Certain messengers of the King of France arrived and went about Florence marking the houses which they preferred. They came indoors and entered all the rooms, marking one for such and such a lord, and another for such and such a baron.
And observe that there were not hundreds but thousands of the French, so that the whole city was occupied in every corner; for those houses that were not marked were occupied in a moment when the men-at-arms and the infantry arrived, going into every street, and saying: Apri qua! (Open there!) and not caring whether the owners were rich or poor. They gave it to be understood that they meant to pay: but there were not many who paid. And when they did pay a certain amount, they paid for the horns and ate the ox (Italian proverb): "They didn't pay anything like what they cost." Few of us had sent away our womenkind, except the young girls, who were sent to convents and to relatives where no soldiers were quartered; but the French were really very well-behaved, for there was not a single one who said an unsuitable word to a woman. In their hearts they felt a secret dread, and kept asking how many men Florence could dispose of; and they were told that at the sound of a bell the city would have 100 thousand men from within and without at her command. The truth was this: that they had come with the idea of sacking Florence, as their king had promised them but they could not see the game begun, much less won. And all this was the doing of the Almighty.
On this same day, five ambassadors were chosen to go to the King of France, who was at Pisa. They were as follows: First, Fra Girolamo, a preacher of the Order of San Domenico, dwelling at San Marco, a native of Ferrara; whom we believe to be a prophet, and he does not deny it in his sermons, but always says da parte del Signore (I have it from the Lord . . .), and he preaches on important subjects. The second, Tanai de' Nerli; the third, Pandolfo Rucellai; the fourth, Giovanni Cavalcanti; and the fifth, Piero Soderini; all Florentine citizens. And they left the next day.
On the same day a number of French arrived, who were the vanguard of the king, and lodged in the houses assigned to them, which were marked with chalk. This evening at about 2 o'clock (10 p.m.) a few strokes of the bell were heard from the Palagio; and immediately the Piazza was full of men, it being thought that a portamento was going to be summoned, for everyone was excited and distrustful, continually expecting great events.
(1) To congratulate Ludovico Sforza, called Il Moro, on his becoming Duke of Milan.
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,