| Michelangelo Buonarroti: his Life and his Art - Page 4
During this time Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned by the City of Florence to paint the “Pisan
Wars” on one of the large walls that flank the “Salone dei Cinquecento” in Palazzo Vecchio. (This
fresco no longer exists). Short later the Gonfaloniere (Governor for life) Pier Soderini commissioned
Michelangelo to paint scenes from the battle of Cascina on the opposite wall. The artist realized only a
few large shetches (now lost) bacause Pope Julius II soon called him to Rome to execute a
monumental tomb for himself.
Pope Julius’ tomb, according to Michelangelo’s project, was to be a grand complex with 40 life size
statues. It was to measure 23 feet wide, 3 feet in deep and 2 feet high . The sculptor, enthusiastic for
the commission, went immediatly to Carrara to select a large quantity of marble. It took him some few
months before the marble was finally sent to Rome and later moved to St. Peter’s. Because the Pope
would not decide when to commence the work, Michelangelo left for Florence some months later
discouraged and frustrated. It was not until a year later (1504) that they recinciled and Michelangelo
went to Bologna to complete a large bronze statue of Pope Julius that was to be placed on the facade
of St. Petronioio church. The statue was later melted down when Bologna was taken over by
Bentivoglio. The Duke Alfonso of Ferrara used the bronze to make an artillery cannon and scornfully
called it “Julietta”.
In 1508 Michelangelo was again called to Rome where he received an order from the Pope to paint (in
fresco) the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. At first he refused, feeling insicure in his ability to paint.
instigated by Bramante and Raffaello who were jealous of Michelangelo and wanted to put their rival
in difficulty, ordered Buonarroti to put aside sculpturing and dedicate himself to the Sistine Chapel.
He realized his obbligation and spent the next 4 years completing the monument that would make him
famous not only as a sculpture but also as a monumental painter.
The Tomb of Pope Julius was still to be realized. The project was modified and altered many times.
The tomb was finally completed in 1545; it was extremely reduced in size and not placed in the center
of St. Pietro Basilica, as Michelangelo had visualized it, but in the modest church of St. Pietro
in Vincoli, where it still stands today. Of the 40 statues projected by Michelangelo only the powerful
statue of “Moses” (archieved in 1513) was inserted, flanked in each side with the statues of Lia and
Out of the many decorative figures which were in the original design to find place on the tomb of Pope
Julius only a few are left:
- Six “Prisoners” which unfinished, preserve the signs the first creative passion of Genius. It seems that
these figures awoken from their stony sleep try to come out of the marble by their own power and
almost convulsively liberate themselves from their dull material. Two of them are now shown in the
Louvre Museum in Paris, since they were donated by Michelangelo himself to Roberto Strozzi who
gave them as a present to king Francesco I of France. Four more “Prisoners”, after being in the
“Boboli Gardens” in Florence for many years, are now shown in the Academy Gallery, Firenze (same
Museum where also ”David” is).
- The incomplete statue called “Victory” which was presented after Michelangelo’s death by the
artist’s nephew’s to Granduke Cosimo I of the Medici. It is nowadays shown in the Salone dei
Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio (Town-hall) of Florence.