...I was called to an audience with his Holiness. He wanted to speak to me on some matter relating to my fresco. So I came from Florence to see him - I had been in my hometown many months now, embroiled in endless troubles with my family.
As soon as I got into town, I was received into his Holiness’ chambers. We talked a while on trivial things, until he finally broached the subject: the reason for which I had been called.
’Brown spots,’ he said.
’Brown spots? Where, your Holiness?’
’Your ceiling is getting full of spots. The faithful are talking about it.’
’I see,’ I said. ’Damnation,’ I thought to myself, ’I knew those touch-ups a seco would come back to haunt me.’
’They’re big and brown in some spots,’ said the Pontiff, ’and they’re getting bigger and browner by the day. I want you to do something about it.’
’But your Holiness, I’m a busy man, with many projects. Perhaps one of my assistants can tend to it. Sebastiano’s in town. I can vouch for him. He can fix it.’
’I don’t want Sebastiano,’ said the Pope. ’I want you. Listen, that ceiling is your creation and I expect you to take care of it. I will take no refusal.’ The Pope was adamant.
’As you wish your Holiness,’ I said as I bowed low and kissed his ring (his hand reeked, and it almost made me retch).
’And of course, you’ll do this gratis. Julius paid you enough for it already.’
’Of course,’ I said meekly, but indignant inside.
I crawled to my little hovel - the same one I languished in for those five long years - to brood and lament my misfortunes.
Within days, I had gotten in touch with friends Sebastiano and Jacopo, who promised to help me in their free time; had secured the services of the best scaffolding man in Rome; had gotten together my tools; had obtained all my paints - that includes azure of the finest quality from the Jesuati at The Monastery of San Giusto, a most expensive pigment.
Within the week, I was up on my scaffold, working day and night so I could finish this job all the more quickly. Sebastiano and Jacopo came as promised - they are true and faithful friends - mostly in the evenings. And we toiled feverishly, though we did, on occasion, stop to talk about old times and about new times too. Sebastiano was a real joker besides, and spent any idle second poking jibes at poor Jacopo, who, because he was so surly, made for an even more appealing victim for the other’s wit.
I had started on Adam, whose manhood was getting a brown spot on it. I figured this was the highest priority, because it was my showpiece.
My friends were working on other places where the paint was mouldering into a grimy brown scum, and were dulling my bright colours. Being painters of extraordinary talents (perhaps exceeding my own, though they themselves would deny that to their graves) they did impeccable work. And they showed a dedication that put me to shame, and I felt that shame strongly. ’This is the most significant work I can ever do,’ said Sebastiano, ’more important than any sorry painting I’ve ever done. I feel I’m working next to God up here. I don’t ever want to come down.’ Jacopo, on his side, just shrugged when he heard the other’s effusions, and grunted, and carried on with his work as a blithely as a carpenter or a stone mason would carry on with his.