Granacci knew Michelangelo better than anyone — perhaps better than Michelangelo knew himself. After a long night with little sleep, Granacci knew what he needed to do next to help his friend.
“I’m going back to Florence,” he announced to Michelangelo the next morning. “And I’m taking the other five with me.”
“You’re leaving? Abandoning me now! Why?”
“There’s only one way you are going to be able to paint this ceiling,” Granacci said firmly. “You have to paint it alone, so you are at liberty to fail, and learn.”
Michelangelo gazed up at the ceiling and felt very small. “I can’t do this alone!”
“Of course you can! That’s the way you’ve always worked. Think about what you did with the David. You built a wall around it so no one could see you working. Look at this scaffold! It completely blocks the view from the floor. No one can watch as you work.”
“What will you tell the others? They’ll be angry with me.”
“I hired and brought them here. Let me deal with them.”
“Are you sure I can do this alone?”
“Yes you can, at least for now. There’s no better time for you to learn. The framework is finished. The cartoons are completed. All you have to do now is paint the scenes. You don’t need me anymore. You don’t need any of us.”
Michelangelo scowled as he looked at the ceiling. It would be crazy to paint it alone. Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Leonardo, none of them would have done it. No one but him would even try, he thought. That was when the thrill of the challenge swept through him.
“Maybe you’re right, Francesco.”
“Of course I’m right.”
Michelangelo smiled. “You know, don’t you, that I could never have gotten this far without you? How can I ever thank you?”
Granacci slapped his friend on the back. “Well…there is something I’ve been wondering about.” He leaned back and studied the ceiling. “Can you please tell me what this is all supposed to mean? I know there’s something you’re not sharing with me.”
At first Michelangelo didn’t speak. Then he went over to a pile of drawings for an important scene he was working on. He showed one to Granacci. It depicted two teenage boys talking to each other in a doorway. They might as well have been studying a fresco on the wall in front of them.
“That’s me!” said Granacci. “And that’s you, isn’t it?”
Michelangelo nodded. “I just wanted you to see how much you mean to me, Francesco. You’re going to be on the ceiling too.”
Granacci laughed, understanding that this was the only answer Michelangelo was going to offer.
The next morning Granacci and the five garzoni left for Florence, while Michelangelo went to the chapel, ready to paint alone.
Next: Over the Rainbow (1)