Michelangelo’s Lost Years

Michelangelo spent years of his life in stone quarries.  Getting good blocks of marble, doing the work of a quarryman and stone-cutter, was part of his work.
At breaktime he would look at the marble cliffs and daydream.  “Inspired by the masses of stone, he conceived many fantastic ideas for carving giant statues in the quarries, in order to leave there a memorial of himself, as the ancients had done,” says Condivi in admiration.

Mount Rushmore, North Dakota–a mountain sculpture by Gutzon Borglum

Mount Rushmore before Borglum began to carve

But even making snowmen was better than that.  The man with one of the greatest imaginations in Italy sat beaming it on clouds and rocks like an idle lover.

The worst was that there in the quarries he was out of the running.   While he was in Carrara or Pietrasanta directing ox-carts listing with marble blocks on impossible roads, his patrons were forgetting about the projects they had ordered—the tomb or the facade. More than once Michelangelo got a big surprise when he returned to town after months in the quarry: the deal was off—cancelled for no good reason.

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