Church or Museum?

“For already many years now, some Florence churches have maintained separate entrances with admission fees for areas over burdened by tourist traffic. Among them are San Lorenzo’s New Sacristy and Laurentian Library, both by Michelangelo, the Cathedral’s cupola by Brunelleschi and its campanile, and Santa Maria del Carmine’s Brancacci Chapel by Masaccio, Masolino and Filippino Lippi. By 2001, Santa Maria Novella reopened following a much publicized restoration of Masaccio’s fresco of the Trinity with a newly inaugurated entrance ticket costing originally 2000 lire, currently inflated to 2.5 Euro. At the same time, San Lorenzo added a third entrance ticket to the monument complex, for the interior space of the church, originally 2000 lire, now inflated to 2.5 Euro. Currently, the cumulative cost to visit the entire complex of San Lorenzo is 9 Euro, exceeding the cost of any other public monument or museum in the city.

Of course, when both San Lorenzo and Santa Maria Novella instituted entrance fees, tourists opted instead to visit Santa Croce which at that time was still free, with the exception of a small museum located off the large exterior cloister. Soon overrun with tourists, the church took to herding them through velvet roped paths, parade style, in order to minimize the wear and tear to its priceless collection of floor tombs. In 2003, Santa Croce followed suit charging 4 Euro for a combined entrance ticket to the interior of the church and the museum.

This summer, officials from both the Cathedral and San Lorenzo made statements to the Italian press expressing extreme displeasure at the use and misuse of these holy sites, specifically concerning tourist refuse and the urine of vagrants. Florence Cathedral’s Monsignor Timothy Verdon commented that the churches were “”humiliated by chaos, criminality and filth.”” In response, local authorities in Florence, as well as Venice, are beginning to levy fines amounting to 50 Euro aimed at those who sit on the steps of the Cathedral of Florence or the Basilica di San Marco in Venice.

If these buildings are to be treated as religious sites, then there should not be admission fees and professionally run large tour groups should be prohibited from overtaking the space. However, once churches make the decision to charge admission, the space inevitably becomes commercialized. In effect, as these churches are being turned into museums, the entire experience has deteriorated. Tour guides take more liberty, speaking louder and longer, after all, the group must get its money’s worth. One is confronted by hosts of sleeveless women, now garbed in blue or pink paper surgical gowns. Visual confrontation of the space is directed in a narrow one-way path, with altars and crucifixes well beyond the velvet rope. As for the religious, only a certain few spaces are available for prayer, and only for those who can convince a security guard of their holiness.

Rather than the elaborate ticket booths that scream commercialism, perhaps a prominent donation box and active visitor education program would go a long way in reordering priorities.

(Budd & Catterson, 2003)”

Barnes Collection Again at Risk

Montgomery County Judge Stanley Ott wrote in his decision Thursday to delay any decision regarding the move of the Barnes collection to a new location in Philadelphia, pending further evidence. Read more in the news links below.

One can argue that there are moral rights as well as legal ones, but how far can they be taken, and what circumstances attenuate or cancel those rights? The jury is still definitely out in the case of the Albert C. Barnes who founded the Barnes Foundation in 1922 to house his unparalleled collection of Post Impressionist and early modern works by such world-class masters as Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Modigliani and Van Gogh. Along with works from other periods including the Renaissance Dr. Barnes created a collection with the objective of establishing a hands-on teaching experience for the appreciation and the instruction of art. Simply speaking his mission was to create an educational facility, not a public museum.

Over the past dozen or so years, a crisis brought about by poor management and political quibbling has been threatening to destroy his life work which received the praise of such educational leaders as the philosopher John Dewey and the artist Matisse who painted the 30 foot mural la Danse, specifically for the Foundation’s main gallery. Barnes mandated in an Indenture of Trust that the collection always be used primarily for teaching. The same document also forbids the sale, loan or movement of the artwork. Today, the Foundation is open to the public three days per week, and may admit up to 62,000 visitors per year—a number consistent with the Foundation’s scale and its intimate gallery spaces.

The new threat to the institution has been raised by its current trustees, who are asking a court to wipe out all of the terms of the indenture and allow the collection to be moved to Philadelphia. With the now-familiar excuse that there is not enough money to operate the Foundation, the trustees have accepted a plan by several large charities to install the collection in a museum building. The plan was immediately embraced by the local media as it is supposed to bring tourists, money and prestige to the region.

The institutions supporting the litigation to undue Barnes’ will and move the collection—The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Lenfest Foundation and The Annenberg Foundation—could easily support the Barnes Foundation to remain in its original home, but the promise of tourism appears to have overshadowed all other concerns.

Behind the issues of the rights of the donor are questions of the availability of art as well as material considerations. If there is a wonderful altarpiece in a remote hill town church in Tuscany, should it be moved to a central museum, where more people can see it? Should Frank Lloyd’s Robbie house be physically moved to make it more readily accessible to the large masses of would be viewers? Or, should the original idea that gave rise to such a brilliant endeavour be respected, allowing a wonderful painting, or an important building, or a unique collection be left in its setting and not permit purely material considerations to guide our decisions.

You can help by writing the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Mike Fisher, and asking that he perform a serious, transparent and independent investigation into the Foundation’s finances. Point out the value of maintaining unique cultural institutions that do not subordinate serious study and a contemplative atmosphere to the almighty dollar, and insist that less drastic alternatives be thoroughly exhausted before he considers approving the transfer of the Barnes collection out of its life-long home. Insist as well that under no circumstances should he approve the Foundation’s request to eliminate the prohibition in Barnes’ will against sale or loan of artwork. Given that the trustees are proposing a new $150 million structure, and that recent history shows how quickly the Barnes management was willing to trade the artwork for cash, the elimination of the ban on sale or loan could have disastrous consequences. Finally, insist that he preserve the terms of the Indenture that requires the Foundation’s collection to be used principally in its art classes. With 62,000 visitors per year, the collection is hardly inaccessible to the general public who is willing to make an effort to see it.

Send an email to the Attorny General (see below) or write:

Attorney General, Mike Fisher, Strawberry Square 16th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17120

Manet, Velázquez, and Accenture at the Metropolitan Museum, NY

Exhibitions held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are rarely, not to say never, subjected to serious evaluation by independent critics of art and of culture, and certainly not in the press. The fact is that the institution is virtually impervious to any sort of criticism. Needless to say the Met has a brilliant collection of art of all periods, all nations, cultures, styles, and schools. Various areas and sub-holdings, like the Lehman collection, have some independence and special appeal. The Met is, in sum, a marvelous institution. Furthermore, the majestic building complex on Fifth Avenue in Central Park is probably New York City’s leading tourist attraction, so that it functions as a cash cow for the city, and more broadly for the country.

Who could claim, notwithstanding the elevated position of the Met, that a system of high quality critical reviews would not be beneficial? Books, concerts, opera, gallery art exhibitions, scholarly research, and even medical interventions are inevitably subjected to such analysis, and one can expect that often the product is better for it. But there is a critical vacuum when it comes to the Metropolitan Museum, and one has to add that the same condition operates for the National Gallery of London and its Washington counterpart.

The exhibition Velázquez and Manet: The French Taste for Spanish Painting leaves a great deal to lament. As the title implies, the organizers took two top names in the history of art as the core of the idea behind the exhibition. Several painters rank among the sure winners: Van Gogh in Arles (or any place else), Vermeer, Picasso (and when coupled with Matisse, a sure winner), Leonardo — as in Drawings, the leading proto-Impressionists, and, finally, Velázquez, arguably the best oil painter in history. But winners of what? They bring in more admission fees, they sell more objects in the gift shops, they garnish excellent publicity from the media, they attract sponsors and potential sponsors. By and large, the shows are ready-made door busters, by the very nature of the entire enterprise. And success is ultimately determined by the bottom line, the numbers.

The Manet/Velázquez exhibition cannot be regarded as a success on a scholarly, much less intellectual, level despite the reputation of the artists displayed. The least convincing aspect of the show was the vast number of relatively uninteresting works, assembled in overblown numbers. Instructive is the fact that it was really first prepared for exposition in Paris at the Musée d’Orsay with a different subtitle, “la maniere espagnole au XIX siecle,” which in New York has become “The French Taste for Spanish Painting.” One wonders about the changes, presumably to bring in more people in the new venue. In fact at the Met, a healthy addition of American examples, mainly by John Singer Sargent, have been added. So much for the theme and the structural integrity of the exhibit.

Over and above the sheer quantity of pictures — with New York doubling up the number all’ americana — and the questionable scholarly underpinning of the idea, it is fair to say that the presentation was pitiful. Crowded colored walls lined up with similar shaped pictures, set sometimes as implicit but unconvincing lessons in art history related to influences (or better, presumed influences), are visually unapproachable.

One may legitimately ask why the exhibition was arranged at all. As it turns out, the show was exclusively and fully funded by an outside source, the international consulting firm Accenture (proudly claiming as clients 92 of the Fortune “Global 100”, and revenues of $11.6 billion last fiscal year), which developed, and is hosting, the accompanying online component of the exhibition. The incentive for such magnanimous sponsorship at first seems innocuous enough, though perhaps boastful. In a press release as part of their e-press kit, Accenture writes: “It is no coincidence that Accenture has chosen to sponsor this important exhibition. In his day, Manet was an inspired innovator who started realism on a whole new course and influenced the most talented peers of his generation. Today, Accenture works with the most influential innovators of the business world to change the way people around the globe work and live.” They have functioned as benefactors of the arts in many other instances, for example as major donors of numerous US museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Seattle Art Museum. They even hosted an event called “Open Day,” a visual arts exhibition designed to bring together Nigerian artists with deep-pocketed corporate buyers, as a way for Accenture to help “build a better future”.

This brings us back to the incentives behind the Metropolitan Museum show. While Director Philippe de Montebello praised Accenture and its technology for allowing people all over the world to experience the exhibition, Accenture had a far more targeted audience in mind. A press release indicates: “Accenture will also make the Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting exhibition available to Accenture clients and employees to create a unique setting for the exchange of ideas and knowledge between business leaders and industry experts.” Could it be that a major motive behind such patronage was nothing more than securing a high-culture venue for high-powered cocktail parties?

Accenture also sponsored an exhibition called Van Gogh’s Van Gogh at the Washington National Gallery, a fact not easily discernible since it was made under the company’s former name, Andersen Consulting, before Accenture’s official split from that organization and its parent company, Andersen Worldwide, in August 2000. Andersen Consulting’s sister company, Arthur Andersen, whose claim to fame is as the auditors of the doomed Enron corporation, was found guilty of obstruction of justice in that matter. With Andersen Consulting’s $1 million donation to the National Gallery came the benefit of hosting over one thousand Fortune 100 clients at the exhibit, arguably the hottest ticket in Washington that season, with advance tickets dispersed before the show even opened.

Andersen/Accenture’s pattern of donating money to museums in return for privileged access for their clients is no coincidence, but a carefully planned marketing strategy. Andersen Consulting spokesman Eric Jackson discussed his company’s survey of 1700 clients and prospective clients prior to dolling out the large donation to Washington National Gallery: “We want to build relationships in the c suite — the CEOs, the COOs, CFOs and CIOs of Fortune 1000 companies. They’re interested in the arts. They sit on boards, or their spouses do, and they’re collectors and contributors.” He acknowledged that access to the Van Gogh exhibition would please their clients, who not only could avoid the massive lines that formed each morning before the museum opened, but could hob-nob with senators and congressmen in the “social setting” of the gallery after-hours. Andersen acknowledged not only the massive press they generated and received, but also the “return on investment” through their satisfied clients.

Along with Accenture’s full funding for the Metropolitan exhibition came another perk. They have created an elaborate interactive website to accompany the show, employing the technology of their “strategic alliance partner,” Microsoft. Montebello praised Accenture and the site: “With Accenture’s generous support, this rich artistic legacy will reach an ever widening audience who may first encounter these surpassing works of art either with a visit to the galleries or over the Internet.” Understanding the nature of this technology reveals a very distinct advantage for Accenture as well. Accenture has developed the site using its Managed Internet Service, a “pre-integrated enterprise platform” that is designed to offer full web capabilities to companies while limiting the expenditure of time and development costs. Accenture’s Chairman and CEO Joe Forehand explains in the Sponsor’s Statement of the hefty 608-page Manet/Velázquez catalog that the site is “meant to serve as a model for future exhibition Web features”. It is a “turnkey solution” that they intend to be used by their other clients as well, making the site a perfect marketing tool for Accenture, while the exhibition provides an upscale venue for client and staff gatherings.

All of this corporate attention makes the Metropolitan the envy of museums worldwide, awing other institutions with its ability to draw in the big sponsors. Henri Loyrette, the Director of the Louvre, has acknowledged, with a certain amount of regret, their comparatively small efforts: “The size of the Louvre’s corporate sponsorship doesn’t correspond to what we should have in place. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has 50 people working to bring in sponsors. We have five people devoted to it. We’re planning to reinforce this staff.”

The writing may be on the wall, but the longterm effects of such strategies may ultimately have more serious consequences. A final question remains: Should our cultural heritage be subjected to such indignities, including a mindless exhibition?

Vasari and Condivi: Early Sources Describe the David

Giorgio Vasari. Le vite de più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani, da Cimabue insino a’ tempi nostri: Descritte in lingua Toscana, da Giorgio Vasari pittore aretino. Con una sua utile & necessaria introduzzione a le arti loro. Torrentino, Firenze, 1550 [La vita di Michelangelo]:

“”La onde egli n’acquistò grandissima fama. Et se bene alcuni anzi goffi che no, dicono che egli abbia fatto la Nostra donna troppo giouane, non s’accorgono & non sanno eglino, che le persone vergini, senza essere contaminate, si mantengono & conseruano l’aria de’l viso loro gran tempo, senza alcuna macchia. & che gli afflitti come fu Christo fanno il contrario? Onde tal cosa accrebbe assai piu gloria & fama alla virtu sua che tutte l’altre dinanzi. Gli fu scritto di Fiorenza d’alcuni amici suoi, che venisse; perche non era fuor di proposito, che di quel marmo ch’era nell’opera guasto, egli, come gia n’ebbe volontà ne cauasse vna figura, il quale marmo Pier Soderini gia Gonfaloniere in quella città, ragionò di dare a Lionardo da Vinci: & era di noue braccia bellissimo; nel quale per mala sorte vn Maestro Simone da Fiesole aueua cominciato vn’gigante. Et si mal concia era quella opera, che lo aueua bucato fra le gambe, & tutto mal condotto, & storpiato di modo che gli operai di Santa Maria del fiore, che sopra tal cosa erano, senza curar di finirlo, per morto l’aueuano posto in abbandono: & gia molti anni era cosi stato, & era tuttauia per istare. Squadrollo Michele Agnolo vn giorno; & esaminando potersi vna ragioneuole figura di quel sasso cauare, accomodandosi al sasso, ch’era rimaso storpiato da maestro Simone; si risolse di chiederlo a gli operai; da i quali per cosa inutile gli fu conceduto, pensando che ogni cosa, che se ne facesse, fosse migliore, che lo essere, nel quale allora si ritrouaua: perche ne spezzato, ne in quel modo concio, vtile alcuno alla fabbrica non faceua. La onde Michele Agnolo fatto vn modello di cera, finse in quello, per la insegna del palazzo, vn Dauit giouane, con vna frombola in mano. A cio che si come egli aueua difeso il suo popolo: & gouernatolo con giustizia, cosi chi gouernaua quella città douesse animosamente difenderla, & giustamente gouernarla. Et lo cominciò nell’opera di Santa Maria del Fiore: nella quale fece vna turata fra muro & tauole & il marmo circondato: & quello di continuo lauorando, senza che nessuno il vedesse, a vltima perfezzione lo condusse. Et perche il marmo gia da Maestro Simone storpiato & guasto, non era in alcuni luoghi tanto, ch’alla volontà di Michele Agnolo bastasse, per quel che auerebbe voluto fare: egli fece, che rimasero in esso delle prime scarpellate di maestro Simone nella estremità del marmo, delle quali ancora se ne vede alcuna. Et certo fu miracolo quello di Michele Agnolo far risuscitare vno, ch’era tenuto per morto. Era questa statua quando finita fu, ridotta in tal termine, che varie furono le dispute, che si fecero per condurla in piazza de’ Signori. Perche Giuliano da San Gallo & Antonio suo fratello fecero vn castello di legname fortissimo, & quella figura co i canapi sospesero a quello, accioche scotendosi non si troncasse, anzi venisse crollandosi sempre, & con le traui per terra piane con argani la tirorono, & la misero in opra, & egli quando ella fu murata & finita, la discoperse, & veramente che questa opera hà tolto il grido a tutte le statue moderne & antiche, o Greche o Latine che elle si fossero. Et si puo dire, che ne’l Marforio di Roma ne il Teuere, o’l Nilo di Beluedere, ne il giganti di Monte Cauallo; le sian simil’ in conto alcuno con tanta misura, & bellezza e con tanta bontà la fini Michel’agnolo. Perche in essa sono contorni di gambe bellissime, & appiccature, e sueltezza di fianchi diuine: ne mai piu s’e veduto vn posamento si dolce, ne grazia che tal cosa pareggi; ne piedi ne mani, ne testa, che a ogni suo membro di bontà, d’artificio & di parita ne di disegno s’accordi tanto. E certo chi vede questa, non dee curarsi divedere altra opera di scultura fatta nei nostri tempi o ne gli altri da qual si voglia artefice, N’ebbe Michel’Agnolo da Pier Sederini per sua mercede scudi DCCC. & fu rizzata l’anno MDIIII.””

Ascanio Condivi, The Life of Michelangelo, translated by Alice Sedgwick Wohl; edited by Hellmut Wohl, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976.

“The Opera of Santa Maria del Fiore had a piece of marble nine braccia high; it had been brought from Carrara a hundred years before by a craftsman who, judging by what one can see, was no more skillful than he should have been. For so that he might be able to transport it more conveniently and with less labor, he had blocked it out in the quarry itself; but he had done it in such a way that neither he nor anyone else had had the heart to put hand to it and carve a statue, either of that great size or much smaller. As they could not carve anything good from this piece of marble… they sent for Michelangelo.. and having heard that he was confident that he could carve something good from it, they finally offered it to him.”

Ascanio Condivi. Vita di Michelagnolo Buonarroti raccolta per Ascanio Condivi da la Ripa Transone. Antonio Blado, Roma, 1553; ed. Giovanni Nencioni, Firenze: SPES, 1998:

“”Fatte queste cose, per suoi domestici negoci, fu sforzato tornarssene à Firenze, doue dimorato alquanto, fece quella statua, ch’è posta in fin à hoggi, inanzi alla porta del palazzo della signoria, nel estremo della ringhiera, chiamata da tutti il Gigante. Et passò la cosa in questo modo. Haueuano li operai di santa Maria del fiore, vn pezzo di marmo d’altezza di braccia noue, qual era stato condotto da Carrara, di cento anni inanzi, da vn’artefice, per quelche veder si potea, non piu pratico che si bisognasse. Per cio che per poterlo condur piu comodamente e con manco fatica, l’haueua nella caua medesima bozzato, ma di tal maniera, che ne a lui, ne ad altri bastò giammai l’animo di porui mano, per cauarne statua, non che di quella grandezza, ma neancho di molto minor statura. Poi che di tal pezzo di marmo non poteuano cauar cosa che buona fusse, parue à vn Andrea dal monte a San Souino, di poterlo ottener da loro, et gli ricercò che gliene facessero vn presente, promettendo, che aggiungendoui certi pezzi, ne cauerebbe vna figura. ma essi prima che si disponessero a darlo, mandarono per Michelagnolo, et narrandogli il desiderio el parer d’Andrea, et intesa la confidenza ch’egli haueua di cauarne cosa buona, finalmente l’offerirno a lui. Michelagnolo l’accetò, et senza altri pezzi, ne trasse la gia detta statua, cosi apunto che, come si può vedere nella summità del capo, e nel posamento, n’apparisce anchor la scorza vecchia del marmo.””

Giorgio Vasari. Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects. 1568 edition, translated into English by Gaston du C. de Vere. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. [Life of Michelangelo]:

“”Letters were written to him from Florence by some of his friends, saying that he should return, because it was not unlikely that he might obtain the spoiled block of marble lying in the Office of Works, which Piero Soderini, who at that time had been made Gonfalonier of the city for life, had very often talked of having executed by Leonardo da Vinci, and was then arranging to give to Maestro Andrea Contucci of Monte Sansovino, an excellent sculptor, who was seeking to obtain it. Now, however difficult it might be to carve a complete figure out of it without adding pieces (for which work of finishing it without adding pieces none of the others, save Buonarroti alone, had courage enough), Michelagnolo had felt a desire for it for many years back; and, having come to Florence, he sought to obtain it. This block of marble was nine braccia high, and from it, unluckily, one Maestro Simone da Fiesole had begun a giant, and he had managed to work so ill, that he had hacked a hole between the legs, and it was altogether misshapen and reduced to ruin, insomuch that the Wardens of Works of S. Maria del Fiore, who had the charge of the undertaking, had placed it on one side without troubling to have it finished; and so it had remained for many years past, and was likely to remain. Michelagnolo measured it all anew, considering whether he might be able to carve a reasonable figure from that block by accommodating himself as to the attitude to the marble as it had been left all misshapen by Maestro Simone; and he resolved to ask for it from Soderini and the Wardens, by whom it was granted to him as a thing of no value, they thinking that whatever he might make of it would be better than the state in which it was at that time, seeing that neither in pieces nor in that condition could it be of any use to their building. Whereupon Michelagnolo made a model of wax, fashioning in it, as a device for the Palace, a young David with a sling in his hand, to the end that, even as he had defended his people and governed them with justice, so those governing that city might defend her valiantly and govern her justly. And he began it in the Office of Works of S. Maria del Fiore, in which he made an enclosure of planks and masonry, thus surrounding the marble; and, working at it continuously without anyone seeing it, he carried it to perfect completion. The marble had already been spoilt and distorted by Maestro Simone, and in some places it was not enough to satisfy the wishes of Michelagnolo for what he would have liked to do with it; and he therefore suffered certain of the first marks of Maestro Simone’s chisel to remain on the extremity of the marble, some of which are still to be seen. And truly it was a miracle on the part of Michelagnolo to restore to life a thing that was dead.

This statue, when finished, was of such a kind that many disputes took place as to how to transport it to the Piazza della Signoria. Whereupon Giuliano da San Gallo and his brother Antonio made a very strong framework of wood and suspended the figure from it with ropes, to the end that it might not hit against the wood and break to pieces, but might rather keep rocking gently; and they drew it with windlasses over flat beams laid upon the ground, and then set it in place. On the rope which held the figure suspended he made a slip-knot which was very easy to undo but tightened as the weight increased, which is a most beautiful and ingenious thing; and I have in my book a drawing of it by his own hand-an admirable, secure, and strong contrivance for suspending weights. It happened at this time that Piero Soderini, having seen it in place, was well pleased with it, but said to Michelagnolo, at a moment when he was retouching it in certain parts, that it seemed to him that the nose of the figure was too thick. Michelagnolo noticed that the Gonfalonier was beneath the Giant, and that his point of view prevented him from seeing it properly; but in order to satisfy him he climbed upon the staging, which was against the shoulders, and quickly took up a chisel in his left hand, with a little of the marble-dust that lay upon the planks of the staging, and then, beginning to strike lightly with the chisel, let fall the dust little by little, nor changed the nose a whit from what it was before. Then, looking down at the Gonfalonier, who stood watching him, he said, “”Look at it now.”” “”I like it better,”” said the Gonfalonier, “”you have given it life.”” And so Michelagnolo came down, laughing to himself at having satisfied that lord, for he had compassion on those who, in order to appear full of knowledge, talk about things of which they know nothing.  When it was built up, and all was finished, he uncovered it, and it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; and it may be said that neither the Marforio at Rome, nor the Tiber and the Nile of the Belvedere, nor the Giants of Monte Cavallo, are equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelagnolo finish it. For in it may be seen most beautiful contours of legs, with attachments of limbs and slender outlines of flanks that are divine; nor has there ever been seen a pose so easy, or any grace to equal that in this work, or feet, hands and head so well in accord, one member with another, in harmony, design, and excellence of artistry. And, of a truth, whoever has seen this work need not trouble to see any other work executed in sculpture, either in our own or in other times, by no matter what craftsman. Michelagnolo received from Piero Soderini in payment for it four hundred crowns; and it was set in place in the year 1504.””

Giorgio Vasari [1568]. Le vite de’ piu eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori, scritte da M. Giorgio Vasari pittore et architetto Aretino, di Nuovo dal Medesimo Riviste Et Ampliate con i ritratti loro et con l’aggiunta delle Vite de’ vivi, & de’ morti Dall’anno 1550 insino al 1567 … Con le Tavole in ciascun Volume, Delle cose piu Notabili, De’ Ritratti, Delle Vite degli Artefici, Et de i Luoghi dove sono l’opere loro. Giuntina, Firenze, 1568 [La vita di Michelangelo]:

“”La onde egli n’acquistò grandissima fama. Et se bene alcuni, anzi goffi che no, dicono che egli habbia fatto la Nostra Donna troppo giouane, non s’accorgono, & non sanno eglino, che le persone vergini senza essere contaminate si mantengano, & conseruano l’aria del uiso loro gran tempo, senza alcuna macchia, et che gli afflitti come fu Christo fanno il contrario? Onde tal cosa accrebbe assai piu gloria, & fama alla virtu sua che tutte l’altre dinanzi gli fu scritto di Fiorenza d’alcuni amici suoi che venisse, perche non era fuor di proposito, che di quel marmo, che era nell’opera guasto, ilquale. Pier’ Soderini fatto Gonfaloniere a vita all’hora di quella città haueua hauuto ragionamento molte volte di farlo condurre a Lionardo da Vinci, & era allora in pratica di darlo a maestro Andrea Contucci dal Monte san Sauino eccellente scultore, che cercaua di hauerlo: & Michelagnolo quantunque fussi dificile a cauarne una figura in cera senza pezzi, al che fare non bastaua a quegl’altri l’animo di non finirlo senza pezzi saluo che allui, & ne haueua hauuto desiderio molti anni innanzi, uenuto in Fiorenza tentò di hauerlo.

Era questo marmo di braccia noue, nel quale per mala sorte vn’ maestro Simone da Fiesole haueua cominciato vn gigante, & si mal concio era quella opera che lo haueua bucato fra le gambe, & tutto mal condotto, & storpiato: di modo che gli operai di santa Maria del Fiore, che sopra tal cosa erano, senza curar’ di finirlo, l’haueuano posto in abandono, & gia molti anni era cosi stato, & era tuttauia per istare. Squadrollo Michelagnolo di nuouo, & esaminando potersi una ragioneuole figura di quel’sasso cauare & accomodandosi con l’attitudine al sasso ch’era rimasto storpiato de maestro Simone, si risolse di chiederlo agli operai, & al Soderini, da i quali per cosa inutile gli fu conceduto, pensando che ogni cosa che se ne facesse, fusse migliore che lo essere nel quale allora si ritrouaua: perche ne spezato, ne in quel modo concio, utile alcuno alla fabrica non faceua. La onde Michelagnolo fatto un modello di cera finse in quello, per la insegna del palazzo vn Dauid giouane, con una frombola in mano. Accioche si come egli haueua difeso il suo popolo, & gouernatolo con giustizia, cosi chi gouernaua quella città douesse animosamente difenderla, & giustamente gouernarla: & lo comincio nell’opera di santa Maria del Fiore, nella quale fece una turata fra muro, & tauole, & il marmo circondato, & quello di continuo lauorando senza che nessuno il uedesse a vltima perfettione lo condusse. Era il marmo gia da maestro Simone storpiato, & guasto, e non era in alcuni luoghi tanto che alla volontà di Michelagnolo bastasse, per quel che hauerebbe voluto fare: egli fece che rimasero in esso delle prime scarpellate di maestro Simone, nella estremità del marmo, delle quali ancora sene vede alcuna. Et certo fu miracolo quello di Michelagnolo far risucitare uno che era morto. Era questa statua quando finita fu, ridotta in tal termine che varie furono le dispute che si fecero per condurla in piazza de Signori. Perche Giuliano da s. Gallo, & Antonio suo fratello fecero vn castello di legname fortissimo, & quella figura con i canapi sospesero a quello accioche scotendosi non si troncasse anzi uenisse crollandosi sempre, & con le traui per terra piane con argani la tirorono, & la missero in opera. Fece vn cappio al canapo che teneua sospesa la figura facilissimo a scorrere, & stringeua quanto il peso l’agrauaua che è cosa bellissima, & ingegnosa che l’ho nel nostro libro disegnato di man sua, che è mirabile, sicuro, & forte per legar’ pesi. Nacque in questo mentre, che vistolo su Pier’ Soderini, ilquale piaciutogli assai, & in quel mentre che lo ritoccaua in certi luoghi: disse a Michelagnolo, che gli pareua, che il naso di quella figura fussi grosso, Michelagnolo accortosi cha era sotto al gigante il Ganfalonieri, & che la uista non lo lasciaua scorgere il uero per satisfarlo sali in sul ponte, che era accanto alle spalle, & preso Michelagnolo con prestezza vno scarpello nella man manca con vn poco di poluere di marmo, che era sopra le tauole del ponte, & cominciato a gettare leggieri con li scarpegli lasciaua cadere a poco a poco la poluere ne toccò il naso da quel che era, poi guardato a basso al Gonfalonieri, che staua a vedere disse guardatelo ora: a me mi piace piu disse il Gonfalonieri gli hauete dato la uita cosi scese Michelagnolo, & lo hauere contento quel signore che sene rise da se, Michelagnolo hauendo compassione à coloro che per parere d’intendersi non sanno quel che si dicano, & egli quando ella fu murata, & finita la discoperse, & veramente che questa opera a tolto il grido a tutte le statue moderne, & antiche, o greche, ò latine che elle si fussero, & si puo dire che nel Marforio di Roma ne il Teuere, ò il Nilo di Beluedere, ò i giganti’di monte Cauallo le sian simili in conto alcuno, con tanta misura, & bellezza, & con tanta bonta la fini Michelag. Perche in essa sono contorni di ganbe bellissime, & appiccature, e sueltezza di fianchi diuine: ne ma piu se ueduto vn posamento si dolce ne gratia che tal cosa pareggi, ne piedi, ne mani, ne testa che a ogni suo menbro di bontà d’artificio, & di parità, ne di disegno s’accordi tanto. & certo chi uede questa non dee curarsi divedere altra opera di scultura fatta ne i nostri tenpi, ò negli altri da qual si voglia artefice. N’hebbe Michelag. da Pier Soderini per sua mercede scudi 400. & fu rizzata l’anno 1504.””

(Catterson, 2003)”