Gayle Millbank has lived in Saanich many years. For 14 years she studied figurative clay-sculpting with the late Peggy Walton Packard, which fostered a deep love and appreciation for both Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
When she and her husband visited Florence and Vinci she was further inspired: in Michelangelo’s home she viewed his first bas relief, The Battle of the Centaurs, and was so close to it she could see his fine chisel marks. In Vinci she was awed by the genius of Leonardo’s sketches and inventions.
On returning to Victoria she decided to write Michelangelo’s diary. First she gathered information about his life, the popes and the Medici family; then each year on his birthday she imagined what his life was like and who or what was influencing it and wrote in his journal. The Lost Journals of Michelangelo flowed easily.
During her research for the Journals she discovered that these great artistic titans, for a unique, little known period of a few months in 1505 were in the Great Hall of the Palazzo Vecchio. They each had a commission to paint a mural depicting Firenze’s glory in battle. Leonardo, 53 years old, had just returned after years away and completing the Last Supper in Milan.
No doubt Leonardo was travelling with his household which included his adopted son. Salai was 23 and known to be a thief and a trouble-maker, but he was also beautiful and included in many of Leonardo’s paintings. Michelangelo, 30 years old, had completed the Pieta in Rome and David in Firenze and was being pressured by the Pope to return to Rome.
On discovering the above, Millbank’s imagination went wild, wondering what had transpired in that room. Did Salai, the devil, create conflict? How did Leonardo, well travelled and sophisticated, relate to the burley, rough stone cutter? Intrigued, she crafted this stage play, Florence 1505, Leonardo Battles Michelangelo, in order to dramatize that great moment.
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