Had the painter sent you to Purgatory, I would have used my best efforts to get you released, but I exercise no influence in hell

From Mary McCarthy’s The Stones of Florence:

when a prelate criticized the nude figures in ‘The Last Judgment’, Michelangelo at once added him to the fresco, showing him in hell, wearing horns, with a serpent twisted around his loins, and when the prelate complained to the pope (Paul III), the pope replied: ‘Had the painter sent you to Purgatory, I would have used my best efforts to get you released, but I exercise no influence in hell; ubi nulla est redemptio.’

The major source of the story is Giorgio Vasari’s Life of Michelangelo in his The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.

Michelagnolo had already carried to completion more than three-fourths of the work, when Pope Paul went to see it. And Messer Biagio da Cesena, the master of ceremonies, a person of great propriety, who was in the chapel with the Pope, being asked what he thought of it, said that it was a very disgraceful thing to have made in so honourable a place all those nude figures showing their nakedness so shamelessly, and that it was a work not for the chapel of a Pope, but for a bagnio or tavern. Michelagnolo was displeased at this, and, wishing to revenge himself, as soon as Biagio had departed he portrayed him from life, without having him before his eyes at all, in the figure of Minos with a great serpent twisted round the legs, among a heap of Devils in Hell; nor was Messer Biagio’s pleading with the Pope and with Michelagnolo to have it removed of any avail, for it was left there in memory of the occasion, and it is still to be seen at the present day.

But I think the Pope’s witty reply comes from another contemporary writer, Lodovico Domenichi – whose account I haven’t tried digging up.


Missing only is the Roman litter

From Mary McCarthy’s The Stones of Florence – on the city’s street traffic (as it was in the 1950s).

Past [the pedestrians] flows a confused stream of human beings and vehicles: baby carriages wheeling in and out of the Boboli Garden, old women hobbling in and out of church, grocery carts, bicycles, Vespas, Lambrettas, motorcycles, topolinos, Fiat seicentos, a trailer, a donkey cart from the country delivering sacks of laundry that has been washed with ashes, in the old-fashioned way, Cadillacs, Alfa-Romeos, millecentos, Chevrolets, a Jaguar, a Rolls-Royce with a chauffeur and a Florence licence plate, bands of brawny workmen carrying bureaus, mirrors, and credenzas (for this is the neighbourhood of the artisans), plumbers tearing up the sidewalk, pairs of American tourists with guidebooks and maps, children, artists from the Pensione Annalena, clerks, priests, housemaids with shopping baskets stopping to finger the furred rabbits hanging upside down outside the poultry shops, the sanitation brigade (a line of blue-uniformed men riding bicycles that propel wheeled platforms holding two or three garbage cans and a broom made of twigs), a pair of boys transporting a funeral wreath in the shape of a giant horseshoe, big tourist buses from abroad with guides talking into microphones, trucks full of wine flasks from the Chianti, trucks of crated lettuces, trucks of live chickens, trucks of olive oil, the mail truck, the telegraph boy on a bicycle, which he parks in the street, a tripe-vendor, with a glassed-in cart full of smoking-hot entrails, outsize Volkswagen station wagons marked ‘U.S. Forces in Germany’, a man on a motorcycle with an overstuffed armchair strapped to the front of it, an organ-grinder, horse-drawn fiacres from the Pitti Palace. It is as though the whole history of Western locomotion were being recapitulated on a single street; an aeroplane hums above; missing only is the Roman litter.