"Far above all others, without comparison," says Vasari, "he loved Tommaso dei Cavalieri, a Roman noble, a young man devoted to art … Michael Angelo drew a life-size portrait of him, his first and last, for he abhorred drawing anything that was not of the utmost beauty."
"When I saw Messer Tommaso Cavalieri at Rome he was not only of incomparable beauty but possessed such grace of manner, such a distinguished mind and such nobility of conduct that he well merited being loved, and all the more so as one got to know him."
Michael Angelo met him in Rome in the autumn of 1532. The first letter in which Cavalieri replies to Michael Angelo’s impassioned declarations is full of dignity:
"I have received a letter from you, which has been all the dearer to me because it was unexpected. I say unexpected because I do not consider myself sufficiently worthy to be written to by a man such as you. As to what you have said in my praise, and as to these works of mine, for which you assure me you have felt no small sympathy, I reply that they were not of a nature to warrant a man with a genius like yours—a genius such as is, I will not say without a parallel, but without a rival upon earth—to write to a young man who has barely made his début and who is so ignorant. I cannot believe, however, that you lie. I believe, yes, I am certain, that the affection which you show me has no other cause than the love that a man like you, who is the personification of art, must necessarily have for those who devote themselves to art and love it. I am one of those, and as
- Benedetto Varchi’s "Due lezzioni," 1549.