Friday, March 6, 2015

Quote of the Day (Giorgio Vasari, on Michelangelo’s Character and Routine)

“He [Michelangelo] delighted much in the sacred scriptures, like the good Christian he was, and held in veneration the works of Fr. Girolamo Savonarola, having heard him preach. In his manner of life he was most abstemious, being content when young with a little bread and wine while at his work, and until he had finished the Last Judgment he always waited for refreshment till the evening, when he had done his work. Though rich he lived poorly, never taking presents from any one. He took little sleep, but often at night he would rise to work, having made himself a paper cap, in the middle of which he could fix his candle, so that he could have the use of his hands. Vasari, who often saw this cap, noticed that he did not use wax candles, but candles made of goats' tallow, and so he sent him four bundles, which would be 40 lbs. His servant took them to him in the evening, and when Michelangelo refused to take them, he answered, ‘Sir, carrying them here has almost broken my arms, and I will not carry them back again; but there is some thick mud before your door in which they will stand straight enough, and I will set light to them all.’ Upon which Michelangelo answered, ‘Put them down here, then, for I will not have you playing tricks before my door.’ He told me that often in his youth he had slept in his clothes, too worn out with his labours to undress himself. Some have accused him of being avaricious, but they are mistaken, for he freely gave away his drawings and models and pictures, for which he might have obtained thousands of crowns.”— Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists (1550)

Michelangelo Buonarotti—the consummate Renaissance painter, sculptor and architect—was born on this date in Florence in 1475. In a prior post, I quoted the biographer Vasari on how Michelangelo created his masterwork, the Sistine Chapel. But this particular quote is vivid in its own way in detailing Michelangelo’s religious fervor and personal asceticism.

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