Portrait of Cosimo I de'Medici. Marble. Museo Nazionel del Bargello, Florence.
Vasari's Lives of the Artists
IN THE DAYS when the arts of design flourished in Florence by the favor and assistance of the elder Lorenzo de' Medici the Magnificent, there lived in the city a goldsmith called Michelangelo di Viviano of Gaiuole, who worked excellently well at chasing and incavo for enamels and niello, and was very skillful in every sort of work in gold and silver plate. This Michelangelo had a great knowledge of jewels, and set them very well; and on account of his talents and his versatility all the foreign masters of his art used to have recourse to him, and he gave them hospitality, as well as to the young men of the city, i nsomuch that his workshop was held to be, as it was, the first in Florence. Of him the Magnificent Lorenzo and all the house of Medici availed themselves; and for the tourney that Giuliano, the brother of that Magnificent Lorenzo, held on the Piazza di Santa Croce, he executed with subtle craftsmanship all the ornaments of helmets, crests, and devices.
Wherefore he acquired a great name and much intimacy with the sons of the Magnificent Lorenzo, to whom his work was ever afterwards very dear, and no less useful to him their acquaintance and friendship, by reason of which, and also by the many works that he executed throughout the whole city and dominion, he became a man of substance as well as one of much repute in his art. To this Michelangelo the Medici, on their departure from Florence in the year 1494, entrusted much plate in silver and gold, which was all kept in safe hiding by him and faithfully preserved until their return, when he was much extolled by them for his fidelity, and afterwards recompensed with rewards.
In the year 1487 there was born to Michelangelo a son, whom he called Bartolommeo, but afterwards, according o the Florentine custom, he was called by everyone Baccio. Michelangelo, desiring to leave his son heir to his art and connection, took him into his own workshop in company with other young men who were learning to draw; for that was the custom in those times, and no one was held to be a good goldsmith who was not a good draughtsman and able to work well in relief. Baccio, then, in his first years, gave his attention to design according to the teaching of his father, being assisted no less to make proficience by the competition of the other lads, among whom he chose as his particular companion one called Piloto, who afterwards became an able goldsmith; and with him he often went about the churches drawing the works of the good painters, but also mingling work in relief with his drawing, (and counterfeiting in wax certain sculptures of Donato and Verrocchio, besides executing some works in clay, in the round.
While still a boy in age, Baccio frequented at times the workshop of Girolamo del Buda, a commonplace painter, on the Piazza di San Pulinari. There, at one time during the winter, a great quantity of snow had fallen, which had been thrown afterwards by the people into a heap in that piazza; and Girolamo, turning to Baccio, said to him jestingly: Baccio, if this snow were marble, could we not carve a fine giant out of it, such as a Marforio lying down? "We could so," answered Baccio, "and I suggest that we should act as if it were marble." And immediately, throwing off his cloak, he set his hands to the snow, and, assisted by other boys, taking away the snow where there was too much, and adding some in other places, he made a rough figure of Marforio lying down, eight braccia in length. Whereupon the painter and all the others stood marveling, not so much at what he had done as at the spirit with which he had set his hand to a work so vast, and he so young and so small.
Baccio, indeed, having more love for sculpture than for goldsmith's work, gave many proofs of this; and when he went to Pinzirimonte, a villa bought by his father, he would often plant himself before the naked laborers and draw them with g reat eagerness, and he did the same with the cattle on the farm. At this time he continued for many days to go in the morning to Prato, which was near the villa, where he stayed the whole day drawing from the work of Filippo Lippi, and he did not cease until he had drawn it all, imitating the draperies of that master, who did them very welt And already he handled with great skill the style and the pen, and also chalk both red and black, which last is a soft stone that comes from the mountains of France, and with it, when cut to a point, drawings can be executed with great delicacy.
These things making clear to Michelangelo the mind and inclination of his son, he also changed his intention, like the boy himself, and, being likewise advised by his friends, placed him under the care of Giovan Francesco Rustici, one of the best sculptors in the city, whose workshop was still constantly frequented by Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo, seeing the drawings of Baccio and being pleased with them, exhorted him to persevere and to take to working in relief; and he recommended strongly to him the works of Donato, saying also that he should execute something in marble, such as a head or a low-relief. Baccio, encouraged by the comforting advice of Leonardo, set himself to copy in marble an antique head of a woman, of which he had shaped a model from one that is in the house of the Medici. This, for his first work, he executed passing well, and it was held very dear by Andrea Carnesecchi, who received it as a present from Baccio's father and placed it in his house in the Via Larga, over that door in the center of the court which leads into the garden.
Now, Baccio continuing to make other models of figures in clay in the round, his father, wishing not to fail in his duty towards the praiseworthy zeal of his son, sent for some blocks of marble from Carrara, and caused to be built for him, at the end of his house at Pinti, a room with lights arranged for working, which looked out upon the Via Fiesolana. Whereupon he set himself to block out various figures in those marbles, and one, among others, he carried well on from a piece of marble of two braccia and a half, which was a Hercules that is holding the dead Cacus beneath him, between his legs. These sketches were left in the same place in memory of him.
At this time was thrown open to view the cartoon of Michelangelo Buonarroti, full of nude figures, which Michelangelo had executed at the commission of Piero Soderini for the Great Council Chamber, and, as has been related in another place, all the craftsmen flocked together to draw it on account of its excellence. Among these came Baccio, and no long time passed before he outstripped them all, for the reason that he understood nudes, and outlined , shaded, and finished them, better than any of the other draughtsmen, among whom were Jacopo Sansovino, Andrea del Sarto, Il Rosso, who was then very young, and Alfonso Berughetta the Spaniard, together with many other famous craftsmen.
Baccio frequented the place more than any of the others, and had a counterfeit key; and it happened that, Piero Soderini having been deposed from the government about this time, in the year 1512, and the house of Medici having been restored to power, during the confusion caused in the Palace by the change of government, Baccio entered in secret, all by himself, and tore the cartoon into many pieces. Of which not knowing the reason, some said that Baccio had torn it up in order to have some pieces of the cartoon in his possession for his own convenience, some declared that he wished to deprive the other young men of that advantage, so that they might not be able to profit by it and make themselves a name in art, others said that he was moved to do this by his affection for Leonardo da Vinci, from whom Michelangelo's cartoon had taken much of his reputation, and others, again, perhaps interpreting his action better, attributed it to the hatred which he felt against Michelangelo and afterwards demonstrated as long as he lived. The loss of the cartoon was no light one for the city, and very heavy the blame that was rightly laid upon Baccio by everyone, as an envious and malicious person.
Baccio then executed some pieces of cartoon with lead-white and charcoal, among which was a very beautiful one of a nude Cleopatra, which he presented to the goldsmith Piloto. Having already acquired a name as a great draughtsman, he was desirous of learning to paint in colors, having a firm belief that he would not only equal Buonarroti, but even greatly surpass him in both fields of art. Now he had executed a cartoon of a Leda, in which Castor and Pollux were issuing from the egg of the swan embraced by her, and he wished to color it in oils, in such a way as to make it appear that the methods of handling the colors and mixing them together in order to make the various tints, with the lights and shades, had not been taught to him by others, but that he had found them by himself, and, after pondering how he could do this,thought of the following expedient.
He besought Andrea del Sarto who was much his friend, that he should paint a portrait of him in oil flattering himself that he would thereby gain two advantages in accordance with his purpose; one was that he would see the method of mixing the colors, and the other was that the painted picture would remain in his hands, which, having seen it executed and understanding it, would assist him and serve him as a pattern. But Andrea perceived Baccios intention as he made his request, and was angry at his want of confidence and astuteness, for he would have been willing to show him what he desired, if Baccio had asked him as a friend; wherefore, without making any sign that he had found him out, and refraining from mixing the colors into tints, he placed every sort of color on his palette and mingled them together with the brush, and, taking some now from one and now from another with great dexterity of hand, counterfeited in this way the vivid coloring of Baccios face. The latter, both through the artfulness of Andrea and because he had to sit still where he was if he wished to be painted, was never able to see or learn anything that he wished: and it was a fine notion of Andreas, thus at the same time to punish the deceitfulness of his friend and to display with this method of painting, like a well-practiced master, even greater ability and experience in art.
For all this, however, Baccio did not abandon his determination, in which he was assisted by the painter Rosso, whom he afterwards asked more openly for the help that he desired. Having thus learned the methods of coloring, he painted a picture in oils of the Holy Fathers delivered from the Limbo of Hell by the Savior, and also a larger picture of Noah drunk with wine and revealing his nakedness in the presence of his sons. He tried his hand at painting on the wall, on fresh plaster, and executed on the walls of his house heads, arms, legs, and torsi, colored in various ways; but, perceiving that this involved him in greater difficulties than he had expected, through the drying of the plaster, he returned turned to his former study of working in relief. He made a figure of marble, three braccia in height, of a young Mercury with a flute in his hand, with which he took great pains, and it was extolled and held to be a rare work; and afterwards, in the year 1530, it was bought by Giovan Battista della Palla and sent to France to King Francis, who held it in great estimation.
Baccio devoted himself with great study and solicitude to examining and reproducing the most minute details of anatomy, persevering in this for many months and even years. And certainly one can praise highly in this man his desire for honor and excellence in art, and for working well therein; spurred by which desire, and by the most fiery ardor, with which, rather than with aptitude or dexterity in art, he had been endowed by nature from his earliest years, Baccio spared himself no fatigue, never relaxed his efforts for a moment, was always intent either on preparing for work or on working, always occupied, and never to be found idle, thinking that by continual work he would surpass all others who had ever practiced his art, and promising this result to himself as the reward of his incessant study and endless labor. Continuing, therefore, his zealous study, he not only produced a great number of sheets drawn in various ways with his own hand, but also contrived to get Agostino Viniziano, the engraver of prints, to engrave for him a nude Cleopatra and a larger plate filled with various anatomical studies, in order to see whether this would be successful; and the latter plate brought him great praise.
He then set himself to make in wax, in full-relief, a figure one braccio and a half in height of St. Jerome in Penitence, lean beyond belief, which showed on the bones the muscles all withered, a great part of the nerves, and the skin dry and wrinkled; and with such diligence was this work executed by him, that all the craftsmen, and particularly Leonardo da Vinci, pronounced the opinion that there had never been seen a better thing of its kind, nor one wrought with greater art. This figure Baccio carried to Cardinal Giovanni de Medici and to his brother the Magnificent Giuliano, and by its means he made himself known to them as the son of the goldsmith Michelangelo; and they, besides praising the work, showed him many other favors. This was in the year 1512, when they had returned to their house and their government.
At this same time there were being executed in the Office of Works of Santa Maria del Fiore certain Apostles of marble, which were to be set up within the marble tabernacles in those very places in that church where there are the Apostles painted by the painter Lorenzo di Bicci. At the instance of the Magnificent Giuliano there was allotted to Baccio a St. Peter, four braccia and a half in height, which after a long time he brought to completion; and, although it has not the highest perfection of sculpture, nevertheless good design may be seen in it. This Apostle remained in the Office of Works from the year 1513 down to 1565, in which year Duke Cosimo, in honor of the marriage of Queen Joanna of Austria, his daughter-in-law, was pleased to have the interior of Santa Maria del Fiore whitewashed, which church had never been touched from the time of its erection down to that day, and to have four Apostles set up in their places, among which was the St. Peter mentioned above.
Now in the year 1515, Pope Leo X passing through Florence on his way to Bologna, the city, in order to do him honor, ordained, among many other ornaments and festive preparations, that there should be made a colossal figure of nine braccia and a half, which was to be placed under an arch of the Loggia in the Piazza near the Palace; and this was given to Baccio. This colossal figure was a Hercules, and from the premature words of Baccio men expected that it would surpass the David of Buonarroti, which stood there near it; but the act did not correspond to the word, nor the work to the boast, and it robbed Baccio of much of the estimation in which he had previously been held by the craftsmen and by the whole city.
Pope Leo had allotted the work of the ornamentation in marble that surrounds the Chamber of Our Lady at Loreto, with the statues and scenes, to Maestro Andrea Contucci of Monte Sansovino, who had already executed some of these with great credit to himself, and was then engaged on others. Now at this time Baccio took to Rome, for the Pope, a very beautiful model of a nude David who was holding Goliath under him and was cutting off his head; which model he intended to execute in bronze or in marble for that very spot in the court of the house of the Medici in Florence where there once stood the David of Donato, which, at the spoiling of the Medici Palace, was taken to the Palace that then belonged to the Signori. The Pope, having praised Baccio, but not thinking that the time had come to execute the David, sent him to Loreto to Maestro Andrea, to the end that Andrea might give him one of those scenes to do.
Having arrived in Loreto, he was received lovingly by Maestro Andrea and shown much kindness, both on account of his fame and because the Pope had recommended him, and a piece of marble was assigned to him from which he should carve the Nativity of Our Lady. Baccio, after making the model, began the work; but, being a person who was not able to endure a colleague or an equal, and had little praise for the works of others, he also began to speak hardly before the other sculptors who were there of the works of Maestro Andrea, saying that he had no design, and he said the same of the others, insomuch that in a short time he made himself disliked by them all. Whereupon, all that Baccio had said of Maestro Andrea having come to his ears, he, like a wise man, answered him lovingly, saying that works are done with the hands and not with the tongue, that good design is to be looked for not in drawings but in the perfection of the work finished in stone, and, finally, that in future Baccio should speak of him in a different tone. But Baccio answering him arrogantly with many abusive words, Maestro Andrea could endure no more, and rushed upon him in order to kill him; but Bandinelli was torn away from him by some who intervened between them. Being therefore forced to depart from Loreto, Baccio had his scene carried to Ancona; but he grew weary of it, although it was near completion, and he went away leaving it unfinished. This work was finished afterwards by Raffaello da Montelupo, and placed together with the others of Maestro Andrea; but it is by no means equal to them in excellence, although even so it is worthy of praise.
Baccio, having returned to Rome, obtained a promise from the Pope, through the favor of Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, always ready to assist the arts and their followers, that he should be commissioned to execute some statue for the court of the Medici Palace in Florence. Having therefore come to Florence, he made an Orpheus of marble, who with his playing and his singing is charming Cerberus, and moving Hell itself to compassion. He imitated in this work the Apollo of the Belvedere at Rome, and it was very highly praised, and rightly, because, although the Orpheus of Baccio is not in the attitude of the Apollo Belvedere, nevertheless it reproduces very successfully the manner of the torso and of all the members.
The statue, when finished, was carried by order of Cardinal Giulio, while he was governing Florence, into the above-mentioned court, and placed on a carved base executed by the sculptor Benedetto da Rovezzano. But since Baccio never paid any attention to the art of architecture, he took no heed of the genius of Donatello, who had made for the David that was there before a simple column on which rested a cleft base in open-work, to the end that one entering from without might see from the street-door the inner door, that of the other court, opposite to him; and, not having such foresight, he caused his statue to be placed on a broad and wholly solid base, of such a kind that it blocks the view of him who enters and covers the opening of the inner door, so that in passing through the first door one does not see whether the palace extends arther inwards or finishes in the first court.
Cardinal Giulio had caused a most beautiful villa to be erected below Monte Mario at Rome, and wished to set up two giants in this villa: and he had them executed in stucco by Baccio, who was always delighted to make giants. These figures, eight braccia in height, stand one on either side of the gate that leads into the wood, and they were held to be reasonably beautiful. While Baccio was engaged on these works, never abandoning his practice of drawing, he caused Marco da Ravenna and Agostino Viniziano, the engravers of prints, to engrave a scene drawn by him on a very large sheet, in which was the Slaughter of the Innocents, so cruelly done to death by Herod. This scene, which was filled by him with a quantity of nudes, both male and female, children living and dead, and women and soldiers in various attitudes, made known the fine draughtsmanship that he showed in figures and his knowledge of muscles and of all the members, and it won him great fame over all Europe. He also made a most beautiful model of wood, with the figures in wax, of a tomb for the King of England, which in the end was not carried out by Baccio, but was given to the sculptor Benedetto da Rovezzano, who executed it in metal.
There had recently returned from France Cardinal Bernardo Divizio of Bibbiena, who, perceiving that King Francis possessed not a single work in marble, whether ancient or modern, although he much delighted in such things, had promised his Majesty that he would prevail on the Pope to send him some beautiful work. After this Cardinal there came to the Pope two Ambassadors from King Francis, and they, having seen the statues of the Belvedere, lavished all the praise at their command on the Laocoon. Cardinals de Medici and Bibbiena, who were with them, asked them whether the King would be glad to have a work of that kind; and they answered that it would be too great a gift.
Then the Cardinal said to them: There shall be sent to his Majesty either this one or one so like it that there shall be no difference. And, having resolved to have another made in imitation of it, he remembered Baccio, whom he sent for and asked whether he had the courage to make a Laocoon equal to the original. Baccio answered that he was confident that he could make one not merely equal to it, but even surpassing it in perfection. The Cardinal then resolved that the work should be begun, and Baccio, while waiting for the marble to come, made one in wax, which was much extolled, and also executed a cartoon in lead-white and charcoal of the same size as the one in marble. After the marble had come and Baccio had caused an enclosure with a roof for working in to be erected for himself in the Belvedere, he made a beginning with one of the boys of the Laocoon, the larger one, and executed this in such a manner that the Pope and all those who were good judges were satisfied, because between his work and the ancient there was scarcely any difference to be seen. But after setting his hand to the other boy and to the statue of the father, which is in the middle, he had not gone far when the Pope died.
Adrian VI being then elected, he returned with the Cardinal to Florence, where he occupied himself with his studies in design. After the death of Adrian and the election of Clement VII, Baccio went post-haste to Rome in order to be in time for his coronation, for which he made statues and scenes in half relief by order of his Holiness. Then, having been provided by the Pope with rooms and an allowance, he returned to his Lacoon, a work which was executed by him in the space of two years with the greatest excellence that he ever achieved. He also restored the right arm of the ancient Lacoon, which had been broken off and never found, and Baccio made one of the full size in wax, which so resembled the ancient work in the muscles, in force, and in manner, and harmonized with it so well, that it showed how Baccio understood his art; and this model served him as a pattern for making the whole arm of his own Laocoon. This work seemed to his Holiness to be so good, that he changed his mind and resolved to send other ancient statues to the King, and this one to Florence; and to Cardinal Silvio Passerino of Cortona, his Legate in Florence, who was then governing the city, he sent orders that he should place the Lacoon at the head of the second court in the Palace of the Medici. This was in the year I525.
This work brought great fame to Baccio, who, after finishing the Laocoon, set himself to draw a scene on a sheet of royal folio laid open, in order to carry out a design of the Pope, who wished to have the Martyrdom of San Cosimo and San Damiano painted on one wall of the principal chapel of San Lorenzo in Florence, and on the other that of St. Laurence, when he was put to death by Decius on the gridiron. Baccio then drew with great subtlety the story of St. Laurence, in which he counterfeited with much judgment and art figures both clothed and nude, different attitudes and gestures in the bodies and limbs, and various movements in those who are standing about S. Laurence, engaged in their dreadful office, and in particular the cruel Decius, who with threatening brow is urging on the fiery death of the innocent Martyr, who, raising one arm to Heaven, recommends his spirit to God. With this scene Baccio so satisfied the Pope, that he took steps to have it engraved on copper by Marc Antonio Bolognese, which was done by Marc Antonio with great diligence; and his Holiness created Baccio, in order to do honor to his talents, a Chevalier of S. Pietro.
After these things Baccio returned to Florence, where he found that Giovan Francesco Rustici, his first master, was painting a scene of the Conversion of S. Paul; for which reason he undertook to make in a cartoon, in competition with his master, a nude figure of a young S. John in the desert, who is holding a lamb with the left arm and raising the right to Heaven. Then, having caused a panel to be prepared, he set himself to color it, and when it was finished he exposed it to view in the workshop of his father Michelangelo, opposite to the descent that leads from Orsanmichele to the Mercato Nuovo. The design was praised by the craftsmen, but not so much the coloring, because it was somewhat crude and painted in no beautiful manner. But Baccio sent it as a present to Pope Clement, who had it placed in his guardaroba, where it may still be found.
As far back as the time of Leo X there had been quarried at Carrara, together with the marbles for the faade of San Lorenzo in Florence, another block of marble nine braccia and a half high and five braccia wide at the foot. With this block of marble Michelangelo Buonarroti had thought of making a giant in the person of Hercules slaying Cacus, intending to place it in the Piazza beside the colossal figure of David formerly made by him, since both the one and the other, David and Hercules, were emblems of the Palace. He had made several designs and various models for it, and had sought to gain the favor of Pope Leo and of Cardinal Giulio de Medici, saying that the David had many defects caused by the sculptor Maestro Andrea, who had first blocked it out and spoiled it. But by reason of the death of Leo the facade of San Lorenzo was for a time abandoned, and also this block of marble. Now afterwards, Pope Clement having conceived a desire to avail himself of Michelangelo for the tombs of the heroes of the house of Medici, which he wished to have constructed in the Sacristy of San Lorenzo, it became once more necessary to quarry marbles; and the head of these works, keeping the accounts of the expenses, was Domenico Buoninsegni.
This man tried to tempt Michelangelo to make a secret partnership with him in the matter of the stonework or the facade of San Lorenzo; but Michelangelo refused, not consenting that his genius should be employed in defrauding the Pope, and Domenico conceived such hatred against him that he went about ever afterwards opposing his undertakings, in order to annoy and humiliate him, but this he did covertly. He thus contrived to have the facade discontinued and the sacristy pushed forward, which two works, he said, were enough to keep Michelangelo occupied for many years. And as for the marble for the making of the giant, he urged the Pope that it should be given to Baccio, who at that time had nothing to do; saying that through the emulation of two men so eminent his Holiness would be served better and with more diligence and promptitude, rivalry stimulating both the one and the other in his work.
The counsel of Domenico pleased the Pope, and he acted in accordance with it. Baccio, having obtained the marble, made a great model in wax, which was a Hercules who, having fixed the head of Cacus between two stones with one knee, was constraining him with great force with the left arm, holding him crouching under his legs in a distorted attitude, wherein Cacus revealed his suffering and the strain of the weight of Hercules upon him, which was rending asunder every least muscle in his whole body. Hercules, likewise, with his head bent down close against his enemy, grinding and gnashing his teeth, was raising the right arm and with great vehemence giving him another blow with his club, in order to dash his head to pieces.
Michelangelo, as soon as he had heard that the marble had been given to Baccio, was very much displeased; but, for all the efforts that he made in this matter, he was never able to turn the Pope from his purpose, so completely had he been satisfied by Baccios model; to which reason were added his promises and boasts, for he boasted that he would surpass the David of Michelangelo, and he was also assisted by Buoninsegni, who said that Michelangelo desired everything for himself. Thus was the city deprived of a rare ornament, such as that marble would undoubtedly have been when shaped by the hand of Buonarroti. The above-mentioned model of Baccio is now to be found in the guardaroba of Duke Cosimo, by whom it is held very dear, and by the craftsmen as a rare work.
Baccio was sent to Carrara to see this marble, and the Overseers of the Works of Santa Maria del Fiore were commissioned to transport it by water, along the River Arno, as far as Signa. The marble having been conveyed there, within a distance of eight miles from Florence, when they set about removing it from the river in order to transport it by l and, the river being too low from Signa to Florence, it fell into the water, and on account of its great size sank so deep into the sand, that the Overseers, with all the contrivances that they used, were not able to drag it out. For which reason, the Pope wishing that the marble should be recovered at all costs, by order of the Wardens of Works Pietro Rosselli, an old builder of great ingenuity, went to work in such a manner that, having diverted the course of the water into another channel and cut away the bank of the river, with levers and windlasses he moved it, dragged it out of the Arno, and brought it to solid ground, for which he was greatly extolled.
Tempted by this accident to the marble, certain persons wrote verses, both Tuscan and Latin, ingeniously ridiculing Baccio, who was detested for his loquacity and his evil-speaking against Michelangelo and all the other craftsmen. One among them took for his verses the following subject, saying that the marble, after having been approved by the genius of Michelangelo, learning that it was to be mangled by the hands of Baccio, had thrown itself into the river out of despair at such an evil fate.
While the marble was being drawn out of the water, a difficult process which took time, Baccio found, on measuring it, that it was neither high enough nor wide enough to enable him to carve the figures of his first model. Whereupon he went to Rome, taking the measurements with him, and made known to the Pope how he was constrained by necessity to abandon his first design and make another. He then made several models, and out of their number the Pope was most pleased with one in which Hercules had Cacus between his legs, and, grasping his hair, was holding him down after the manner of a prisoner; and this one they resolved to adopt and to carry into execution. On returning to Florence, Baccio found that the marble had been conveyed into the Office of Works of Santa Maria del Fiore by Pietro Rosselli, who had first placed on the ground some planks of walnut-wood planed square, and laid length-ways, which he kept changing according as the marble moved forward, under which and upon those planks he placed some round rollers well shod with iron, so that by pulling the marble with three windlasses, to which he had attached it, little by little he brought it with ease into the Office of Works.
The block having been set up there, Baccio began a model in clay as large as the marble and shaped according to the last one which he had made previously in Rome; and he finished it, working with great diligence, in a few months. But with all this it appeared to many craftsmen that there was not in this model that spirited vivacity that the action required, nor that which he had given to his first mode]. Afterwards, beginning to work at the marble, Baccio cut it away all round as far as the navel, laying bare the limbs in front, and taking care all the time to carve the figures in such a way that they might be exactly like those of the large model in clay.
At this same time Baccio had undertaken to execute in painting an altarpiece of considerable size for the Church of Cestello, and for this he had made a very beautiful cartoon containing a Dead Christ surrounded by the Maries, with Nicodemus and other figures; but, for a reason that we shall give below, he did not paint the altarpiece. He also made at this time, in order to paint a picture, a cartoon in which was Christ taken down from the Cross and held in the arms of Nicodemus, with His Mother, who was standing, weeping for Him, and an Angel who was holding in his hands the Nails and the Crown of Thorns. Setting himself straightway to color it, he finished it quickly and placed it on exhibition in the workshop of his friend Giovanni di Goro, the goldsmith, in the Mercato Nuovo, in order to hear the opinions of men and particularly what Michelangelo said of it.
Michelangelo was taken by the goldsmith Pioto to see it, and, after he had examined every part, he said that he marveled that so good a draughtsman as Baccio should allow a picture so crude and wanting in grace to leave his hands, that he had seen the most feeble painters executing their works in a better manner, and that this was no art for Baccio. Piloto reported Michelangelo's judgment to Baccio, who, for all the hatred that he felt against him, recognized that he spoke the truth. Certainly Baccios drawings were very beautiful, but in colors he executed them badly and without grace, and he therefore resolved to paint no more with his own hand; but he took into his service one who handled colors passing well, a young man called Agnolo, the brother of the excellent painter Franciabigio, who had died a few years before.
To this Agnolo he desired to entrust the execution of the altarpiece for Cestello, but it remained unfinished, the reason of which was the change of government in Florence, which took place in the year 1527, when the Medici left Florence after the sack of Rome. For Baccio did not think himself safe, having a private feud with a neighbor at his villa of Pinzirimonte, who was of the popular party; and after he had buried at that villa some cameos and little antique figures of bronze, which belonged to the Medici, he went off to live in Lucca. There he remained until the time when the Emperor Charles V came to receive his crown at Bologna; whereupon he presented himself before the Pope and then went with him to Rome, where he was given rooms in the Belvedere, as before.
While Baccio was living there, his Holiness resolved to fulfill a vow that he had made when he was shut up in the Castello di Sant Angelo; which vow was that he would place on the summit of the great round tower of marble, which is in front of the Ponte di Castello, seven large figures of bronze, each six braccia in length, and all lying down in different attitudes, as it were vanquished by an Angel that he wished to have set up on the center of the tower, upon a column of variegated marble, the Angel being of bronze with a sword in the hand. By this figure of the Angel he wished to represent the Angel Michael, the guardian and protector of the Castle, whose favor and assistance had delivered him and brought him out of that prison; and the seven recumbent figures were to personify the seven Mortal Sins, demonstrating that with the help of the victorious Angel he had conquered and thrown to the ground his enemies, evil and impious men, who were represented by those seven figures of the seven Mortal Sins.
For this work his Holiness caused a model to be made; which having pleased him, he ordained that Baccio should begin to make the figures in clay of the size that they were to be, in order to have them cast afterwards in bronze. Baccio began the work, and finished .in one of the apartments in the Belvedere one of those figures in clay, which was much extolled. At the same time, also, in order to divert himself, and wishing to see how he would succeed in casting, he made many little figures in the round, two-thirds of a braccio in height, as of Hercules, Venus, Apollo, Leda, and other fantasies of his own, which he caused to be cast in bronze by Maestro Jacopo della Barba of Florence; and they succeeded excellently well. He presented them afterwards to his Holiness and to many lords; and some of them are now in the study of Duke Cosimo, among a collection of more than a hundred antique figures, all very choice, and others that are modern.
At this same time Baccio had made a scene of the Deposition from the Cross with little figures in low-relief and halfrelief, which was a rare work; and he had it cast with great diligence in bronze. When finished, he presented it in Genoa to Charles V, who held it very dear; and a sign of this was that his Majesty gave Baccio a Commandery of Sant Jago, and made him a Chevalier. From Prince Doria, also, he received many courtesies; and from the Republic of Genoa he had the commission for a statue of marble six braccia high, which was to be a Neptune in the likeness of Prince Doria, to be set up on the Piazza in memory of the virtues of that Prince and of the extraordinary benefits that his native country of Genoa had received from him. This statue was allotted to Baccio at the price of a thousand florins, of which he received five hundred at that time; and he went straightway to Carrara to block it out at the quarry of Polvaccio.
While the popular government was ruling Florence, after the departure of the Medici, Michelangelo Buonarroti was employed on the fortifications of the city; and there was shown to him the marble that Baccio had blocked out, together with the model of the Hercules and Cacus, the intention being that if the marble had not been cut away too much Michelangelo should take it and carve from it two figures after his own design. Michelangelo, having examined the block, thought of a different subject; and, abandoning the Hercules and Cacus, he chose the subject of Samson holding beneath him two Philistines whom he had cast down, one being already dead, and the other still alive, against whom he was aiming a blow with the jawbone of an ass, seeking to kill him. But even as it often happens that the minds of men promise themselves at times certain things the opposite of which is determined by the wisdom of God, so it came to pass then, for, war having arisen against the city of Florence, Michelangelo had other things to think about than polishing marble, and was obliged from fear of the citizens to withdraw from the city.
Afterwards, the war being finished and peace made, Pope Clement caused Michelangelo to return to Florence in order to finish the Sacristy of San Lorenzo, and sent Baccio to see to the completion of the giant. Baccio, while engaged in this, took up his abode in the Palace of the Medici; and, writing almost every week to his Holiness in order to make a show of devotion, he entered, besides dealing with matters of art, into particulars relating to the citizens and those who were administering the government, with an odious officiousness likely to bring upon him even more ill-will than he had awakened before. Whereupon, when Duke Alessandro returned from the Court of his Majesty to Florence, the citizens made known to him the sinister policy that Baccio was pursuing against them; from which it followed that his work of the giant was hindered and retarded by the citizens by every means in their power.
Continue to Part II of the Life of Baccio Bandinelli