Cecchino dei Bracci
Cecchino Bracci (real name Francesco de Zanobi Bracci) (Florence, 1527 – Rome, 8 January 1544) was a pupil of Michelangelo. He died at the age of sixteen and is buried in Santa Maria in Aracoeli, in a tomb designed by Michelangelo.
Life and legacy
The family Bracci had moved to Florence in 1395 from Vinci. In the 16th century they were among the richest of the Florentine banking families, and friends of the Medici. They acquired palazzo Neroni in via de' Ginori and a chapel in Santa Maria Novella.
Around 1540 Cecchino accompanied his uncle, Luigi del Riccio, to Rome where he had links with the Strozzi banking family. Cechino's beauty and manners made him welcome at the papal court. During his staying he met some of the major Florentine artists working in the city, including Michelangelo. It is likely that the two became lovers.
He died in 1544, and his devastated uncle begged Michelangelo to design the tomb and write some verses as an epitaph. On 12 January del Riccio wrote to his friend Donato Gionnoti, at Vicenza: "Alas, my friend Donato! Our Cecchio is dead. All Rome weeps. Michelangelo is making for me the design of a decent sepulture in marble; and I pray you to write me the epitaph, and to send it to me with a consolatory letter, if time permits, for my grief has distraught me. Patience! I live with a thousand and a thousand deaths each hour. O God! How has Fortune changed his aspect!"
Michelangelo composed more than forty-two epigrams of four lines each. In a letter to del Riccio Michelangelo wrote of Cecchino as "the flame who consumes me" and related a dream in which the boy "mocked my senile love"; also alluding to physical consummation in one of his quatrains: "Do yet attest for him how gracious I was in bed/ When he embraced, and in what the soul doth live." This was accompanied by a note advising Riccio to burn the last two lines "in the fire without witness", lest Michelangelo be disgraced.
Cecchino was buried in the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, one of the most ancient and sacred churches in Rome.
References in Michelangelo's Poetry
Bracci is seen in Michelangelo's poem G.193 where he laments that he did not get to know him for long enough. He states:
- Scarce had I seen for the first time his eyes,
- Which to your living eyes were life and light,
- When, closed at last in death's injurious night,
- He opened then on God in Paradise.