As usual, Michelangelo was warmly welcomed by his family at home in Florence.
“It’s good to have you here again, son,” Lodovico said. He was wearing a new fine silk robe, and he rubbed the material between his fingers. “We’ll have a great feast to celebrate your return. Also, there are several properties south of the city I need to show you. Your brothers want to talk about some business ventures.”
“We can do all that,” Michelangelo said, feeling tired at the thought. “But I’m afraid it will all have to wait.”
“The pope has still not paid me a ducat for my work. I have no money left in Rome.”
“How can that be?” Lodovico looked startled.
“It’s been more than a year since I’ve been paid. I’ll need most of what I have left here to cover my expenses.”
“What you have ‘left’?” Lodovico stood up from his chair and began pacing the floor.
Michelangelo watched his father carefully. “What do you mean by that?”
“Do you know how much you have left?” Lodovico asked.
“The funds that were in the account here, except what you took out for Buonarroto.” A bad feeling crept over Michelangelo as he studied his father. “What is it that you don’t want to tell me?”
Lodovico sighed and fingered his robe. “I’m sorry. I had every intention to put it all back.”
“Father, what have you done?”
“Well, I — took some funds from your account.”
“All of it.”
“I took out what I needed to care for Buonarroto, as we discussed. I spent a great deal for his care. There was something else too. I was given the chance to become the podesta of San Casciano. I can do that, and it will pay me well for my time. But to secure the post I needed to look my best. So I borrowed money from your account to buy new robes.” Lodovico stopped abruptly in front of a chair, and the elegant silk of his garments billowed before it settled around him.
“You bought…robes?” Michelangelo couldn’t look at his father.
“I didn’t want to trouble you. I had every intention of paying you back. And I will.”
“With what?” snapped Michelangelo. “You’re nothing but a greedy, miserable old man.”
Deflated, Lodovico slumped into the chair. “I do my best.”
Michelangelo hated the pained look on his father’s face, but he hated his own fury just as much. He had asked his father to take care of his affairs, and then this. He had been taken advantage of. It took enormous effort for him to say his next words: “I suppose it doesn’t matter now.”
No matter what, he had to get paid. He needed to go to Bologna straightaway and plead his case. He would stay in Bologna as long as was required to make it happen.
Then, if there really was no work for him in Rome, perhaps he needed to find something in Florence. The cathedral still needed 12 apostles for the façade. Also, no one had painted a thing in the Great Hall since Leonardo returned to Milan. What if Michelangelo offered to fulfill his commission to paint the Battle of Cascina? Now he knew he could do the job very well.
Before Michelangelo departed for Bologna, he went to see Piero Soderini in the Sala dei Gigli. As in the past, a visit to Soderini meant Michelangelo was in for a surprise.