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APPRENTICED TO GHIRLANDAIO.
Buonarroti, a descendant of Michelangelo's uncle, showed him amongst other sketches, one of these, drawn in black chalk, upon a staircase wall in the Settignano Villa, representing a man with his right arm raised and his head down. The drawing was firm and vigorous, an evidence of the boy's precocity. Lodovico would not hear of an art which he thought unworthy of his family ; his brothers joined him in trying to turn the bent of Michelangelo's mind. “He was often scolded ”
says Condivi, “and even severely beaten.” He became intimate at this time with Francesco Granacci, a boy of his own age, and a pupil of Ghirlandaio, who managed to get him some of his master's drawings. Michelangelo's persistence at last overcame the prejudices of his father. He entered into an agreenient with the author of the frescos in S. Maria Novella, by which the boy was to be received for three years into his workshop, and to receive a salary of twenty-four golden florins, which the master, contrary to all custom, undertook to give his pupil. The contract is dated April 1st, 1489. Michelangelo was consequently only fourteen
Here in this charining church of Santa Maria Novella, which in after years he called his fiancée, Michelangelo was able for the first time to give himself up unreservedly to his taste for painting, under the guidance of one of the most celebrated artists of the day. So rapid was his progress that a short time after he entered the workshop Ghirlandaio remarked, “This youngster knows more than I.” If we may believe Condivi too, it was not without jealousy that he saw him correcting with a firm touch his own designs and those of his best pupils.
Can we, however, as some critics have done, assign to a boy of fifteen that admirable painting in tempera, which was the
greatest ornament of the Manchester Exhibition ? Is the well-known precocity of Michelangelo's genius enough to account for so much knowledge and maturity? For my part I confess that I can not think so. The painting is certainly not by Domenico Ghirlandaio, as up to this time has been believed. I do not question its authenticity—that is plain. ( Not to speak of the size of the composition and of the drawing, of the character of the Virgin's head, of the incomparable beauty of the angels on the right, of certain tricks which Michelangelo never lost, such as making the feet too small by a refinement of elegance-giving to his children those noses, retrousses and somewhat faunesque, which are seen in the Sixtine, it would be evidence enough to remark the distinct relationship of this work to the Virgin of the Medici chapel. On the other hand the elegance of the draperies, an ease of drawing, which points, I confess, to recent practice in fresco, some details which recall the manner of Ghirlandaio, do not seem to me sufficient ground for assigning such a work to so young a man.
What seems to me probable is, that this painting was not executed till Michelangelo had left the workshop, and had improved his taste and talent by the study of Masaccio's frescos and the Antiques in the Garden of San Marco between 1492 and 1495, during those years of early youth which must have been fruitful, yet of which the biographers have left us.so little information.
Michelangelo did not finish his apprenticeship with Ghirlandaio. On the death of Ghiberti and of Donatello, Sculpture had no distinguished representative in Florence. Lorenzo de' Medici wanted to support it. He collected in his gardens by the Piazza of San Marco a large number of statues and of fragments of the antique, and he established a school
FLORENCE UNDER LORENZO DE MEDICI.
of design under the direction of Bertoldo, a pupil of Donatello. He applied for pupils to the most celebrated painters in Florence. Ghirlandaio sent him Michelangelo and Granacci. Here it was that Michelangelo sculptured that Mask of a Faun, about which the well-known story is told, and which gained him the patronage of Lorenzo. Florence was at this time in the fulness of her splendour. To Dante, Giotto, Orcagna, had succeeded Petrarch, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Ghiberti, Masaccio. This second generation had just died out, leaving Florence full of masterpieces. Lorenzo de' Medici possessed all the qualities of a distinguished patron of art, and those also which were not likely to make his power over the citizens burdensome. Rich, generous, of good judgment, and affable, a passionate admirer of all works of genius, well-read in the old literature, and a patron of the new, surrounded by artists, poets, philosophers, scholars, himself a scholar, philosopher, and poet, he held the people, captivated as they were with the love of the beautiful, rather under his spell than under his sway.)
They loved him, those Florentines; and on the eve of losing their liberty, aye, having already lost it, they did not feel the fetters with which they had submitted to be bound.) Lorenzo had foreseen the genius of Ghirlandaio's pupil : he would have him in his palace, he admitted him to his table, made him the companion of his sons, allowing him five ducats a month, which Michelangelo spent in the support of his father.
Lorenzo did not stop there. He sent for Lodovico, told him that he would take charge of his son, and asked him what he could do for him himself. “Lorenzo," replied the old man, “I can do nothing but read and write, but as Marco's comrade Pucci, the douanier, is just dead, I would
gladly take his place, and I think I could do the work satisfactorily." “Ah!" said the Magnificent, laughing as he gave him a slap upon his shoulder, “ You will always be a poor man. However, if you would like to be Marco's comrade, you may, till something better turns up." This berth brought him in eight crowns a month, more or less, adds Condivi.
Michelangelo never left Lorenzo till his patron's death. It was, however, during those three years of calm, spent in intercourse with the most learned men of the time, Poliziano, Pico della Mirandola, and the Platonist, Marsilio Ficino, that his mind developed, matured and acquired its breadth and accuracy.
Poliziano admitted him to special intimacy. By his advice he produced the bas-relief of the Battle of Hercules with the Centaurs, and the graceful Madonna, works, in which, according to Vasari, he tried to imitate Donatello. several months in copying Masaccio's frescos in the church del Carmine. About the same time too he studied anatomy at the hospital of Santo Spirito, and made a crucifix in wood for the prior, who had procured his admission. He continued his studies of the Antique in the gardens of San Marco, of which Lorenzo had given him a key. So great was his progress that it often excited the jealousy of his companions. It was this that brought upon him the blow from Torriggiano's fist, which broke his nose, and helped to give that well-known rugged and almost savage expression to his features, which even before this were strongly marked.
Lorenzo died in 1492. In him Michelangelo lost more than a patron. "So great,” Condivi tells us, was his grief at the death of his friend, that he remained for several days unable to do anything." In the long course of his life we shall see more than once what a tender and loving recollection
he retained of this name of Medici, and in what dilemmas he was placed by his gratitude and his republican feelings. Under such circumstances it is doubtless a man's part either to surrender his individuality or to take an independent course without regard to the feelings of his heart. It is not easy to keep the mean between ingratitude and servility. As regards this, never even in the midst of perils was Michelangelo found wanting; he was neither ungrateful nor servile, and this grand trait in his character is no less noteworthy than his genius.
On his return to his father's house Michelangelo made a Hercules in marble, seven feet eight inches in height, which later on was bought with other works of art by Giovanni Pattista della Palla for Francis the First, and sent to France. It is not known what became of it. Piero de' Medici, the unworthy son of Lorenzo, induced Michelangelo to come back to his rooms in the palace ; he often consulted him about the purchase of gems and antiques. Piero no doubt was in his way alive to the merits of his guest, for he occupied him in making snow statues, and boasted of having in his house two rare men, Michelangelo and a Spanish valet, who in addition to his marvellous beauty was so swift of foot that a horse at full speed could not outstrip him.
Piero de' Medici, with all his external advantages, was wanting in the discretion, address, the affability and kindly feeling, which had established the fortunes of his father and made him actual master of Florence. His arrogance became more unbearable every day. The popular party awoke and Savonarola held out his hand to Charles the Eighth. The fall of Piero was imminent. Michelangelo, unwilling either to oppose or to support him in a struggle against personal friends, or to preserve a neutrality which his friendship with