Michelangelo arrived in Florence to find a city in turmoil. Carts stuffed with peasants rushed through the city gates trying to escape Cesare’s advancing troops. A raucous crowd jammed the Piazza della Signoria, demanding that their leaders do something about the marauders. Michelangelo had never seen fear on so many faces. It was a humiliating countenance for a once-proud people.
Quickly he made his way through the old familiar stone canyons to Francesco Granacci’s house. As always, Granacci was calm in the face of panic.
“Are things really as bad as they look?” Michelangelo asked his friend. “Is the city truly in danger?”
“Don’t worry about Borgia,” Granacci said. “All he wants is a king’s ransom to leave us alone. And the French have already agreed to buy him off. Soon everything will return to normal.”
“Then tell me about your letter and this business with Leonardo. Am I too late?”
“He’s causing quite a stir around here. Everyone is infatuated with him.”
“Have you seen him?”
“Yes, and he is every great thing you ever heard about him. He is stunningly handsome. Very well-dressed and groomed. And he may be the most charming man I’ve ever met. He’s quite funny. He loves to tell stories, and if you hand him a lyre he’ll sing for you.”
Michelangelo’s agitation was increasing. “So what about The Giant?”
“You should see Leonardo’s drawing of the Virgin and Child. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Perugino and Botticelli are raving about it. Everyone can’t wait to see the painting, including Giuliano Sangallo.”
“Did you talk to him for me? Did Sangallo speak to the commissioners on my behalf?”
“I saw him this morning.” Granacci’s tone turned serious. “He said to bring you over as soon as you arrived. I think you need to hear what he has to say.”
“Then let’s go, Francesco. I can’t bear the thought of losing this commission.”
“I know.” Granacci slapped his old friend on the back, knowing the Signoria’s ruse to get Michelangelo back home had worked.