Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover.
|Published (Last):||26 October 2011|
|PDF File Size:||14.56 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||20.58 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. Of all the many lives of Michael Angelo that have been written, that by his friend and pupil, Ascanio Condivi, is the most valuable. For not only is it a contemporary record, like the lives inserted by Giorgio Vasari in the two editions of his famous book, "The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects," published in Florence in and ; but Condivi's work has almost the authority of an autobiography, many phrases are in the same words, as certain letters in the hand of Michael Angelo still in existence, especially those relating to the early life and the ancestry of the master, to his favourite nephew Lionardo, and concerning the whole story of the Tragedy of the Tomb to Francesco Fattucci and others.
Condivi's description of his master's personal appearance is so detailed that we can see him with his sculptor's callipers measuring the head of his dear master, and gazing earnestly into his eyes, recording the colours of their scintillations, with the patience of a painter. Extracts have been given, and it has been the main resource of every writer on the master; but the faithful and reverent character of the whole work can only be given in a complete translation, its transparent honesty, and its loving devotion.
Even had the subject of this naif and unscholarly narrative been an ordinary man in an ordinary period, it would have been worth translating for its truth to life and human nature, much more, therefore, when it is about the greatest craftsman of the Cinque Cento. Condivi published his "Vita di Michael Angelo Buonarroti" on July 16, ; probably incited thereto by the master himself, who desired to correct certain misstatements of his excellent friend, Giorgio Vasari, without hurting that worthy's feelings.
Nevertheless, we gather from what Vasari says in his second edition that he somewhat resented the appearance of this new biographer. Perhaps this coloured his unflattering account of Condivi as an artist, when describing Michael Angelo's scholars: "Ascanio della Ripa took great pains, but no results have been seen, whether in designs or finished works. He spent several years over a picture for which Michael Angelo had given him the cartoon, and, at a word, the hopes conceived of him have vanished in smoke.
The introduction informs us that Condivi was born at Ripa Transona, and that he outlived his master ten years, dying on February 17, , aged nearly eighty-nine years. The second part of this book may be regarded as an appendix 1 to Condivi. It is a supplementary account of the existing works of the master, and details of their fashioning that may help us to realise the mystery of their production, from contemporary documents: letters, contracts, and the life by Vasari, with some few explanations that will not interest the learned, but may help young students of the works of the great master.
Londoners have peculiar facilities for this study. The bas-relief in the Diploma Gallery of the Royal Academy, the drawings in the British Museum, and the unfinished and altered picture at the National Gallery, are an excellent foundation from which to study the casts at Kensington and in the Crystal Palace the latter are unique in this country, but, alas!
Students of to-day have one immense [pg viii] advantage over those of former times in the magnificent series of photographs that have been issued, especially those of the vault of the Sistine Chapel, which may almost be said never to have been so well seen before.
Since this book went to press, the author has seen an antique intaglio, No. This confirms the view expressed in the note on page 61, as to the genesis of the Leda by Michael Angelo, for it is exactly similar in composition. The author desires to express his gratitude to many friends for valuable advice and assistance, especially to his wife for help in the translations, and to Mr. Arthur Strong for kindly looking over the proofs, and other aid; to the Earl of Leicester, of Holkham, for permission to photograph and reproduce the Cartoon at Holkham Hall; to the trustees of the British Museum and Mr.
Braun et Cie. Michael Angelo Buonarroti, the unique painter and sculptor, was descended from the Counts of Canossa, a noble and illustrious family of the land of Reggio, both on account of their own worth and antiquity, and because they had Imperial blood in their veins.
The reason why the family in Florence changed their name from Canossa to de'Buonarroti was because the name Buonarroto was usual in their house from age to age, almost always, down to the time of Michael Angelo himself, who had a brother called Buonarroto, and many of these Buonarroti being of the Signori, that is of the supreme magistracy of the Republic; the said brother especially, who was of that body at the time when Pope Leo was in Florence, as may be seen in the annals of the city; this name held by so many of them became a surname for the whole family, the more easily as it is the [pg 5] custom of Florence in the lists of voters and other nomination papers, after the proper name of the citizen, to add that of his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather, and even of those further removed.
Therefore, from the many Buonarroti thus continued, and from that Simone who was the first of the family to settle in Florence, and who was of the House of Canossa, they became Buonarroti Simoni, for so they are called at this day.
Lastly, Pope Leo X. Of such family, then, was Michael Angelo born; his father's name was Lodovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni, a good and religious man, somewhat old-fashioned. A fine nativity truly, which showed how great the child would be and of how noble a genius; for the planet Mercury with Venus in seconda being received into the house of Jupiter with benign [pg 6] aspect, promised what afterwards followed, that the birth should be of a noble and high genius, able to succeed in every undertaking, but principally in those arts that delight the senses, such as painting, sculpture, and architecture.
Having completed his term of office, the father returned to Florence and put the child out to nurse in the village of Settignano, three miles from the city, where he had a property, which was one of the first places in that country bought by Messer Simone da Canossa.
The nurse was a daughter of a stone-carver and the wife of a stone-carver, so Michael Angelo used to say jestingly, but perhaps in earnest too, that it was no wonder he delighted in the use of the chisel, knowing that the milk of the foster-mother has such power in us that often it will change the disposition, one bent being thus altered to another of a very different nature.
The child grew and came to be of a reasonable age. His father, noticing his ability, desired that he should devote himself to letters; he therefore sent him to the school of a certain Maestro Francesco da Urbino, who in those days taught grammar in Florence; 6 but although Michael Angelo made progress in these studies, still the heavens and his nature, both difficult to withstand, drew him towards the study of painting, so that he could not resist, whenever he could steal the time, drawing now here, now there, and seeking the company of painters.
Amongst [pg 7] his familiar friends was Francesco Granacci, a scholar of Domenico del Grillandaio, 7 who, seeing the ardent longing and burning desire of the child, determined to aid him, and continually exhorted him to the study of art, now lending him drawings and now taking him with him to the workshops of his master when some works were going forward from which he might learn.
These sights moved Michael Angelo so powerfully, following as they did his nature, which never ceased to urge him, that he altogether abandoned letters.
So that his father and his uncles, who held the art in contempt, were much displeased, and often beat him severely for it: they were so ignorant of the excellence and nobility of art that they thought shame to have her in the house.
This, however much he disliked it, was not enough to turn him back, but, on the contrary, made him more bold: he wished to begin to colour, and he borrowed a print from Granacci which represented the story of St. Antony when he was beaten by devils.
The engraver was a certain Martino d'Olanda, 8 a brave artist for that time. Michael Angelo painted it on a panel of wood, Granacci lending him colours and brushes, in such a manner that not only did it raise the admiration of every one who saw it, but also envy, as some will have it, even in Domenico, the most famous painter of the day; as may be seen by what happened afterwards.
Domenico used to say that the painting came from his own workshop in order to make it appear less wonderful. In this little picture, besides the figure of the Saint, there were many strange forms and monstrosities in the demons; these Michael Angelo executed with so much care that no [pg 8] part of them was coloured without reference to the natural object from which it had been derived.
For that purpose he frequented the fish-market and observed the forms and tints of the scales and fins of fish and the colours of their eyes and all their other parts, copying them in his picture, which much conduced to the perfection of that work, exciting the wonder of the world, and, as I have said, some envy in Grillandaio; this was much more seen one day when Michael Angelo asked to see his book of drawings in which were represented shepherds with their flocks and dogs, landscapes, buildings, ruins, and such like things.
Domenico would not lend it to him—indeed, he had the reputation of being a little envious: for not only was he hardly courteous to Michael Angelo, but even to his own brother, when he saw that he was progressing rapidly and having great hopes of himself: he sent him into France, not so much that it might be to his advantage, as some say, but that he himself might remain the first artist in Florence.
The reason I have mentioned this is because I have heard it said that the son of Domenico attributes the excellence and divinity of Michael Angelo in great part to the training he received from his father: he received absolutely no assistance from him; 9 nevertheless, [pg 9] Michael Angelo does not complain of it, nay, even praises Domenico both for his art and his manners.
But this is a slight digression; let us return to our story. Possibly not less wonderful was another labour of Michael Angelo's done at this time, perhaps as a jest. Some one lent him a drawing of a head to copy; he returned his copy to the owner instead of the original and the deception was not noticed, but the boy talking and laughing about it with one of his companions it was found out. Many people compared the two and found no difference in them, for besides the perfection of the drawing, Michael Angelo had smoked the paper to make it appear of the same age as the original.
This brought him a great reputation. Now drawing one thing and now another, the boy had no fixed plan or method of study. It happened one day that Granacci took him to the gardens of the Medici at San Marco. In this garden the Magnificent [pg 10] Lorenzo, father of Pope Leo, a man renowned for every excellence, had disposed many antique statues and decorative sculptures. Michael Angelo, seeing these things and appreciating the beauty of them, never afterwards went to the workshop of Domenico, but spent every day at the gardens, as in a better school, always working at something or other.
Amongst the rest, he studied one day the head of a Faun, in appearance very old, with a long beard and a laughing face, although the mouth could hardly be seen because of the injuries of time. As if knowing what would be, or because he liked the style of it, he determined to copy it in marble. The Magnificent Lorenzo was having some marble worked and dressed in that place to ornament the most noble library that he and his ancestors had gathered together from all parts of the world.
These works, suspended on account of the death of Lorenzo and other accidents, were, after many years, carried on by Pope Clement, but even then they were left unfinished, so that the books are still packed in chests.
Now these marbles being worked, as I said, Michael Angelo begged a piece from the masons and borrowed a chisel from them: with so much diligence and intelligence did he copy that Faun that in a few days it was carried to perfection, his imagination supplying all that was missing in the antique, such as the lips, open, as in a man who is laughing, so that the hollow of the mouth was seen with all the teeth. At this moment passed the Magnificent to see how his works progressed; he found the child, who was busy polishing the head.
He spoke to him at once, noticing in the first place the beauty of the work, and having regard to the lad's youth he marvelled exceedingly, and although he praised the workmanship [pg 11] he none the less joked with him as with a child, saying: " Oh! He cut away a tooth from the upper jaw, drilling a hole in the gums as though it had come out by the roots. At last he came. Seeing the willingness and single-mindedness of the child he laughed very much, but afterwards appreciating the beauty of the thing and the boy's youth, as father of all talent he thought to bestow his favour upon such a genius and take him into his house, and hearing from him whose son he was, he said: " Let your father know that I desire to speak with him.
When he got home Michael Angelo carried out the embassy of the Magnificent; his father divining why he was called, with great persuasion from Granacci and others made ready to go: lamenting to himself that his son would be taken away. Stating, moreover, that he would never suffer his son to be a stonemason, it was useless for Granacci to explain how great was the difference between a sculptor and a mason. After all this long [pg 12] disputation he ultimately was ushered into the presence of the Magnificent, who asked him if he would deliver his son over to his care, for he would not neglect him; " Even so, " he replied, " not only Michael Angelo, but all of us, with our lives and all our best faculties, are at the service of your Magnificence.
Now they had a custom that those who were present at the beginning of a meal should take their places next to the Magnificent according to their rank, and should not change them, no matter who came in afterwards; so that often Michael Angelo was seated even above the sons of Lorenzo and other persons of quality; for in that house noble persons abounded: by all of them Michael Angelo was caressed and [pg 13] incited to his honourable work; but above all by the Magnificent, who would often call for him many times in the day to show him engraved gems, 13 cornelians, medals, and such like things of great price, seeing that he had genius and good judgment.
Michael Angelo was between fifteen and sixteen years of age when he entered the house of the Magnificent, and he stayed with him until his death, which was in ninety-two, 14 a space of two years.
During that time an office in the customs fell vacant which could only be held by a Florentine citizen; so Lodovico, the father of Michael Angelo, came to the Magnificent and spoke for it: " Lorenzo, I can do nothing but read and write; the comrade of Marco Pucci in the Dogana is dead.
I should like to have his place. I believe I shall be able to carry out the duties properly. However, he continued, " If you will be the comrade of Marco, be it so, till something better turns up. In the meantime Michael Angelo prosecuted his studies, showing the result of his labours to the Magnificent each day. In the same house lived Poliziano, a man, [pg 14] as every one knows, and as is testified by his works, most learned and witty.
This man recognising the lofty spirit of Michael Angelo loved him exceedingly, and little as he needed it, spurred him on in his studies, always explaining things to him and giving him subjects. One day, amongst others, he suggested "The Rape of Deianira" and "The Battle of the Centaurs," telling him in detail the whole of the story. Michael Angelo set himself to carve it out in marble in mezzo-rilievo, and so well did he succeed, that I remember to have heard him say that when he saw it again he recognised how much wrong he had done to his nature in not following promptly the art of sculpture, judging by that work how well he might have succeeded, nor does he say this boastingly, he was a most modest man, but because he truly laments having been so unfortunate that by the fault of others he has sometimes been ten or twelve years doing nothing, as will be seen presently.
This particular work may still be seen in Florence in his house; the figures are about two palms high. So much grief did he feel for his patron's death that for many days he was unable to work. When he was himself again he bought a large piece of marble, that had for many years been exposed to the wind and rain, and carved a Hercules out of it, four braccia high, that was ultimately sent into France. Whilst he was working at this statue there was a great snowstorm in Florence, and Pier de' Medici, the eldest son of Lorenzo, who occupied the same position as his father, wished childishly to have a statue of snow made in the middle of the court-yard, so he remembered Michael Angelo, and had him found and made him carve the statue.
Lodovico, the father of Michael Angelo, now became more friendly to his son, seeing that he was almost always in the society of great personages, and he dressed him in finer clothes. The youth lived with Piero some months and was much caressed by him. Piero used to say, boastingly, that he had two remarkable men in his establishment: one was Michael Angelo, and the other a certain Spanish groom who, besides being marvellously beautiful to look upon, was so nimble and strong and so long-winded that, let Piero ride as fast [pg 16] as he could, he was not able to pass the runner by a finger.
At this time, Michael Angelo, to please the Prior of Santo Spirito, a church much venerated in Florence, carved a crucifix in wood, a little under life size, which to this day may be seen over the high altar of that church.
Nothing could have given him more pleasure, and this was the beginning of his study of the science of anatomy, which he followed until fortune had made him a master of it.
There was living in the house of Piero a certain man named Cardiere, who had been very acceptable to the Magnifico, he improvised songs to the lyre most marvellously; in fact, he made a profession of it, and practised his art nearly every evening after supper. This man was friendly with Michael Angelo and imparted to him a vision, which was this: That Lorenzo de' Medici had [pg 17] appeared to him with nothing but a black cloak, all torn, over his naked body, and had commanded him to speak to his son, and tell him that shortly he would be hunted out of his house and never return to it again.
Piero de' Medici was so proud and insolent that neither the generosity of his brother, Giovanni the Cardinal, nor the courtesy and kindness of Giuliano, were so powerful to keep him in Florence as those vices were to hunt him out. Michael Angelo exhorted Cardiere to inform Piero of the vision and carry out the will of Lorenzo, but he, fearing Piero's nature, kept all to himself.
One other morning Michael Angelo was in the court-yard of the Palace, and beheld Cardiere all terrified and weeping: that night, he said, Lorenzo had appeared to him again in the same form as at first, and looking him through and through had given him a terrible box on the ears, because he had not reported what he had seen to Piero.
Michael Angelo scolded him to such purpose that Cardiere plucked up his spirit and set out on foot for Careggi, a country house of the Medici, about three miles from the city, where his master was staying.
But when he was half-way there he met Piero on the road returning home to Florence; Cardiere stopped him and told him all he had seen and heard. Piero only laughed at him, and made even his grooms jeer at him. The Chancellor, who was afterwards the Cardinal Bibbiena, said to him: " You must be mad!
Do you think Lorenzo would rather appear to you or to his own son? Would he not rather appear to him than to any one else? He went home and bemoaned himself to Michael Angelo, and he spoke so effectually of the vision, holding that the thing was true, that two days afterwards with two [pg 18] companions they left Florence together for Bologna, and from there went to Venice, fearful lest that which Cardiere prophesied should come to pass, and Florence not be safe for them!
In a few days lack of funds his companions having spent all his money made Michael Angelo think of returning to Florence; but coming to Bologna a curious chance hindered them.
Now there was a law in that land in the time of Messer Giovanni Bentivogli that every stranger who entered into Bologna should be obliged to have a great seal of red wax impressed upon his nail.
Ascanio Condivi was a young pupil and assistant of Michelangelo's who gained the trust and confidence of the great artist. His biography of Michelangelo to a large extent is based on the artist's own words, tells the story of his life, his relationship with his patrons, his objectives as an artist, and his accomplishments, forming the basis of a biography that has been central to the study of Michelangelo for four centuries. The significance of Condivi's text was recognized early on. Within fifteen years of its publication in , Vasari incorporated much of it to correct and revise his biography of Michelangelo in the second edition of his Lives of the Artists. But, although Vasari knew Michelangelo well, the sculptor never confided in him to the extent that he did in Condivi, making this the indispensable source for the life of Michelangelo. First published in , this translation is now available in paperback for the first time and includes a revised introduction based on new research, as well as an up-to-date bibliography and endnotes section. Alice Sedgwick Wohl is an independent scholar and translator.
Michelangelo’s Duelling Biographers
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. Of all the many lives of Michael Angelo that have been written, that by his friend and pupil, Ascanio Condivi, is the most valuable. For not only is it a contemporary record, like the lives inserted by Giorgio Vasari in the two editions of his famous book, "The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects," published in Florence in and ; but Condivi's work has almost the authority of an autobiography, many phrases are in the same words, as certain letters in the hand of Michael Angelo still in existence, especially those relating to the early life and the ancestry of the master, to his favourite nephew Lionardo, and concerning the whole story of the Tragedy of the Tomb to Francesco Fattucci and others. Condivi's description of his master's personal appearance is so detailed that we can see him with his sculptor's callipers measuring the head of his dear master, and gazing earnestly into his eyes, recording the colours of their scintillations, with the patience of a painter. Extracts have been given, and it has been the main resource of every writer on the master; but the faithful and reverent character of the whole work can only be given in a complete translation, its transparent honesty, and its loving devotion. Even had the subject of this naif and unscholarly narrative been an ordinary man in an ordinary period, it would have been worth translating for its truth to life and human nature, much more, therefore, when it is about the greatest craftsman of the Cinque Cento. Condivi published his "Vita di Michael Angelo Buonarroti" on July 16, ; probably incited thereto by the master himself, who desired to correct certain misstatements of his excellent friend, Giorgio Vasari, without hurting that worthy's feelings.
The Life of Michelangelo
Almost all the famous anecdotes about Michelangelo come from two books. Both those writers knew Michelangelo and wrote while he was alive. Or perhaps of how the pen is mightier than the paintbrush. Because though Vasari made his living, and a good living, as a painter, architect, and sculptor, his lasting and influential work was a book. Most men cannot tell good painting from bad but they all could be told where and how to look. And that criticism came complete with a ranking of all the artists; and for many it has not changed in all these four hundred and fifty years.