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Michelangelo Buonarroti vs Leonardo da Vinci

July 16, 2009

One hall, two opposite walls, two giants of Renaissance.

Location

The Palazzo Vecchio (“Old Palace”, aka Palazzo della Signoria) is the town hall of Florence. Salone dei Cinquecento (“Hall of Five Hundred”) chamber was built in 1494 by Simone del Pollaiolo, on commission of Savonarola who left a lasting impression on Michelangelo. Even close to the end of his life, Michelangelo clearly recalled Savonarola’s voice.

Battle of Cascina

Copy painted by Michelangelo’s pupil Aristotele da Sangallo

Michelangelo’s study for the Battle of Cascina

The painting was commissioned from Michelangelo by Piero Soderini, statesman of the Republic of Florence. The Battle of Cascina was fought on 28 July 1364 between the troops of Florence and Pisa, resulting in victory of the former. A thousand Pisans were killed and two thousand more were captured.

Michelangelo never completed the painting, but did produce a complete cartoon of the composition. The cartoon was copied by several artists, the most notable extant copy being by Michelangelo’s pupil Sangallo. Michelangelo depicted a scene at the beginning of the battle when the Florentine army was initially taken by surprise when the Pisans attacked.

The painting was not completed because Michelangelo was invited back to Rome in 1505 by the newly appointed Pope Julius II and was commissioned to build the Pope’s tomb.

Julius II interrupted the project to great disappointment of Michelangelo. The original project called for a freestanding, three-level structure with some 40 statues. After the pope’s death in 1513, the scale of the project was reduced step-by-step until, in 1542, a final contract specified a simple wall tomb with fewer than one-third of the originally planned figures.

Battle of Anghiari

Peter Paul Rubens’s copy of The Battle of Anghiari.

Leonardo’s study for the Battle of Anghiari

In 1504 Leonardo da Vinci was given the commission by gonfaloniere Piero Soderini, a contract signed by no less than Niccolò Machiavelli, to decorate the Hall of Five Hundred.

Leonardo da Vinci drew his large cartoon in the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, depicting a scene from the life of Niccolò Piccinino, a condottieri in the service of duke Filippo Maria Visconti of Milan. He drew a scene of a violent clash of horses and a furious battle of men fighting for the flag in the Battle of Anghiari.

He began also to experiment with such a thick undercoat (possibly mingled with wax), that after he applied the colours, the paint began to drip. Trying to dry the painting in a hurry and save whatever he could, he hung large charcoal braziers close to the painting. Only the lower part could be saved in an intact state. But the upper part couldn’t dry fast enough and the colours intermingled. Leonardo then abandoned the project.

This was the only time that Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo worked together on the same project. Michelangelo’s and Leonardo’s unfinished paintings hung in the same room together for almost a decade (1505-1512). The cartoon of Michelangelo’s painting was cut in pieces by Bartolommeo Bandinelli out of jealousy in 1512. In the mid-16th century (1555-1572), the hall was enlarged and restructured by Vasari and his helpers, so that Grand Duke Cosimo I could hold his court in this chamber. During this transformation, famous (but unfinished) works were lost, including the “Battle of Cascina” by Michelangelo and the “Battle of Anghiari” by Leonardo da Vinci.

Further Reading:

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38 comments

  1. very nice. while julius ii’s tomb is very cool (horned moses and all) my favorite is a couple of tombs he did for the medici (lorenzo and one other i can’t remember). beautiful statues!


    • Yes, those are excellent :) The other one was Giuliano de’ Medici, but I prefer Lorenzo’s version :)

      Michelangelo was really great! He painted this when he was 13!


      • I’d settle with either design for my crypt. That last painting was amazing, never saw it before!!


        • haha That would be great to have such a tomb :)

          Well, it is relatively recently discovered drawing. 13-year-olds didn’t draw Pokemon in those days :P


  2. I am a great fan of Michelangelo. I know Leonardo is considered to be a bigger figure (being smarter and more inventive I guess), but I still prefer Michelangelo’s works when it comes to sculptures and paintings.

    I’ve actually been to that Giuliano tomb you’ve linked as well. Simply beautiful. Without exaggeration, it was one of the most powerful you could ask for from sculpture. I think it had more to do with the way sculpture interacted with the architecture though. The spatial quality was just…serene…heavenly…it also helps that there are no tourists inside! I am convinced by this fact because, when you take a look at Michelangelo’s Pieta in Basillica, the sculpture of Pieta is arguably superior to the sculptures in the crypt, but its positioned like a sight-seeing object for tourists, and its relationship with surrounding architectural element is really detached. Such an overlooked place that krypt, must visit for anyone interested in sculptures!

    I wonder if you’ve read Irving Stone’s novel, ‘Agony and Ecstasy’. Really interesting looking at Michelangelo’s life from fictional perspective (of course, based on facts as well, but with a slice of romance, drama, etc etc).


    • Indeed, Michelangelo’s sculptures are superb :) As for the drawings, I don’t have a strong preference for one or another because each has some excellent masterpieces, however, the scale and complexity of Sistine Chapel and The Last Judgment are definitely breathtaking :)

      Oh, that must have been an exciting experience to see Giuliano’s tomb :) It sounds like you were very impressed :) Yes, the design of the space is very important and can significantly enhance spectator’s experience. Well, perhaps sometime in 15 years, if I am still alive, I might travel to Florence to see it :)

      Ah yes, Agony and Ecstasy is a good book, recommended to me by a scientist sometime ago because it illustrates a creative process :) Irving Stone conducted a thorough research for this novel.


      • Oh yes I was very very impressed…actually it’s the one and only time I just dropped to my knees and started crying just from seeing sculptures (it’s not so hard to cry from watchin films/anime/listening to music, but for me it’s almost impossible to cry from looking at sculptures/paintings/etc.) So yeah…make a big note somewhere to visit that place when you do travel!


        • Oh wow, what an incredible experience! Thank you for sharing – I’ll definitely try to see the place with my own eyes! :)


        • must..go…to…Florence..

          the problem is, there’s so many friggin places to go. Italy, Spain, France, Greece…I’ve been to the last 2 but of course I’ve only seen a fraction of the art there. Florence I guess should be at the top of the list.


          • Indeed, the list of worthy places is long. Hopefully, we’ll find the time to visit eventually :)


  3. You all HAVE to visit Florence! The art there is truely amazing. I didn’t think it was such a big deal when I first went there, but as soon as I got to see only a few pieces of art, I knew I hit the right place! I love Michelangelo’s sculptors. I find them exteremly interesting and amusing. I always wonder hoe he got all his wondrful ideas, but in Florence, you’ll probably get to see most of his works if you know where to go. It deserves to be prioritized from the other places you want to go. I hope you all have the great experiences I did if you ever do get the chance to go to Florence…. I wish you all luck!!!! ^.^


    • It sounds like you really enjoyed your trip there :) I’ll have to find the time to visit :) Thank you :)


      • Okai! It’ll be great! That, I can promise!! :)


  4. Yes I did! It is a wonderful place to visit! Not to go there would be missing an opportunity of a lifetime!! I really did enjoy my trip thank you! :D And I really would like you all to go there and see all the wonderful things I did! I LOVE ITALY!!!!!!!! :D :D :D


    • Oh, you are very enthusiastic about the place – it must be really good :)


      • Hehe…well, it IS a pretty amazing place! I would love to go there again if I wasn’t a little short on money….. :D


  5. Also, does anyone know about the last picture that was posted up there? I’ve never seen that one before…..hmm…..


    • The last picture is Leonardo’s study for the Battle of Anghiari.


      • Oh really? Cool….But you know, I never really preferred Michelangelo’s painting over da Vinci’s. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because i find Michelangelo’s drawings are a little….how do I say this…..umm…..well, lower quality comapred to his sculptors. I ADORE his sculptors, but prefer da Vinci’s painting. It’s just my opinion…..


  6. :) Oh I researched that picture…..was that the one Michelangelo painted for the government for one of the official’s offices or something? I’m not sure if that’s correct, so I was wondering if any of you know anything about that picture….. :)


    • I am not sure to what picture you are referring to.


      • Oh my gosh! I was sooooo wrong about that!! I was talking about the last picture I mentioned in my last comment….I don’t know why the website I checked was so wrong! Hehe…..sorry!! :”3


  7. :P


  8. Oh my gosh! Sorry! Please excuse that face…..Ii accidentally put it there. I didn’t mean to seriously! It just slipped :”3 I really A sorry…..I won’t do it again….it probably annoyed you or maye disturbed you, but nevertheless, I am exrtemely sorry for my inconvinienceing you!!! :(


    • Um… No problem. Typos happen, and I was not annoyed or disturbed in any way.


      • Oh my gosh! THANK YOU! Urgh….I’m doing it again! No! I have OCD….I know, I just can’t STAND anything being not perfect!!! :”3 Sorry! I’ll try not to do it again!


  9. Oh and Kitsune, I have a question for you if you don’t mind me asking. Did you create this website? I was just curious since your icon appeared at the top of my internet tab to show what the site is about….of course, if you don’t want to tell me, I understand. After all, I was just curious… :P :D :)


    • Yes, this is my blog, and the icon is a mini version of my avatar – it is a feature of WordPress blogs.


      • Oh really? That’s nice! :) I am getting to like this website actually…..very much…even though I only knew about it a few days ago!! :D


        • Thank you :)


          • You are very welcome!! :)


  10. heeeeeeeeeeeeeey


    • Umm……hello?


  11. This blog is really excellent.


  12. michangelo was a huge enemy of da vinci bc of jealousy of how amazing da vinci was but michangelo was just awful


    • That’s quite a strong opinion you have. They were both great masters – I wouldn’t consider any of them awful.


  13. Leonardo Da Vinci is waayyy cuter than Michelangelo!!! Jus sayin.


    • haha Perhaps, he is :)



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