1 Luglio 2018

Interpreting and Dating Michelangelo’s Crucified Christ for Vittoria Colonna: Fra Ambrogio Catarino Politi And St. Paul


Iconocrazia 13/2018 - "Iconocrazia: Art, Astronomy, Politics and Religion", Saggi

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Between late October 1538 and May 1541, Vittoria Colonna resided at the Roman convent of the Poor Clares at San Silvestro a Capite. [1]   She was summoned to Rome by Pope Paul III, in the aftermath of her traveling for two years, during which she followed Bernardino Ochino, her confessor. [2]  As she traveled, Colonna visited friends and relatives in Florence, Siena, Luca, Ferrara and Mantua, while participating in the spiritual debates of her time.   Her thoughts on confessional debates were expressed in her poetry, wherein she forwarded an eclectic mix of orthodox and heterodox ideas current among her contemporaries. [3]  An enigmatic phrase in a letter to Pietro Aretino, in which Colonna informs him that she has been summoned to Rome by Paul III, notes that the Marchese del Vasto (Alfonso d’Avalos) had indicated to her that the Pope was displeased with what she characterized as her “Christian humility.” [4]  It is possible that Paul III was uneasy about her contact with so many reformers of dubious orthodoxy, especially Ochino, and wished her in Rome under the spiritual care of someone more reliable.

Whatever the Pope’s unease about Colonna’s “Christian humility” may have been, when Colonna returned to Rome, she placed herself under the care of Fra Ambrogio Catarino Politi, one of the Vatican’s official preachers and theologians.  Under Politi’s care between 1538 and 1541, Colonna made a conscious turn towards orthodoxy, as Politi instructed her on St. Paul on whom he was an authority, being renowned for his orthodox interpretation of the Epistles and Letters of St. Paul. [5]  Thus, the gatherings of Colonna’s circle at San Silvestro, which included Michelangelo, were presided over by a theologian of impeccable credentials in the eyes of the Roman Church.

Despite Colonna’s expression in her acquaintance and in her poetry of her sometimes eclectic spirituality, her personal loyalty to the Pope and to the Roman Church remained throughout her life. She affirmed her allegiance to the Church and the Pope explicitly in a sonnet, where she identified the Roman Church as the only true Church and the Pope as the only legitimate head of Christendom. [6]  In another sonnet addressed to Charles V, while Clement VII still lived, Colonna identified the Pope as the “true shepherd” who will “guide the split and hurt flock into one fold.” [7]   Throughout her life, Colonna retained an active participation and belief in the Cult of the Virgin Mary [8] and personal devotions to the Cult of Saints, [9] especially to Mary Magdalene, all elements that were anathema to Protestants. [10] Thus, her spiritual practice identified her as an active member of the Church.  Her definitive turn towards orthodoxy at San Silvestro, under the guidance of Politi, was an affirmation of her essential spiritual identity, as a Roman Catholic.

At the time of the gatherings at San Silvestro, Colonna’s new spiritual adviser, Ambrogio Catarino Politi (1484-1553), was a noted theologian, who would eventually become the Bishop of Trento and Minori (1546) and Archbishop of Conza (1552).  Politi was born in Siena into a prominent Sienese family and was christened Lancelotto Politi.  He first studied jurisprudence and later turned towards a career in the Church, when he became a Dominican (1517), taking the name Ambrogio Catarino.  As Giorgio Caravale has demonstrated, Politi’s career was devoted to defining a Counter-Reformation theology that was complex but orthodox, albeit tinged somewhat with an early Savonarolan influence. [11]

In the early 1530s, Politi focused on St. Paul, writing commentaries on Paul’s St. Paul’s Epistles and Letters,[12] as well as on the Psalms and the Gospels. [13]  From 1538 to 1540, Politi had a room in the Monastery of San Silvestro a Monte Cavallo (al Quirinale) and its cloister became the locale where he instructed Colonna and her friends. [14]  In 1539, Politi gave the Lenten sermons at San Silvestro.  While Politi lectured and preached, Michelangelo created, for Colonna, the Christ on the Cross (British Museum), The Pietá  (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum) and the lost Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, which survives in various copies. [15]  Given the circumstances provided by Politi’s identity and his interaction with Colonna and Michelangelo, any interpretation of the meaning of Michelangelo’s drawings for Colonna should take Politi’s instructions of Colonna’s circle into consideration.

Another significant element that provides a context for  Michelangelo’s drawings exists in Politi’s dedication to Colonna, in 1540, of his Speculum Haereticorum, which is a manual intended to guide the devout through the process of salvation through orthodoxy.  [16]  The Speculum was a compilation of Politi’s instruction to Colonna and her circle and was intended to guide her through confessional debates.  The Speculum was either intentionally or unintentionally an antidote to potential heterodoxy or heresy that could have resulted from Colonna’s association with Ochino, who Politi had identified as a heretic, by 1537, when he came across Ochino in Siena.[17]   The Speculum is a compendia of the instruction Politi gave to Colonna and her friends, as well as some of the content of the Lenten sermons he gave at San Silvestro.  Thus, as Politi instructed Colonna at San Silvestro, Michelangelo generated the drawings, which would have reflected Colonna’s spirituality between 1538 and 1541 – a spirituality that was guided by Politi’s orthodox instruction on St. Paul.

Yet, the Speculum’s significance and Politi’s identity as an orthodox theologian and an expert on St. Paul were ignored by Charles de Tolnay, when he interpreted Michelangelo’s drawings as being Nicodemist and evincing influence from the spirituality of Juan de Valdés(c. 1490-August 1541). [18]  Even more specifically, de Tolnay employed the the Valdesian Beneficio di Cristo (originally drafted in January 1541), written by Benedetto da Mantova and edited by Marcantonio Flaminio, as the specific, interpretive vehicle for Michelangelo’s drawings. [19] In so doing, Tolnay generated a body of scholarship that has ignored Politi’s significance and has accepted his misdirection on the content and significance of the lectures Politi gave to Colonna’s circle.  De Tolnay’s interpretation of Michelangelo’s drawings was additionally misleading in its omission of the existence of the Speculum and it’s dedication to Colonna, thereby further obscuring the orthodox emphasis of Colonna’s spirituality at San Silvestro.  Nor did de Tolnay identify Politi as someone who was intrinsically hostile to Valdesian ideas and to Ochino’s influence over Colonna.

By 1537, Politi had identified Ochino as a potential heretic, whose heterodoxy was the result of his contact with Valdés and his group.  Between 1537 and 1540, Politi gathered enough information about Ochino and Valdesian heterodoxy to form the foundation for his condemnation of Valdes and Ochino, which he published in 1544, five years before the Beneficio was placed on the Church’s Index of Prohibited books (1549). [20]   Politi’s treatises against Ochino and the Valdesian Beneficio di Cristo entitled Della Reprobazione della Dottrina di Fra Bernardino Ochino e d’alcune conclusioni luterane” (1544) [21] and  Compendio d’errori, et inganni luterani, contenuti in un libretto, senza nome de l’autore, intitolato “Trattato utilissimo del benefitio di Christo crucifisso” (1544), published in Rome were the endpoint of his earlier knowledge of the dangers of Ochino and Valdesianism. [22]  Given Politi’s position on confessional issues, de Tolnay’s assertion that the San Silvestro gatherings were deliberately heterodox, with this heterodoxy reflected in Michelangelo’s drawings is not tenable.  It was from these dangers that Politi’s lectures on St. Paul and the Speculum were intended so that Colonna could be freed from any undue, Nidocemist influence.

The gatherings at San Silvestro, where Politi lectured to Colonna and her circle on St. Paul, were recorded by Francisco de Holanda in his “Da Pintura Antiga, Part II, “Diálogos de Roma” (1548) [23] and it was Holanda, who described Politi as “one of the Pope’s appointed preachers.” [24]  Holanda was present at four meetings of the group. Three of these meetings, which took place in 1538, were attended by Colonna, Michelangelo and Lattanzio Tolomei, who introduced Holanda to the group. [25]  A fourth occurred with Tolomei and Michelangelo but not with Colonna. [26] Maria Forcellino dated three of the meetings Holanda attended to 20 October (with Colonna and Michelangelo), 27 October  (with Colonna and Michelangelo) and 28 November (with Michelangelo but not Colonna).  The fourth (with Colonna but not Michelangelo) took place on 29 November.  It should be noted that Michelangelo did attend, at least one meeting without her being present.  Hence, he sought orthodox instruction from Politi on his own.

It is suggested here that the catalyst for Colonna and Michelangelo’s interaction at San Silvestro was a commission for Michelangelo for a convent Colonna planned to build near San Silvestro, after receiving permission for the project from Paul III, in December 1536. [27]  Holanda recorded the conversation about the projected convent:


“His Holiness has allowed me to build a nunnery here for ladies at the foot of Monte Cavallo, by the broken portico, where it is said that Nero saw Rome burning so that the wicked footprints of such a man may be trodden on by others more honest of holy women. [28]  I do not know Michelangelo what shape and proportions to give to the house, where the door should be placed, and whether some of the old work may be adapted to the new?

Yes, madam, said Michelangelo, the broken portico may be used as a campanile. I quite think your Excellency may build the nunnery and when we leave here, with your permission, we may very well go and look at the site, so as to give you some drawing for it.

I did not dare to ask you for so much, she said, but I already knew that in everything you would follow the doctrine of the Lord … and at the end of the conversation, Michelangelo, Holanda, Lattanzio Tolomei and a Spaniard, named Diego Zapata, went with the Marchioness from the monastery of S. Silvestro at Monte Cavallo to the other monastery, where there is the head of St. John, the Baptist (San Silvestro a Capite), and where the Marchioness resides; and we left her with the mothers and the nuns … ”

Holanda additionally noted that Michelangelo  had already made some plans for the design, although construction plans were not imminent, as, in October 1538, Michelangelo was entering the last phase of painting of the Last Judgment. [29]  As an accomplished architect [30] and poet with a marked interest in spirituality, [31] Michelangelo was a perfect choice for Colonna’s projected convent design.   It may have been the discussions about this commission that cemented their friendship, although Colonna and Michelangelo had earlier patron/artist interaction.  In 1531, Colonna indirectly commissioned the Noli me Tangere, eventually painted by Jacopo Pontormo, from Michelangelo, who produced the compositional drawing Pontormo used for his painting. [32]

By 1538, Michelangelo had significant architectural projects to his credit: the New Sacristy at San Lorenzo, in Florence; the Bibliotecca Laurenziana; the design for the façade of San Lorenzo; the “kneeling windows” of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi and the fortifications for the Porta al Prato.   In Rome, Michelangelo’s first project, the Tomb of Julius II, incorporated architectural aspects and he had more recently become involved in the renovation of the Capitoline and the Farnese Palace Courtyard.  The projected convent would have represented a significant charitable donation to the city of Rome and an outstanding Good Work for Colonna, in keeping with the Church’s orthodox prescription for salvation – Faith, Love, Grace, Charity and Good Works. Yet, what remains of Colonna’s patronage intentions concerning Michelangelo are the Christ on the Cross, the Pietá and the Christ and The Samaritan Woman at the Well, among which the Christ on the Cross would have been the first.

In describing Colonna’s friendship with Michelangelo at San Silvestro, as the context for the creation of the drawings, Vasari mentions that the two exchanged sonnets, great in number, that Michelangelo was inamorato of Colonna’s virtú and that she returned the feelings and that Michelangelo designed for her (e le disegnò) a Pietá with two angels; a Christ on the Cross, who raises his head and recommends his spirit to God (cosa divina); and a Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well[33]  Condivi is more specific about the patron/artist interaction between them and he definitively stated that Colonna commissioned (fece a requisizione di questa) – a nude Christ on the Cross, who utters the words “Heli, Heli” and seemed alive in his twisting and turnings, and a Pietá, inscribed with the Dantian “Non vi si pensa, quanto sangue costa!” [34]

Condivi’s emphatic assertion that Colonna commissioned these works from Michelangelo is confirmed by the content of the letters they exchanged concerning the Christ on the Cross.  These letters are among the seven, extant letters exchanged between Colonna and Michelangelo, all undated and scattered in different collections. [35]  In the Archivio Buonarroti (IX, n. 507, autograph original) there is a letter from Colonna to Michelangelo, which reads: “My most cordial Signore Michelangelo, I beg you to send me for a little the Crucifix (Crocifisso) , even if it is not well completed, because I would like to show it to the gentlemen of the Reverend cardinal de Mantua; and if you do not work today, you could come and talk to me at your convenience.” [36]

Colonna’s reaction to the work is recorded in another letter: “Unique master Michelangelo and my singular friend, I have had yours and looked at the Crucifix, which certainly has crucified itself in my memory no matter how many other paintings (picture) I may see or have seen. It is not possible to see an image that is more alive and accomplished; and certainly I could never explain how subtly and admirably it is made, for which I am resolved to not have it from the hand of another. And yet, clarify for me: if this belongs to another; if it is yours and you wish to do with it as you would, we should talk first, because, I know the difficulty that there is in imitating it, if it is another they must do something other than this; but if it is yours, you must have patience because I am not returning it. I have seen it well in the light and in the glass and in the mirror, and I never saw a finer thing.” [37]

The letter in which Michelangelo objects to Colonna’s handling of the return of the work is preserved in the Vatican (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Cod. Vatic. Latino 3211, c. 99 autograph letter). [38]   “Signora Marchesa – Seeing that I am in Rome, I do not think it was necessary to have left the Crucifix with Messer Tommao (Cavalieri) and to have made him an intermediary between your ladyship and me, your servant, to the end that I might serve you; particularly as I had desired to perform more for you than for anyone on earth I ever knew. But the great task (the Last Judgment) on which I have been and am engaged has prevented me from making this known to Your Ladyship. And because I know that you know that love requires no task-master, and that he who loves slumbers not – still less had he need of intermediaries.  And although it may have seemed that I had forgotten, I was executing something I had not mentioned, in order to add something that was not expected.  My plan has been spoilt.   “Mal fa chi tanta fè” [si tosta oblia” (v. 5, l.9 from Petrarch’s canzone “S’i’l dissi mai, ch’i’vengan in odio a quella ….” Petrarch, 272] Your Ladyship’s servant, Michelangelo Buonarroti in Rome.

These two letters are simultaneously informative and puzzling.  They are clearly about a “Crocifisso,” presumably either the Christ on the Cross or a work very similar to it.  Unfortunately, Colonna does not specifically state if she is looking at a drawing or a painting and she contextualized the work she held within picture.  Her inquiries about who was responsible for the work – Michelangelo or an assistant – suggests that the work was already being reproduced by other artists, even though the concetto for it originated with Michelangelo.  She appears to be, therefore, inquiring as to whether the one she has is by his hand.  If it is, she wishes for him to complete it for her and, if it is not, she wishes that he would do one for her himself.  As Colonna describes the work, her reference to it as being “alive” is reminiscent of the Albertian idea that works of art are mirrors of life and indeed she holds it up to a mirror for additional admiration. Her description could indicate that Michelangelo sent her an unfinished painting (as opposed to an unfinished drawing) to show the Cardinal’s men.   Whether Colonna was holding a drawing or a painting, what is clear is that she was acting as a patron in the discussion recorded in the letters she sent Michelangelo.  She asks him questions about the work, expresses her desires and is very firm about what she wants from the artist and what she will not accept.

When Colonna was finished with the Christ on the Cross, she gave it to Tommasso Cavalieri to return to the artist.  This angered Michelangelo, who perceived the manner of return as a slight because she had behaved as a patron would towards an artist, instead of with the respect he expected of someone he called friend.  To emphasize his irritation he pointed out to her that her treatment of him had spoiled the surprise of a gift of another drawing he had planned, possibly as an exchange comparable to  the book of Sonnets Colonna gave him, which he described many years later to his nephew, Lionardo. [39]

As Natalie Zemon Davis studied, gifts played a defining societal role in the Sixteenth Century, as a means of social exchange and intellectual affirmation and recognition. [40] Alexander Nagel specifically discussed the gifts exchanged by Colonna and Michelangelo and the drawings he created as being outside the standard patron/artist relationship and constituting a new genre of drawing. [41]  However, the content of the letters exchanged between Colonna and Michelangelo indicate that their interaction was more complex than Nagel described, as their personal exchange of gifts was one aspect of their friendship that coexisted alongside a more standard patron/artist relationship.  In calling Michelangelo to her to discuss the commission for the planned convent, Colonna acted as a patron.  In the letter where Colonna describes what she wants Michelangelo to do, in order to satisfy her on the “Crocifisso,” Colonna is clearly a patron in command of a commission telling the artist what she wishes from him, acting as the patron Condivi identified, when he described her interaction with Michelangelo. Colonna’s letter  about the “Crocifisso” is informative about her patronage patterns and about the workings of Michelangelo’s workshop.  She clearly knows about the existing multiplicity of images created by other artists, based on concetti Michelangelo developed.  Her statements makes it clear that this image is not a gift from Michelangelo but is part of a commission, in which she participates as a patron negotiating with an artist.  The questions she asks are sharp and her demands are definitive – she has assessed the high quality of the work but she will only accept a version by Michelangelo himself.  The documented exchange represents her as an experienced negotiator and a patron with strong ideas about what she wants to have from the artist.      Michelangelo’s gifts to her, on the other hand, are in a different category, as she does not have a say in their execution because they are intended to surprise her, as is made clear in the letter wherein Michelangelo expresses his pique at Colonna’s giving Cavalieri the “Crocifisso” to return to him.  Colonna had no say in the gift he has for her because it is not a commission but a gift, which he had planned to give her, when he expected he would pick up the work from her. But Colonna had ruined the surprise of the planned gift by giving the “Crocifisso” to Cavalieri to return, thereby depriving Michelangelo of the opportunity to spring the surprise.  Hence, when analyzing Colonna and Michelangelo’s interaction, it is crucial to understand that indeed had a standard patron/artist relationship for specific works. They also had a friendship, within the context of which they exchanged gifts that indicated a level of social exchange comparable to that analyzed by Zemon Davis as happening in contemporary interactions among educated individuals.  For the “Crocifisso,” the letters Colonna and Michelangelo exchanged indicate that the interaction belonged more to their patron/artist type of interaction than to a gift exchange among friends.        Because the letters exchanged by Colonna and Michelangelo are undated, dating Michelangelo’s drawings is a challenge to which Maria Forcellino rose, when she dated the Christ on the Cross to before 18 November 1538.  Her evidence was a letter written by Ottaviano Lotti, where he mentions that he had visited Colonna at San Silvestro, alongside Pole and Contarini. [42] Using this letter, Forcellino identified Lotti, Pole and Contarini as the Cardinal Gonzaga’s men, Colonna described to Michelangelo.  Yet, a characterization of Pole and Contarini as the Cardinal’s men seems untenable.       There is, however, another letter from Colonna that can provide a terminus ante quem for the Christ on the Cross, which describes a more appropriate gathering of the gentilhomini del Cardinale.  In a letter from Colonna to Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga, dated 27 May 1539, she thanks him for the visit she received from his men who had come to Rome. [43]  This visit was a formal visit from Gonzaga’s courtiers, or “gentilhomini del Cardinale,” that is a better match to her description. Thus, the Christ on the Cross can be dated to around May 1539 and is contemporaneous to Politi’s instructions to Colonna and Michelangelo and with the sermons Politi gave at San Silvestro, as the Lenten liturgy was being celebrated.

In the Roman, Lenten liturgy, the event of Christ’s Crucifixion, the subject of Michelangelo’s drawing, is referenced throughout, as the services move towards the culmination of Holy Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.  Passages especially pertinent to Michelangelo’s Christ on the Cross were recited, in the pre-Tridentine liturgy, on Palm Sunday (Matthew 26: 27-46) [44] and Holy Tuesday (Mark 15:34). [45] In these Gospel passages, Christ cries his despair to God “Heloy, Heloy: lamazabatani?”  The Church connects these words to Psalm 22, which describes how one who had lost his way in despair found the path to salvation through orthodoxy and Faith.  Psalm 22, [46] which is connected to Christ’s cry to God. was read on Palm Sunday at the Introit to the Mass. [47] Michelangelo’s Christ on the Cross resonates specifically with these passages in the Lenten liturgy, so well-known to Colonna, who habitually celebrated Lent and Easter in Rome.

In Michelangelo’s image, as Christ speaks the words – ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46) – his image brings the events of Lent alive. It was the living quality of the image that so struck Colonna, as a representation of salvation, a subject in which she was being tutored at the time by Politi, as she responded to Michelangelo’s image from her  emotional perspective.

In Rome, images of Christ, which could provide worshippers with a visual link to his life, were located in two places – in San Giovanni Laterano and at San Silvestre, where the Colonna were in charge of protecting the sacred relic.  In one of his letters to Colonna, Michelangelo asked to see this relic, possibly to gain inspiration for the works he produced for Colonna or just to renew his Faith. [48]  Michelangelo’s Christ on the Cross also responds to Politi’s lectures on St. Paul and to Paul’s words about the Crucifixion.

St Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 13: 4 “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we shall live with him by the power of God.” These words are Paul’s assertion that the Crucifixion of Christ was a moment of potential for eternal life and they are the words that the Roman Church contends as being complementary to the Church’s liturgy and dogma.  Michelangelo’s still living Christ on the Cross is an illustration of Paul’s words that simultaneously evokes the viewer’s weakness and life in God’s mercy. Paul’s Romans 3:21-26 states – “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…. And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus…. And the one [Christ] who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”  For the Roman Church, these words are a straightforward representation of the important role that Faith plays in the process of salvation through Christ’s sacrifice and his Blood, as is traced by the Lenten liturgy.

In translating this text into German, Luther inserted the word “only” in between “given” and “through faith” to indicate that salvation was sola fides. [49] Thus, sola fides is not grounded in St. Paul’s actual text but in Luther’s insertion.  In asserting sola fides, Luther also rejected – as apocryphal – the Epistle of James 2: 17 – “So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead,” which asserts the Church’s position that Faith and Works of Mercy are the two parts of salvation. Yet, Paul asserted the necessity of Good Works (in which Faith is manifested) for salvation, in Romans 2:6-7 – God “will repay each person according to what they have done.   To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. ” Politi’s instructions to Colonna and Michelangelo would have been a direct refutation of Luther and of Protestant theology of every kind.  Simultaneously, his lectures and sermons would have grounded the Crucifixion in the words of St. Paul, as interpreted by the orthodox Church.

For Colonna, whose orthodox faith was buttressed by Politi’s teachings on Paul, and who considered performing the Good Work of building a Convent at San Silvestro, Michelangelo’s image of life in Christ’s death reified Politi’s lectures on St. Paul into a devotional image from which she could draw strength, as she could have from Politi’s Lenten sermons.    As Michelangelo was working on his drawing for her, Colonna remained under Politi’s spiritual guidance until he left Rome, in 1540, to go to Naples, leaving her the Speculum so that she could continue to benefit from his instruction. [50]  She left Rome, in May 1541, heading first for Orvieto then Viterbo. [51]  Her departure was sudden and was caused by the hostilities between her brother, Ascanio, and Paull III, which resulted in the Salt Tax War. [52]

Before her departure, in the years between 1538 and 1541, Colonna created a center of orthodoxy at San Silvestro in which Michelangelo and her friends participated.  All were guided by Fra Ambrogio Catarino Politi’s instruction on the Church’s approved path to salvation.  The convent that was not built and the extant drawings are part of this interlude shared by the participants, united in their search for salvation.  For Colonna and Michelangelo, that search was focused by Politi’s lectures on the Church’s position on St. Paul and on Politi’s Lenten sermons.  These together provided the contextual accompaniment to Michelangelo’s Christ on the Cross – a work that Colonna would have interpreted within the orthodox instruction she deliberately sought at San Silvestro.  Current scholarship being done of Colonna and Michelangelo that uncritically assumes de Tolnay’s interpretation of the exchanges at San Silvestro as Nicodemist and Valdesian were correct, neglects historical reality. In so doing, the followers of de Tolnay ignore Politi’s identity and overlook: Colonna’s lifelong adherence to the Roman Cults of the Virgin and the Saints and Relics; her stated recognition of the primacy of the Papacy and her identification of the Church of Peter in Rome as the only true Church.  In neglecting to balance her orthodoxy with her spiritual experimentation, a privilege she had as a wealthy aristocrat, who could explore contemporary confessional issues from the safety of her position, de Tolnay caused a distortion of Colonna’s religious complexity and of the meaning and significance of Michelangelo’s drawings for her.

Had Michelangelo overseen the construction of the convent at San Silvestro that was described by Holanda into completion, Colonna’s affirmation of her faith in the Church, represented by her funding of this construction would have given a different context for her life.  The interruption of Colonna’s intention for such a convent, caused by the Salt War, ended the construction plans.  Had the convent been built the existence of such a convent would have clearly aligned Colonna with the Church’s tradition of gifts to the Church, given to expiate sins and such an act would have definitively situated her as a patron within the Church’s tradition of donations that represented belief in the efficacy of Good Works as necessary for salvation.  Michelangelo’s drawings are not the convent that was never built but the circumstances of their creation were provided by Politi’s orthodoxy and Colonna desire between 1538 and 1541 to receive it.   Their context thereby indicates that these drawings should be studied as works in keeping with Colonna’s intentionality at that moment in time – a moment in which Michelangelo actively participated, as he too listened to Politi’s lectures and understood their significance for Colonna.


[1] In a letter from Colonna to Pietro Aretino, dated 25 September 1538, “I stayed some time at Lucca, but not a Pisa, as your letter states. I passed from there; and not being able to go to Jerusalem, I remained here consoled: but I am compelled to return to Rome by his Holiness, instigated thereto by your friend and mine, the Marchese del Vasto (Alfonso d’Avalos) as it seems to him that his Holiness is offended by my Christian humility. “Ferrara, September 25, 1537,” from Mrs. Henry Roscoe, Vittoria Colonna: Her Life and Poems, London, Macmillan & Co, 1868, 356.  On Vittoria Colonna see: Ramie Targoff, Renaissance Woman: The Life of Vittoria Colonna, New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2018;  Alethea Lawley, Vittoria Colonna: A Study; With Translations of Some of Her Published and Unpublished Sonnets, London: Forgotten Books, 2017;  Abigail Brundin, Ed., Vittoria Colonna and the Spiritual Poetics of the Italian Reformation, Abingdon, Routledge, 2008;  Abigail Brundin and Tatiana Crivelli, Eds., A Companion To Vittoria Colonna, Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2016; Sylvia Ferino-Pagden & Agostino Athanasio, Vittoria Colonna: Dichterin un Muse Michelangelos. Exhibition Catalogue, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, 1997.

[2] Karl Benrath, Bernardino Ochino, of Siena: A Contribution Towards the History of the Reformation, reprint, London, Forgotten Books, 2018; Emidio Campi, Michelangelo e Vittoria Colonna: Un diálogo artístico teologicao ispirato da Bernardino Ochino: a altri saggi di storia della Riforma, Florence, Claudiana, 1994.

[3] For an example of Colonna’s poetry, see: Vittoria Colonna, Sonnets for Michelangelo: A Bilingual Edition, Abigail Brundin, Ed., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

[4] See Note 1 above.

[5] Giorgio Caravale, Beyond the Inquisition: Ambrogio Catarino Politi and the Origins of the Counter-Reformation, Notre Dame, In., University of Notre Dame, 2017; —- Sulle trace dell’eresia. Ambrogio Catarino Politi (1484-1553), Florence, Leo S. Olschki, 2007.

[6] T. Adophus Trollope, Life of Vittoria Colonna, Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Co, 1859, 189, With mud and weedy growth so foul I see /Thy net, O Peter, that should any wave/Assail it from without or trouble it,/It might be rendered, and so risk the ship./For now thy bark, no more, as erst, skims light/With favoring breezes o’er the troubled sea;/But labors burdened so from stem to stern,/That danger menaces the course it steers./They good successor, by direct decree/Of providence elect, with heart and hand/Assiduous strives to bring it to the port./But spite his striving his intent is foiled/By other’s evil. So that all have seen/That without aid from thee, he strives in vain.

[7] For an English translation of this sonnet, see Thérault, Suzanne. Therault, Un Cénacle humanist de la Renaissance autour de la Vittoria Colonna, Châtelaine d’Ischia, Paris, Librairie Marcel Didier, 1968, 501-2.

[8]  For collections of Colonna’s sonnets, see: Domenico Tordi, Il Codice Della Rime di Vittoria Colonna, Marchesa di Pescara, Appartenuto a Margherita d’Angoulême, Regina di Navarra, Pistoia, Lito-Tipografia G. Flori, 1900; Vincenzo Valgrisi, Le Rime Spirituali Della Illustrissima Signora Vittoria Colonna, Marchesana di Pescara, Venice, Bottega D’Erasmo, 1548. To the Virgin, she wrote: L’alto Consiglio, alor che’ eleger volse (From Visconti LXXXIII, 243); Quando senza spezzar né aprir la porta Chi desia di veder pura ed altera (Valgrisi 103); Donna, dal Ciel gradita a tanto onore ((Valgrisi 104); Vergine pura, che dai raggi ardenti (Valgrisi 101); Con che pietosa caritá sovente (Valgrisi 106); Eterna luna, alor che fra’l Sol vero (Valgrisi 111); Stella del nostro mar, chiara e secura (Valgrisi, 102); Quando vedeste, Madre, a poco a poco (Valgrisi, 108); Mentre la mader il suo Figlio delitto (Valgrisi, 108); Un foco sol la Donna nostra accese (Valgrisi, 105); Angel beato, a cui il gran Padre expresse (Valgrisi, 132); In forma di musaico un alto muro (Valgrisi, 64); Oggi la santa sposa or gode or geme (Valgrisi, 176); Mentre che quanto dentro avea concetto (Tordi, 6: 41); Vergine  e madre, il tuo figliuol su’l petto (Tordi, 7:46).

[9] Colonna wrote sonetes to: St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Ursula, Archangel Michael, The Magi, St. Peter, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, St. Simon, Zacchariah, St. Stephen, St. Ignatius, an early Christian martyr, Dionysus, the Areopagite, St. Francis of Assisi, Noah, St. Matthew, and to the souls of The Elect in Paradise.  The sonnets are found in Valgrisi, Le Rime, passim and Tordi, Il Codice, passim.

[10] To Mary Magdalene, she wrote a series of  sonnets: Donna accesa animosa, e da l’errante (Valgrisi 122); La bella donna, a cui dolente preme (Valgrisi, 156); Beata lei, ch’eterno amor accese (Visconti, III:389 – Pietro Ercole Visconti, Rime di Vittoria Colonna. Corrette Su I Testi A Penna e Pubblicate Con la Vita Della Medesima Dal Cavaliere, Roma, Dalle Tipografia Salviucci. 1840)); Donna, che’n cima d’ogn’affetto umano (Tordi 9:49); Felice donna cui disse sul fonte (Bainton 209).  Felice donna reflects the subject of Michelangelo’s drawing, Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well in its text – “Blest woman – He spoke to you by the well,/and said: I am living water, you must/ pray to me, drink my truth, and go no more/to the ancient temples or sacred hills./but to God the Father go, with firm faith, humbly, maybe now crying with yearning, maybe against that bitter sound, yet still praying silently in the calm stillness-/for to Him your passions are transparent./And as the Sons light fell over the earth,/and Samaria, your burning thirst was/sated, and you hurried to tell others/more wise to come honor Him, with heart soul,/and mind cheered by loving holiday joy.

[11] See note 4.

[12] Caravale, Politi, 27 and Caravale, Sulle Traccia, 71-72.

[13] These were published in Venice. See Caravale, Politi, 27.

[14] Caravale, Sulle Tracce, 79-80.

[15] On the drawings and copies see: Maria Forcellino, “Vittoria Colonna and Michelangelo: Drawings and Paintings,
in A Companion, 270-313  For a range of versions of Michelangelo’s drawings in various media, see: Alessia Alberti, Alessandro Rovetta & Claudio Salsi, D’apres Michelangelo, Venice, Marsilio, 2015; Paul Joannides, Dessins Italiens du musée du Louvre: Michel’Ange, èlèves et copistes, Paris, Louvre, 2003 and Mario Rotili, Fortuna di Michelangelo nell’incisione, Exhibition Catalog, Beneventro, Museo del Sanio, 1964.

[16] Caravale, Sulle Tracce … 96-101.  Lancelotto Politi, F. Ambrosii Catharini Politi, Speculum haereticorum, emendatum, auctum, Ejusdem, Liber de peccato originali. Item liber de perfecta justification a fide & operibus, Rome, Apud Antonium Vincentium, 1541. Copies of Politi’s treatise are located in the collections of the Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris; the Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire Sante-Geneviève, Paris and the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon.  Politi’s arguments against Luther were repeated in his Enchiridion locorum  communium adversus Lutherum, & alios hostes ecclesiae, Landshutt, 1525. A copy of this treatise is part of the collection of the New York Public Library’s branch at 42nd and 5th, Stephen A. Schwarzman building, listed under Ambrosius Catharinus, Archbishop of Conza. The Speculum was published in Rome, in 1540, with a dedication to Colonna and in Cracow, in 1541, with a dedication to Paul III.

[17] Caravale, Politi, 93.  Sulle Traccie, 93.

[18] Juan de Valdés was the Spanish religioso, whose spirituality was based on the Spanish Alumbradismo, blended with Erasmian and diverse Protestant ideas into an individualized mysticism, which he taught in Naples to a small circle of friends.  The group included Ochino, Colonna’s confessor from 1534 until 1542, when Ochino fled Italy for Geneva, where he converted to Calvinism.  Giulia Gonzaga, a close friend of Colonna’s, was also part of the Valdesian group in Naples.  Politi, however, was not a source of Valdesianism at San Silvestro. He later condemned all of Valdés’s teachings.  On Valdés, see: John Thomas Betts, Life and Writings of Juan de Valdés: Otherwise Valdesso, Spanish Reformer in the Sixteenth Century, Londonm Andesite Press, 2015;  Daniel A. Crews, Twilight of the Renaissance: The Life of Juan de Valdés, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2008; and José Nieto, Juan de Valdés and the Origins of the Spanish and Italian Reformation, Paris, Droz, 1970.

[19] Salvatore Caponetto and Benedetto da Mantova, Il Beneficio di Cristo con le Versioni del Secolo XVI, Documenti e Testimonianze, DeKalb,Il., Northern Illinois University Press, 1972.

[20] Abigail Brundin, Vittoria Colonna and the Spiritual Poetics of the Reformation, London, Routledge, 2008, 51.  Politi’s treatise is entitled Beneficio Compendio d’errori et inganni Luterani, contenuti in un Libretto, senza nome de l’Autore, intitolato Trattato utilissimo del beneficio di Cristo crocifisso and was published in Rome by Contrada del Pellegrino, in 1544.

[21] Caravale, Sulle Tracce, 109, “Benedetto da Mantova had written the draft of the Beneficio January 1541, as confirmed by a letter by Contarini, dated 1543, that he had read the first draft some three years before in Naples.”

[22]  Caravale, Sulle Tracce, 108.

[23] Francisco de Hollanda, On Antique Painting, trans. Alice Sedgwick Wohl, University Park, Pa., Penn State Press, 2013.

[24] Holanda/Sedgwich, Painting, Book II, First Dialogue, 173, “But Fra Ambrogio of Siena (one of the Pope’s appointed preachers), who had not yet gone, said: “I do not believe that if Michael knows the Spaniard to be a painter, he will be willing to speak about painting at all; therefore he ought to hide in order to listen to him.”

[25] Holanda/Sedgwick, Painting, Book II, First Dialogue, 171, “And so, during the days that I spent thus at the court, I was due to go one Sunday, as I was in the habit of doing on others, to visit Messer Lattanzio Tolomei, who was the one who, with the aid of Messer Blosio, the Pope’s secretary, favored me with the friendship of Michelangelo.”  This was the first occasion when Holanda joined the group.  The second is found in the Second Dialogue, p. 186-187 and the third is found in the Fourth Dialogue, 217.

[26] Holanda/Sedgwick, Painting, Book II, Third Dialogue, 200, “Then I ordered my servant to go without fail to San Silvestro and to learn whether by chance the Marchesa was there, or Signor Michelangelo and Signor Lattanzio and Fra Ambrosio were all there together in the latter’s cell, which was right in San Silvestro but there was no word of the Marchesa.  All the same, I did not fail to proceed to San Silvestro but the truth is, I had decided to pass on and make a tour of the city when I saw fulano Diego Zapata approaching, a great gentleman in the service of the Marchesa, a very respected person, and a friend of mine.  Since I was on horseback and he on foot, I was obliged to dismount, and when he told me that he came from the Marchesa, we entered San Silvestro. As we went in, who should we see but Messers Michelangelo and Lattanzio coming out of their way to the garden or yard to pass the siesta amid the trees and ivies and flowing water.”

[27] Forcellino, Drawings and Paintings, 270-313. In Brundin A Companion, 287-288, “Dilecta in Christo filia nobilis mulier salutem etc. Dudum meritis tue devotionis inducti tibi inter alia, ut tu et decem honeste mulieres per te nominande quecumque monasteria monialium cuiusvis etiam Sancte Clare ordinis bis in mense de eorumdem monasterium regimini presidentium consensu ingredi et cum monialibus ipsis conversari, dummodo ibi non pernocteretis, libere et licite possetis per alias nostras in forma brevis litteras concessimus prout in illis plenius continetur. Cum autem eiusdem tue devotionis merita quotidie maiora fiant tuque spiriualium operum exercitione in dies magis delectereris inducimus ut votis tuis que ex ipsius devotionis fervore procedunt, per amplius annuamus. Tuis itaque supplicationibus inclinati litteras predictas ad hoc, ut tu quecumque virorum monasteria cuius ordinis iuxta dictarum litterarum tenorem ingredi et citra pernocationem ibi conversari valeas extendimus et ampliamus per presentes, non ostantibus constitutionibus et ordinationibus apostolicis ac omnibus illis que in dictis litteris voluimus non obstare ceterisque contrariis quibuscumque. Datum Rome apud S. Petrum, 20 dec. 1536, anno 30 S.D.N. visum est quod tali persone similia non sint neganda.

[28] The structure Colonna identified as the “portico where it is said that Nero saw Rome burning” was on land then owned by the Colonna.  The area had burned during the Great Fire (64 A.D.) and the last ruins of it were destroyed as Rome expanded in the Seventeenth Century.  On the building’s history, see Ottavio Bucarelli, “Il Tempio di Serapide Sul Quirinale: Note di Archeologica e Topografian Tra Antichitá e Medioevo,” in The Roman Empire During the Severan Dynasty, Piscataway, N.J., Gorgias Press, 2013, 207-217.

[29] At the point when Michelangelo was beginning his deep friendship with Colonna, in 1538/39, he had completed a significant part of  The Last Judgment.  On 18 October 1538, Urbino was paid to purchase a ladder and a lock for the scaffold for the Sistine Chapel. From 31 October to 1 December 1538, Masses in the chapel were stopped, as the scaffold for the upper sections was taken down, in preparation for Michelangelo to begin work on the lower section.  Hence, as Colonna was settling in Rome, Michelangelo had already completed the fresco down to the section right below Christ and The Elect.  On 18 October 1538, Michelangelo’s servant, Urbino, was paid for a ladder and a lock for a “tavolato” – payments for purchases that conform to the taking down of the scaffold for the middle section of the Judgment and for setting up a new one for the completion of the fresco’s bottom third, more or less below the Angels with the Trumpets. For the documents, see, León Doretz, La Cour du Pape Paul III d’apres Les Registres de la Trésorerie Secrète , Collection F. De Navenne), preface by Pierre de Nolhac, II (Les Dépenses Privées), Paris, Librarie Ernest Leroux, 1932,  186.  Between 31 October and 1 December 1538, Masses were stopped in the Sistine Chapel, as the old scaffold was taken down and the new one adjusted. For the documents, see, Deoclecio Redig de Campos, Michelangelo: The Last Judgment, Garden City, NJ, Doubleday, 1978, 29, note 45. Redig de Campos discussed Giorgio Vasari’s assertion about  the completion state of the Judgment, where Vasari stated that that at that point Michelangelo had completed three-quarters of the Judgment. As Redig de Campos noted, de Tolnay suggested that Vasari’s statement meant that Michelangelo had worked down to the “second and main cornice of the lateral walls. Below this the modeling, the colors and the lighting are slightly different.” (Charles de Tolnay, Michelangelo: The Final Period, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, Volume 5, 22 and note 14, where de Tolnay suggested that Vasari was including the lunettes with the Instruments of the Passion in his three-quarters assessment.)  It was during this interlude in his work on the Judgment that Michelangelo went to San Silvestro and discussed the potential commission of a convent with Colonna.

[30] Cammy Brothers, Michelangelo, Drawing and the Invention of Architecture, New Haven, Ct, Yale University Press, 2008; Giulio Carlo Argan, Michelangelo Architect, New York, NY, Harry N. Abrams, 1993; Henry A. Millon, Michelangelo Architect: The Façade of San Lorenzo and the Dome of St. Peter’s, Ivrea, Italy: Olivetti, 1988; James Ackerman, The Architecture of Michelangelo, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1986.

[31] James Saslow, The Poetry of Michelangelo: An Annotated Translation, New Haven, Ct, Yale University Press, 1993.

[32] This commission was brokered by Alfonso d’Avalos, with assistance of Cardinal Nicolas von Schönberg. The Noli me Tangere was intended for a convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, which Colonna wished to found. Michael Hirst and Gudula Mayr in “Michelangelo, Pontormo und das Noli me tangere für. Vittoria Colonna,” found in Silvia Ferino-Pagden & Agostino Athanasio, Vittoria Colonna. Dichterin und Muse Michelangelos, Exhibition Catalogue, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Skira, 1997.  No documentation survives for a deep friendship between Colonna and Michelangelo prior to their meetings at San Silvestro, but Ernst Steinmann suggested that they could have been introduced earlier by Tommaso Cavalieri (Ernst Steinmann, Die Sixtinische Kappelle, Charleston, SC, Nabu Press, 499). Such a meeting could have occurred any time after Michelangelo arrived in Rome, in 1534, to work on The Last Judgment for Clement VII, during Colonna’s visits to Rome in 1534, 1535 and 1536, where she habitually went to celebrate Lent. See: Brundin, Spiritual Poetics, 45 (1534), and Guglielmo Saltini, Rime e Lettere di Vittoria Colonna, Florence, G. Barbera, 1860, 95 (1535) and 101 (1536).

[33] Giorgio Vasari,  Le Opere di Giorgio Vasari, ed. Gateano Milanesi,  Florence Sansoni, 1906,  reprinted, 1963, Vol. 6, 273, “Ma infiniti sonetti ne mandò di suo e ricevé risposta di rime e di prose della illustrissima Marchesana di Pescara, delle virtù della quale Michelagnolo era inamorato et ella parimente di quelle di lui, e molte volte andò ella a Roma da Viterbo a visitarlo, e le disegnò Michelangnolo una Pietà in grembo alla Nostra Donna con dua Angioletti, mirabilissima, et un Cristo confitto in croce, che alzato la testa, raccomanda lo spirit al Padre, cosa divina; olre a un Cristo con la Samaritana al pozzo”.

[34] Ascanio Condivi, Vita di Michelangelo Buonarroti, Rome,  Antonio Blado, 1553, 44-46,  “…ín partículare amò grandemente la Marchesana dí Peschara, del cuí dívíno spíríto era inamorato, essendo al íncontro da leí amato suíceratamente, della quale anchor tíena molte letter, d’honesto et dolcíssimo amore rípíene, et quail d´tal petto uscír solevano, havendo eglí altresì scrítto à leí píu et píu sonettí, píení d’íngegno el dolce desiderío.  Ella píù voler si mosse da Víterbo, & d’altrí luoghí, dove fusse andata per dí porto e per pasare l’astate, et a Rome se ne venne, non mossa da altra cagione se non dí veder Míchelagnolo,  et eglí al íncontro tanto amor le portava, che mí rícorda dí sentírlo díre che d’altro non si doleva se non che quando l’andò á vedere nel passer dí questa víta,  fece a requisizione di questa signor V.C. un Cristo ignudo, quando è tolto di croce, il quale, come corpo morto abbandonato, cascherebbe a’ piedi della non cosi le bascío la mano, per la costeí morte, píu tempo se ne stete sbígotíto, et come ín sensato. Fece á quísitíone dí questa signroa un Chrísto ígnudo, quando é tolto dí croce, Iil quale come corpo morto abandonato, cascherebbe á píedí della sua santissima  santissima Madre, se da due agnoletti non fosse sostenuto a braccia.  Ma ella, sotto la croce stando a sedere co volto lacrimoso e dolente, alza al cielo ambe le mani a braccia aperte, con un cotal detto, che nel troncon della croce scritto si legge: “Non vi si pensa, quanto sangue costa!” La croe e simile a quell ache da’ Bianchi, nel tempo della moria del trecento quarantotto, era portata in processione, che poi fu pota nella Chiesa di santa Croce di Firenze.  Fece anco, per amor di lei, un disegno d’un Gesu Cristo in croce, non in sembianza di morto, come comunemente s’ua, ma in atto divino, col volto levato al Padre, e par che dica “heli, heli”: dove si vede quell corpo non come morto abbandonato cascare, ma come vivo per l’acerbo supplizio risentirsi et scontorcersi.”

[35] E.H. Ramsden, The Letters of Michelangelo, 2 Volumes, Stanford, Ca., Stanford University Press, 1963, Vol. II 237-243; Michelangelo, Il carteggio di Michelangelo, ed. Giovanni Poggi, Paola Barocchi and Renzo Ristori, Florence: S.P.E.S., 1970-1979, 4:101-5, 120-122, 169, 224, nos. CMLXVI-CMXIX, CMLXXXIII, CMLXXXIV, MXII, ML and Ermanno Ferrero e Giuseppe Müller, Carteggio raccolto e pubblicato da Ermanno Ferrero e Giuseppe Muller, 2nd ed. Turin: Loescher, 1892, 268-269, Colonna Ferrero/Müller, Carteggio, 206-211, 268-69, 322, nos. CXXI-CXXV, CLVII, CLXXXII; Forcellino, Drawings and Paintings, 270-313. Brundin, Spiritual Poetics, 275, Of the many letters which, according to Condivi, Michelangelo still possessed in 1553, only seven have survived the ravages of time: five written by Colonna, and two by Michelangelo himself.  (Poggi/Barocchi/Ristori, Carteggio, vol. 4, CMLXVI, 101; CMLXVII, 102; CMLXVIII, 104; CMLXXIX, 105; CMLXXXIII, 121; CMLXXXIV, 122; MXII, 169-170; ML, 224.

[36] Ferrero/Müller, 207, “Cordialissimo mio S. Michel Agnolo. Ve prego me mandiate un poco el Crucifisso, se ben none fornito, perchè il vorria mostrare a gentilhuomini del R.°^ Cardinal de Mantua: et se voi non sete oggi in lavoro, protressi venir a parlarmi con vostra comodità. Al comando vostro  La Marchesa di Pescara.”

[37] Ferrero/Müeller, Carteggio, 208, “Unico maestro Mìchelagnelo et mio singolarissimo amico. Ho hauta la vostra et visto il crucifixo, il qual certamente ha crucifìxe nella memoria mia quale altri picture viddi mai, nò se pò veder più ben fatta, più viva et più finita imagine et certo io non potrei mai explicar quanto sottilmente et mirabilmente è fatta, per il che ho risoluta de non volerlo di man d’altri, et però chiaritemi, se questo è d’altri, patientia. Se è vostro, io in ogni modo vel torrei, ma in caso che non sia vostro et vogliate farlo fare a quel vostro, ci parlaremo prima, perchè cognoscendo io la dificultà che ce ò di imitarlo, più presto mi resolvo che colui faccia un’altra cosa che questa; ma se è il vostro questo, habbiate patientia che non son per tornarlo più. Io Ilio ben visto al lume et col vetro et col specchio, et non viddi mai la più finita cosa. Son accomandamento vostro La Marchesa di Pescara.)”

[38] Ferrero-Müller, Carteggio, 206-207, Signora Marchesa. E non par, sondo io in Roma, che egli accadessi lasciar il crocifisso (1) a messer Tommao (2) e farlo mezzano fra Vostra Signoria e me suo servo, acciocché io la serva, e massimo avendo io desiderato di fkr più per quella che per uomo che io conoscessi mai al mondo; ma 1’occupazione grande, in che sono stato e sono, non ha lasciato conoscer questo a Vostra Signoria: e perchè io so che ella sa che amore non vuol maestro, e che chi ama non dorme, manco accadeva ancora mezzi: e benché e paressi che io non mi ricordassi, io facevo quello ch’io non diceva per giùgnere con cosa non aspettata. E stato guasto il mio disegno: mal  fa chi tanta fé si tosto oblia. Servitore di Vostra Signoria Michelagniolo Buonarroti in Roma.

[39] Abigail Brundin, “Vittoria Colonna in Manuscript,” in Brundin, Spiritual Poetics, 39-68 – 53-54, “The first gift manuscript from Colonna and the only instance identified to date of a collection of the rime that was prepared under the poet’s direct supervision, is Vaticano Latino 11539, sent to Michelangelo around 1540. This manuscript was first identified as the volume given to Michelangelo by Colonna by Enrico Carusi (See Corsaro, Brundin, Spiritual Poetics, 39). Its contents were different from those intended for wider publication found in other volumes.  In a letter dated to 1551, which Michelangelo wrote to his nephew, Lionardo Buonarroti, he mentioned the gift manuscript and “ …  another one of 40 sonnets that is lost.  About a month ago Mr Gianfrancesco asked me if I had anything by the Marchesa of Pescara. I have a little book made of parchment that she gave me about ten years ago, in which are one hundred and three sonnets, not counting the ones that she sent to me from Viterbo on paper, of which there are forty, which I had bound into the same little book, and at the time I lent to numerous people so that all the poems are by now in print.”   See also, Letter from Michelangelo to his nephew, Lionardo saying that la Marchesa di Pescara had given him “un libretto in carta pecora, che la mi donò circa dieci anni sono (c. 1541), nel quale è cento tre sonetti, senza quegli che mi mandò poi da Viterbo in carta bambagina, che son quaranta; I quali feci legare nel medesimo libretto e in quell tempo li prestai a molte persone, in modo che per tutto ci sono in istampa. Ho poi molte lettere che la mi scrivea da Orvieto a Viterbo.” (1) Lett. 7 marzo 1551, in Gaetano Milanesi, Lettere di Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florence, Le Monnier, 1875, 272, n. CCXLIII.

[40] Natalie Zemon Davis, The Gift in Sixteenth-Century France, Madison, WI, University of Wisconsin Press, 2000.

[41] Alexander Nagel, “Gifts for Michelangelo and Vittoria Colonna, “ The Art Bulletin, Vol. 79, No. 4 (Dec., 1997), 647-668.

[42] Forcellino, Drawings and Paintings, in Brundin, Spiritual Poetics, 280, note 26, Ottaviano Lotti letter, 18 November 1538 – “mi sono ben trovato un giorno, che’l Rmo. Contareno et l’inglese [Pole]  erano a San Silvestro a visitor la S.ra Marchesa di Pescara.”

[43] Ferrero/Müller, Cargeggio, 176-177, Quanta consolation me sia stata sentir resonar a honoratamente la mia cara Ferrara in Roma per la degna ambasciarìa de Vostra Ex. (lX epsa sola ari potrà inutiginare ; et poi se è avgumentata molto la mia alegrefieza vedendola venir in questo humil loco et poi darme la sua dolcissima lettera et le sue infinite cortesie. Rendo gratie grande alla Ex.^Vostra, et suplico la divina bontà e degni con suo servitio darme questa occasione de polir tornar a servirlo, corno sommamente desidero et sono Migata. S.or mio, ho haute un poco de martello intendendo che questo novo principino sia più bello chel mio bellissimo principe, et noi posso creder per niente; et perchè in V. S. è il iuditio perfetto et la passione eguale, la suplico se degni scriverme el vero, et sella cosa fùsse nel animo suo dubiosa, me contento starne al iuditio et resolution della bella sorellina; che hor che V. S. ha tolto dalle sue spalle questo grave peso della Ghiesia de Dio, pò metter un’hora per me in queste dolcezze, che sono pur sante e bone. Ho ditto quel che io 80 al S. Cavaliero, che lo riferirà a Vostra Ex. più per el debito della mia servitù che per non saper, che sa ogni cosa meglio e più certo come per experientia ho visto: servirà al nostro monsignor de Ravenna; et per non esserli più … . resto basandoli la mano et cosi al ex.. .  demo. Da Roma, a di xxvii de maggio. Serva obligat.»”de V. S. IH.”» et Ex.”» La M.de Pescara.).

[44] Missale Romanun Mediolani, 1474, London, Henry Bradshaw Society, 1899, Reprint, Volume I of II, 136,

[45] Missale Romanun, Volume I, 144 (Passio domini Yhesu Christi).

[46] Psalm 22 – “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?  O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. … All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.  For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations.   All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.  A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.  They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

[47] Missale Romanun, Volume I, 134, “Introit,” (Ps.) Deus deus meus respice in me …”

[48] William Wallace, “Friends and Relics at San Silvestro in Capite, Rome, Sixteenth Century Journal, 30, (1999), 419-439 and Fererro/Müller, Carteggio, 211, “In paradiso: dì che ne resterò più obrigato, se più posso essere di (juel eh* i sono, a Vostra Signoria. L’aportatore di questa sarà Urbino, che sta meco, al quale Vostra Signoria potrà dire, quando vuole ch’i venga a vedere la testa e’ha promesso mostrarmi. E a quella mi racomando Michelagniolo Buonarroti.”

[49] Redig de Campos, Michelangelo, 81.

[50] Caravale, Politi, 71.

[51] Targoff, Vittoria, 208-226 (Orvieto) and 227-251 (Viterbo).

[52] Diana Robin, “The Salt War Letters of Vittoria Colonna,” in Diana Maury, Ed., Publishing women: Salons, The Presses, The Counter-Reformation in Sixteenth Century Italy, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 2007

Lynette M.F. Bosch

SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY, Geneseo. Chair of the Art History and Museum Studies Department.

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Category: Iconocrazia 13/2018 - "Iconocrazia: Art, Astronomy, Politics and Religion", Saggi | RSS 2.0 Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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