Detail. Hercules and Cacus fountain. 1534. Piazza Signoria, Florence.

Part 2

Vasari's Lives of the Artists

AT THIS TIME, after the war of Hungary, Pope Clement and the Emperor Charles held a conference at Bologna, whither there went Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici and Duke Alessandro; and it occurred to Baccio to go and kiss the feet of his Holiness. He took with him a panel, one braccio high and one and a half wide, of Christ being scourged at the Column by two nude figures, which was in half relief and very well executed; and he gave this panel to the Pope, together with a portrait medal of his Holiness, whichhe had caused to be made by Francesco dal Prato, his familiar friend, the reverse of the medal being the Flagellation of Christ. This gift was very acceptable to his Holiness, to whom Baccio described the annoyances and impediments that he had experienced in the execution of his Hercules, praying him that he should prevail upon the Duke to give him the means to carry it to completion. He added that he was envied and hated in that city; and, being a very devil with his wit and his tongue, he persuaded the Pope toinduce the Duke to see that his work should be brought to completion and set up in its place in the Piazza.

Death had now snatched away the goldsmith Michelangelo, the father of Baccio, who during his lifetime had undertaken to make for the Wardens of Works of Santa Maria del Fiore, by order of the Pope, a very large cross of silver, all covered with scenes in low-relief of the Passion of Christ. This cross, for which Baccio had made the figures and scenes in wax, to be afterwards cast in silver, Michelangelo had left unfinished at his death; and Baccio, having the work in his hands, together with many libbre of silver, sought to persuade his Holiness to have it finished by Francesco dal Prato, who had gone with him to Bologna. But the Pope, perceiving that Baccio wished not only to withdraw from his father's engagements, but also to make something out of the labors of Francesco, gave Baccio orders that the silver and the scenes, those merely begun as well as those finished, should be given to the Wardens of Works, that the account should be settled, and that the Wardens should melt all the silver of that cross, in order to make use of it for the necessities of the church, which had been stripped of its ornaments at the time of the siege; and to Baccio he caused one hundred florins of gold and letters of recommendation to be given, to the end that he might return to Florence and finish the work of the giant.

While Baccio was at Bologna, Cardinal Doria, having heard that he was about to depart, went to the pains of seeking him out, and threatened him with many reproaches and abusive words, for the reason that he had broken his pledge and failed in his duty by neglecting to finish the statue of Prince Doria and leaving it only blocked out at Carrara, after taking five hundred crowns in payment; on which account, said the Cardinal, if Andrea could get Baccio into his hands, he would make him pay for it at the galleys. Baccio defended himself humbly and with soft words, saving that he had been delayed by a sufficient hindrance, but that he had in Florence a block of marble of the same height, from which he had intended to carve that figure, and that when he had carved and finished it he would send it to Genoa. And so well did he contrive to speak and to excuse himself that he succeeded in escaping from the presence of the Cardinal. After this he returned to Florence, and caused the base for the giant to be taken in hand; and, himself working continuously at the figure, in the year 1534 he finished it completely. But Duke Alessandro, on account of the hostile reports of the citizens, did not take steps to have it set up in the Piazza.

The Pope had returned to Rome many months before this, and desired to erect two tombs of marble in the Minerva, one for Pope Leo and one for himself; and Baccio, seizing this occasion, went to Rome. Thereupon the Pope resolved that Baccio should make those tombs after he had succeeded in setting up the giant on the Piazza; and his Holiness wrote to the Duke that he should give Baccio every convenience for placing his Hercules in position there. Whereupon, after an enclosure of planks had been made all round, the base was built of marble, and at the foot of it they placed a stone with letters in memory of Pope Clement VII, and a good number of medals with the heads of his Holiness and of Duke Alessandro.

The giant was then taken from the Office of Works, where it had been executed; and in order to convey it with greater ease, without damaging it, they made round it a scaffolding of wood, with ropes passing under the legs and cords supporting it under the arms and at every other part; and thus, suspended in the air between the beams in such a way that it did not touch the wood, little by little, by means of compound pulleys and windlasses and ten pairs of oxen, it was drawn as far as the Piazza. Great assistance was rendered by two thick, semi-cylindrical beams, which were fixed lengthways along the foot of the scaffolding, in the manner of a base, and rested on other similar beams smeared with soap, which were withdrawn and replaced by workmen in succession, according as the structure moved forward; and with these ingenious contrivances the giant was conveyed safely and without much labor to the Piazza. The charge of all this was given to Baccio d'Agnolo and the elder Antonio da San Gallo, the architects to the Office of Works, who afterwards with other beams and a double system of compound pulleys set the statue securely on its base.

It would not be easy to describe the concourse and multitude that for two days occupied the whole Piazza, flocking to see the giant as soon as it was uncovered; and various judgments and opinions were heard from all kinds of men, every one censuring the work and the master. There were also attached round the base many verses, both Latin and Tuscan, in which it was pleasing to see the wit, the ingenious conceits, and the sharp sayings of the writers; but they overstepped all decent limits with their evil-speaking and their biting and satirical compositions, and Duke Alessandro, considering that, the work being a public one, the indignity was his, was forced to put in prison some who went so far as to attach sonnets openly and without scruple to the statue; which proceeding soon stopped the mouths of the critics.

When Baccio examined his work in position, it seemed to him that the open air was little favorable to it, making the muscles appear too delicate. Having therefore caused a new enclosure of planks to be made around it, he attacked it again with his chisels, and, strengthening the muscles in many places, gave the figures stronger relief than they had before. Finally, the work was uncovered for good; and by everyone able to judge it has always been held to be not only a triumph over difficulties, but also very well studied, with every part carefully considered, and the figure of Cacus excellently adapted to its position. It is true that the David of Michelangelo, which is beside Baccio's Hercules, takes away not a little of its glory, being the most beautiful colossal figure that has ever been made; for in it is all grace and excellence, whereas the manner of Baccio is entirely different. But in truth, considering Baccio's Hercules by itself, one cannot but praise it highly, and all the more because it is known that many sculptors have since tried to make colossal statues, and not one has attained to the standard of Baccio, who, if he had received as much grace and facility from nature as he took pains and trouble by himself, would have been absolutely perfect in the art of sculpture.

Desiring to know what was being said of his work, he sent to the Piazza a pedagogue whom he kept in his house, telling him that he should not fail to report to him the truth of what he might hear said. The pedagogue, hearing nothing but censure, returned sadly to the house, and, when questioned by Baccio, answered that all with one voice were abusing the giants, and that they pleased no one. "And you," asked Baccio, "what do you say of them?" "I speak well of them," he replied, "and say, may it please you, that they please me." "I will not have them please you," said Baccio, "and you, also, must speak ill of them, for, as you may remember, I never speak well of anyone; and so we are quits." Thus Baccio concealed his vexation, and it was always his custom to act thus, pretending not to care for the censure that any man laid on his works. Nevertheless, it is likely enough that his resentment was considerable, because when a man labors for honor, and then obtains nothing but censure, one cannot but believe, although that censure may be unjust and undeserved, that it afflicts him secretly in his heart and torments him continually. He was consoled in his displeasure by an estate, which was given to him in addition to his payment, by order of Pope Clement. This gift was doubly dear to him, first because it was useful for its revenue and was near his villa of Pinzirimonte, and then because it had previous]y belonged to Rignadori, his mortal enemy, who had just been declared an outlaw, and with whom he had always been at strife on account of the boundary of this property.

At this time a letter was written to Duke Alessandro by Prince Doria, asking that he should prevail upon Baccio to finish his statue, now that the giant was completely finished, and saying that he was ready to revenge himself on Baccio if he did not do his duty; at which Baccio was so frightened that he would not trust himself to go to Carrara. However, having been reassured by Cardinal Cibo and Duke Alessandro, he went there, and, working with some assistants, proceeded to carry the statue forward. The Prince had himself informed every day as to how much Baccio was doing; wherefore, receiving a report that the statue was not of that excellence which had been promised, he gave Baccio to understand that, if he did not serve him well, he would make him smart for it. Baccio, hearing this, spoke very ill of the Prince; which having come to the Prince's ears, he determined to get him into his hands at all costs, and to take vengeance upon him by putting him in wholesome fear of the galleys. Whereupon Baccio, seeing certain persons spying and keeping a watch upon him, became suspicious, and, being a shrewd and resolute man, left the work as it was and returned to Florence.

About this time a son was born to Baccio from a woman whom he kept in his house, and to this son, Pope Clement having died in those days, he gave the name of Clemente, in memory of that Pontiff, who had always loved and favored him. After the death of Pope Clement, he heard that Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, Cardinal Innocenzio Cibo, Cardinal Giovanni Salviati, and Cardinal Niccolo Ridolfi, together with Messer Baldassarre Turini da Pescia, being the executors of the Pope's will, had commissions to give for the two marble tombs of Leo and Clement, which were to be placed in the Minerva. For these tombs Baccio in the past had already made the models; but the work had been promised recently to the Ferrarese sculptor Alfonso Lombardi through the favor of Cardinal de' Medici, whose servant he was.

This Alfonso, by the advice of Michelangelo, had changed the design of the tombs, and he had already made the models for them, but without any contract for the commission, relying wholly on promises, and expecting every day to have to go to Carrara to quarry the marble. While the time was slipping away in this manner, it happened that Cardinal Ippolito died of poison on his way to meet Charles V. Baccio, hearing this, went without wasting any time to Rome, where he was first received by the sister of Pope Leo, Madonna Lucrezia Salviati de' Medici, to whom he strove to prove that no one could do greater honor to the remains of those great Pontiffs than himself, with his ability in art, adding that Alfonso was a sculptor without power of design and without skill and judgment in the handling of marble, and that he was not able to execute so honorable an undertaking save only with the help of others. He also used many other devices, and so went to work in various ways and by various means that he succeeded in changing the purpose of those lords, who finally entrusted to Cardinal Salviati the charge of making an agreement with Baccio.

At this time the Emperor Charles V had arrived in Naples, and in Rome Filippo Strozzi, Anton Francesco degli Albizzi, and the other exiles were seeking to arrange with Cardinal Salviati to go and set his Majesty against Duke Alessandro; and they were with the Cardinal at all hours. Baccio was also all day long in Salviati's halls and apartments, waiting to have the contract made for the tombs, but not able to bring matters to a head, because of the Cardinal's preoccupation with the affairs of the exiles; and they, seeing Baccio in those rooms morning and evening, grew suspicious of this, and, fearing lest he might be there to spy upon their movements and give information to the Duke, some of the young men among them agreed to follow him secretly one evening and put him out of the way. But Fortune, coming to his aid in time, brought it about that the two other Cardinals, with Messer Baldassarre da Pescia, undertook to finish Baccio's business. Knowing that Baccio was worth little as an architect, they had caused a design to be made by Antonio da San Gallo, which pleased them, and had ordained that all the mason's work to be done in marble should be executed under the direction of the sculptor Lorenzetto, and that the marble statues and scenes should be allotted to Baccio. Having arranged the matter in this way, they finally made the contract with Baccio, who therefore appeared no more about the house of Cardinal Salviati, withdrawing himself just in time; and the exiles, the occasion having passed by, thought nothing more about him.

After these things Baccio made two models of wood, with the statues and scenes in wax. These models had the bases solid, without projections, and on each base were four fluted Ionic columns, which divided the space into three compartments, a large one in the middle, where in each there was a Pope in full pontificals seated upon a pedestal, who was giving the benediction, and smaller spaces, each with a niche containing a figure in the round and standing upright, four braccia high; which figures, representing Saints, stood on either side of those Popes. The order of the composition had the form of a triumphal arch, and above the columns that supported the cornice was a marble tablet three braccia in height and four braccia and a half in width, in which was a scene in half-relief. In the scene above the statue of Pope Leo, which statue had on either side of it in the niches St. Peter and St. Paul, was his Conference with King Francis at Bologna, and this story of Leo in the middle, above the columns, was accompanied by two smaller scenes, in one of which, that above St. Peter, was the Saint restoring a dead man to life, and in the other, that above S. Paul, that Saint preaching to the people. In the scene above Pope Clement, which corresponded to that mentioned above, was that Pontiff crowning the Emperor Charles at Bologna, and on either side of it are two smaller scenes, in one of which is St. John the Baptist preaching to the people, and in the other St. John the Evangelist raising Drusiana from the dead; and these have below them in the niches the same Saints, four braccia high, standing on either side of the statue of Pope Clement, as with that of Leo.

In this structure Baccio showed either too little religion or too much adulation, or both together, in that he thought fit that the first founders 9after Christ 9of our religion, men deified and most dear to God, should give way to our Popes, and placed them in positions unworthy of them and inferior to those of Leo and Clement. Certain it is that this design of his, even as it was displeasing to God and to the Saints, so likewise gave no pleasure to the Popes or to any other man, for the reason, it appears to me, that religion, and I mean our own, the true religion, should be placed by mankind before all other interests and considerations. And, on the other hand, he who wishes to exalt and honor any other person, should, I think, be temperate and restrained, and confine himself within certain limits, so that his praise and honor may not become another thing 9 I mean senseless adulation, which first disgraces the praiser, and also gives no pleasure to the person praised, if he has any proper feeling, but does quite the contrary. Baccio, in doing what I have described, made known to everyone that he had much goodwill and affection indeed towards the Popes, but little judgment in exalting and honoring them in their sepulchers.

The models described above were taken by Baccio to the garden of Cardinal Ridolfi at S. Agata on Monte Cavallo, where his lordship was entertaining Cibo, Salviati, and Messer Baldassarre da Pescia to dinner, they having assembled together there in order to settle all that was necessary in the matter of the tombs. While they were at table, then, there arrived the sculptor Solosmeo, an amusing and outspoken person, who was always ready to speak ill of anyone, and little the friend of Baccio. When the message was brought to those lords that Solosmeo was seeking admittance, Ridolfi ordered that he should be ushered in, and then, turning to Baccio, said to him: "I wish that we should hear what Solosmeo says of our bestowal of these tombs. Raise that door-curtain, Baccio, and stand behind it."

Baccio immediately obeyed, and, when Solosmeo had entered and had been invited to drink, they then turned to the subject of the tombs allotted to Baccio; whereupon Solosmeo reproached the Cardinals for having made a bad choice, and went on to speak all manner of evil against Baccio, taxing him with ignorance of art, avarice, and arrogance, and going into many particulars in his criticisms. Baccio, who stood hidden behind the door curtain, was not able to contain himself until Solosmeo should have finished, and, bursting out scowling and full of rage, said to Solosmeo: "What have I done to you, that you should speak of me with such scant respect ?" Dumbfounded at the appearance of Baccio, Solosmeo turned to Ridolfi and said: "What tricks are these, my lord? I want nothing more to do with priests!" and took himself off. The Cardinals had a hearty laugh both at the one and at the other; and Salviati said to Baccio: "You hear the opinion of your brothers in art. Go and give them the lie with your work."

Baccio then began the work of the statues and scenes, but his performances by no means corresponded to his promises and his duty towards those Pontiffs, for he used little diligence in the figures and scenes, and left them badly finished and full of defects, being more solicitous about drawing his money than about working at the marble. Now his patrons became aware of Baccio's procedure, and repented of what they had done; but the two largest pieces of marble remained, those for the two statues that were still to be executed, one of Leo seated and the other of Clement, and these they ordered him to finish, beseeching him that he should do better in them. But Baccio, having already drawn all the money, entered into negotiations with Messer Giovan Battista da Ricasoli, Bishop of Cortona, who was in Rome on business of Duke Cosimo's, to depart from Rome and go to Florence in order to serve Cosimo in the matter of the fountains of his villa of Castello and the tomb of his father, Signor Giovanni.

The Duke having answered that Baccio should come, he set off for Florence without a word, leaving the work of the tombs unfinished and the statues in the hands of two assistants. The Cardinals, hearing of this, allotted those two statues of the Popes, which still remained to be finished, to two sculptors, one of whom was Raffaello da Montelupo, who received the statue of Pope Leo, and the other Giovanni di Baccio, to whom was given the statue of Clement. They then gave orders that the masonry and all that was prepared should be put together, and the work was erected; but the statues and scenes were in many parts neither pumiced nor polished, so that they brought Baccio more discredit than fame.

Continue to Part 3 of the Life of Baccio Bandinelli

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