At this time the lantern of the cupola of Santa Maria del Fiore was begun; and the palace of Cosimo de' Medici; and the churches of San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito, and the Badia on the way to Fiesole; also many houses near the walls in the neighbourhood of San Barnaba and Sant'Ambrogio, and in several other parts.
The Florentines made the Count of Pitigliano(1) Capitano, and gave him the baton. And the Sienese made the Signore da Farnese their Capitano.
And up till now my brother Gostanzo had gained 20 palii with his Barbary hose Draghetto, that is, 20 races from the 8th October, 1481, to the 25 June, 1485; the first was Santa Liperata, the next Sant' Anna, and San Vittorio several. Once when he won San Vittorio he sold the palio to the Aretini for 40 gold florins, and then he went to Arezzo and won it back again. And when he went to race at Siena, there was a tie between his horse and one belonging to Lorenzo de' Medici, called La Lucciola (Firefly), that of Gostanzo being in reality one head's length in advance of the other. And the people who were present declared that he had won, and told him to go to the magistrate, and they would bear witness. Gostanzo, however, refused to do this, out of respect for Lorenzo, and as it happened, Lorenzo was proclaimed the winner. Another year, also at Siena, a meaner trick was played him: namely, when Gostanzo's horse was a bowshot in advance, and reached the winning-post, he dismounted and got up on the palio; then another horse came up, and they said that Gostanzo's horse had not passed the winning-post, and that the other one had passed it. Therefore the prize was given to the other. A very great injustice, that a rider who had not won the palio should receive it! It was most unfortunate, as my brother had such a good horse. He rushed about so much after this Barbary horse that in the end it proved his death. He died on the 12th September, 1485.
(1) Niccola Orsini.
He again heard mass in Sa' Lorenzo; and then went for a ride through Florence, going to see the lions.(1) And it was his wish that some of the prisoners in the Palagio del Capitano should be liberated, those namely who were detained for political reasons; amongst them a Ser Lorenzo, and an Andrea, and others; and this desire of his to benefit the prisoners on the occasion of his passing through the town was granted.
(1) According to ancient custom, the Republic kept some lions in cages. These cages were behind the Palazzo del Capitano, now incorporated in the Palazzo Vecchio, whence the piece of street between Piazza di S. Firenze and the Logge del Grano is still called Via de' Leoni. This custom was discontinued towards the end of the seventeenth century.
Most Revered Father, — I learn from one of your letters that the Spedalingo has not yet come back to Florence and that as a consequence you have been unable to conclude the business about the farm as you desired. It has given me annoyance also, for I supposed you had already paid over the money for it. I half suspect that the Spedalingo has gone away on purpose so that he may not have to give up this source of income but may continue to hold both the money and the farm. Please let me know about it, for should matters be as I fear I would take my money from his keeping and place it elsewhere.
As for my affairs here, I should get on all right if only my marbles were to arrive : but I seem to be most unfortunate in this matter, for since I arrived there have not been two fine days in succession. A boat happened to get here some days ago, but it was only by the greatest good fortune that it escaped accident, as the weather was most unfavourable : and as soon as I had unloaded it the river suddenly rose in flood and submerged it (the marble), so that even p30 now I have not been able to set to work on anything, although I make promises to the Pope and encourage him to hope in order that he may not lose his temper with me ; hoping myself all the time that the weather will improve and that I shall soon be able to begin work—God grant it so ! Please take all the drawings, that is to say, all those papers I put into the sack of which I told you, and make them up into a little bundle and send them to me by some carrier. But see that they are securely done up and run no risk of damage from rain, so that not even the smallest paper may suffer hurt. Bid the carrier take good care of them, for some are of the very greatest importance. Write and say into whose charge you have given them and what I have to pay the man. As to Michele, I wrote to say that he was to put that chest in safety somewhere under cover and then come immediately to Rome where he should want for nothing. I do not know what he has done. I beg of you to enquire into this ; and, further, I beg of you to put yourself to a little trouble over these two things — that is to say, first to see that the chest is put in a safe place under cover, and afterwards I would like you to have the marble Madonna brought to your house, and take care that nobody shall see it. I am not sending you any money for these two things because I do not think they will cost much. If you have to borrow, you can do so, because very soon — if my marble arrives I will send you money for this purpose and for your own use.
p31 I wrote asking you to enquire of Bonifazio the name of the man in Lucca to whom he was going to pay those fifty ducats I am sending to Matteo di Cucherello at Carrara, and I asked you to write the name in the unsealed letter I sent you, which you were to forward to the said Matteo at Carrara so that he might know where to go in Lucca in order to get the money. I expect you have already done this. I beg you also to tell me to whom Bonifazio is paying the money at Lucca, so that I may know his name and can write to Matteo at Carrara telling him from whom he is to receive the said money in Lucca. No more. Do not send me anything more than I write for : my clothes and shirts I give to you and to Giovansimone. Pray to God that my affairs may prosper, and bear in mind that I wish you to invest about a thousand ducats of my money in land, as we have agreed.
On the thirty-first day of January, one thousand five hundred and six.
Your MICHELAGNIOLO, in Rome.
P.S. — Lodovico : I beg you to send on the enclosed letter addressed to Piero d'Argiento, and I beg you to see that he receives it. I think it might be well to send it through the medium of the Jesuits, as he visits them frequently. I beg you to see to this.
The Michele mentioned in this letter is Michele di Piero di Pippo, a stone cutter of Settignano, who was p32 sent to Carrara in connection with the marbles for the facade of San Lorenzo in Florence. With regard to the "Madonna" mentioned further on, it is not certain whether Michelangelo refers to the marble bas-relief now preserved in the Casa Buonarroti in Florence or to the Madonna and Child which is the chief treasure of Notre Dame at Bruges. In passing, it may be worth while to draw attention to the obvious nervousness which marks all Michelangelo's financial transactions. The instructions with regard to the banker at Lucca are characteristic, and afford sufficient proof of the artist's aversion to trusting his money in the hands of other people.
A ricordo or note from Michelangelo:
Pope Leo, perhaps because he wants to get the facade at S. Lorenzo finished quicker than according to the contract made with me, and I also consenting thereto, sets me free ... and so he leaves me at liberty, under no obligation of accounting to any one for anything which I have had to do with him or others upon his account.
The contractors for Michelangelo's marble blocks to be carved into the tombs of S. Lorenzo, all of which were excavated from the old Roman quarry of Polvaccio, came to Florence, and were paid on account.
Two important letters from Michelangelo to Fattucci, written in October 1525 and April 1526, show that he had then abandoned the original scheme (for the Medici tombs), and adopted one which was all but carried into effect.
I am working as hard as I can, and in fifteen days I shall begin the other captain. Afterwards the only important things left will be the four rivers. The four statues are on the sarcophagi, the four figures on the ground which are the rivers, the two captains, and Our Lady, who is to be placed upon the tomb at the head of the chapel; these are what I mean to do with my own hand. Of these I have begun six; and I have good hope of finishing them in due time, and carrying the other forward in part, which do not signify so much.
The six he had begun are clearly the Dukes and their attendant figures of Day, Night, Dawn, Evening. The Madonna, one of his noblest works, came within a short distance of completion. SS. Cosimo and Damiano passed into the hands of Montelupo and Montorsoli. Of the four rivers we have only fragments in the shape of some exquisite little models.
Pope Clement VII makes Fattucci write to Michelangelo that he wishes to erect a colossal statue on the piazza of S. Lorenzo, opposite the Stufa Palace. The giant is to surmount the roof of the Medicean Palace, with its face turned in that direction and its back to the house of Luigi della Stufa. Being so huge, it would have to be composed of separate pieces fitted together. Michelangelo speedily knocked this absurd plan on the head in a letter.
Symonds, John Addington: "The Life of Michelangelo Buonarroti", Modern Library (New York), p.256
I record how, some days ago, Piero di Filippo Gondi asked for permission to enter the new sacristy at S. Lorenzo, in order to hide there certain goods belonging to his family, by reason of the perils in which we are now. To-day, upon the 29th of April 1527, he has begun to carry in some bundles, which he says are linen of his sisters; and I, not wishing to witness what he does or to know where he hides the gear away, have given him the key of the sacristy this evening.