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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

And Michael Angelo left his work in San Lorenzo


Leo X., who was now pope, demanded the services of Michael Angelo to erect a facade to the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence. The artist objected to this great work, and declared that he was bound to complete the tomb for which he had already received money. But Leo insisted upon his going to Florence. He had much trouble to get his marble from the quarries--the men were ill there. He was ill himself, and he passed a year of great anxiety and trouble, when there came word from Rome that the work must be given up; the building was postponed, and no payment was made to Michael Angelo! He was much disheartened, but returned to his work on the mausoleum.

About 1523, when, after many changes, Cardinal Medici was pope, the work at San Lorenzo was resumed. But in 1525 the pope again summoned Michael Angelo to Rome. The heirs of Julius were complaining of delay, but at last the pope insisted upon his great need of the artist, and again he was sent back to Florence, where the cupola of the new Sacristy to San Lorenzo was soon finished. Great political confusion now ensued, and little can be said of Michael Angelo as a sculptor until 1530, when he again resumed his work on the Sacristy.

He worked with the greatest industry and rapidity, and in a few months had nearly finished the four colossal figures which rest upon the sarcophagi of Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici. The pope was forced to command the sculptor to rest. His health was so broken by the sorrow which the political condition of Florence caused him, and by his anxiety about the mausoleum of Julius, that there was much danger of his killing himself with work and worry. He went to Rome, and matters were more satisfactorily arranged. He returned to Florence, and labored there until 1534, when Clement VII. died, and Michael Angelo left his work in San Lorenzo, never to resume it. Unfinished as these sculptures are, they make a grand part of the wonderful works of this great man. The statues of the two Medici and those of Morning, Evening, Day, and Night would be sufficient to establish the fame of an artist if he had done nothing more. (Fig. 107.)

[Illustration: FIG. 107.--GIULIANO DE' MEDICI. _By Michael Angelo._]

Under the new pope, Paul III., he was constantly employed as a painter, and architectural labors were put upon him, so that as a sculptor we have no more works of his to mention except an unfinished group which was in his studio at the time of his death. It represents the dead Christ upon his mother's lap, with Joseph of Arimathea standing by. This group is now in the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Cathedral of Florence. The mausoleum of Julius II. caused Michael Angelo and others so much trouble and vexation that the whole affair came to be known as the "tragedy of the sepulchre." When Julius first ordered it he intended to place it in St. Peter's, but in the end it was erected in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, of which Julius had been the titular cardinal. Of all the monument but three figures can really be called the work of Michael Angelo. These are the Leah and Rachel upon the lower stage, and the Moses, which is one of the most famous statues in the world. Paul III., with eight cardinals, once visited the studio of the sculptor when he was at work upon this statue, and they declared that this alone was sufficient for the pope's monument (Fig. 108).

The life of Michael Angelo was a sad one; indeed, it is scarcely possible to recount a more pathetic story than was his. The misfortunes which came to the Medici were sharp griefs to him, and his temperament was such that he could not forget his woes. His family, too, looked to him for large sums of money, and while he lived most frugally they spent his earnings. In his old age he said, "Rich as I am, I have always lived like a poor man."


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