Michelangelo was undoubtedly a genius and his masterpieces such as the David in Florence, the Pietà in St Peters and the Vatican’s Sistine chapel ceiling, are immortal.
But he was also an Italian – and therefore well acquainted with ‘furbo’, a trait much admired in Italy. It may be translated as ‘cunning” or ‘crafty’ or ‘sly,’ and it is appreciated by the Italians in the same manner that the Ancient Greeks applauded Odysseus for the cunning ways in which he outwitted his enemies. (Think of his men escaping the blinded cyclops disguised as sheep.) According to your point of view, however, furbo can also mean dishonest or underhand.
A typical example of a furbo escapade is a trick pulled by some unscrupulous wine producers, of feeding a snack containing raw fennel (finocchio) to would-be buyers, before they sampled the wines. The sharp aniseed taste of the fennel made it difficult to appreciate the quality (or otherwise) of the wine.
As an Italian Michelangelo would have known all about furbo and admired the cunning of its perpetrator. And he wasn’t above having a go himself, at the suggestion of no less a figure than the Lorenzo de’ Médici, Lorenzo the Magnificent, the ruler of Florence.
I am grateful, as ever, to the online art magazine, DailyArt, for the story. “Early in his career, Michelangelo carved a now-lost cupid statue in the style of the ancient Greeks. Lorenzo de’ Medici told him that a cupid could be sold for a lot more money if he could make it ‘appear to have been buried.‘
“Michelangelo agreed to do it and the piece was bought by Cardinal Raffaele Riario. However, the Cardinal soon realized that he bought a ‘fake,’ got his money back, but was so impressed with the sculpture that he brought Michelangelo to work in Rome.”
Michelangelo is also suspected to be the sculptor of the Laocoön group, supposed to be an Ancient Greek masterpiece, dug up in Rome in 1506, though there is no firm evidence that he did it.
The DailyArt article tells us 10 facts we didn’t know about Michelangelo, including that story of his early ‘forgery,’ and you can read all about them by clicking here.
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