The Lost Battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo and the Artistic Duel That Defined the Renaissance  by Jonathan  Jones
(Simon & Schuster, 2010)

The Lost Battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo and the Artistic Duel That Defined the Renaissance

by Jonathan Jones

Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti found it painful to live in the same country, let alone the same city, let alone work in the same room. When, at the start of the sixteenth century, they were both employed to create wall paintings of battles in The Great Council Hall in Florence, all hell broke loose. Their lives would never be the same again, neither would the story of art.

‘You who tried to make a bronze horse in Milan and gave up in shame’ …’Be careful you do not make your nudes look wooden’…’Bastard’…The insults flew thick and fast when the two greatest artists of the Renaissance were thrown into competition. Stories of their mutual hatred circulated in sixteenth–century Italy and here, for the first time, these tales are tested against the evidence to create a startling flesh-and-blood portrait of genius.

In 1503 da Vinci started to paint the Mona Lisa. It so delighted his fellow citizens that that the fifty-one-year-old was asked to paint a mural in the government palace of the Florentine Republic. It was his finest hour. But in the nearby cathedral workshop a young sculptor named Michelangelo was finishing a statue of David.

Niccolò Machiavelli, author of The Prince, helped to set up a formal competition between the two. It was a defining moment, the mirror of an entire age. The Lost Battles is a rediscovery, not only of two lost masterpieces of Leonardo and Michelangelo, and of the Renaissance world that inspired them, but their emotional lives.

The Lost Battles will be published in the US by Knopf later on this year.

Reviews

A superb account of two of the Renaissance's greatest geniuses revealing the rivalrous passions that drove their work.”
- The Observer
A rich and intricate story . . . full of colourful incident and detail, both historical and artistic . . . Jonathan Jones writes with engaging passion.”
- RA Magazine
A story of rivalry, political intrigue and conspiracy . . . beguilingly written.”
- The Guardian
What comes through most strongly is an irrepressible yearning: to live in times when art was expected to engage the populace, and when colossi walked the Earth.”
- The Telegraph
A superb account of two of the Renaissance's greatest geniuses revealing the rivalrous passions that drove their work. ”
- The Observer
Engaging . . . reveals the insults, egos and formal competitions that separated these two giants of the 16th century art world”
- Artists & Illustrators Magazine
Jonathan Jones's account of this competition is thrilling, written with a novelist's sense of pace.”
- The Independent
Splendid… eloquent and compelling.”
- The Daily Mail