My dearest Buonarroto,
I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written.
I hope Father is doing okay.
He’s an ass sometimes, I know.
But without him neither you nor I would be alive on this Earth to give him an outlet through which he can channel his anger.
Let us be thankful for that.
I have enclosed a shitload of ducats, more than enough for both of you to survive comfortably, for how long I’m not sure.
I wish it could be more, but Pope Julius II is really raping me on this job he got me started on over a year ago.
He’s got me standing on scaffolding suspended by ropes over 60 feet above the floor, painting this huge vaulted ceiling in this crazy-bananas chapel here in Rome.
You know how I hate heights—I’m scared shitless to come to work everyday.
Plus my neck hurts from craning it, my shoulders and my back, my goddamn arms.
My face is freckled with paint droppings, like birds pooping all over my face.
I’ve got the whole painting plotted, at least, and for the most part I’m refusing help.
I can do this myself.
The Pope won’t get off my ass about it, though.
He’s all, When are you going to finish? this and Why haven’t you finished? that.
Over a month ago, the prick even whacked me with his staff.
I ran off, refusing to return, especially since he still hadn’t paid me even a fraction of what he was contractually obligated to.
He eventually sent for me, his messenger carrying both a written apology (which really shocked the shit out of me) and a sum of 500 ducats, the full amount I was promised (I still think the work I'm doing is worth more—though I will admit this to no one—as I mentioned my feeling violated).
I reluctantly agreed to return, so here I am again at my task.
And though this isn’t my trade (I am after all a sculptor by nature), I will accomplish this feat no matter how long it takes.
Do you remember me telling you once how a statue sleeps in a block of stone, that the block of stone was a prison from which only the sculptor’s chisel could release it, bring it to life?
I’m only paraphrasing what I said, as I’m sure your memory is already doing as you read this, but I know it was something like that.
Well, rather than chiseling away what’s unnecessary in art, I’m here adding more and more paint to capture the image rather than release it.
I must always be vigilant and cautious to not fuck up, lest I should then be forced to paint over and over my errors, only to begin again at making further mistakes I hope will amount to something beautiful.
It’s a lot.
My whole body hurts.
But I will persist.
I’ve got this great idea for one of the painting’s focal points: On one cloud I will have Adam and on another I will have God.
They will stretch their arms toward one another, but they will be unable to reach far enough to touch, their fingertips less than an inch apart.
I feel this will symbolize much about man and his relation to the divine, and I hope that message will travel across that distance between Adam and God, and therefore from my painting on down to anyone who enters this crazy-bananas chapel to be struck on the head by the image like lightning.
I often wonder if God isn’t just the brain thinking about God.
Maybe it doesn’t matter.
Anyway, be well, Buonarroto, and be kind to Father, for he needs it.
All my love,