Italian Paleography


Chicago, Newberry VAULT Case Wing MS ZW 535 .B943
Michelangelo Buonarroti
Michelangelo Letter
Florence, 25/26 January 1545

Go to Transcription
Go to Manuscript page 


In January 1545, Michelangelo Buonarroti finished installing the tomb of Pope Julius II in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome.  Forty years after it had been commissioned, the tomb was finally complete when the free-standing statues were placed in their architectural niches.  On January 25, Michelangelo penned a letter to the bank of Salvestro da Montauto e Compagni in Rome asking them to pay his assistant, Raffaello da Montelupo, the remaining monies owed to the sculptor for having carved and installed three marble figures for the tomb: a Prophet and a Sibyl (on the tomb’s second story), and the figure of the Madonna holding the Christ Child (actually subcontracted to Scherano da Settignano), all sculpted “larger than life” (“più che ’l naturale”).

The Newberry Library document is a version of the letter that Michelangelo sent to the Roman bank, written in his own distinctive hand.  As was characteristic of the artist, Michelangelo often wrote out copies of important correspondence for his own records.  Especially after he had been accused of mishandling the finances during the long, drawn-out tomb project, Michelangelo had become more conscientious in documenting his business affairs. 
Michelangelo did not precisely replicate the utilitarian letter he sent to the Roman bank.  Rather, he probably wrote the Newberry version from memory, immediately or shortly after sending off the original.  The overall content and specific information are the same even if there are small deviations in wording and a slight abbreviation of length.  It may seem curious (if it was for his personal records) that Michelangelo added his signature to the Newberry document: “Vostro Michelagniolo Buonarroti in Roma.”  He only omitted “di man proprio” (‘in his own hand”) which had been appended to the original.  Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the Newberry is an autograph document in the neat, eminently legible, architectonic hand of the famous artist making certain his assistant was properly paid and that he had a record of the request.


Italica usuale di Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), poco fluida, dall’interlinea strettissima e dal tracciato pesante, inclinata a destra.
Da notare: le aste basse (f, p, q,_ s_) concluse da trattino orizzontale; il finto legamento ct (r. 3: secta(n)to); la e in un sol tratto con tratto mediano allungato e finito veerso l’alto (r. 2: figure).

Selected Bibliography: