Chapter

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph (2)

Dearest Father,

This morning I received one of your letters that filled me with grief on learning Buonarroto is ill. Should he still be ill, I would come with the post next week, although that would be very hard on me. This is because I still have coming 500 ducats which I have earned; furthermore, I was promised another 500 ducats to put up the scaffolding and start the other section of work. Instead, the Pope departed from Rome and left me no instructions, so that I am penniless and do not know what to do. If I leave, he may get angry and I may lose what is rightly mine. I wrote him a letter and I am waiting for a reply. Just the same, if Buonarroto is in any danger, let me know, and I will leave with the next post and be in Florence in two days. Men are worth more than money. Take all precautions and do not let money keep you from helping him. Go to the bank and take out 50, or 100 ducats, and have no qualms. Do not worry, for God did not create us to abandon us.

Your Michelangelo, sculptor in Rome

Michelangelo posted the letter and turned to the last portions he needed to paint on the first half of the ceiling: the ancestors on the lunettes. Before he could begin he had to rework the scaffolding around the windows. Then he painted two images, one on each side of a plaque which bore their names.

He painted them, like the images on the spandrels, as sad and alone — as if they were in need of something great to arrive after a lifetime of waiting.

Jesse, David and Solomon by Michelangelo

Jesse, David and Solomon by Michelangelo

Michelangelo painted each lunette in three giornate. He worked without using any cartoons at all. He simply sketched the figures and then painted them. After working this way for nearly two years, fresco was finally second nature.

In all, there were eight lunettes. It would take him about a month to finish. In that time he waited to hear from the pope’s secretary about payment. That letter never came.

Michelangelo heard nothing more from Florence either. All he could do was paint, and finish the ceiling, and hope to be paid so he could go home and take care of his family. He kept to his work, and heard nothing of the outside world.

Had he tried to hear news, he might have learned that things were not going all that well for Julius. After the pope left Rome, he went to Civitavecchia to watch the Venetian fleet sail off on a second attempt to attack Genoa and win over its people.

This time they sent more ships and more troops, knowing the French would be ready. They were right. The French attacked before the Venetians ever set eyes on Genoa, and routed them.

Julius rode to Bologna. He found the city in chaos. Things were so bad it was necessary to keep a 24-hour guard on the bronze statue of Julius that Michelangelo had made, lest it be destroyed in malice.

Next: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph (3)

 

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