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Master D Casts an Eye on Michelangelo´s Money

August 18, 2011 by Reader's Connection

How do you define the arts? Literature doesn´t fit in the Dewey Decimal 700´s–it gets pushed up into the 800´s–but everything else under the sun is there, games and sports included. If I had picked another 2010 publication in the Arts decade, I could have learned to win at chess or to set up football plays or to compose musical scores for movies & TV. Or I could have learned about the troubled life of American Gothic painter Grant wood. As it is, I´ve watched Michelangelo make his start.

The 000’s: Generalities The Amazon and the Blue Hotel
The 100’s: Philosophy & Psychology Three Questions We Never Stop Asking
The 200’s: Religion What Was Lost: A Christian Journey through Miscarriage
The 300’s: Social Sciences How Wars End: Why We Always Fight the Last Battle: A History of American Intervention from World War I to Afghanistan
The 400’s: Language Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages AND Wordwatching: Breaking into the Dictionary
The 500’s: Natural Sciences & Mathematics A Grand, Bold Thing: An Extraordinary New Map of the Universe Ushering in a New Era of Discovery
The 600’s. Technology (Applied Sciences) The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love

The 700’s. The Arts

The 800’s. Literature & Rhetoric
The 900’s. History & Geography



Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine: A Biography by John Spike

For the woman who has requested this book, and to whom I’m sending it before quite finishing (there’s only one copy), I have a warning: Young MichelangeloFocus. Don’t make my mistake and intersperse this bio with other reading. Among other things, it’s a crash course on the Medici and Borgias and plundering Frenchmen and treasure-hungry popes of Michelangelo’s era; and unless already well-informed on these matters, you will need to keep your fingers on the story’s wacky Renaissance threads.

Having said that, it’s quite a read. Author John Spike has me looking anew at photographs of Michelangelo’s earlier works, and he makes great use of all the documents gathered–which include recently published accounts of the artist’s financial transactions. Of all the elements in the portrait of this developing genius, the most compelling might be his tricky relationship with his father, Lodovico.

At the tender age of thirteen Michelangelo inaugurated a lifelong pattern: he entered into a contract that would be broken at his convenience. Sixteen days after the agreement was signed, the Ghirlandaio brothers handed over two gold florins to their new apprentice and the less interesting sum of twelve lire, twelve soldi, to his father. Despite his father’s dour warnings about money, convincing people to give it to him proved to be remarkably easy. From that day forward, Lodovico worked in the employ of his brilliant son, although he was unaware of it or unwilling to admit it.

Of all the raves on the book jacket, I agree most enthusiastically with the fellow from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who says that Spike should continue writing about Michelangelo and give us a book that carries us through the Sistine Chapel and the rest of the artist’s life.



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