Michelangelo was a thoroughly dishonest multi-millionaire miser who slept in his boots despite his great wealth, according to a new study. Although the artist was known to be reasonably well off, new research suggests that he was fabulously wealthy. Michelangelo left an estate worth 50,000 florins --about 35 million British pounds in today's money.
The great Renaissance master (1475-1564) was better paid by Pope Julius II, one of his great patrons, than was previously believed according to Rab Hatfield, a Florence-based professor who has written a book on the topic. In the study, The Wealth of Michelangelo, published by Italy's National Institute of Renaissance Studies, the Florentine artist and sculptor emerges as an avaricious miser who denied himself all comforts. He also invested widely and successfully in property.
He went to sleep so regularly with his boots on that, when he eventually did remove them, the skin would come away too. In his preface the author writes: "Unfortunately the man we meet in these pages was not always admirable - not the man we might have wanted to have been the creator of the marvellous works that Michelangelo made." He was "often greedy and aggressive" and "in some respects was the perfect miser. At times he was thoroughly dishonest".
Prof. Hatfield, an American scholar based at the Florence branch of Syracuse University, did much of his research in Italy's state archives, which he consulted on the off-chance that some record of the artist's bank details might have been saved. To his astonishment, he found full, hitherto unpublished, records of Michelangelo's two bank accounts in Rome and Florence, spanning the years 1497-1516. Michelangelo's riches would have made him one of the wealthiest artists of his time, putting him in a category that was streets ahead of Leonardo da Vinci, Titian or Raphael.
Almost as many of Michelangelo's outgoings were to settle bills for wine as for the supply of marble. Prof Hatfield said he wanted to "demythicise" Michelangelo. Even if the facts were unpleasant to read, he said, surely it was "best for us to know the truth."