.



Friday, June 13, 2008

Was Michaelangelo a Crook?


Like you, this headline caught my attention. I discovered this post at The Best Artists website and found that this is a well-known story among art historians.

The story reads like this:

Like most young artists Michelangelo copied the works of the masters, but he was better at it than the rest. A pen-and-ink copy he made of a copper engraving by Martin Schongauer impressed everyone. It was perfect. He was so good at copying and aging his work with smoke that no one could tell the difference.

Then came the charge of fraud in the notorious Cupid case. Michelangelo carved a marble figure of a Cupid and then, through a shady merchant, sold it to a cardinal as an original antique statue just unearthed in a Roman garden. There is no doubt that he did this. The only question is about his role in the scheme, his guilt. Whose idea was it?

Nobody knows for sure Michelangelo's motives, but what is known is that the cardinal wasn't the only one duped by the merchant. Although the cardinal paid over 200 ducat for the cupid, Michelangelo was only paid 30. In a letter to Michelangelo he writes, “Things didn’t go as well as I had expected. The Cardinal said he already has more antique marbles than he knows what to do with; and anyway right now he is up to his neck in debt. The most I could get from him—and not even that was easy!—was forty ducats. I know this is disappointing; I’ve decided to send you thirty ducats and to take only ten for myself instead of the 40% we had agreed on. I think we were just unlucky. In another moment we might have gotten three times that.”

To read all four parts of this story, go to The Best Artists.

Used with permission.

Post a Comment