Meanwhile, Cesare abode in Rome, no doubt impatient of the interruption which his campaign had suffered, and which it seemed must continue yet awhile. Lodovico Sforza had succeeded in driving the French out of his dominions as easily as he, himself, had been driven out by them a few months earlier. But Louis XII sent down a fresh army under La Tremouille, and Lodovico, basely betrayed by his Swiss mercenaries at Novara in April, was taken prisoner.
That was the definite end of the Sforza rule in Milan. For ten years the crafty, scheming Lodovico was left to languish a prisoner in the Castle of Loches, at the end of which time he miserably died.
Immediately upon the return of the French to Milan, the Pope asked for troops that Cesare might resume his enterprise not only against Pesaro, Faenza, and Rimini, but also against Bologna, where Giovanni Bentivogli had failed to support as in duty bound the King of France against Lodovico Sforza. But Bentivogli repurchased the forfeited French protection at the price of 40,000 ducats, and so escaped the impending danger ; whilst Venice, it happened, was growing concerned to see no profit accruing to herself out of this league with France and Rome ; and that was a matter which her trader spirit could not brook. Therefore, Venice intervened in the matter of Rimini and Faenza, which she protected in somewhat the same spirit as the dog protected the straw in the manger. Next, when, having conquered the Milanese, Louis XII turned his thoughts to the conquest of Naples, and called upon Venice to march with him as became a good ally, the Republic made it quite clear that she was not disposed to move unless there was to be some profit to herself. She pointed out that Mantua and Ferrara were in the same case as Bologna, for having failed to lend assistance to the French in the hour of need, and proposed to Louis XII the conquest and division of those territories.
Thus matters stood, and Cesare had perforce to await the conclusion of the Pisan War in which the French were engaged, confident, however, that, once that was at an end, Louis, in his anxiety to maintain friendly relations with the Pope, would be able to induce Venice to withdraw her protection from Rimini and Faenza. So much accomplished for him, he was now in a position to do the rest without the aid of French troops if necessary. The Jubilee protracted for a further year, so vast and continuous was the concourse of the faithful, 200,000 of whom knelt in the square before St. Peter's on Easter Day to receive the Pope's blessing was pouring vast sums of money into the pontifical coffers, and for money men were to be had in plenty by a young condottiero whose fame had been spreading ever since his return from the Romagna. He was now the hope of the soldiers of fortune who abounded in Italy, attracted thither from all quarters by the continual opportunities for employment which that tumultuous land afforded.
It is in speaking of him at about this time, and again praising his personal beauty and fine appearance, that Capello says of him that, if he lives, he will be one of Italy's greatest captains.
Such glimpses as in the pages of contemporary records we are allowed of Cesare during that crowded time of the Papal Jubilee are slight and fleeting. On April 13 we see him on horseback accompanying the Pope through Rome in the cavalcade that visited the four Basilicas to win the indulgence offered, and, as usual, he is attended by his hundred armed grooms in black.
On another occasion we behold him very differently engaged giving an exhibition of his superb physical gifts, his strength, his courage, and his matchless address. On June 24, at a bull fight held in Rome the Spanish tauromachia having been introduced from Naples, where it flourished under the Aragon dominion he went down into the arena, and on horseback, armed only with a light lance, he killed five wild bulls. But the master stroke he reserved for the end. Dismounting, and taking a double handed sword to the sixth bull that was loosed against him, he beheaded the great beast at one single stroke, " a feat which all Rome considered great."
Thus sped the time of waiting, and meanwhile he gathered about him a Court not only of captains of fortune, but of men of art and letters, whom he patronized with a liberality indeed, a prodigality so great that it presently became proverbial, and, incidentally, by its proportions provoked his father's disapproval. In the brilliant group of men of letters who enjoyed his patronage were such writers as Justolo, Sperulo, and that unfortunate poet Serafino Cimino da Aquila, known to fame and posterity as the great Aquilano. And it would be, no doubt, during these months that Pier di Lorenzo painted that portrait of Cesare which Vasari afterwards saw in Florence, but which, unfortunately, is not now known to exist. Bramante, too, was of his Court at this time, as was Michelangelo Buonarroti, whose superb group of " Mercy," painted for Cardinal de Villiers, had just amazed all Rome. With Pinturicchio, and Leonardi da Vinci whom we shall see later beside Cesare Michelangelo was ever held in the highest esteem by the duke.
The story of that young sculptor's leap into fame may not be so widely known but that its repetition may be tolerated here, particularly since, remotely at least, it touches Cesare Borgia.
When, in 1496, young Buonarroti, at the age of twenty three, came from Florence to Rome to seek his fortune at the opulent Pontifical Court, he brought a letter of recommendation to Cardinal Sforza-Riario. This was the time of the great excavations about Rome; treasures of ancient art were daily being rescued from the soil, and Cardinal Sforza-Riario was a great dilletante and collector of the antique. With pride of possession, he conducted the young sculptor through his gallery, and, displaying his statuary to him, inquired could he do anything that might compare with it. If the cardinal meant to use the young Florentine cavalierly, his punishment was immediate and poetic, for amid the antiques
Michelangelo beheld a sleeping Cupid which he instantly claimed as his own work. Riario was angry; no doubt suspicious, too, of fraud. This Cupid was as its appearance showed a genuine antique, which the cardinal had purchased from a Milanese dealer for two hundred ducats. Michelangelo, in a passion, named the dealer one Baldassare to whom he had sent the statue after treating it, with the questionable morality of the cinquecentist, so as to give it the appearance of having lain in the ground, to the end that Baldassare might dispose of it as an antique.
His present fury arose from his learning the price paid by the cardinal to Baldassare, from whom Michelangelo had received only thirty ducats. In his wrath he demanded very arbitrarily it seems the return of his statue. But to this the cardinal would not consent until Baldassare had been arrested and made to disgorge the money paid him. Then, at last, Sforza-Riario complied with Michelangelo's demands and delivered him his Cupid a piece of work whose possession had probably ceased to give any pleasure to that collector of the antique.
But the story was bruited abroad, and cultured Rome was agog to see the statue which had duped so astute a judge as Sforza-Riario. The fame of the young sculptor spread like a ripple over water, and it was Cesare Borgia at that time still Cardinal of Valencia who bought the Cupid. Years later he sent it to Isabella d'Este, assuring her that it had not its equal among contemporary works of art.