Florence in 1508 was an exciting, bustling metropolis; however, Michelangelo barely had time to enjoy the city and his family before he was again called to Rome. With some misgivings, he left Florence in early spring, 1508. He was correct to be anxious because Pope Julius, instead of renewing the commission for his tomb, assigned him a task ill-suited to a marble sculptor: the painting of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling. Michelangelo's knee-jerk objection that “painting is not my art” – as previously, bronze casting “non era mia arte” – proved ineffectual against the will of the pope. Like other commissions that Michelangelo had initially resisted, once reconciled to the task, he would devote unrestrained energy to it.
For the next four years, between 1508 and 1512, Michelangelo struggled with the manifold difficulties of painting the highly irregular, leaky vault. The commission presented formidable obstacles but also unleashed the artist's imagination.
AT WORK IN THE SISTINE CHAPEL
On a memorandum dated April 1508, Michelangelo noted expenses for a new pair of stockings, a lining for a leather doublet, and the transport of a bundle of the artist's drawings from Florence to Rome. Always insisting on the best quality materials, Michelangelo obtained from Florence azurite to make the deepest blue paint. On May 10, he received 500 ducats “on account of the painting of the vault of the chapel of Pope Sixtus, which work I began today.” He began with his usual concentrated fury, neglectful of health and sociability.