The clouds gleamed gloriously, as if they were smiling to greet newcomers to heaven Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. The two artists sat rather impatiently in the heavenly waiting room, and they refused to pick up any of the literature that lay strewn on the gilded coffee table before them.
This is ridiculous," grumbled Leonardo, who in spite of his age lacked no luster in his eyes. "I am not accustomed to waiting for so long. Indeed, I myself made the King of France, Francis the First, to wait for me. Now, if I am able to keep a mighty monarch..."
Indeed," interrupted Michelangelo. "If you were able to keep the mighty King of France waiting for you, why indeed should you not have to wait at heaven's gate. Whosoever can know the timetable of the angels?"
The angels keep perfect time, I am sure," replied Leonardo, rolling his eyes. "They more than us know the pains involved in sitting on one's bottom for hours on end."
Why, we have barely been here for a matter of minutes. You have grown tedious in your old age, Leonardo. What happened? Have you finally realized how many times you have started something you can't finish? It seems you finally were able to finish your term on Earth. Now that must have felt like a real accomplishment for you."
Leonardo stood up in preparation to strike the belligerent Michelangelo and was also about to remind his contemporary that his nose would not be so horribly disfigured were it not for the blow delivered by Torrigiano, when a light so absurdly bright beamed in on the heavenly waiting room. The source of the illumination could not be ascertained, and nor could either of the artists bear to keep their eyes open any longer. Michelangelo and da Vinci both began to moan in pain from the excessively bright light, when a voice as loud as the light was bright boomed and shook the marble floors.
Men as great as I have made you," said the Voice, "have no right arguing about such petty matters. Onto the two of you I have generously bestowed supernatural talents and perceptions. The great biographer Vasari, of whom I am sure you are both intimately familiar, has praised both of you as gods on earth. Indeed, Michelangelo, Vasari called you the "chosen one," one who was "divinely endowed," (258). These words he chose carefully and did not resort to hyperbole. How could he, when he set his humble eyes on your visionary masterpieces.
When the world was ready for the flowering of genius of the Renaissance, I chose two children in lieu of all others to deliver my words, my visions, and my gifts to humanity. Your works will be preserved and admired not for decades but for centuries and perhaps millennia. I called you here together that we may collectively assess the meaning and import of Art on Earth. It seems our conversations here will be far livelier than even I had imagined -- and I am supposed to be all-knowing."
Michelangelo chuckled at the Voice's dry wit, and shot a boyish glance at his counterpart, who was his senior by several decades.
A always envied him his looks," thought Michelangelo wistfully. "Perhaps I envied him that more than his genius."
Aloud, Michelangelo said, "Forgive me, Great One, if I may be so bold as to directly address you. But I fail to see the value of having this meeting. Whatever could you want from us, mere tools of your mighty Hands?"
Before any answer was offered, the two artists suddenly found themselves carried by a massive gust of wind and set back down in a different room, presumably within the Gates of Heaven. This room was round, the floors made of black and white marble tiles. Doric columns dotted the rotunda, which seemed to float, rather than rest, on top of the columns' capitals. In the center of the room was an altar that curiously resembled Michelangelo's own creation in the Basilica at Saint Peter's square. The two artists sat opposite each other, each in a throne upholstered with violet velvet. They both faced the altar.
The Voice spoke softer now, and the lighting was far more subdued than it was in the waiting room.
I will proceed to ask you both a series of questions about Art and I will also challenge you to defend your creative works. I am doing this for my own enjoyment, and for the enjoyment of my angelic choir, which is fascinated by both of your remarkable talent and productivity. Few figures on Earth will ever reach such lofty levels of achievement in one lifetime. This encounter and interview session serves no purpose but for our own entertainment and for yours, so do enjoy yourself. I will permit verbal banter between the two of you but I will not under any circumstances allow you to fight physically. Shall we begin?"
Both Michelangelo and da Vinci nodded their heads with trepidation. They felt a mutual sympathy, as neither of them knew what to expect, nor how to conduct themselves in Godly Company.
The Voice addressed the first question to Leonardo da Vinci, but not before he advised him that it never mattered that he was an illegitimate child. The Voice also reassured Leonardo that contrary to his fears, he had labored as surely as any artist, inventor, and scientist ever could.
My first question to you, Leonardo, is about your mysterious portrait of Mona Lisa, wife of Francesco del Giocondo. I have gazed upon this painting for what seems like an eternity, without fully fathoming your intent. Would you care to explain to me exactly what this painting means to you, and why the subject of the portrait leaves such a lasting impression in the minds of men?"
To Michelangelo, the Voice said, "When he is finished answering, I would also like to hear your comments about this work of art. Leonardo, you may speak."
Leonardo took a deep breath in, and composed his thoughts. First of all, allow me to say that I painted the "Mona Lisa" in oil colors, which can be used to render texture and emotion. I labored over this piece for four years, and still left it unfinished as I did so many of my works."
Leonardo ignored the sneer coming from the other throne and continued, "I am in earnest quite shocked that the painting has come to stir so many minds and hearts, for I do not consider it myself to be much of anything special. However, if it pleases You, I will attempt to analyze my technique, my intent, and why I feel that the "Mona Lisa" might have come to stir the imagination so.
Like many of my anatomical studies, I attempted to render Mona Lisa with as much realism as I possibly could, to bring her to life on the canvas so that she would appear almost alive. Veritably, I hoped to capture her soul."
Leonardo paused and did not pick up his train of thought, and the Voice did not egg him on. Instead, the Voice addressed Michelangelo and asked for his input.
I have minimal admiration for this painting," said Michelangelo. I feel it is no better than the portraits of Raphael, namely one very similar to this one, entitled "Maddalena." Why the "Mona Lisa" deserves more respect than that, I cannot imagine, especially when the artist himself admits to it not being a completed work of art. Moreover, I believe the artist should have stuck to more religious themes. I do like your "Last Supper," which is a marked improvement on Castagno's rather rigid composition. Yours, Leonardo, is much more passionate and emotional, although I do like the architectural details in the Castagno version. Nevertheless, your frescoed version of "The Last Supper" also contains more depth perspective and has a more sophisticated composition than Castagno was able to create. It is too bad that the fresco is in such horrible condition."
The Voice spoke out in agreement with this last statement by Michelangelo, who seemed more than willing to continue commenting on da Vinci's "Last Supper."
Very well, Michelangelo. You seem to favor religious subject matters in your own works, and have left a plethora of visual arts, both paintings and sculptures, that deal with Christian topics. Indeed, your remarkable work on the Sistine Chapel at St. Peter's proves your devotion to spiritual matters." spent seventeen years laboring on that massive task, and ran into many personal obstacles along the way, as Vasari was so kind to document in his biography. However, the experience of working with his Holiness Pope Julius and subsequent Popes inspired me to work with such spiritual matters. I believe any good artist must be blessed by God and therefore must show honor and devotion through the mediums of art."
It was now Leonardo's chance to respond, and instead of argue with this…