Michelangelo in Florence: `David` in 1503 and `Hercules` in 1506
Michelangelo in Florence: 'David' in 1503 and 'Hercules' in 1506
Author(s): Michael Hirst
Source: The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 142, No. 1169 (Aug., 2000), pp. 487-492
Published by: The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd.
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AT first sight, the chronology of the works that Michelangelo
undertook after his return from Rome to Florence in 1501
might seem fairly free of problems. For the great public
undertakings of these first Florentine years - the marble David
for the Opera del Duomo (Fig.12), the second of twelve marble Apostles likewise for the Opera, and the bronze Davidfor
the republican government - contracts survive. As we should
expect, each contained clear stipulations concerning the time
allowed for completion. To summarise very familiar facts: in
the contract of 16th August 1501, Michelangelo was allowed
two years to complete the marble David;in that for the bronze
Davidof 12th August 1502 he was allowed six months; and in
that for the Apostles, dated 24th April 1503, he was bound to
deliver one statue every year over the following twelve years.'
Added to these projects was the obligation he had brought
with him from Rome in the spring of 1501, to deliver fifteen
statues destined for the Piccolomini altar in Siena Cathedral
within the following three years. In the agreement signed by
Michelangelo in Florence on 19thJune 1501, he undertook
to accept no other work prior to the completion of Cardinal
Francesco Piccolomini's assignment.2 Just over eight weeks
later, he signed the contract for the marble David.3
Unsurprisingly, contractual obligations and the reality of
their observance begin to diverge in these early years of the
new century. But this seems not to have happened all at once.
For my purpose here is to introduce a small piece of evidence
which goes far to vindicate the artist'srecord in the case of the
marble David. As already noted, he had been obliged by the
terms of the contract to complete the statue by August 1503.
In the majority of accounts of the commission, it seems to
have become traditional to state that the Davidwas effectively
finished in the early months of 1504.4 In fact, the gigantemust
have been substantially completed by mid-summer 1503.
Proof of this can be found in a very brief Deliberazione
of the Operai of the Cathedral dated 16thJune 1503. This
makes provision for a public viewing of the statue one week
later, on 23rdJune, the eve of one of Florence's most important feast days, that of the Birth of St John the Baptist, the
city's most important patron saint. On the day mentioned,
the door of the structure which had been built around the
*This articleis dedicatedto Paola Barocchi,and is an amplifiedand illustratedversion of one planned for a celebratoryvolume which has remained unpublished.
A few offprints,dated 1997, were printedby Riccardo Ricciardiand circulated.I
am gratefulto Giovanni Agosti,Jill Burke,Brenda Preyerand Diane Zervas for
discussingpoints in the above text with me. A particulardebt to LucillaBardeschi
Ciulichis recordedin note 35, and I am gratefulto GabriellaBattistafor improving
the transcriptionof the documentprintedin the Appendix.
IG. MILANESI:Le lettere
Florence , pp.620-23, 624, and 625-26 respectively,for the three contracts.
For a complete transcription of that for the bronze David, see F. CAGLIOTI: 11 David
bronzeo di Michelangelo(e Benedettoda Rovezzano):il problemadei pagamenti',
Pisa , pp.110-11.
2A copy of the contract survivesin the Archivio Buonarroti,Codice 2-3, no.2.
A dependable transcriptionhas not been published. For a very imperfect one,
see H.R. MANCUSI-UNGARO,JR.: Michelangelo,theBrugesMadonnaand thePiccolominiAltar,
New Haven and London , pp.64-73.
3Michelangelo began work on the block on 13th Septemberafter having removed
David was to be opened. The text reads 'Dicta die [i.e. 16th
June] Item deliberaverunt
per tresfabas nigras deliberaverunt
gigantis et tota dicta die apertumsit adeo quodpossit viderigigas
the much discussed'nodum'
four days earlier;K. FREY:'Studien zu Michelagniolo
Buonarrotiund zur Kunst seiner Zeit',Jahrbuch
KunstsammXXX , Beiheft,p.107, no.10.
4Thisconclusionis based on the descriptionof the statueas 'quasifinita'
in the preambleto the praticaofJanuary1504 (forwhich see MILANESI,
op.cit.at note 1 above,
SFlorence,Archiviodell'Operadel Duomo (hereaftercited as AOD), SecondaSeria
II, 9, Deliberazione1496-1507, fol.59v.The text of thisDeliberazioneis to be found
neitherin G. POGGI: IIDuomodiFirenze,ed. M.HAINES,Florence  (originaledition Berlin )nor in the documentsrelatingto the Davidpublishedin FREY, loc.
cit.at note 3 abovein 1909. My own attentionwas drawnto it by a note in the Carte
Pogginow on deposit at the IstitutoNazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento.I have no
doubt that GiovanniPoggi returnedto studythis volume of Deliberazioniat some
date followingthe appearanceof his own book and Frey'spublicationof the same
year.The completionof the 'turata'aroundthe block in 1501 is documented(ibid.,
p. 107, nos.12 and 13 and otherminorreferenceswhich survivein the Opera StanziNazionaledi StudisulRinasciamenti).Fora catalogueof the Poggipapers,see Istituto
mento.Bibliotecadell'Istituto.CartePoggi, ed. R. TEMPIERI,Florence .
This public 'exhibition'of the gigante,eight months before
the extended term agreed in 1502 for its completion, seven
months before the celebrated meeting of January 1504 to
decide on its location, and nearly a year before its laborious
transportationto the Piazza della Signoria,remindsus that
already,in February1502, the statuehad been referredto as
The 1503 showing also effectivelydisposes
of the notion that, because of alleged political implications,
Michelangelo'swork on the Davidwas shroudedin secrecy,
the statue carriedout in an atmosphereof concealmentthat
persisted until the meeting ofJanuary 1504.6
Such a displayof a work of art at the time of the Feastof
StJohn the Baptistwas not unprecedented.But the circumstances in this case seem particularlystriking,and bring to
mind the public showing of Leonardo'scartoon of the Holy
FamilyandStAnneat SS. Annunziatain the springof 1501.7
One or two implicationsof the public exhibition of the
DavidinJune 1503 will be returnedto below.But at this point
we may turn to another Opera document of some months
earlier,a lengthy text of a Deliberazione of 28th November
1502 (seethe Appendix,below).8It recordsthe decisionof the
Operai, after consultationwith the Consoli of the Arte della
Lana, to order a substantialamount of marblefrom Carrara
of no less than three hundred migliaiaof material,the equito be deliveredover
valentof one hundredand twentycarrate,
the next two years,half in each year,by Matteo di Michele da
Michelangelowas himselfto turn in futureyears.9In addition
the text alludes to six or
to the hundred and twenty carrate,
more other lapidiincludedin the order,three to be delivered
in each of the next two years.Unfortunately,we are given no
detailsof the weight or scale of any of the individualpieces.
Stocksof marbleat the Opera had been low for some time.
Alreadytwo years earlier,Simone del Pollaiuolo,il Cronaca,
of the cathedral, had been instructedto cut up
marblepieces in the storehouseof the Opera, some, interestingly, marble that had come from the propertyof Lorenzo
the Magnificent.'oThe materialwas now requiredto proceed
with the tribunealtars.The need became more urgentwhen
attemptsto restorethe old 'cotto'pavementof the tribune
was abandonedin favourof substitutingmarble." The order
of November 1502 was, clearly,a response to these needs.
However,for our presentconcerns,the most interestingpart
of the text (see the Appendix) is a referenceto the possible
use by Michelangelohimselfof some of the marble.We read
'... et tuttoel marmochedettoMatteoconduciessiofaciessi condurre
qui abbia a essereet sia di dettaoperatuttoa dichiaratione,
MichelagnoloBonarroti,chequellaquantitdper lui rechatasia di detto
et per suo chontoet lavorareper se proprio
et nonper altri.. .'. Payments to Matteo for the condottaof the
three hundred migliaiaare recorded in the Opera Stanziamenti; the firstnotice seems to be of May 1503.'2
We cannot establishfor what purposeMichelangelomight
have required such marble in late 1502 without further
evidence. The multiplicityof commissionsreferredto earlier
makes the problem particularlydifficult. In a brief note
on the issue, Giovanni Poggi speculated as to whether the
materialcould have been destinedfor the group of the Virgin
andChildundertakenfor the Mouscheronor for the two marble tondi.These cannot be excluded.But a furtherpossibility,
which he did not mention, is that Michelangelowas expecting marblefor the Piccolominialtar commission.It is worth
noting that a potential need to order marble for the Siena
project from Carrara had been alluded to already in the
agreement drawn up in June 1501: '. . . et quandoin Firenze
nonhabbiatuctimarmifaccinole quindicifiguresia tenutofarlovenire
da Carraraalla sopradectapefectione'
.3 And if my suggestion that
the lowest order tabernaclesof the monument are also by
Michelangelois accepted,we can appreciatethat his need for
marble must have been all the more insistent.l4Given that
the marble Davidhad been carried nearer to completion
in the winter of 1502-03 than has generallybeen perceived,
it would not be surprisingif Michelangelofelt some need to
turn his attention to the onerous undertakingthat he had
alreadybecome involvedwith even beforeleavingRome.
While the 'external'facts about the Piccolominicommission are fairlywell established,the 'internal'chronology of
the making of the four statues that were deliveredis hypothetical. In his will of 30th April 1503, Cardinal Francesco
Todeschini Piccolomini had expressed his wish that his
projectbe completed and enjoinedhis heirs to take this duty
on themselves: ' Volumusquodheredesnostricuramet sollicitudinem
The postscript to
6Forthis proposal,see s. LEVINE: 'The Locationof Michelangelo'sDavid:The Meeting ofJanuary 25, 1504', ArtBulletin,LVI , p.45; and for a criticalrejoinder,
R.N. PARKS:'The Placementof Michelangelo'sDavid:A Review of the Documents',
ibid.,LXVII , pp.560-70, esp. p.567.
7Forthe descriptionof the work,see the celebratedletter of FraPietroda Novellara,
la Vitae le Opere
in L. BELTRAMI:Documenti
, pp.65-66, no.107. He states that Leonardo'scartoon is not yet finished:
schizoancoranonefinito'.We owe to Vasari,of course,the account of its public displayover two days; he interestinglywrites that men and women, young and
old, went to see it 'comesi vaa lefestesolenni'.So far as I am aware,diaristsand chroniclers refer neither to the Leonardo display nor to the showing of the David.Fra
Pietro'sletter is dated 8th April, close to Easter,which fell on 11thApril in 1501.
'AOD, Deliberazioni 1496-1507, fols.51v and 52r. Again, this Deliberazione does
not appearin POGGI, ed.cit.at note 5 above. There is a brief referenceto it in FREY
(loc.cit.at note 3 above,p. 111, no.35), where this marbleorderis wronglyrelatedto
As we have seen, these were comthe commissionfor the cathedralmarbleApostles.
missionedonly in April 1503, and subsequentpaymentsfor marblefor the Apostles,
some of which are in FREY,
9MatteoCucarellodeservesa mini-biographyHis employmentby the Opera in 1502
precedes the only referenceto him in POGGI, op.cit.at note 5 above. Michelangelo
would turn to him for his own purposesby late 1505 (see MILANESI,
op.cit.at note 1
above,pp.631-32). When he began to undertakemarblesuppliesfor the Florentine
Duomo Operai has still to be established.Forthe blockshe suppliedfor the Apostles
(See also F. CAGLIOTI:'Donatello,i Medici e Gentile de' Becchi:un po' d'ordinealla
LXXVII , pp.54-55, note
Guiditta(e al David)di Via Larga,III', Prospettiva,
much later allusion (Vita
162.) The reference brings to mind ASCANIO CONDmVI'
ed. F. NENCIONI, Florence , p. 1) to marble held at
the gardenof S. Marco at the period of Michelangelo'sapprenticeship,destinedfor
Lorenzo'sprojectedlibrary:'i marmi,o voliandirconci,perornarquellanobilissima
Condivi'sremarkhas been recently
di tuttoil mondo
ch'eglie i suoimaggiori
disparaged,but is importantand one I hope to returnto.
"See,for example, POGGI, ed.cit.at note 5 above,p.229, no. 1154. Fora briefbut usedi SantaMariadelFiore,
ful summaryof events,see L. ZANGHERI:Ilpavimento
Florence , pp.57-60.
2AOD,Series 11, Stanziamenti1500-04, fol.63r: [5th May 1503] 'MatteodiMichele
paghatoadi5 detto.. .'.
'3Forthe contract,see note 2 above.This is my own transcription.(cf.MANCUSI
op.cit.at note 2 above,p.64).
'"SeePOGGI, ed.cit.at note 5 above,p.228, no.1144: Cronacais permittedto 'secare
'"Siena,BibliotecaComunaledegli Intronati,MSS. Sanesi C.VI.9, fol.627v.
project, see MICHAELAMY'Sarticle in this issue, p.493.
4For this proposal, see M. HIRST and j. DUNKERTON:Making and Meaning. The Young
exh. cat., National Gallery,London , p.81, note 58. It is presMichelangelo,
ented at greater length and with illustrations in M. HIRST and j. DUNKERTON:Michel-
e Pittorea Roma1496-1501, Modena , pp.84-85. Marble
that musthavebeen destinedforthe Piccoloministatueshad been left in Rome when
the artistdecided (seeminglywith little notice)to returnto Florence in 1501 (HIRST
and DUNKERTON , pp. 70-71).
MICHELANGELO IN FLORENCE
13. Head of S. Pio,by Michelangelo.Marble (CappellaPiccolomini,Siena
14. Head of the Virginin the Pitti tondo,by Michelangelo.Marble.
(MuseoNazionale del Bargello,Florence).
ofthe 1501contractin September
1504,afterthe patron'sdeathin the previousyear,refersto
the non completionof the contract:'. . . nonestsortita
newcontractwasdrawnup in Florencein October1504,it
a sequenceof eventsseemscompatiblewith the suggestion
was to supplyon Michelangelo's
behalf)referredto in late November150S,wasdestinedfor
theSienaproject.The veryclearsignsof hastein thecarving
of the statuesindicatesthatthe artistcarriedthemout in a
here.Lesst zana monthafterthepublicshowingoftheDavid,
two new Operaiassumedofficeon lstJuly 1503. One of
SilvestriRobertide Pictis',that is
them was 'Bartolomeus
BartolommeoPitti,for whomthe artistundertookthe un-
nowin theBargello.lThe coincidence
is strikingand,at the least,impliesthatsculptorandpatron
one anotherin the Operawhenthe
was nearingcompletion.It does not provethat the
work'sinception,or even a promiseto undertakeitndates
fromexactlythismoment,butit is, nevertheless,
to helpwiththe datingof the tondo.
Piccoloministatueswerecarvedat a relatively
closein timeto the declaration
it is all the moretellingto comparethemwith the marble
statues:especiallySt Pius,andthe headof the Virginin the
(Figs.13and 14),havebeennotedin the pastand
If theprogressthe sculptorhadmadewiththeDavid,sufficientto warranta publicshowingbyJune 1503,rendersa
MILANESI, op.sit.at note 1 abovenp.618.
'7Ibid.,p.628. The executorsnow declare 'dictum
. . .'.
i8Moretellingin this context than the unworkedback of St Paul is the lack of finish
e Siena,Rome ,
to the head of St Peter;see in particularE. CI:
pls.XVII and XVIII.
'9Florence,Archiviodi Stato,Arte dellaLana 39, fol.44v;and, not less,AOD, Deliberazioni 1496-1507, fol.6lv. Pittiwas paid his salaryfor his firstsix monthsof office
on 14th December 1503 (AOD)Stanziamenti1500-04, fol.8r).
20F. KRIEGBAUM: 'Michelangelo'sStatuen am Piccolomini-Altarim Dom zu Siena',
LXIII , p.70. He wrote of the head of
the Virginin the Pitti tondo:'OieAhnlichkeit
on one statueat a time, beginningwith the St Paulin 1501. Althoughsuch a procedure might have been promptedby the terms of the contract,it seems to me much
more likelythat he workedon at least two concurrently,in the firstinstanceSts Paul
and Peterand in the second Sts Gregoryand Pius (one can recallhere his concurAs my text suggests,I thinkit very unlikelythat
rentworkon the two LouvreSlaves).
Michelangelodid anythingabout the Piccoloministatuesas early as 1501. Nevertheless, at present, Kriegbaum'sarticleremainsthe most perceptiveassessmentof
the four statuesin Siena Cathedral.And it was his reappraisalof them that led him
to change his mind about the dating of the Pitti tondo,which a little earlierhe had
dated as late as 1508 and which he now,without our knowledgeof Bartolommeo's
role as Operaio, dated 1503-04. For a useful recent commentaryon the commised. K. WEIL-GARRIS BRANDT et at.,
sion, see G. BONSANTI, in Gio7)inezza
exh. cat., Florence [19991,pp.308-10.
admissible,it makes a little less inexplicableanother event:
the decision of the Opera del Duomo to proceed with the
commissioningof twelvemarbleApostlesby as earlyas April
1503. The speedwithwhich the sculptorevidentlyworkedon
the gigantemust have been reassuringto the Operai and the
Consoliof the Lanawho, we shouldrecall,now specifiedthat
an Apostle of no less than four and a quarterbracciashould
The contractwas drawnup just two
be deliveredeach year.21
months before theJune 'unveiling',when the qualitiesof the
Davidmust have been fully apparent.Did the decision of the
Operai reflect their satisfactionwith the giganteor, perhaps,
some presentimentthat history might repeat itself and that
Michelangelo'sDavid,like Donatello'smarbleDavidof nearly
a centuryearlier,would come to be sequesteredby the city's
TheJuneexhibitionof the Davidtookplacejust nine months
afterPieroSoderini'selectionas Gonfalonieredi Giustiziafor
life and seven after his subsequent move into the Palazzo
della Signoria. His staunch supportof Michelangelois well
knownand is most clearlyexemplifiedin his laterattemptsto
pressfor a pendant to the Davidwhich are discussedbelow.It
is, nevertheless,at thispoint worthrecallingAscanioCondivi's
information,undoubtedlybased on Michelangelo'svivavoce,
that it had been Soderiniwho had been instrumentalin the
decisionto awardthe artistthe commissionto carry out the
bronzestatueof DavidforPierrede Rohan,Marechalde Gie.22
The contractfor the bronzeDavidprecededby three months
Soderini'selectionto life office.However,Condivi'sreference
deserves our serious attention in the light of Soderini's
own profoundattachmentto the Frenchalliance.We may also
note a further detail in this context. The first documented
referenceto the Frenchman'swish for a Davidis in a letter of
the Florentineambassadorsof 22ndJune 1501. Soderinihad
servedas Gonfalonieredi Giustiziain the springof 1501.23
The bronze David was the earliest of the government
commissionsgiven to Michelangeloin these crowdedyears.
Its drawn-outhistoryhas recentlybeen reviewedat length.24
Referenceto it here may be limited to one curiousdetail. In
a letter of 29th April 1503 from the Dieci di Balia about the
artist's progress on the project, they report Michelangelo's
promise to finish his own work in modelling the figure by
the Feast Day of StJohn, at, that is, the very moment when
the marble Davidwould be displayed by the Duomo Operai.25
Observations on the later events concerning the marble
David,including the praticaheld in January 1504 to determine
where it was to go, must await another occasion. It is, however, worth noting here that the decision in favour of the
ringhierain front of the Palazzo della Signoria, instead of the
Loggia dei Lanzi, seems to have been a late one. In a Deliberazione of the Duomo Operai dated 30th April 1504 concerning the moving of the statue, it appears that the intention
was, at this point, to situate it in the Loggia, 'in lodiamdictorum
Dominorum.. .'.26And it is only at the end of May
that we find, at least in the documents, the destination of the
gigantedefined as the place where Donatello's bronze Judith is
situated, 'before the door of the Palace'.27
A fortnight before this Deliberazione of 28th May, the statue
had already left the Opera on what Luca Landucci states was
a four-dayjourney to the Piazza della Signoria, arriving there
on 18th May.28Both he and Parenti refer to the nocturnal
stoning of the statue while on its way. Their accounts differ
in minor details. Important, however, is Parenti's statement
that those involved were youthful and that they were subsequently arrested by the Otto di Guardia.29The records of the
Otto establish their number as four and reveal their identities.
They are named as Vincenzo di Cosimo Martelli, Filippo
di Francesco de Spini, Gerardo Maffei de Gherardini, and
Raffaello di Agostino di Panciatichi. All four were, therefore,
from branches of families who could be regarded as generically committed to the Medicean cause.30
Soderini's personal role in the decisions to deprive the
Opera del Duomo of their statue and to situate it on the
ringhieracannot be quantified. Nevertheless, the presumption
that it was a significant one is strengthened by his part in
initiating the making of a pendant statue; here we have excellent evidence of his own involvement. His actively pursuing
the idea of a second statue is still frequently dated as late as
1508 in the bibliography. But, in point of fact, it began at the
2The conditionsof the Apostlescontractare notablystringent.The term of twelve
years allowed for the completion of the series was to begin on the day that the
contractwas drawnup, 24th April 1503. Michelangelohimselfis obligedto go personallyto Carrarato obtain the necessarymarble,a clause no doubt reflectingthe
anxiety of Consuls and Operai to avoid the deliveryof badly hewn blocks of poor
se il maestro
figuradelMaricialdi Giesarafornitaa San Giovanni,
loc. cit. at
promessasua, la qualenone moltocerto,attesoe' cervellidi simili genti.' (CAGLIOTI,
note 1 above,p.99).
26AOD,Deliberazioni 1496-1507, fol.78v;ASF,Deliberazionidei Signorie Collegi
168, fol.38v;FREY,loc.cit.at note 3 above,p. 108, no.20 (and also p. 107, no. 19). For
the etymology of lodiumor lodia,see K. FREY:Die LoggiadeiLanzizu Florenz,Berlin
, esp. his Excursus41, p.94.
Deliberazionidei Signorie Collegi 168, fol.49v;FREY,loc.cit.at note 3 above,
pp.108-09, no.24. The Signoriadecides'quodstatuamarmoreagigantis
in eoloco,in quoadpresens
palatii .. .'.
quality. Whether the artist observed this clause is unknown (see now MICHAELAMY'S
articlein thisissue,p.493);however,his concernaboutthe qualityof marblerequired
for the Pietdcarved in Rome is well attested (see HIRST and DUNKERTON, cited
at note 12 above,p.35).
passage about the bronze Davidpresentsa textual ambiguity,for which
loc.cit.at note 1 above.Nevertheless,his remarkabout Soderini'sintersee CAGLIOTI,
vention is unambiguous,indeed emphatic:'dopoil Gigante,
ed.cit.at note 10 above,p.22).
his two-monthterm, see G.CAMBI:
I. DI SANLUIGI,XI-XXIII,
XXI, p.159. However, Soderini's
r6le in governmentwas already,in 1500, of an importanceenough to lead Parenti
to list him among the four leading figuresin the conduct of business;see R. PESMAN
COOPER:'L'elezionedi Pier Soderini a gonfalonierea vita', Archivio
CXXV , p. 176. His authorityin dealingwith the Frenchwas unrivalled;for
the tributespaid to him by the Frenchgovernorof Milan and Louis XII himselfon
his election in 1502, see PESMANCOOPER, ibid., p. 180.
24Manyof the relevantdocumentswere first publishedin G. GAYE:Carteggio
deisecoliXIV,XV,XVI,Florence . Forrecent republicationof the material and accompanying commentary, see L. GATTI:"'Delle cose de'pictori et sculp-
tori si pu6 mal prometterecosa certa":la diplomaziafiorentinapresso la corte del
Re di Franciae il "Davide"bronzeo MichelangeloBuonarroti',Melangesdel'Ecole
loc.cit.at note 1 above,
deRome,CVI, 2 , pp.433-72, and CAGLIOTI,
LANDUCCI: Diario Fiorentinodal 1450 al 1516, ed. I. DEL BADIA, Florence ,
2Florence,BibliotecaNazionale Centrale,MS 11.11.134 (P.PARENTI:
Otto di Guardia,Repubblica129, fols.38r-39r.The text confirmsLanducci's
statementthat the attackhappenedon the firstnight of the David'sjourney.The sentences of the firstthree to imprisonmentin the Stinchewere to be liftedin the event
of paymentof fines.RaffaelePanciatichihad eluded arrestand was threatenedwith
severerpunishmentin the event of non-appearance.As LorenzoPolizottohas kindly
pointed out to me, none of the names suggests a piagnoneinterpretationof the
episode. It might be added that, as a fervid anti-Savonarolan,Parentiwould probably have made a comment had this been the case. Nor, however,does the new
evidence decisivelysubstantiatean anti-republicaninterpretation,for, as Polizotto
has indicated,none of the names appearson subsequentlists of Medici amiciin the
period of the Medicean restoration.Perhapsafter all, this much discussedepisode
was a case of youthfulvandalismwithoutpoliticalmotivation.
latestby 1506.3lThis is provedby the survivalof a letter
thathewroteto theMarchesedi Massa,AlbericoMalaspina,
on 7thAugust1506,a letterwhich,althoughpublished,has
Operadel Duomo and theirmarblesllppliersat Carrara,
Soderinirefersto a 'pezo
beenquarried.He asksmarcheseAlbericoto reserveit, 'che
A secondletterof Soderinito Malaspinasurvives,dated
in the nineteenthcentury,this too has been overlookedby
mostrecentstudentsof the subject;it confirmsthe significanceoftheearlierone.Soderinihererefersto Michelangelons
imminentreturnto Florenceand the factthathe has been
absenton accountof the BolognabronzestatueofJuliusII.
He assuresthe marchesethat,on his arrival,he willbe sent
to inspectthe marbleblock.33
The earliest thethreeis dated10thMay
1508.Soderinirefersvery clearlyto the proposedemploymentof theblockandagainexpresseshiswishto Malaspina
thatit willbe keptforthe Florentineproject,now explicitly
speltout:'. . . chenevorremo
. . .'.34This is followedby two furtherletters,of
removalto Rome to
insiststhat only Michelangelocan superintendthe roughhewingof the block;Soderiniwas clearlymindfulof the
veryanxiousto avoidanotherone 'maleabbozzatum'.35
binationof patienceand tenacitywhichhas been seen as
his conductof politicalaffairs.They were
of his chosen
qualitiesseverelytestedby the unreliability
15. Sketchfor a Hercules and Casus group,by Michelangelo.Pen and ink,
Aprilto November15067Michelangelowas once morein
14.8 by 9 cm. (CasaBuonarroti,Florence).
thepiazzatogether;it wasalsoa momentwhenSoderiniwas Julius II.37It has been plausiblyargued in the past that the
to the left of
makingeffortsto restorepeacebetweenthe artistandPope
very decision to place the Davidon the rtnghiera
3'Thedate 1508 still regularlyappearsin the literatureconcernedwith the Herralles
project,partly because it was retained in the influentialpublication,v. BUSH: The
New Yorkand London , pp 118fE.Bush's
later correctionto 1507 (see note 33 below) is frequentlyoverlooked;see, to give
two examples, B. WEIL GARRIS: 'On Pedestals:Michelangelo'sDavid, Bandinelli's
Hercules and Cacus and the Sculpture of the Piazza della Signoria', Romisches
XX , p.398, and W.E. WALLACE: 'MichelangeloIn
and Out of FlorenceBetween 1500 and 1508', in Leonardo,
1500 to 1508, Washington, p.65, who notes how
remarkableit was that a huge blockwas found, quarriedand made readyfor transportationin less than threemonths.
32Thetext was first publishedin c. KLAPISCH-ZER: LesMaztresdu Marbre,Carrara
1300-1600, Paris , p.ll2, note 267 and is discussed,along with the other
lettersconsideredhere, in M.J. AMY: Michelarlgelo's
pp.148 and 155-56. I here publishPoggi'stext: 'Magnf sedomine.
Die VlI augusliMDVI0/PetrusSoderinis
D. Z Ex PalatioFlorentino
storicodi CarloFredianisu le
33Theletter was publishedin c. FR13DIANI:Ragionamento
Massa , doc.II, pp.67f3E.
cit.above, p. 112, note 26 and has been noted in
referredto in EQLAPISGH-ZUBER, op.
'Bandinelli'sHercules and Cacus and FlorentineTraditions',Memoirs
inRome,XXXV , p. 169. The relevantpassage(following
il qualee statoa Bolognspiumesipergittare
dectomarmo. . .'.
publishedin part in GAYE, 0p. cit.at note 24 above,II, p.97, no.XLII. Soderi34First
ni'sanxietyaboutthe safe-keepingof the blockis reflectedin his adding:' V.S.potrebbe
. . .'.
publishedin GAYE, Op. cit.at note 24 above,II, p.l07, no.LI. Ofthe need for
Michelangelohimselfto attend to the block Soderiniadds:'nonessendo
et a diroz
cheluisolo et nonaltrila vengha
unaoperadi cote,staqualitae necessario
zarla'.The notoriousproblemsprovokedby the conditionof the blockfor the Drid
need not be discussedhere. The descriptionof it in the I)eliberazioneof 2ndJuly
1501 (AOD, Deliberazioni 1496-1507, fol.36v) has alwaysbeen difficultto read.
I owe the correcttext to the help of LucillaBardeschiCiulich;it in fact reads:'male
(c? POGGI, ed.cit.at note 5 above,no.448, and FREY, loc.cit.at
note 3 above,p.l06, no.8).
36ForSoderinis personal qualities,see R. PESMAN COOPER: 'Pier Soderini:Aspiring
History,I , pp.69Princeor Civic Leader?',Studiesin Medieval
126, esp. ppw1l9ff.
37See,for example,his letterto FrancescoAlidosiofJuly 1506,publishedin GAYE arld
discussedin M. HIRST: Michelangeloin 1505, THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE, CXXXIlI
the entrance to the Palazzo della Signoria, a late one as
we have seen, carried with it an implied requirement for a
companion statue.38Soderini's letter of 1506, even if not as
explicit about the block as we might wish, nevertheless goes
far to confirm the proposal and implies that an exceptionally
large block had been ordered earlier for the purpose.39
None of the surviving letters refers to the subject of David's
projected companion, but it has always been assumed, in the
light of later events concerning the project, that a statue of
Hercules was planned. The choice of Hercules to accompany
Davidbefore the seat of the republican government was, it has
recently been shown, one sanctioned by previous Florentine
history. It has been established that, even at a date prior to the
Signoria's appropriation of Donatello's marble Davidin 1416,
an image of Hercules, almost certainly a painted one, already
existed in the palace.40 The intention on the part of Gonfaloniere and Signoria to place monumental images of these
two closely related republican heroes in front of the palace
at this time, when the war to recover Pisa was still going on,
could not have been more appropriate.41
Exactly what figuration was to be given to Hercules at this
point is not mentioned in the sources. However, a brief pen
sketch by Michelangelo in the Casa Buonarroti (Fig.15) has
been plausibly related to the artist's concern with Soderini's
project at this moment.42Although only a fragment, the most
convincing interpretation of the subject of the sketch is that
it represents Hercules with a vanquished Cacus at his feet.
Hercules, arm raised, is drawn in an upright rather than a
stooping pose, one, in other words, that would have been
appropriate for a companion for the David.43The choice of
Hercules and Cacus was, once again, a subject sanctioned by
long-standing Florentine tradition.44
A review of the later history of Michelangelo's involvement
cannot be attempted here. His failure to honour his commitments to Piero Soderini - we must remember the projected
mural in the Palazzo della Signoria in addition to the giant
Herculesto stand at its entrance - robbed Florence of two of
the most cherished objectives of the gonfaloniere'spatronage.
Reflecting on the course of events in these years, it seems
appropriate to conclude by quoting Soderini's own words
che il naturale
in a letter of 1509 to Machiavelli: 'Ricordandovi
di questomondoe riceveregrandeingratitudinedellegrandi e buone
. . ..45
loc.cit.at note 33 above,pp.163ff.
3BUSH,op. cit.at note 31 above,p.118, and eadem,
39Seethe remarksin BUSH,loc.cit. at note 33 above, p.170, note 33. Her evaluation
of the letter of 1507 led her to conclude that the block for the pendant statuecould
havebeen requestedthreeor fouryearsearlier.The letterof mid-summer1506 only
strengthensthis conclusion.The presumptionthat the large and fine block brought
to Florence in 1525 was the one alreadyquarriedby 1506 seems likely but at this
point cannot be proved;for its scale, see note 43 below.
40Seethe importantarticle,M.M.DONATO:'Herculesand David in the EarlyDecoraandCourtion of the Palazzo Vecchio:ManuscriptEvidence',Journalof theWarburg
LIV , esp. pp.83ff; for the argument in favour of a painted
figure,p.89, and for remarksabout Donatello's David,pp.90ff. See, most recently,
and Imageryin the
The Palazzo Vecchio1298-1532: Government,
CivicPalaceof theFlorentineRepublic,Oxford , pp.54-55.
DONATO,loc.cit.at note 38 above, pp.97-98. She writes:'In the circumstancesof
the PisanWar- whichwould once more recallthe heroicclimateof about a century
earlier- it was appropriateto revertto the symbolicimages that had receivedtheir
consecrationin the PalazzoVecchio at that stirringtime.'
42c. DE TOLNAY: Corpusdei disegni di Michelangelo,Novara [1975-80], I, no.65. The
early date for the sketch was first proposed in J. WILDE: Italian Drawings in theDepart-
ment of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, Michelangeloand his Studio, London
, p.67, and convincingly confirmed in P. BAROCCHI:Michelangeloe la sua Scuola.
I disegnidi Casa Buonarrotie degli Uffizi, I, Florence , pp. 18-19.
Contract for the supply of marble between the Operai del Duomo and
Matteo Cucarello, 28th November 1502 (Florence, Archivio dell'Opera del
Duomo, Seconda Seria II, 9, Deliberazioni 1496-1507, fols. 51v and 52r).
Jacobus del Vigna et
Locatio marmorisfacta Matteo da Charrara[28thNovember
Spectabilihomini operaidell'Operadi S. Mariadel Fioredi Firenzeragunatietc.
nella loro solita audientiadi decta Opera ragunatiet prima havutopiu volte colloquio colla Signoriade Consoli di decta Arte di decta allocationeetc. et consentienti
etc. nella visitationeper loro facta all'Operasecondo gli ordini etc. et la consuetudine soto di 21 septembreet soto di 24 d'ottobredi detto anno 1502 et piu altrevolte
etc. et per tre fave nere etc ... allogoronoet concederonoad fareper la decta opera
Matteo di Michele da Charraraalias di Chucherellopresente et conducente etc.
migliaiatrecentodi marmobiancho charraresenetto di chotti,fessureet pelatia fare
dette migliaia 300 nel tempo et termine d'anni dua hogi, questo presentedi cominciato et da farsiogni anno de' detti dua anni la meza et meta di decte migliaia 300
cioe migliaia 150 per anno da chondursiper lui et averlocondotto ogni anno detta
meza et meta da Charraranellacittadi Pisaper quelloprezo et pregioche altravolta
in una sua condotta di migliaia50 si dette et ne fu facto, cioe lire 7 et soldi dieci per
qualunquemigliaiocondotticome di sopranella detta citta di Pisa a qualunquesue
spesa. Et piu lapide sei oltre a dette migliaia 300 cioe ogni anno tre et se piu ne
rechassi,quello piu sieno di decta Opera et da condursiet condotte come di sopra
et per prezo l'una di decte lapide quanto ne sara facto da Simone del Pollaiuolo
capomaestrodi decta Opera et tutto perfectamenteabbozatoet da starseneal iuditio di decto Simone et da farsidetto marmo et pezi di quellemisure,quantitaet qualita in quello modo et forma come sarannodate le misureet qualitacon quelli modi
et modelli dati et da darsio che si dessinoda detto Simone e qualimodoni et misure
o modelli date da detto Simone et soscriptedi sua mano propria detto Matteo le
habia a rapresentarealla detta Opera ... facta detta condottaacci6 deto Simone et
li operai possino vedere se i secondo dette misure abbozate.Com pacto che qualunque volta la citta di Pisa tornassio venissisotto el dominiofiorentinoche alloraet
in tal caso detto Matteo habbia ... quello meno et mancho di prezzo quantopiu per
non essere nostra detta citta, si spende in gabelle, in vetture,in noli et charreggio
altro per el non esser detta citta nostra et tutto el marmo che detto Matteo conduciessio faciessicondurrequi abbia a essereet sia di detta Opera tutto a dichiaratione, parereet vogliadi detti operai... excepto che se detto Matteo ne rechasseper
MichelagnoloBonarrotiche quellaquantitaper lui rechatasia di detto Michelagnolo
liberamenteet per suo chonto et lavorareper se proprioet non per altri et oltre ad
ci6 quando detti marmi saranno condotti nella citta di Pisa che detto Matteo sia
tenuto detti marmi condurliet farlicondurreda Pisa in sul nostroet in luogo sicuro
et in luogo dove possino esserepresi da'nostrischafaiuolisanza alcuno sospettoper
a Firenzesanza alcuno pericoloo danno di detti schafaiuoliinfradetto tempo come
di soprain qualunqueanno la meta et bisogniandoet achadendoal detto Matteo di
havereo voleresalvocondottoper insin al nostroet se bisognassipiu qualchesomma
di spese piu da Pisa in sul nostro terreno sicuro che detta Opera habbia a pagare
detta spesa ....
4The appropriatenessof the motive in this drawing,which so clearly shows the
artist'sconcern to respect the vertical limits of the block (excellentlydiscussedin
op.cit.above),raisesonce more the problemof identifyingthe two-figure
clay model in the Casa Buonarrotiwith Michelangelo'srevisedprojectof the 1520s
for a pendant to the David.It is difficultto reconcile the model's proportionswith
those of the blockdescribedby CAMBI
(ed.cit.at note 23 above,XXII, pp.274-75); he
8. e ' lugho,e altobraccia
2. et -gives the measurements,priorto its raising,as 'braccia
Forthe argumentagainstthe suitabilityof the model as a projectcheraquasiquadro'.
Oxford , pp.18-19. And for
ed pendant, see j. WIDE:Michelangelo's
a recent point in favour of the argument, E.D. SCHMDT:
Florenz,XL , pp.79-146, particularlypp.98-103.
44Itis not necessary to review all the literature here: See L. ETrLINGER: ' Hercules
Institutesin Florenz,XVI , pp. 120ff,
and BUSH,loc.cit.at note 33 above,passim.Forthe large reliefof Herculesand Cacus
di San Marco.Maestrie compagni
in Palazzo Guicciardini,see II Giardino
ed. P. BAROCCHI, exh. cat., Casa Buonarroti,Florence , fig.5 and
45Theletter is published in part in P. VILLARI:
lViccoloMachiavellie i suoi tempi,II, Milan
, p.537, note 1. The present sentence is quoted in English by PESMANCOOPER,
loc.cit.at note 34 above,p.125.