From Rome. Christus. On the 2nd day of July, 1496.
Magnificent Lorenzo, etc., — I write this merely to inform you that on Saturday last we arrived here in safety, and went immediately to visit the Cardinal di San Giorgio, to whom I presented your letter. I believe he was glad at my arrival, and he straightway expressed a desire that I would go and inspect certain statues, which detained me for the remainder of that day, so that I was unable to deliver your other letters. On the Sunday the Cardinal went to his new house(1) and there caused me to be summoned. I went to him accordingly, and he asked my opinion of the statues I had seen. I told him what I thought ; and certainly I consider that some of them are very beautiful. He then asked me if I had sufficient courage to undertake a beautiful work on my own account. I replied that I should not be able to produce any work equal to those I had been shown, but that I was willing he should see for himself what I could do. We have bought a piece of marble sufficiently large for a life-size figure, and on Monday I shall begin to work upon it.
Last Monday I delivered your other letters to Pagolo Rucellai,(2) who offered to place the money at my disposal, and to Cavalcanti. Afterwards I gave the letter to Baldassarre, and asked him to give me back the Cupid (banbino), saying that I was willing to refund the money. But he answered me only with rough words, saying he would rather break it into a hundred pieces : he had bought the banbino he said, and it was therefore his: he had letters from the person to whom he sold it showing that its new owner was well satisfied with his bargain : and he did not think he would be compelled to return it. He complained bitterly of you, saying you had spoken ill of him.
Some of our Florentines took the matter up, hoping to get it settled, but they were unable to do anything. I am now hoping to arrange the matter through the medium of the Cardinal's good offices, for so I have been advised to proceed by Baldassarre Balducci.(3) I will keep you informed as to how the business proceeds. I have nothing more to add. I commend myself to you. May God guard you from evil.
MICHELAGNIOLO, in Rome.
(1) The Palazzo della Cancelleria.
(3) A Florentine engaged in the banking house of Iacopo Gallo, the latter a Roman. Both were on terms of considerable intimacy with Michelangelo,
The contract between Michelangelo and the Cardinal di San Dionisio for the Pieta.(1)
Die VII mensis augusti, 1498.
Be it known and manifest to all who shall read this present writing that the Most Reverend Cardinal di San Dionisio has agreed with Maestro Michelangelo, statuary of Florence, that the said Maestro shall at his own proper costs make a Pieta of marble ; that is to say, a draped figure of the Virgin Mary with the dead Christ in her arms, the figures being life-size, for the sum of four hundred and fifty gold ducats in papal gold (in oro papali), to be finished within the term of one year from the beginning of the work. And the said Most Reverend Cardinal promises to pay the money in the manner following: that is to say, imprimis he promises to pay the sum of one hundred and fifty gold ducats in papal gold before ever the work shall be begun, and thereafter while the work is in progress he promises to pay to the aforesaid Michelangelo one hundred ducats of the same value every four months, in such wise that the whole of the said sum of four hundred and fifty gold ducats in papal gold shall be paid within a twelvemonth, provided that the work shall be finished within that period: and if it shall be finished before the stipulated term his Most Reverend Lordship shall be called upon to pay the whole of the sum outstanding.
And I, Iacopo Gallo, do promise the Most Reverend Monsignore, that the said Michelangelo will complete the said work within one year, and that it shall be more beautiful than any work in marble to be seen in Rome to-day, and such that no master of our own time shall be able to produce a better. And I do promise the aforesaid Michelangelo on the other hand, that the Most Reverend Cardinal will observe the conditions of payment as herein set forth in writing. And in token of good faith I, lacopo Gallo, have drawn up the present agreement with my own hand the year month and day aforesaid. Furthermore be it understood that all previous agreements between the parties drawn up by my hand, or rather, by the hand of the aforesaid Michelangelo are by this present declared null and void, and only this present agreement shall have effect.
The said Most Reverend Cardinal gave to me, Iacopo Gallo, one hundred gold ducats of the chamber in gold (ducati d'oro in oro di Camera) some time ago, and on the aforesaid day as above set forth I received from him a further sum of fifty gold ducats in Papal gold.
Ita est IOANNES, CARDINALIS S. DYONISII. Idem Iacobus Gallus, manu proprio.
(1) This Madonna della Pieta was carved for Jean de la Groslaye, Cardinal di San Dionigi, and seems to have been contemplated, though not actually begun, some months before the drawing up of the final contract under which the work was executed.
Buonarroti, Michelangelo, trans. Robert W. Carden. "Michelangelo. A Record of His Life", Constable & Company Ltd, 1913: p. 10-12