The tomb of Michelangelo
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
This is the last resting place of one who, all things considered, was the greatest man of his time ; a man who lived a life of many and checkered days, and who achieved in various directions more mightily and worthily than any of his fellows. In a council assembled to deliberate as to the best means of fortifying Florence against its siege by Charles V, he pro-posed a plan for the defense of its walls, towers and public buildings. A member of the committee opposed his suggestions, saying, " I admit that Buonarroti is a great sculptor, architect and painter, but I doubt his knowledge of engineering and his acquaintance with fortifications."
Michelangelo answered, " Gentlemen, I do not claim to be a great painter, sculptor or architect, but I do pretend to know something about engineering and fortifications." His plans were adopted.
It is marvelous how these grand old masters be-came learned and famous in so many different departments of knowledge, how they were able to be and to do so many different things and to do them as none others have had the power to equal since.
Michelangelo died at Rome in 1564. The general design of his tomb, which we are now examining, was by Vasari. The bust of the great master, seen above the central figure, is by Battista Lorenzi, and, if a good likeness, does not show Michelangelo to have been a very handsome man. The figure of architecture - the one on the right - is by Giovanni dall' Opera. The central figure represents Painting and is by Lorenzi ; while the third represents Sculpture and was executed by Cioli. Beautiful and impressive as this tomb is, portraying as it does with such masterly power the irreparable loss sustained by art and science in the death of this great man, it yet remains true that it is but a feeble monument to the splendid and unparalleled genius whose life had ceased among men.
Grander memorials, and more fitting, are the peerless dome of St. Peter's, the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. the Moses in the church of St. Peter in Chains, and the beautiful David in the Accademia delle Belle Arti not far distant. For only his own hands could build a monument at all worthy of him.
He is said to have himself chosen the position of this monument, so that when the doors of the church were opened, the dome of the cathedral might be visible from his tomb. Here are his own solemn reflections, written by himself in the dim twilight of life's closing day :
" Oh thoughts that tempt us, idle, sweet and vain, Where are ye, when a double death draws near, One sure, one threatening an eternal loss? Painting and sculpture now are no more gain To still the soul turned to the Godhead dear, Stretching great arms out to us from His cross."
I know not how better we can say farewell to the great soul of this brilliant and myriad-minded man than with these his own tender and pathetic words, that yet are luminous with everlasting faith and hope.
No sojourn in Florence is at all satisfactory that does not include a visit to the famous Uffizi Gallery, which contains the finest art treasures in Florence, and which is one of the greatest artistic collections, both as to extent and value, to be found anywhere in the world.
This gallery was founded by Cosimo I with the art treasures accumulated by his ancestors, and it has been splendidly enriched by those who succeeded him. It abounds in paintings by Raphael, and it has some noble designs by Leonardo da Vinci and Fra Bartolommeo, and, moreover, it is rich in works by Titian and Ghirlandajo and other Italians, as well as some fine Flemish, German and Dutch works, besides its collection of statuary, which includes a number of famous works.
It would be folly to attempt to see all of this vast gallery at one visit. It is best to begin with a small portion of it and examine it at our leisure. There is one room in particular where we may see the cream of the entire gallery.