I was dead when I last saw Michelangelo. The year was 1492. The location was Florence, Italy. We didn’t know at the time but we were in the midst of a transformation of art, architecture, politics and humanism that three hundred years later would be called the Renaissance. During my living years, Michelangelo came to know me more intimately than my husband, grew to love me more loyally than my parents, and risked his life on my behalf as no one had ever done before.
Together, we would solve one of the greatest murder mysteries of the Italian Renaissance.
I first met Michelangelo in 1485 when I was fifteen years old and working at the ink and parchment booth across from Marco Pignolo’s fish stand at the old market. Marco was a kind man who was so tall and thin I imagined him blowing in a breeze like laundry hung to dry. The only things he loved more than God were displaying and selling his fish, spoiling his children, and building furniture that were precise replicas of the grandiose chests, beds and dressers of the Medici. He gave them away to the poor.
I was betrothed to Bruno Manetti, the parchment maker’s son. While my father had saved for my dowry, he had also lost most of it gambling on stone throwing. When my mother opened the worn case where my dowry was kept and discovered the savings were as small as a bead of sweat, arrangements were made for me to work at the Manetti family booth until I earned enough wages for my nuptial offering to be deemed sufficient.