Another pleasure of this book is its focus on ‘the unsung heroes of Michelangelo’s old age’ – the building-site overseers, collaborating artists, assistants and friends who made possible many of the achievements that history has labelled with Michelangelo’s name. He demolishes the popular image of an isolated old genius, who ‘snarled at the world like a dog from his kennel’. Instead, we get Michelangelo the solicitous, if grumpy, uncle, the caring employer, the animal-lover, whose cat ‘lamented’ his absence. When his long-time assistant Urbino fell dangerously ill, Michelangelo shelled out for a stomach-churning cocktail of treatments: alongside cinnamon, cloves and rose water, poor Urbino swallowed fox oil, powdered antler and pubic hair. When Urbino died, Michelangelo felt ‘lifeless myself and can find no peace’.
Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane
"as Karen Jones sets out dismayingly early in her book, the only things that the real-life ‘Calamity Jane’ can with confidence be said to have in common with her legend is that she wore trousers, swore like a navvy and was pissed all the time..."
— The Spectator