Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci are considered two of the greatest artists ever lived. They both lived in Florence, Italy, during the same time.
Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci knew each other but were considered bitter rivals. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo knew each other, but they did like each other. They were both asked to do a commission on the Council Hall of the Palazzo Vecchio and were supposed to work side-by-side; the project was never completed.
The Rivalry Of Leonardo da Vinci And Michelangelo
Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo knew each other but were in a bitter rivalry and painting contest. The rivalry and painting contest is one of the most exciting stories of the Renaissance era.
In 1569, Giorgio Vasari wrote his iconic book “The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.” In this book, Giorgio gives first-hand knowledge of many of the painters and sculptors of the Renaissance, including the lives of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
In the early 1500s, Michelangelo and Leonardo were commissioned to paint side-by-side battle scenes in the Palazzo Vecchio Council Hall in Florence, known today as the Salone dei Cinquecento. These two great artists were told to paint different mural scenes on opposite sides of the hall; they were to paint the battles scenes simultaneously and work side-by-side in the same building.
At the time, Michelangelo was only 29 years old when the commission came to him. He was born in 1475 and had studied sculpture under Lorenzo de Medici. Michelangelo had completed the statue of Pieta in St Peter’s in Rome, and his famous statue of David was installed outside the Palazzo Vecchio.
Also, at the time of this commission, Leonardo was in his early 50s. He had finished the Mona Lisa painting and became a prominent painter in Florence and throughout Europe. He would have felt that his talent and abilities were already well established, and he did not need to prove anything to anyone.
The Leonardo da Vinci And Michelangelo Contest
Both Leonardo and Michelangelo were commissioned to paint a vast battle scene on the walls of the Council Hall. They were to work side-by-side; many saw this as a contest between these two great artists to see who was the most significant artist.
This art commission was considered one of the most important and significant art commissions of the Renaissance era. Leonardo and Michelangelo were to work in the same hall but on opposite walls.
Leonardo, in particular, saw this commission as a kind of competition. He was much older and well-established; he felt he had nothing to prove to anyone.
Leonardo was commissioned to paint “The Battles of Anghiari,” a scene from the 15th-century wars between Florence and Milan.
After receiving his commission, a much younger Michelangelo was commissioned to paint “The Battle of Cascina” on the opposite wall.
Michelangelo got the commission the same month that Leonardo revised his contract with the Signoria of Florence to put back the date to complete his painting. Leonardo had accepted his commission first, and then after he was working on the mural, Michelangelo was also given a commission.
Michelangelo’s statue of David was installed outside the Palazzo Vecchio when we received the commission. For Leonardo, this showed that he had a rival, and a sort of competition had begun.
Many saw these two commissions to paint these battle scenes as a competition. But with the competition came other human emotions such as paranoia, jealousy, and rage.
Michelangelo had very little time for Leonardo. He made his dislike of Leonardo very clear, and his disapproval was so apparent that he left Florence and went to France to get away from him.
Leonardo made a lot of notes in his notebook to show how much he disliked Michelangelo. He was known to criticize Michelangelo and disregard his art and artistic abilities.
The Commissions Of Leonardo And Michelangelo
Even more interesting is what has happened to these grand murals that both Leonardo and Michelangelo were commissioned to paint. Neither of them completed their murals.
We do not know why the murals were never even started. For both Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci this commission to paint the murals in the Palazzo Vecchio Commons Hall would have been a significant commission.
The Battle Of Anghiari By Leonardo da Vinci
The Battle of Anghiari is considered by many to be “The Lost Leonardo.” The only thing we have left of this painting is Leonardo’s sketches to plan the mural.
The central theme of the painting would have depicted four men riding horses while raging war and engaging in a fierce battle. In true Leonardo fashion, these studies give vivid details of what he planned to paint.
The Battle of Anghiari is called “The Lost Leonardo,” There was also some controversy if Leonardo painted the painting, but it was later painted over. Many believe that Leonardo’s painting was painted over when Giorgio Vasari painted the murals on the walls.
But modern scanning techniques have revealed that Leonardo never painted the murals. Instead, he only planned the mural but never did the actual painting.
Perhaps this is why in his 1569 book on the Renaissance that Giorgio Vasari wrote this about Leonardo da Vinci:
As we can see from this write-up, Giorgio Vasari felt Leonardo was a marvelous artist. Still, during his lifetime, he seems to have the reputation of not finishing some of the art or commission he was given. Leonardo was known to be a notoriously slow and methodical painter.
We do not know why Leonardo did not finish the mural of The Battle of Anghiari. From the recent scans of the walls, he never painted the mural but only did the preliminary sketches.
The Battle of Cascina by Michelangelo
The other wall commissioned to be painted by Michelangelo was the Battle of Cascina. Like Leonardo, Michelangelo only completed the preliminary drawings for the mural.
He did not finish the mural because he was called to Rome by Pope Julius II to start the work on the Pope’s tomb.
We know that Michelangelo did the sketches, but we do not understand why he never completed the mural. Some feel it was because of the tension that was going on between Leonardo and Michelangelo; it could be that never Leonardo and Michelango wanted to be part of this contest or competition, so they decided not to finish the work and participate in a contest people were trying to force them into.
Why these two murals were commissioned by never finished remains one of the great mysteries of the Renaissance era.
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