This is one of those silly stories that has an irresistible appeal. It is palpably absurd.|
satisfy our wish to have it done quickly," adding that, if it were not at once
completed, he would have Michelangelo thrown from the scaffolding.
When he heard this, our artist, who feared the Pope's fury, and with
good cause, instantly removed the scaffolding without retouching the
painting a secco [on dry plaster], as the older masters had done. He had
wanted very much to add some gold and ultramarine to the draperies to
enrich the whole. The Pope, too, heard from all who praised the chapel
highly that these things were still wanting and would fain have had
Michelangelo do it. But Michelangelo knew it would have been too great
a labor to put up the scaffolding, so the pictures remained as they were.
The Pope, who saw Michelangelo often, would sometimes say, "Let the
chapel be enriched with bright colors and gold, it looks poor." Then
Michelangelo would answer, "Holy Father, these were poor folk and holy
men, besides, who despised riches and ornament."
For this work Michelangelo was paid three thousand crowns by the
Pope. He may have spent twenty-five for colors. He worked under great
personal inconvenience, constantly looking upward, so that he seriously
injured his eyes. For months afterward he could read a letter only when
he held it above his head. I can vouch for the pain of this kind of labor.
When I painted the ceiling of the palace of Duke Cosimo, I never could
have finished the work without a special support for my head. As it is,
I still feel the effects of it, and I wonder that Michelangelo endured it
so well. But, as the work progressed, his zeal for his art increased daily,
and he grudged no labor and was insensible to all fatigue.
Down the center of the ceiling is the History of the World, from the
Creation to the Deluge. The Prophets and the Sibyls, five on each side
and one at each end, are painted on the corbels. The lunettes portray the
genealogy of Christ. Michelangelo used no perspective, nor any one fixed
point of sight, but was satisfied to paint each division with perfection of
design. Truly this chapel has been, and is, the very light of our art. Every-
one capable of judging stands amazed at the excellence of this work, at
the grace and flexibility, the beautiful truth of proportion of the exquisite
nude forms. These are varied in every way in expression and form. Some
of the figures are seated, some are in motion, while others hold up festoons
of oak leaves and acorns, the device of Pope Julius.
All the world hastened to behold this marvel and was overwhelmed,
speechless with astonishment. The Pope rewarded Michelangelo with rich
gifts and planned still greater works. Michelangelo sometimes remarked
that he was aware that the pontiff really esteemed his abilities. When the
Pope was sometimes rude and rough, he always soothed the injury by gifts