begged Lodovico to pack up all his drawings, and to send them, well secured against bad weather, by the hand of a carrier. It is obvious that he had no thoughts of leaving Rome, and that the Pope was still eager about the monument. Early in the spring he assisted at the discovery of the Laocoon. Francesco, the son of Giuliano da San Gallo, describes how Michelangelo was almost always at his father's house; and coming there one day, he went, at the architect's invitation, down to the ruins of the Palace of Titus. "We set off, all three together; I on my father's shoulders. When we descended into the place where the statue lay, my father exclaimed at once, 'That is the Laocoon, of which Pliny speaks.' The opening was enlarged, so that it could be taken out; and after we had sufficiently admired it, we went home to breakfast." Julius bought the marble for 500 crowns, and had it placed in the Belvedere of the Vatican. Scholars praised it in Latin lines of greater or lesser merit, Sadoleto writing even a fine poem; and Michelangelo is said, but without trustworthy authority, to have assisted in its restoration.
This is the last glimpse we have of Michelangelo before his flight from Rome. Under what circumstances he suddenly departed may be related in the words of a letter addressed by him to Giuliano da San Gallo in Rome upon the 2nd of May 1506, after his return to Florence.
"Giuliano,—Your letter informs me that the Pope was angry at my departure, as also that his Holiness is inclined to proceed with the works agreed upon between us, and that I may return and not be anxious about anything.
"About my leaving Rome, it is a fact that on Holy Saturday I heard the Pope, in conversation with a jeweller at table and with the Master of Ceremonies, say that he did not mean to spend a farthing more on stones, small or great. This caused me no little astonishment. However, before I left his presence, I asked for part of the money needed to carry on the work. His Holiness told me to return on Monday. I did so, and on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, and on Thursday, as the Pope saw. At last, on Friday morning, I was sent away, or plainly turned out of doors. The man who did this said he knew me, but that such were his orders. I, who had heard the Pope's words on Saturday, and now perceived their result in deeds, was utterly cast down. This was not, however, quite the only reason of my departure; there was something else, which I do not wish to communicate; enough that it made me think that, if I stayed in Rome, that city would be my tomb before it was the Pope's. And this was the cause of my sudden departure.
"Now you write to me at the Pope's instance. So I beg you to read him this letter, and inform his Holiness that I am even more than ever disposed to carry out the work."
Further details may be added from subsequent letters of Michelangelo. Writing in January 1524 to his friend Giovanni Francesco Fattucci, he says: "When I had finished paying for the transport of these marbles, and all the money was spent, I furnished the house I had upon the Piazza di S. Pietro with beds and utensils at my own expense, trusting to the commission of the tomb, and sent for workmen from Florence, who are still alive, and paid them in advance out of my own purse. Meanwhile Pope Julius changed his mind about the tomb, and would not have it made. Not knowing this, I applied to him for money, and was expelled from the chamber. Enraged at such an insult, I left Rome on the moment. The things with which my house was stocked went to the dogs. The marbles I had brought to Rome lay till the date of Leo's creation on the Piazza, and both lots were injured and pillaged."
Again, a letter of October 1542, addressed to some prelate, contains further particulars. We learn he was so short of money that he had to borrow about 200 ducats from his friend Baldassare Balducci at the bank of Jacopo Gallo. The episode at the Vatican and the flight to Poggibonsi are related thus:—
"To continue my history of the tomb of Julius: I say that when he changed his mind about building it in his lifetime, some ship-loads of marble came to the Ripa, which I had ordered a short while before from Carrara; and as I could not get money from the Pope to pay the freightage, I had to borrow 150 or 200 ducats from Baldassare Balducci, that is, from the bank of Jacopo Gallo. At the same time workmen came from Florence, some of whom are still alive; and I furnished the house which Julius gave me behind S. Caterina with beds and other furniture for the men, and what was wanted for the work of the tomb. All this being done without money, I was greatly embarrassed. Accordingly, I urged the Pope with all my power to go forward with the business, and he had me turned away by a groom one morning when I came to speak upon the matter. A Lucchese bishop, seeing this, said to the groom: 'Do you not know who that man is?' The groom replied to me: 'Excuse me, gentleman; I have orders to do this.' I went home, and wrote as follows to the Pope: 'Most blessed Father, I have been turned out of the palace to-day by your orders; wherefore I give you notice that from this time forward, if you want me, you must look for me elsewhere than at Rome.' I sent this letter to Messer Agostino, the steward, to give it to the Pope. Then I sent for Cosimo, a carpenter, who lived with me and looked after household matters, and a stone-heaver, who is still alive, and said to them: 'Go for a Jew, and sell everything in the house, and come to Florence.' I went, took the post, and travelled towards Florence. The Pope, when he had read my letter, sent five horsemen after me, who reached me at Poggibonsi about three hours after nightfall, and gave me a letter from the Pope to this effect: 'When you have seen these present, come back at once to Rome, under penalty of our displeasure.' The horsemen were anxious I should answer, in order to prove that they had overtaken me. I replied then to the Pope, that if he would perform the conditions he was under with regard to me, I would return; but otherwise he must not expect to have me again. Later on, while I was at Florence, Julius sent three briefs to the Signory. At last the latter sent for me and said: 'We do not want to go to war with Pope Julius because of you. You must return; and if you do so, we will write you letters of such authority that, should he do you harm, he will be doing it to this Signory.' Accordingly I took the letters, and went back to the Pope, and what followed would be long to tell."
These passages from Michelangelo's correspondence confirm Condivi's narrative of the flight from Rome, showing that he had gathered his information from the sculptor's lips. Condivi differs only in making Michelangelo send a verbal message, and not a written letter, to the Pope. "Enraged by this repulse, he exclaimed to the groom: 'Tell the Pope that if henceforth he wants me, he must look for me elsewhere.'"
It is worth observing that only the first of these letters, written shortly after the event, and intended for the Pope's ear, contains a hint of Michelangelo's dread of personal violence if he remained in Rome. His words seem to point at poison or the dagger. Cellini's autobiography yields sufficient proof that such fears were not unjustified by practical experience; and Bramante, though he preferred to work by treachery of tongue, may have commanded the services of assassins, uomini arditi e facinorosi, as they were somewhat euphemistically called. At any rate, it is clear that Michelangelo's precipitate departure and vehement refusal to return were occasioned by more pungent motives than the Pope's frigidity. This has to be noticed, because we learn from several incidents of the same kind in the master's life that he was constitutionally subject to sudden fancies and fears of imminent danger to his person from an enemy. He had already quitted Bologna in haste from dread of assassination or maltreatment at the hands of native sculptors.
The negotiations which passed between the Pope and the Signory of Florence about what may be called the extradition of Michelangelo form a curious episode in his biography, throwing into powerful relief the importance he had already acquired among the princes of Italy. I propose to leave these for the commencement of my next chapter, and to conclude the present with an account of his occupations during the summer months at Florence.
Signor Gotti says that he passed three months away from Julius in his native city. Considering that he arrived before the end of April, and reached Bologna at the end of November 1506, we have the right to estimate this residence at about seven months. A letter written to him from Rome on the 4th of August shows that he had not then left Florence upon any intermediate journey of importance. Therefore there is every reason to suppose that he enjoyed a period of half a year of leisure, which he devoted to finishing his Cartoon for the Battle of Pisa.
It had been commenced, as we have seen, in a workshop at the Spedale dei Tintori. When he went to Bologna in the autumn, it was left, exposed presumably to public view, in the Sala del Papa at S. Maria Novella. It had therefore been completed; but it does not appear that Michelangelo had commenced his fresco in the Sala del Gran Consiglio.
Lionardo began to paint his Battle of the Standard in March 1505. The work advanced rapidly; but the method he adopted, which consisted in applying oil colours to a fat composition laid thickly on the wall, caused the ruin of his picture. He is said to have wished to reproduce the encaustic process of the ancients, and lighted fires to harden the surface of the fresco. This melted the wax in the lower portions of the paste, and made the colours run. At any rate, no traces of the painting now remain in the Sala del Gran Consiglio, the walls of which are covered by the mechanical and frigid brush-work of Vasari. It has even been suggested that Vasari knew more about the disappearance of his predecessor's masterpiece than he has chosen to relate. Lionardo's Cartoon has also disappeared, and we know the Battle of Anghiari only by Edelinck's engraving from a drawing of Rubens, and by some doubtful sketches.
The same fate was in store for Michelangelo's Cartoon. All that remains to us of that great work is the chiaroscuro transcript at Holkham, a sketch for the whole composition in the Albertina Gallery at Vienna, which differs in some important details from the Holkham group, several interesting pen-and-chalk drawings by Michelangelo's own hand, also in the Albertina Collection, and a line-engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi, commonly known as "Les Grimpeurs."
We do not know at what exact time Michelangelo finished his Cartoon in 1506. He left it, says Condivi, in the Sala del Papa. Afterwards it must have been transferred to the Sala del Gran Consiglio; for Albertini, in his Memoriale, or Guide-Book to Florence, printed in 1510, speaks of both "the works of Lionardo da Vinci and the designs of Michelangelo" as then existing in that hall. Vasari asserts that it was taken to the house of the Medici, and placed in the great upper hall, but gives no date. This may have taken place on the return of the princely family in 1512. Cellini confirms this view, since he declares that when he was copying the Cartoon, which could hardly have happened before 1513, the Battle of Pisa was at the Palace of the Medici, and the Battle of Anghiari at the Sala del Papa. The way in which it finally disappeared is involved in some obscurity, owing to Vasari's spite and mendacity. In the first, or 1550, edition of the "Lives of the Painters," he wrote as follows: "Having become a regular object of study to artists, the Cartoon was carried to the house of the Medici, into the great upper hall; and this was the reason that it came with too little safeguard into the hands of those said artists: inasmuch as, during the illness of the Duke Giuliano, when no one attended to such matters, it was torn in pieces by them and scattered abroad, so that fragments may be found in many places, as is proved by those existing now in the house of Uberto Strozzi, a gentleman of Mantua, who holds them in great respect." When Vasari published his second edition, in 1568, he repeated this story of the destruction of the Cartoon, but with a very significant alteration. Instead of saying "it was torn in pieces by them" he now printed "it was torn in pieces, as hath been told elsewhere." Now Bandinelli, Vasari's mortal enemy, and the scapegoat for all the sins of his generation among artists, died in 1559, and Vasari felt that he might safely defame his memory. Accordingly he introduced a Life of Bandinelli into the second edition of his work, containing the following passage: "Baccio was in the habit of frequenting the place where the Cartoon stood more than any other artists, and had in his possession a false key; what follows happened at the time when Piero Soderini was deposed in 1512, and the Medici returned. Well, then, while the palace was in tumult and confusion through this revolution, Baccio went alone, and tore the Cartoon into a thousand fragments. Why he did so was not known; but some surmised that he wanted to keep certain pieces of it by him for his own use; some, that he wished to deprive young men of its advantages in study; some, that he was moved by affection for Lionardo da Vinci, who suffered much in reputation by this design; some, perhaps with sharper intuition, believed that the hatred he bore to Michelangelo inspired him to commit the act. The loss of the Cartoon to the city was no slight one, and Baccio deserved the blame he got, for everybody called him envious and spiteful." This second version stands in glaring contradiction to the first, both as regards the date and the place where the Cartoon was destroyed. It does not, I think, deserve credence, for Cellini, who was a boy of twelve in 1512, could hardly have drawn from it before that date; and if Bandinelli was so notorious for his malignant vandalism as Vasari asserts, it is most improbable that Cellini, while speaking of the Cartoon in connection with Torrigiano, should not have taken the opportunity to cast a stone at the man whom he detested more than any one in Florence. Moreover, if Bandinelli had wanted to destroy the Cartoon for any of the reasons above assigned to him, he would not have dispersed fragments to be treasured up with reverence. At the close of this tedious summary I ought to add that Condivi expressly states: "I do not know by what ill-fortune it subsequently came to ruin." He adds, however, that many of the pieces were found about in various places, and that all of them were preserved like sacred objects. We have, then, every reason to believe that the story told in Vasari's first edition is the literal truth. Copyists and engravers used their opportunity, when the palace of the Medici was thrown into disorder by the severe illness of the Duke of Nemours, to take away portions of Michelangelo's Cartoon for their own use in 1516.
Of the Cartoon and its great reputation, Cellini gives us this account: "Michelangelo portrayed a number of foot-soldiers, who, the season being summer, had gone to bathe in the Arno. He drew them at the very moment the alarm is sounded, and the men all naked run to arms; so splendid is their action, that nothing survives of ancient or of modern art, which touches the same lofty point of excellence; and, as I have already said, the design of the great Lionardo was itself most admirably beautiful. These two Cartoons stood, one in the palace of the Medici, the other in the hall of the Pope. So long as they remained intact, they were the school of the world. Though the divine Michelangelo in later life finished that great chapel of Pope Julius (the Sistine), he never rose halfway to the same pitch of power; his genius never afterwards attained to the force of those first studies." Allowing for some exaggeration due to enthusiasm for things enjoyed in early youth, this is a very remarkable statement. Cellini knew the frescoes of the Sistine well, yet he maintains that they were inferior in power and beauty to the Battle of Pisa. It seems hardly credible; but, if we believe it, the legend of Michelangelo's being unable to execute his own designs for the vault of that chapel falls to the ground.
The great Cartoon has become less even than a memory, and so, perhaps, we ought to leave it in the limbo of things inchoate and unaccomplished. But this it was not, most emphatically. Decidedly it had its day, lived and sowed seeds for good or evil through its period of brief existence: so many painters of the grand style took their note from it; it did so much to introduce the last phase of Italian art, the phase of efflorescence, the phase deplored by critics steeped in mediaeval feeling. To recapture something of its potency from the description of contemporaries is therefore our plain duty, and for this we must have recourse to Vasari's text. He says: "Michelangelo filled his canvas with nude men, who, bathing at the time of summer heat in Arno, were suddenly called to arms, the enemy assailing them. The soldiers swarmed up from the river to resume their clothes; and here you could behold depicted by the master's godlike hands one hurrying to clasp his limbs in steel and give assistance to his comrades, another buckling on the cuirass, and many seizing this or that weapon, with cavalry in squadrons giving the attack. Among the multitude of figures, there was an old man, who wore upon his head an ivy wreath for shade. Seated on the ground, in act to draw his hose up, he was hampered by the wetness of his legs; and while he heard the clamour of the soldiers, the cries, the rumbling of the drums, he pulled with all his might; all the muscles and sinews of his body were seen in strain; and what was more, the contortion of his mouth showed what agony of haste he suffered, and how his whole frame laboured to the toe-tips. Then there were drummers and men with flying garments, who ran stark naked toward the fray. Strange postures too: this fellow upright, that man kneeling, or bent down, or on the point of rising; all in the air foreshortened with full conquest over every difficulty. In addition, you discovered groups of figures sketched in various methods, some outlined with charcoal, some etched with strokes, some shadowed with the stump, some relieved in white-lead; the master having sought to prove his empire over all materials of draughtsmanship. The craftsmen of design remained therewith astonished and dumbfounded, recognising the furthest reaches of their art revealed to them by this unrivalled masterpiece. Those who examined the forms I have described, painters who inspected and compared them with works hardly less divine, affirm that never in the history of human achievement was any product of a man's brain seen like to them in mere supremacy. And certainly we have the right to believe this; for when the Cartoon was finished, and carried to the Hall of the Pope, amid the acclamation of all artists, and to the exceeding fame of Michelangelo, the students who made drawings from it, as happened with foreigners and natives through many years in Florence, became men of mark in several branches. This is obvious, for Aristotele da San Gallo worked there, as did Ridolfo Ghirlandajo, Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, Francesco Granaccio, Baccio Bandinelli, and Alonso Berughetta, the Spaniard; they were followed by Andrea del Sarto, Franciabigio, Jacopo Sansovino, Rosso, Maturino, Lorenzetto, Tribolo, then a boy, Jacopo da Pontormo, and Pierin del Vaga: all of them first-rate masters of the Florentine school."
It does not appear from this that Vasari pretended to have seen the great Cartoon. Born in 1512, he could not indeed have done so; but there breathes through his description a gust of enthusiasm, an afflatus of concurrent witnesses to its surpassing grandeur. Some of the details raise a suspicion that Vasari had before his eyes the transcript en grisaille which he says was made by Aristotele da San Gallo, and also the engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi. The prominence given to the ivy-crowned old soldier troubled by his hose confirms the accuracy of the Holkham picture and the Albertina drawing. But none of these partial transcripts left to us convey that sense of multitude, space, and varied action which Vasari's words impress on the imagination. The fullest, that at Holkham, contains nineteen figures, and these are schematically arranged in three planes, with outlying subjects in foreground and background. Reduced in scale, and treated with the arid touch of a feeble craftsman, the linear composition suggests no large aesthetic charm. It is simply a bas-relief of carefully selected attitudes and vigorously studied movements —nineteen men, more or less unclothed, put together with the scientific view of illustrating possibilities and conquering difficulties in postures of the adult male body. The extraordinary effect, as of something superhuman, produced by the Cartoon upon contemporaries, and preserved for us in Cellini's and Vasari's narratives, must then have been due to unexampled qualities of strength in conception, draughtsmanship, and execution. It stung to the quick an age of artists who had abandoned the representation of religious sentiment and poetical feeling for technical triumphs and masterly solutions of mechanical problems in the treatment of the nude figure. We all know how much more than this Michelangelo had in him to give, and how unjust it would be to judge a masterpiece from his hand by the miserable relics now at our disposal. Still I cannot refrain from thinking that the Cartoon for the Battle of Pisa, taken up by him as a field for the display of his ability, must, by its very brilliancy, have accelerated the ruin of Italian art. Cellini, we saw, placed it above the frescoes of the Sistine. In force, veracity, and realism it may possibly have been superior to those sublime productions. Everything we know about the growth of Michelangelo's genius leads us to suppose that he departed gradually but surely from the path of Nature. He came, however, to use what he had learned from Nature as means for the expression of soul-stimulating thoughts. This, the finest feature of his genius, no artist of the age was capable of adequately comprehending. Accordingly, they agreed in extolling a cartoon which displayed his faculty of dealing with un bel corpo ignudo as the climax of his powers.
As might be expected, there was no landscape in the Cartoon. Michelangelo handled his subject wholly from the point of view of sculpture. A broken bank and a retreating platform, a few rocks in the distance and a few waved lines in the foreground, showed that the naked men were by a river. Michelangelo's unrelenting contempt for the many-formed and many-coloured stage on which we live and move—his steady determination to treat men and women as nudities posed in the void, with just enough of solid substance beneath their feet to make their attitudes intelligible—is a point which must over and over again be insisted on. In the psychology of the master, regarded from any side one likes to take, this constitutes his leading characteristic. It gives the key, not only to his talent as an artist, but also to his temperament as a man.
Marcantonio seems to have felt and resented the aridity of composition, the isolation of plastic form, the tyranny of anatomical science, which even the most sympathetic of us feel in Michelangelo. This master's engraving of three lovely nudes, the most charming memento preserved to us from the Cartoon, introduces a landscape of grove and farm, field and distant hill, lending suavity to the muscular male body and restoring it to its proper place among the sinuous lines and broken curves of Nature. That the landscape was adapted from a copper-plate of Lucas van Leyden signifies nothing. It serves the soothing purpose which sensitive nerves, irritated by Michelangelo's aloofness from all else but thought and naked flesh and posture, gratefully acknowledge.
While Michelangelo was finishing his Cartoon, Lionardo da Vinci was painting his fresco. Circumstances may have brought the two chiefs of Italian art frequently together in the streets of Florence. There exists an anecdote of one encounter, which, though it rests upon the credit of an anonymous writer, and does not reflect a pleasing light upon the hero of this biography, cannot be neglected. "Lionardo," writes our authority, "was a man of fair presence, well-proportioned, gracefully endowed, and of fine aspect. He wore a tunic of rose-colour, falling to his knees; for at that time it was the fashion to carry garments of some length; and down to the middle of his breast there flowed a beard beautifully curled and well arranged. Walking with a friend near S. Trinita, where a company of honest folk were gathered, and talk was going on about some passage from Dante, they called to Lionardo, and begged him to explain its meaning. It so happened that just at this moment Michelangelo went by, and, being hailed by one of them, Lionardo answered: 'There goes Michelangelo; he will interpret the verses you require.' Whereupon Michelangelo, who thought he spoke in this way to make fun of him, replied in anger: 'Explain them yourself, you who made the model of a horse to cast in bronze, and could not cast it, and to your shame left it in the lurch.' With these words, he turned his back to the group, and went his way. Lionardo remained standing there, red in the face for the reproach cast at him; and Michelangelo, not satisfied, but wanting to sting him to the quick, added: 'And those Milanese capons believed in your ability to do it!'"
We can only take anecdotes for what they are worth, and that may perhaps be considered slight when they are anonymous. This anecdote, however, in the original Florentine diction, although it betrays a partiality for Lionardo, bears the aspect of truth to fact. Moreover, even Michelangelo's admirers are bound to acknowledge that he had a rasping tongue, and was not incapable of showing his bad temper by rudeness. From the period of his boyhood, when Torrigiano smashed his nose, down to the last years of his life in Rome, when he abused his nephew Lionardo and hurt the feelings of his best and oldest friends, he discovered signs of a highly nervous and fretful temperament. It must be admitted that the dominant qualities of nobility and generosity in his nature were alloyed by suspicion bordering on littleness, and by petulant yieldings to the irritation of the moment which are incompatible with the calm of an Olympian genius.
While Michelangelo was living and working at Florence, Bramante had full opportunity to poison the Pope's mind in Rome. It is commonly believed, on the faith of a sentence in Condivi, that Bramante, when he dissuaded Julius from building the tomb in his own lifetime, suggested the painting of the Sistine Chapel. We are told that he proposed Michelangelo for this work, hoping his genius would be hampered by a task for which he was not fitted. There are many improbabilities in this story; not the least being our certainty that the fame of the Cartoon must have reached Bramante before Michelangelo's arrival in the first months of 1505. But the Cartoon did not prove that Buonarroti was a practical wall-painter or colourist; and we have reason to believe that Julius had himself conceived the notion of intrusting the Sistine to his sculptor. A good friend of Michelangelo, Pietro Rosselli, wrote this letter on the subject, May 6, 1506: "Last Saturday evening, when the Pope was at supper, I showed him some designs which Bramante and I had to test; so, after supper, when I had displayed them, he called for Bramante, and said: 'San Gallo is going to Florence to-morrow, and will bring Michelangelo back with him.' Bramante answered: 'Holy Father, he will not be able to do anything of the kind. I have conversed much with Michelangelo, and he has often told me that he would not undertake the chapel, which you wanted to put upon him; and that, you notwithstanding, he meant only to apply himself to sculpture, and would have nothing to do with painting.' To this he added: 'Holy Father, I do not think he has the courage to attempt the work, because he has small experience in painting figures, and these will be raised high above the line of vision, and in foreshortening (i.e., because of the vault). That is something different from painting on the ground.' The Pope replied: 'If he does not come, he will do me wrong; and so I think that he is sure to return.' Upon this I up and gave the man a sound rating in the Pope's presence, and spoke as I believe you would have spoken for me; and for the time he was struck dumb, as though he felt that he had made a mistake in talking as he did. I proceeded as follows: 'Holy Father, that man never exchanged a word with Michelangelo, and if what he has just said is the truth, I beg you to cut my head off, for he never spoke to Michelangelo; also I feel sure that he is certain to return, if your Holiness requires it.'"
This altercation throws doubt on the statement that Bramante originally suggested Michelangelo as painter of the Sistine. He could hardly have turned round against his own recommendation; and, moreover, it is likely that he would have wished to keep so great a work in the hands of his own set, Raffaello, Peruzzi, Sodoma, and others.
Meanwhile, Michelangelo's friends in Rome wrote, encouraging him to come back. They clearly thought that he was hazarding both profit and honour if he stayed away. But Michelangelo, whether the constitutional timidity of which I have spoken, or other reasons damped his courage, felt that he could not trust to the Pope's mercies. What effect San Gallo may have had upon him, supposing this architect arrived in Florence at the middle of May, can only be conjectured. The fact remains that he continued stubborn for a time. In the lengthy autobiographical letter written to some prelate in 1542, Michelangelo relates what followed: "Later on, while I was at Florence, Julius sent three briefs to the Signory. At last the latter sent for me and said: 'We do not want to go to war with Pope Julius because of you. You must return; and if you do so, we will write you letters of such authority that, should he do you harm, he will be doing it to this Signory.' Accordingly I took the letters, and went back to the Pope."
Condivi gives a graphic account of the transaction which ensued. "During the months he stayed in Florence three papal briefs were sent to the Signory, full of threats, commanding that he should be sent back by fair means or by force. Piero Soderini, who was Gonfalonier for life at that time, had sent him against his own inclination to Rome when Julius first asked for him. Accordingly, when the first of these briefs arrived, he did not compel Michelangelo to go, trusting that the Pope's anger would calm down. But when the second and the third were sent, he called Michelangelo and said: 'You have tried a bout with the Pope on which the King of France would not have ventured; therefore you must not go on letting yourself be prayed for. We do not wish to go to war on your account with him, and put our state in peril. Make your mind up to return.' Michelangelo, seeing himself brought to this pass, and still fearing the anger of the Pope, bethought him of taking refuge in the East. The Sultan indeed besought him with most liberal promises, through the means of certain Franciscan friars, to come and construct a bridge from Constantinople to Pera, and to execute other great works. When the Gonfalonier got wind of this intention he sent for Michelangelo and used these arguments to dissuade him: 'It were better to choose death with the Pope than to keep in life by going to the Turk. Nevertheless, there is no fear of such an ending; for the Pope is well disposed, and sends for you because he loves you, not to do you harm. If you are afraid, the Signory will send you with the title of ambassador; forasmuch as public personages are never treated with violence, since this would be done to those who send them.'"
We only possess one brief from Julius to the Signory of Florence. It is dated Rome, July 8, 1506, and contains this passage: "Michelangelo the sculptor, who left us without reason, and in mere caprice, is afraid, as we are informed, of returning, though we for our part are not angry with him, knowing the humours of such men of genius. In order, then, that he may lay aside all anxiety, we rely on your loyalty to convince him in our name, that if he returns to us, he shall be uninjured and unhurt, retaining our apostolic favour in the same measure as he formerly enjoyed it." The date, July 8, is important in this episode of Michelangelo's life. Soderini sent back an answer to the Pope's brief within a few days, affirming that "Michelangelo the sculptor is so terrified that, notwithstanding the promise of his Holiness, it will be necessary for the Cardinal of Pavia to write a letter signed by his own hand to us, guaranteeing his safety and immunity. We have done, and are doing, all we can to make him go back; assuring your Lordship that, unless he is gently handled, he will quit Florence, as he has already twice wanted to do." This letter is followed by another addressed to the Cardinal of Volterra under date July 28. Soderini repeats that Michelangelo will not budge, because he has as yet received no definite safe-conduct. It appears that in the course of August the negotiations had advanced to a point at which Michelangelo was willing to return. On the last day of the month the Signory drafted a letter to the Cardinal of Pavia in which they say that "Michelangelo Buonarroti, sculptor, citizen of Florence, and greatly loved by us, will exhibit these letters present, having at last been persuaded to repose confidence in his Holiness." They add that he is coming in good spirits and with good-will. Something may have happened to renew his terror, for this despatch was not delivered, and nothing more is heard of the transaction till toward the close of November. It is probable, however, that Soderini suddenly discovered how little Michelangelo was likely to be wanted; Julius, on the 27th of August, having started on what appeared to be his mad campaign against Perugia and Bologna. On the 21st of November following the Cardinal of Pavia sent an autograph letter from Bologna to the Signory, urgently requesting that they would despatch Michelangelo immediately to that town, inasmuch as the Pope was impatient for his arrival, and wanted to employ him on important works. Six days later, November 27, Soderini writes two letters, one to the Cardinal of Pavia and one to the Cardinal of Volterra, which finally conclude the whole business. The epistle to Volterra begins thus: "The bearer of these present will be Michelangelo, the sculptor, whom we send to please and satisfy his Holiness. We certify that he is an excellent young man, and in his own art without peer in Italy, perhaps also in the universe. We cannot recommend him more emphatically. His nature is such, that with good words and kindness, if these are given him, he will do everything; one has to show him love and treat him kindly, and he will perform things which will make the whole world wonder." The letter to Pavia is written more familiarly, reading like a private introduction. In both of them Soderini enhances the service he is rendering the Pope by alluding to the magnificent design for the Battle of Pisa which Michelangelo must leave unfinished.
Before describing his reception at Bologna, it may be well to quote two sonnets here which throw an interesting light upon Michelangelo's personal feeling for Julius and his sense of the corruption of the Roman Curia. The first may well have been written during this residence at Florence; and the autograph of the second has these curious words added at the foot of the page: "Vostro Michelagniolo, in Turchia." Rome itself, the Sacred City, has become a land of infidels, and Michelangelo, whose thoughts are turned to the Levant, implies that he would find himself no worse off with the Sultan than the Pope.
_My Lord! If ever ancient saw spake sooth, Hear this which saith: Who can doth never will. Lo, thou hast lent thine ear to fables still. Rewarding those who hate the name of truth. I am thy drudge, and have been from my youth— Thine, like the rays which the sun's circle fill; Yet of my dear time's waste thou think'st no ill: The more I toil, the less I move thy ruth. Once 'twas my hope to raise me by thy height; But 'tis the balance and the powerful sword Of Justice, not false Echo, that we need. Heaven, as it seems, plants virtue in despite Here on the earth, if this be our reward— To seek for fruit on trees too dry to breed.
Here helms and swords are made of chalices: The blood of Christ is sold so much the quart: His cross and thorns are spears and shields; and short Must be the time ere even His patience cease._ _Nay, let Him come no more to raise the fees. Of this foul sacrilege beyond, report: For Rome still flays and sells Him at the court, Where paths are closed, to virtue's fair increase, Now were fit time for me to scrape a treasure, Seeing that work and gain are gone; while he Who wears the robe, is my Medusa still. God welcomes poverty perchance with pleasure: But of that better life what hope have we, When the blessed banner leads to nought but ill?_
While Michelangelo was planning frescoes and venting his bile in sonnets, the fiery Pope had started on his perilous career of conquest. He called the Cardinals together, and informed them that he meant to free the cities of Perugia and Bologna from their tyrants. God, he said, would protect His Church; he could rely on the support of France and Florence. Other Popes had stirred up wars and used the services of generals; he meant to take the field in person. Louis XII. is reported to have jeered among his courtiers at the notion of a high-priest riding to the wars. A few days afterwards, on the 27th of August, the Pope left Rome attended by twenty-four cardinals and 500 men-at-arms. He had previously secured the neutrality of Venice and a promise of troops from the French court. When Julius reached Orvieto, he was met by Gianpaolo Baglioni, the bloody and licentious despot of Perugia. Notwithstanding Baglioni knew that Julius was coming to assert his supremacy, and notwithstanding the Pope knew that this might drive to desperation a man so violent and stained with crime as Baglioni, they rode together to Perugia, where Gianpaolo paid homage and supplied his haughty guest with soldiers. The rashness of this act of Julius sent a thrill of admiration throughout Italy, stirring that sense of terribilita which fascinated the imagination of the Renaissance. Machiavelli, commenting upon the action of the Baglioni, remarks that the event proved how difficult it is for a man to be perfectly and scientifically wicked. Gianpaolo, he says, murdered his relations, oppressed his subjects, and boasted of being a father by his sister; yet, when he got his worst enemy into his clutches, he had not the spirit to be magnificently criminal, and murder or imprison Julius. From Perugia the Pope crossed the Apennines, and found himself at Imola upon the 20th of October. There he received news that the French governor of Milan, at the order of his king, was about to send him a reinforcement of 600 lances and 3000 foot-soldiers. This announcement, while it cheered the heart of Julius, struck terror into the Bentivogli, masters of Bologna. They left their city and took refuge in Milan, while the people of Bologna sent envoys to the Pope's camp, surrendering their town and themselves to his apostolic clemency. On the 11th of November, S. Martin's day, Giuliano della Rovere made his triumphal entry into Bologna, having restored two wealthy provinces to the states of the Church by a stroke of sheer audacity, unparalleled in the history of any previous pontiff. Ten days afterwards we find him again renewing negotiations with the Signory for the extradition of Michelangelo.
"Arriving then one morning at Bologna, and going to hear Mass at S. Petronio, there met him the Pope's grooms of the stable, who immediately recognised him, and brought him into the presence of his Holiness, then at table in the Palace of the Sixteen. When the Pope beheld him, his face clouded with anger, and he cried: 'It was your duty to come to seek us, and you have waited till we came to seek you; meaning thereby that his Holiness having travelled to Bologna, which is much nearer to Florence than Rome, he had come to find him out. Michelangelo knelt, and prayed for pardon in a loud voice, pleading in his excuse that he had not erred through forwardness, but through great distress of mind, having been unable to endure the expulsion he received. The Pope remained holding his head low and answering nothing, evidently much agitated; when a certain prelate, sent by Cardinal Soderini to put in a good word for Michelangelo, came forward and said: 'Your Holiness might overlook his fault; he did wrong through ignorance: these painters, outside their art, are all like this.' Thereupon the Pope answered in a fury: 'It is you, not I, who are insulting him. It is you, not he, who are the ignoramus and the rascal. Get hence out of my sight, and bad luck to you!' When the fellow did not move, he was cast forth by the servants, as Michelangelo used to relate, with good round kicks and thumpings. So the Pope, having spent the surplus of his bile upon the bishop, took Michelangelo apart and pardoned him. Not long afterwards he sent for him and said: 'I wish you to make my statue on a large scale in bronze. I mean to place it on the facade of San Petronio.' When he went to Rome in course of time, he left 1000 ducats at the bank of Messer Antonmaria da Lignano for this purpose. But before he did so Michelangelo had made the clay model. Being in some doubt how to manage the left hand, after making the Pope give the benediction with the right, he asked Julius, who had come to see the statue, if he would like it to hold a book. 'What book?' replied he: 'a sword! I know nothing about letters, not I.' Jesting then about the right hand, which was vehement in action, he said with a smile to Michelangelo: 'That statue of yours, is it blessing or cursing?' To which the sculptor replied: 'Holy Father, it is threatening this people of Bologna if they are not prudent.'"
Michelangelo's letter to Fattucci confirms Condivi's narrative. "When Pope Julius went to Bologna the first time, I was forced to go there with a rope round my neck to beg his pardon. He ordered me to make his portrait in bronze, sitting, about seven cubits (14 feet) in height. When he asked what it would cost, I answered that I thought I could cast it for 1000 ducats; but that this was not my trade, and that I did not wish to undertake it. He answered: 'Go to work; you shall cast it over and over again till it succeeds; and I will give you enough to satisfy your wishes.' To put it briefly, I cast the statue twice; and at the end of two years, at Bologna, I found that I had four and a half ducats left. I never received anything more for this job; and all the moneys I paid out during the said two years were the 1000 ducats with which I promised to cast it. These were disbursed to me in instalments by Messer Antonio Maria da Legnano, a Bolognese."
The statue must have been more than thrice life-size, if it rose fourteen feet in a sitting posture. Michelangelo worked at the model in a hall called the Stanza del Pavaglione behind the Cathedral. Three experienced workmen were sent, at his request, from Florence, and he began at once upon the arduous labour. His domestic correspondence, which at this period becomes more copious and interesting, contains a good deal of information concerning his residence at Bologna. His mode of life, as usual, was miserable and penurious in the extreme. This man, about whom popes and cardinals and gonfaloniers had been corresponding, now hired a single room with one bed in it, where, as we have seen, he slept together with his three assistants. There can be no doubt that such eccentric habits prevented Michelangelo from inspiring his subordinates with due respect. The want of control over servants and workmen, which is a noticeable feature of his private life, may in part be attributed to this cause. And now, at Bologna, he soon got into trouble with the three craftsmen he had engaged to help him. They were Lapo d'Antonio di Lapo, a sculptor at the Opera del Duomo; Lodovico del Buono, surnamed Lotti, a metal-caster and founder of cannon; and Pietro Urbano, a craftsman who continued long in his service. Lapo boasted that he was executing the statue in partnership with Michelangelo and upon equal terms, which did not seem incredible considering their association in a single bedroom. Beside this, he intrigued and cheated in money matters. The master felt that he must get rid of him, and send the fellow back to Florence. Lapo, not choosing to go alone, lest the truth of the affair should be apparent, persuaded Lodovico to join him; and when they reached home, both began to calumniate their master. Michelangelo, knowing that they were likely to do so, wrote to his brother Buonarroto on the 1st of February 1507: "I inform you further how on Friday morning I sent away Lapo and Lodovico, who were in my service. Lapo, because he is good for nothing and a rogue, and could not serve me. Lodovico is better, and I should have been willing to keep him another two months, but Lapo, in order to prevent blame falling on himself alone, worked upon the other so that both went away together. I write you this, not that I regard them, for they are not worth three farthings, the pair of them, but because if they come to talk to Lodovico (Buonarroti) he must not be surprised at what they say. Tell him by no means to lend them his ears; and if you want to be informed about them, go to Messer Angelo, the herald of the Signory; for I have written the whole story to him, and he will, out of his kindly feeling, tell you just what happened."
In spite of these precautions, Lapo seems to have gained the ear of Michelangelo's father, who wrote a scolding letter in his usual puzzle-headed way. Michelangelo replied in a tone of real and ironical humility, which is exceedingly characteristic: "Most revered father, I have received a letter from you to-day, from which I learn that you have been informed by Lapo and Lodovico. I am glad that you should rebuke me, because I deserve to be rebuked as a ne'er-do-well and sinner as much as any one, or perhaps more. But you must know that I have not been guilty in the affair for which you take me to task now, neither as regards them nor any one else, except it be in doing more than was my duty." After this exordium he proceeds to give an elaborate explanation of his dealings with Lapo, and the man's roguery.
The correspondence with Buonarroto turns to a considerable extent upon a sword-hilt which Michelangelo designed for the Florentine, Pietro Aldobrandini. It was the custom then for gentlemen to carry swords and daggers with hilt and scabbard wonderfully wrought by first-rate artists. Some of these, still extant, are among the most exquisite specimens of sixteenth-century craft. This little affair gave Michelangelo considerable trouble. First of all, the man who had to make the blade was long about it. From the day when the Pope came to Bologna, he had more custom than all the smiths in the city were used in ordinary times to deal with. Then, when the weapon reached Florence, it turned out to be too short. Michelangelo affirmed that he had ordered it exactly to the measure sent, adding that Aldobrandini was "probably not born to wear a dagger at his belt." He bade his brother present it to Filippo Strozzi, as a compliment from the Buonarroti family; but the matter was bungled. Probably Buonarroto tried to get some valuable equivalent; for Michelangelo writes to say that he is sorry "he behaved so scurvily toward Filippo in so trifling an affair."
Nothing at all transpires in these letters regarding the company kept by Michelangelo at Bologna. The few stories related by tradition which refer to this period are not much to the sculptor's credit for courtesy. The painter Francia, for instance, came to see the statue, and made the commonplace remark that he thought it very well cast and of excellent bronze. Michelangelo took this as an insult to his design, and replied: "I owe the same thanks to Pope Julius who supplied the metal, as you do to the colourmen who sell you paints." Then, turning to some gentlemen present there, he added that Francia was "a blockhead." Francia had a son remarkable for youthful beauty. When Michelangelo first saw him he asked whose son he was, and, on being informed, uttered this caustic compliment: "Your father makes handsomer living figures than he paints them." On some other occasion, a stupid Bolognese gentleman asked whether he thought his statue or a pair of oxen were the bigger. Michelangelo replied: "That is according to the oxen. If Bolognese, oh! then with a doubt ours of Florence are smaller." Possibly Albrecht Duerer may have met him in the artistic circles of Bologna, since he came from Venice on a visit during these years; but nothing is known about their intercourse.
Julius left Bologna on the 22nd of February 1507. Michelangelo remained working diligently at his model. In less than three months it was nearly ready to be cast. Accordingly, the sculptor, who had no practical knowledge of bronze-founding, sent to Florence for a man distinguished in that craft, Maestro dal Ponte of Milan. During the last three years he had been engaged as Master of the Ordnance under the Republic. His leave of absence was signed upon the 15th of May 1507.
Meanwhile the people of Bologna were already planning revolution. The Bentivogli retained a firm hereditary hold on their affections, and the government of priests is never popular, especially among the nobles of a state. Michelangelo writes to his brother Giovan Simone (May 2) describing the bands of exiles who hovered round the city and kept its burghers in alarm: "The folk are stifling in their coats of mail; for during four days past the whole county is under arms, in great confusion and peril, especially the party of the Church." The Papal Legate, Francesco Alidosi, Cardinal of Pavia, took such prompt measures that the attacking troops were driven back. He also executed some of the citizens who had intrigued with the exiled family. The summer was exceptionally hot, and plague hung about; all articles of food were dear and bad. Michelangelo felt miserable, and fretted to be free; but the statue kept him hard at work.
When the time drew nigh for the great operation, he wrote in touching terms to Buonarroto: "Tell Lodovico (their father) that in the middle of next month I hope to cast my figure without fail. Therefore, if he wishes to offer prayers or aught else for its good success, let him do so betimes, and say that I beg this of him." Nearly the whole of June elapsed, and the business still dragged on. At last, upon the 1st of July, he advised his brother thus: "We have cast my figure, and it has come out so badly that I verily believe I shall have to do it all over again. I reserve details, for I have other things to think of. Enough that it has gone wrong. Still I thank God, because I take everything for the best." From the next letter we learn that only the lower half of the statue, up to the girdle, was properly cast. The metal for the rest remained in the furnace, probably in the state of what Cellini called a cake. The furnace had to be pulled down and rebuilt, so as to cast the upper half. Michelangelo adds that he does not know whether Master Bernardino mismanaged the matter from ignorance or bad luck. "I had such faith in him that I thought he could have cast the statue without fire. Nevertheless, there is no denying that he is an able craftsman, and that he worked with good-will. Well, he has failed, to my loss and also to his own, seeing he gets so much blame that he dares not lift his head up in Bologna." The second casting must have taken place about the 8th of July; for on the 10th Michelangelo writes that it is done, but the clay is too hot for the result to be reported, and Bernardino left yesterday. When the statue was uncovered, he was able to reassure his brother: "My affair might have turned out much better, and also much worse. At all events, the whole is there, so far as I can see; for it is not yet quite disengaged. I shall want, I think, some months to work it up with file and hammer, because it has come out rough. Well, well, there is much to thank God for; as I said, it might have been worse." On making further discoveries, he finds that the cast is far less bad than he expected; but the labour of cleaning it with polishing tools proved longer and more irksome than he expected: "I am exceedingly anxious to get away home, for here I pass my life in huge discomfort and with extreme fatigue. I work night and day, do nothing else; and the labour I am forced to undergo is such, that if I had to begin the whole thing over again, I do not think I could survive it. Indeed, the undertaking has been one of enormous difficulty; and if it had been in the hand of another man, we should have fared but ill with it. However, I believe that the prayers of some one have sustained and kept me in health, because all Bologna thought I should never bring it to a proper end." We can see that Michelangelo was not unpleased with the result; and the statue must have been finished soon after the New Year. However, he could not leave Bologna. On the 18th of February 1508 he writes to Buonarroto that he is kicking his heels, having received orders from the Pope to stay until the bronze was placed. Three days later—that is, upon the 21st of February—the Pope's portrait was hoisted to its pedestal above the great central door of S. Petronio.
It remained there rather less than three years. When the Papal Legate fled from Bologna in 1511, and the party of the Bentivogli gained the upper hand, they threw the mighty mass of sculptured bronze, which had cost its maker so much trouble, to the ground. That happened on the 30th of December. The Bentivogli sent it to the Duke Alfonso d'Este of Ferrara, who was a famous engineer and gunsmith. He kept the head intact, but cast a huge cannon out of part of the material, which took the name of La Giulia. What became of the head is unknown. It is said to have weighed 600 pounds.
So perished another of Michelangelo's masterpieces; and all we know for certain about the statue is that Julius was seated, in full pontificals, with the triple tiara on his head, raising the right hand to bless, and holding the keys of S. Peter in the left.
Michelangelo reached Florence early in March. On the 18th of that month he began again to occupy his house at Borgo Pinti, taking it this time on hire from the Operai del Duomo. We may suppose, therefore, that he intended to recommence work on the Twelve Apostles. A new project seems also to have been started by his friend Soderini—that of making him erect a colossal statue of Hercules subduing Cacus opposite the David. The Gonfalonier was in correspondence with the Marquis of Carrara on the 10th of May about a block of marble for this giant; but Michelangelo at that time had returned to Rome, and of the Cacus we shall hear more hereafter.
When Julius received news that his statue had been duly cast and set up in its place above the great door of S. Petronio, he began to be anxious to have Michelangelo once more near his person. The date at which the sculptor left Florence again for Rome is fixed approximately by the fact that Lodovico Buonarroti emancipated his son from parental control upon the 13th of March 1508. According to Florentine law, Michelangelo was not of age, nor master over his property and person, until this deed had been executed.
In the often-quoted letter to Fattucci he says: "The Pope was still unwilling that I should complete the tomb, and ordered me to paint the vault of the Sistine. We agreed for 3000 ducats. The first design I made for this work had twelve apostles in the lunettes, the remainder being a certain space filled in with ornamental details, according to the usual manner. After I had begun, it seemed to me that this would turn out rather meanly; and I told the Pope that the Apostles alone would yield a poor effect, in my opinion. He asked me why. I answered, 'Because they too were poor.' Then he gave me commission to do what I liked best, and promised to satisfy my claims for the work, and told me to paint down the pictured histories upon the lower row."
There is little doubt that Michelangelo disliked beginning this new work, and that he would have greatly preferred to continue the sepulchral monument, for which he had made such vast and costly preparations. He did not feel certain how he should succeed in fresco on a large scale, not having had any practice in that style of painting since he was a prentice under Ghirlandajo. It is true that the Cartoon for the Battle of Pisa had been a splendid success; still this, as we have seen, was not coloured, but executed in various methods of outline and chiaroscuro. Later on, while seriously engaged upon the Sistine, he complains to his father: "I am still in great distress of mind, because it is now a year since I had a farthing from the Pope; and I do not ask, because my work is not going forward in a way that seems to me to deserve it. That comes from its difficulty, and also from this not being my trade. And so I waste my time without results. God help me."
We may therefore believe Condivi when he asserts that "Michelangelo, who had not yet practised colouring, and knew that the painting of a vault is very difficult, endeavoured by all means to get himself excused, putting Raffaello forward as the proper man, and pleading that this was not his trade, and that he should not succeed." Condivi states in the same chapter that Julius had been prompted to intrust him with the Sistine by Bramante, who was jealous of his great abilities, and hoped he might fail conspicuously when he left the field of sculpture. I have given my reasons above for doubting the accuracy of this tradition; and what we have just read of Michelangelo's own hesitation confirms the statement made by Bramante in the Pope's presence, as recorded by Rosselli. In fact, although we may assume the truth of Bramante's hostility, it is difficult to form an exact conception of the intrigues he carried on against Buonarroti.
Julius would not listen to any arguments. Accordingly, Michelangelo made up his mind to obey the patron whom he nicknamed his Medusa. Bramante was commissioned to erect the scaffolding, which he did so clumsily, with beams suspended from the vault by huge cables, that Michelangelo asked how the holes in the roof would be stopped up when his painting was finished. The Pope allowed him to take down Bramante's machinery, and to raise a scaffold after his own design. The rope alone which had been used, and now was wasted, enabled a poor carpenter to dower his daughter. Michelangelo built his own scaffold free from the walls, inventing a method which was afterwards adopted by all architects for vault-building. Perhaps he remembered the elaborate drawing he once made of Ghirlandajo's assistants at work upon the ladders and wooden platforms at S. Maria Novella.
Knowing that he should need helpers in so great an undertaking, and also mistrusting his own ability to work in fresco, he now engaged several excellent Florentine painters. Among these, says Vasari, were his friends Francesco Granacci and Giuliano Bugiardini, Bastiano da San Gallo surnamed Aristotele, Angelo di Donnino, Jacopo di Sandro, and Jacopo surnamed l'Indaco. Vasari is probably accurate in his statement here; for we shall see that Michelangelo, in his Ricordi, makes mention of five assistants, two of whom are proved by other documents to have been Granacci and Indaco. We also possess two letters from Granacci which show that Bugiardini, San Gallo, Angelo di Donnino, and Jacopo l'Indaco were engaged in July. The second of Granacci's letters refers to certain disputes and hagglings with the artists. This may have brought Michelangelo to Florence, for he was there upon the 11th of August 1508, as appears from the following deed of renunciation: "In the year of our Lord 1508, on the 11th day of August, Michelangelo, son of Lodovico di Lionardo di Buonarrota, repudiated the inheritance of his uncle Francesco by an instrument drawn up by the hand of Ser Giovanni di Guasparre da Montevarchi, notary of Florence, on the 27th of July 1508." When the assistants arrived at Rome is not certain. It must, however, have been after the end of July. The extracts from Michelangelo's notebooks show that he had already sketched an agreement as to wages several weeks before. "I record how on this day, the 10th of May 1508, I, Michelangelo, sculptor, have received from the Holiness of our Lord Pope Julius II. 500 ducats of the Camera, the which were paid me by Messer Carlino, chamberlain, and Messer Carlo degli Albizzi, on account of the painting of the vault of the Sistine Chapel, on which I begin to work to-day, under the conditions and contracts set forth in a document written by his Most Reverend Lordship of Pavia, and signed by my hand.
"For the painter-assistants who are to come from Florence, who will be five in number, twenty gold ducats of the Camera apiece, on this condition; that is to say, that when they are here and are working in harmony with me, the twenty ducats shall be reckoned to each man's salary; the said salary to begin upon the day they leave Florence. And if they do not agree with me, half of the said money shall be paid them for their travelling expenses, and for their time."
On the strength of this Ricordo, it has been assumed that Michelangelo actually began to paint the Sistine on the 10th of May 1508. That would have been physically and literally impossible. He was still at Florence, agreeing to rent his house in Borgo Pinti, upon the 18th of March. Therefore he had no idea of going to Rome at that time. When he arrived there, negotiations went on, as we have seen, between him and Pope Julius. One plan for the decoration of the roof was abandoned, and another on a grander scale had to be designed. To produce working Cartoons for that immense scheme in less than two months would have been beyond the capacities of any human brain and hands. But there are many indications that the vault was not prepared for painting, and the materials for fresco not accumulated, till a much later date. For instance, we possess a series of receipts by Piero Rosselli, acknowledging several disbursements for the plastering of the roof between May 11 and July 27. We learn from one of these that Granacci was in Rome before June 3; and Michelangelo writes for fine blue colours to a certain Fra Jacopo Gesuato at Florence upon the 13th of May. All is clearly in the air as yet, and on the point of preparation. Michelangelo's phrase, "on which I begin work to-day," will have to be interpreted, therefore, in the widest sense, as implying that he was engaging assistants, getting the architectural foundation ready, and procuring a stock of necessary articles. The whole summer and autumn must have been spent in taking measurements and expanding the elaborate design to the proper scale of working drawings; and if Michelangelo had toiled alone without his Florentine helpers, it would have been impossible for him to have got through with these preliminary labours in so short a space of time.
Michelangelo's method in preparing his Cartoons seems to have been the following. He first made a small-scale sketch of the composition, sometimes including a large variety of figures. Then he went to the living models, and studied portions of the whole design in careful transcripts from Nature, using black and red chalk, pen, and sometimes bistre. Among the most admirable of his drawings left to us are several which were clearly executed with a view to one or other of these great Cartoons. Finally, returning to the first composition, he repeated that, or so much of it as could be transferred to a single sheet, on the exact scale of the intended fresco. These enlarged drawings were applied to the wet surface of the plaster, and their outlines pricked in with dots to guide the painter in his brush-work. When we reflect upon the extent of the Sistine vault (it is estimated at more than 10,000 square feet of surface), and the difficulties presented by its curves, lunettes, spandrels, and pendentives; when we remember that this enormous space is alive with 343 figures in every conceivable attitude, some of them twelve feet in height, those seated as prophets and sibyls measuring nearly eighteen feet when upright, all animated with extraordinary vigour, presenting types of the utmost variety and vivid beauty, imagination quails before the intellectual energy which could first conceive a scheme so complex, and then carry it out with mathematical precision in its minutest details.
The date on which Michelangelo actually began to paint the fresco is not certain. Supposing he worked hard all the summer, he might have done so when his Florentine assistants arrived in August; and, assuming that the letter to his father above quoted (Lettere, x.) bears a right date, he must have been in full swing before the end of January 1509. In that letter he mentions that Jacopo, probably l'Indaco, "the painter whom I brought from Florence, returned a few days ago; and as he complained about me here in Rome, it is likely that he will do so there. Turn a deaf ear to him; he is a thousandfold in the wrong, and I could say much about his bad behaviour toward me." Vasari informs us that these assistants proved of no use; whereupon, he destroyed all they had begun to do, refused to see them, locked himself up in the chapel, and determined to complete the work in solitude. It seems certain that the painters were sent back to Florence. Michelangelo had already provided for the possibility of their not being able to co-operate with him; but what the cause of their failure was we can only conjecture. Trained in the methods of the old Florentine school of fresco-painting, incapable of entering into the spirit of a style so supereminently noble and so astoundingly original as Michelangelo's, it is probable that they spoiled his designs in their attempts to colour them. Harford pithily remarks: "As none of the suitors of Penelope could bend the bow of Ulysses, so one hand alone was capable of wielding the pencil of Buonarroti." Still it must not be imagined that Michelangelo ground his own colours, prepared his daily measure of wet plaster, and executed the whole series of frescoes with his own hand. Condivi and Vasari imply, indeed, that this was the case; but, beside the physical impossibility, the fact remains that certain portions are obviously executed by inferior masters. Vasari's anecdotes, moreover, contradict his own assertion regarding Michelangelo's singlehanded labour. He speaks about the caution which the master exercised to guard himself against any treason of his workmen in the chapel. Nevertheless, far the larger part, including all the most important figures, and especially the nudes, belongs to Michelangelo.
These troubles with his assistants illustrate a point upon which I shall have to offer some considerations at a future time. I allude to Michelangelo's inaptitude for forming a school of intelligent fellow-workers, for fashioning inferior natures into at least a sympathy with his aims and methods, and finally for living long on good terms with hired subordinates. All those qualities which the facile and genial Raffaello possessed in such abundance, and which made it possible for that young favourite of heaven and fortune to fill Rome with so much work of mixed merit, were wanting to the stern, exacting, and sensitive Buonarroti.
But the assistants were not the only hindrance to Michelangelo at the outset. Condivi says that "he had hardly begun painting, and had finished the picture of the Deluge, when the work began to throw out mould to such an extent that the figures could hardly be seen through it. Michelangelo thought that this excuse might be sufficient to get him relieved of the whole job. So he went to the Pope and said: 'I already told your Holiness that painting is not my trade; what I have done is spoiled; if you do not believe it, send to see.' The Pope sent San Gallo, who, after inspecting the fresco, pronounced that the lime-basis had been put on too wet, and that water oozing out produced this mouldy surface. He told Michelangelo what the cause was, and bade him proceed with the work. So the excuse helped him nothing." About the fresco of the Deluge Vasari relates that, having begun to paint this compartment first, he noticed that the figures were too crowded, and consequently changed his scale in all the other portions of the ceiling. This is a plausible explanation of what is striking—namely, that the story of the Deluge is quite differently planned from the other episodes upon the vaulting. Yet I think it must be rejected, because it implies a total change in all the working Cartoons, as well as a remarkable want of foresight.
Condivi continues: "While he was painting, Pope Julius used oftentimes to go and see the work, climbing by a ladder, while Michelangelo gave him a hand to help him on to the platform. His nature being eager and impatient of delay, he decided to have the roof uncovered, although Michelangelo had not given the last touches, and had only completed the first half—that is, from the door to the middle of the vault." Michelangelo's letters show that the first part of his work was executed in October. He writes thus to his brother Buonarroto: "I am remaining here as usual, and shall have finished my painting by the end of the week after next—that is, the portion of it which I began; and when it is uncovered, I expect to be paid, and shall also try to get a month's leave to visit Florence."
The uncovering took place upon November 1, 1509. All Rome flocked to the chapel, feeling that something stupendous was to be expected after the long months of solitude and seclusion during which the silent master had been working. Nor were they disappointed. The effect produced by only half of the enormous scheme was overwhelming. As Vasari says, "This chapel lighted up a lamp for our art which casts abroad lustre enough to illuminate the World, drowned, for so many centuries in darkness." Painters saw at a glance that the genius which had revolutionised sculpture was now destined to introduce a new style and spirit into their art. This was the case even with Raffaello, who, in the frescoes he executed at S. Maria della Pace, showed his immediate willingness to learn from Michelangelo, and his determination to compete with him. Condivi and Vasari are agreed upon this point, and Michelangelo himself, in a moment of hasty indignation, asserted many years afterwards that what Raffaello knew of art was derived from him. That is, of course, an over-statement; for, beside his own exquisite originality, Raffaello formed a composite style successively upon Perugino, Fra Bartolommeo, and Lionardo. He was capable not merely of imitating, but of absorbing and assimilating to his lucid genius the excellent qualities of all in whom he recognised superior talent. At the same time, Michelangelo's influence was undeniable, and we cannot ignore the testimony of those who conversed with both great artists—of Julius himself, for instance, when he said to Sebastian del Piombo: "Look at the work of Raffaello, who, after seeing the masterpieces of Michelangelo, immediately abandoned Perugino's manner, and did his utmost to approach that of Buonarroti."
Condivi's assertion that the part uncovered in November 1509 was the first half of the whole vault, beginning from the door and ending in the middle, misled Vasari, and Vasari misled subsequent biographers. We now know for certain that what Michelangelo meant by "the portion I began" was the whole central space of the ceiling—that is to say, the nine compositions from Genesis, with their accompanying genii and architectural surroundings. That is rendered clear by a statement in Albertini's Roman Handbook, to the effect that the "upper portion of the whole vaulted roof" had been uncovered when he saw it in 1509. Having established this error in Condivi's narrative, what he proceeds to relate may obtain some credence. "Raffaello, when he beheld the new and marvellous style of Michelangelo's work, being extraordinarily apt at imitation, sought, by Bramante's means, to obtain a commission for the rest." Had Michelangelo ended at a line drawn halfway across the breadth of the vault, leaving the Prophets and Sibyls, the lunettes and pendentives, all finished so far, it would have been a piece of monstrous impudence even in Bramante, and an impossible discourtesy in gentle Raffaello, to have begged for leave to carry on a scheme so marvellously planned. But the history of the Creation, Fall, and Deluge, when first exposed, looked like a work complete in itself. Michelangelo, who was notoriously secretive, had almost certainly not explained his whole design to painters of Bramante's following; and it is also improbable that he had as yet prepared his working Cartoons for the lower and larger portion of the vault. Accordingly, there remained a large vacant space to cover between the older frescoes by Signorelli, Perugino, Botticelli, and other painters, round the walls below the windows, and that new miracle suspended in the air. There was no flagrant impropriety in Bramante's thinking that his nephew might be allowed to carry the work downward from that altitude. The suggestion may have been that the Sistine Chapel should become a Museum of Italian art, where all painters of eminence could deposit proofs of their ability, until each square foot of wall was covered with competing masterpieces. But when Michelangelo heard of Bramante's intrigues, he was greatly disturbed in spirit. Having begun his task unwillingly, he now felt an equal or greater unwillingness to leave the stupendous conception of his brain unfinished. Against all expectation of himself and others, he had achieved a decisive victory, and was placed at one stroke, Condivi says, "above the reach of envy." His hand had found its cunning for fresco as for marble. Why should he be interrupted in the full swing of triumphant energy? "Accordingly, he sought an audience with the Pope, and openly laid bare all the persecutions he had suffered from Bramante, and discovered the numerous misdoings of the man." It was on this occasion, according to Condivi, that Michelangelo exposed Bramante's scamped work and vandalism at S. Peter's. Julius, who was perhaps the only man in Rome acquainted with his sculptor's scheme for the Sistine vault, brushed the cobwebs of these petty intrigues aside, and left the execution of the whole to Michelangelo.