On the 500th Anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, a look at a masterpiece, the Battle of Anghiari, and its Fabled Competition with Michelangelo for the Laurel of Greatest High Renaissance Artist in Sixteenth-Century Italy.

Profile Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, attributed to Francesco Melzi, circa 1515–1517, Royal Trust Collection.

On May 2, 2019, the world remembered the day 500 years ago when Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Italian Renaissance artist and polymath, died. The 67-year-old applied the spheres of the human brain to its many branches of knowledge and voraciously fused his interests and studies into one lifetime that inspired universal learning in Europe.

Leonardo da Vinci made original contributions as an inventor, draftsman, painter, sculptor, architect, scientist, musician, mathematician, engineer, writer, anatomist, geologist, astronomer, botanist, paleontologist and cartographer.1 Leonardo was involved in military science, hydraulics, aerodynamics, and optics. Used by princes and admired by kings, charming and handsome Leonardo da Vinci could show in his notebooks that he was often misanthropic.2 A significant part of his important visionary achievements is that Leonardo da Vinci painted two of the most reproduced artistic masterpieces of all time: the Mona Lisa (1503, Louvre. Paris) and The Last Supper (1490s, Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan). Leonardo, after a lifetime of adventure, curiosity, and solid achievement died in Amboise, France, following a short illness.

Italy, c. 1500.

In 1516 Leonardo left Italy for the first time to live in France under the protection of its most cultured young French king, François I (1494-1547). As a dedicated artist, Leonardo experienced a lifetime of disappointment from most of his would-be patrons starting with his father through to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Magnificent (1449-1492), hapless Milanese duke Ludovico Sforza (1452-1508), Milanese governor Charles II d’Amboise (1473-1511), and Lorenzo’s son and a papal brother, Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici (1479-1516), among others. As Leonardo was ahead of his times it can be said that only at the end of the artist’s life—in 1516, under the wing of François I—that the bulk of his times, that is, the temporarily powerful men in them, had failed him and mankind’s enduring greatness. François I was Leonardo’s first unconditional patron3—while the rest, relatively speaking, are history’s minor players.

François I, Jean Clouet, c. 1530. Louvre, Paris.

Lorenzo the Magnificent, Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572), Uffizi, Florence, Italy.

Ludovico Sforza (detail), Master of the Pala Sforzesca, c.1495, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy.

Charles II d’Amboise, Andrea Solario, 1507.

Giuliano de’ Medici, Raphael.

At Leonardo’s death his reputation as an artist and man rested, as Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) relates, on his physical strength, generosity, and artistic innovations which brought art and society out of its reliance on the past and its well-intentioned model books into a future of science and art which characterized the best of the Renaissance period. Because of Leonardo’s lifetime of study and work, mostly in isolation from a majority of his fellow artists’ and other practitioners’ careers, he bore the fruit of innovation, including new and creative forms and motifs for art. These emanated out of the imagination of the individual artist who closely observed the workings of nature. Leonardo’s artistic innovations included the subtle skill of sfumato (shadowing) and, as a draughtsman, progressive chalk and cross-hatching techniques. These inspired other great artists, like Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), and only begins to account for the knowledge Leonardo gained from the physical sciences, particularly anatomy.

Leonardo spent his final three years in Italy in the Vatican (1513-1516), effectively a refuge from petty Italian tyrants. He departed for France in 1516 under the protection of its warrior and cultured 21-year-old new king, François I, whom 64-year-old Leonardo first met in late 15154. Like his cousin and father-in-law predecessor King Louis XII of France (1462-1515) and his cultured mother Louise de Savoie (1476-1531), François I worked hard to recruit the Italian High Renaissance’s most inventive artist for the Gallic Kingdom. When Leonardo finally crossed the Alps he carried with him his recent paintings of the Mona Lisa, Saint John the Baptist, and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne—all works in the Louvre in Paris today.5 In the second edition of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists6 he described Leonardo in his last months of life in France. In 1519, after a happy period in France at the Château de Cloux, Leonardo was a sick and bedridden man. At the very end, Vasari writes, Leonardo “could not stand [and had to be] supported by his friends and servants.”7. The King paid Leonardo “affectionate visits” in these last days. Vasari intimates that the dying artist consciously felt himself honored to be ministered to by François I Vasari and that Leonardo realized the distinct privilege to “[breathe] his last in [the king’s] arms.”8 This death bed scene, particularly Vasari’s tender detail, has been subsequently imagined in the artwork of artists, including Ingres’ famous painting dated 1818 in the collection of the Petit Palais in Paris.

Louis XII of France, Workshop of Jean Perréal, c. 1514. Cousin and father-in-law of François I Louis admired and collected Leonardo and passed down this admiration to France.

Bemberg fondation Toulouse – Portrait de Louise de Savoie, mère de François Ier – École De Jean Clouet (1475;1485-1540) 22×17 Inv.1013

Louise de Savoie, School of Jean Clouet, Toulouse, France. The mother of François I worked hard to convince Leonardo to leave Italy for France. Leonardo carried with him over the Alps to France three of his recent paintings — the Mona Lisa (1503), Saint John the Baptist (1513), and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (1503). All are in the Louvre today.

Châteaux de Cloux (Clos Lucé), Amboise, France.

Leonardo’s room, Châteaux de Cloux.

Death of Leonardo, Cesare Mussini (1804-1888).

Death of Leonardo, pencil, 11 x 8½ in. (28 x 21.8 cm.), Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867).

Death Of Leonardo da Vinci, 1818, oil on canvas, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Petit Palais, Paris.

Ink consecrated to the artistry of Leonardo da Vinci is vast. The Bible-like exhibition catalog for Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman from the 2003 show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is a 786-page testament. That tome presents and discusses about 100 drawings by the master. This article focuses on one image – Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari, particularly its central section called the Battle of The Standard.

In October 1503 Leonardo’s commission by the Florentine Republic was to commemorate the military victory of the Florentines over the Milanese in 1440. It would be one of the major artworks in the newly-built Sala de Gran Consiglio (Grand Council Hall) by IL Cronaca (“The Chronicler”) to the rear of the Palazzo della Signoria, also known as the Palazzo Vecchio.9 The commission was given to Leonardo by Republican standard-bearer Piero Soderini (1450-1522) with one of Leonardo’s contracts signed by Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)—and so entered into the annals of what became a fabled art competition (“concorrenza”).

Ink consecrated to the artistry of Leonardo da Vinci is vast.

View of Florence (detail, Arno River, Palazzo Vecchio, Duomo), c. 1561, Giorgio Vasari.

Piero Soderini (1450-1522) by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio. The statesman of the Florentine Republic awarded Leonardo the mural commission for the Battle of Anghiari in October 1503.

Today’s Salone dei Cinquecento by Giorgio Vasari, 1563-1572. In the process of re-decorating this room with its coffered ceiling and walls with paintings of battle scenes dedicated to the exaltation of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Leonardo da Vinci’s innovative fresco of the Battle of Anghiari was lost or destroyed.

Battle of Marciano by Giorgio Vasari, 1571, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy.

Peter Paul Rubens’ copy of 1603 of the lost Battle for the Standard, the central section of the Battle of Anghiari fresco by Leonardo, 1503-06, in Palazzo della Signoria (also, Palazzo Vecchio) in Florence. While Rubens’ copy is the best known, there are copies of Leonardo’s work by other 16th century artists.

After Leonardo Da Vinci, Fight For the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari), oil on canvas, 28.625 x 33.125 in. (72.8 x 84 cm).

After Leonardo Da Vinci, Fight For the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari) oil on canvas, 16th century, Museo Horne, Florence.

In 1503 Leonardo da Vinci was at the height of his artistic powers. The Battle of Anghiari was a commission for a large scale, complex and dramatic fresco mural on one wall of the Sala de Gran Consiglio in Florence during the short-lived restored Republic (c.1492-1512). Leonardo looked to paint the fresco in dazzling oils and glazes but his complicated experimental techniques to adhere the pigment to the wall largely failed.10 With the fresco’s ultimate destruction in the early 1560’s under Vasari who redecorated the Great Council Hall with six of his own massive battle scenes, he and his Medici rulers were faced with another of Leonardo’s deteriorating frescos similar to the disastrous flaking of The Last Supper in Milan. The Battle of Anghiari was not in an obscure monastery refectory but the central hall of changing political power in Florence.11

Leonardo’s Last Supper fresco in Milan started flaking almost as soon as it was painted in the 1490’s. Leonardo’s experimental painting techniques for that project had largely failed.

Fragmentary remains by Leonardo of his Florentine project are his preparatory drawings whose subjects include horses, riders, and combatants on the battlefield in various stages of creative development. Some of these drawings were made by Leonardo immediately upon receiving his commission in late 1503.12 Several copies and copies of copies made by other artists also survive. While the preparatory drawings do not complete the full composition— though contemporary written sources lend credence to books of sketches that are lost13—Leonardo possibly did not even complete a cartoon before he started painting on the wall.14 While copies by others intrigue, they are problematic to envision Leonardo’s final fresco of the Battle of Anghiari—yet each of these sources provide insights.

The Battle of Anghiari is arguably Leonardo’s most important public commission.15 It manifested itself in the context of impactful local history, civic pride, city government, and the artist’s own vision and skills in its employ. Florence was Leonardo’s native city and he wanted to make a strong impression. Sixty years after Leonardo left his brilliant fresco on the west wall.16 Vasari, whose redecoration of the Palazzo Vecchio included a fresco cycle of his own almost certainly covered over all or part of Leonardo’s unfinished fresco. A desire for new artwork to showcase the Medici restoration under Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-1574) naturally extended to the Grand Council Hall. The late-fifteenth-century Republic had commissioned Leonard’s battle fresco—and that form of government had ended in Florence in 1512.

Portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici, 1535, Alessandro Allori (1536-1607), oil on poplar, 86 x 65 cm (34 x 25 5/8 in.), Florence. Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519 -1574) ruled Florence from 1537 until his death.

Cosimo I de’ Medici (detail), c. 1564, by Giorgio Vasari, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.

As Vasari relates in his Lives of the Artists, Leonardo depicted a scene from the life of Niccolò Piccinino (1386-1444), an Italian mercenary officer or “condottiere” in the service of the politically brilliant and physically repulsive duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti (1392-1447). Fighting for Milan, Piccinino—aided by two score of cavalry squadron, many foot soldiers17and treacherous Florentine exiles—was defeated by a force led by the Republic of Florence under Francesco I Sforza (1401-1466). The victory at the Battle of Anghiari on June 29, 1440 handed the Florentines domination of central Italy. At the turn of the sixteenth century the new republic of Florence continued to face warring tyrants as neighbors including Cesare Borgia (1475-1507). At the start of a new century and Republic the timing was ripe to depict in its government hall valorous Florentine warriors defeating political enemies. In 1503, Florentine officials gave Leonardo an in-depth orientation of the 1440 battle using historical texts but the artist brushed these aside as he conceived the scene to be depicted, a virtually cinematic induction of the battle’s climax —the mortal contest by the Florentines to capture the standard from the Milanese. Leonardo’s first sketches for it are of a condensed melée full of the swirling movement and stirring sensations of battle.18 The actual standards taken during the battle had been kept in the Grand Council Hall as a trophy.19

Niccolò Piccinino. Defeated at the Battle of Anghiari, the Italian mercenary becomes the central protagonist of Leonardo’s fresco.

Front (Recto) of a medal of Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, by Pisanello (1395-1455).

Local battles such as the Battle of Anghiari were usually part of larger campaigns— in this instance, The Lombardy Wars of 1423-1454— and fought by hired warriors. Mercenaries usually provided terms to competing foes that protected the mercenary’s best interest. Following the Battle of Anghiari, Piccinino, who had been captured, was soon after released. In the next battle at Martinengo, he defeated and captured Sforza. Because of these endless war games, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) advised in The Prince that a ruler should not be tempted to use these swords for hire – and cited Francesco Sforza by example.20

Mercenary Francesco Sforza, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito (1536-1603). Machiavelli, author of The Prince, signed an order to commission Leonardo to create the fresco commemorating the Battle of Anghiari for Florence’s newly-built Sala de Gran Consiglio (Grand Council Hall).

Leonardo’s sketches of probably Cesare Borgia.

Cosimo I de’ Medici who ruled Florence starting in 1547 was interested in that which supports power— including art. Vasari’s new paintings of Cosimo I de’ Medici’s wartime exploits was partly a political act. By ridding the hall of Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari — a Republican military victory from long ago — Vasari worked his political masters’ desires. The ultimate reasons and fate of Leonardo’s artwork is not known but if Vasari destroyed the mural he would not be the first Italian artist to destroy a competitor’s artwork as shall be seen.

In late 1503 Leonardo, installed in a temporary workshop at Santa Maria Novella, about a fifteen-minute walk to the Palazzo, was given a deadline for the mural’s completion of February 1505. Like the fabled competition between Leonardo and Michelangelo that was intentionally arranged by Florence’s political operatives, the deadline for completion was also a demand for Leonardo’s art outside the artist’s concerns. The first late winter deadline passed as did those in spring and summer. Setbacks included Leonardo’s meticulously slow work, other projects he took up that kept him away from the fresco, and even bad weather.21

Leonardo’s designated workshop for the mural commission was the Dominican church built in 1420, Santa Maria Novella.

In early 1504 the wall painting of the Battle of Anghiari and its 51-year-old artist was joined by Michelangelo Buonarroti who would paint his Battle of Cascina in the same room and possibly on the same wall. Michelangelo, recently turned 28 years old, would depict the Florentine military victory over Pisa in 1364. Neither this imposed rivalry or proximity encouraged their friendship.22 Michelangelo was intense, pious, and unwashed contrasting to Leonardo’s genial, independent, and stylish manner.23 However, their professional relationship temporarily influenced each other’s artmaking.

Michelangelo, Self-Portrait.

Leonardo da Vinci, (Lucan) Self-Portrait.

In 1504 and 1505, Michelangelo learned to use Leonardo’s innovative stylus cross-hatching technique along with the chalk technique that Leonardo was continuing to exploit in the Battle of Anghiari. Inspired by Michelangelo, Leonardo did masterful drawings of nude figures though he did not use them. In Michelangelo’s preparatory drawings for the Battle of Cascina—that and copies by others are what survive of the project– the younger artist used Leonardo’s cross hatching technique for the pull of the skin. He experimented with Leonardo’s chalk technique to display types and degrees of muscular tension on figures.24 Yet, according to Vasari, the two clashed at almost every turn. Michelangelo’s use of Leonardo’s advanced techniques was restricted to the short period of their common commission and Leonardo openly disparaged Michelangelo’s cartoon of male nude bathers as coldly analytical.25

Two Michelangelo chalk studies. Above: Life Study for a bathing soldier in the lost cartoon for the Battle of Cascina, black chalk, 404 x 258 cm, Teylers Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands. Below: Male back with a flag.

Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomical Studies of the Nude, connected with the Battle of Anghiari, c. 1504, Royal Library, Windsor. Though influenced by Michelangelo’s nude drawings in this time, Leonardo’s design and imagery for his battle scene looked to invention and unexpected drama rather than the nude.

In spring 1505 Michelangelo’s cartoon was finished but his painting barely started—and the younger artist left Florence for Rome. Michelangelo accepted the commission to build the tomb of Pope Julius II (1443-1513) although it would not be completed until 1545 and on a much-reduced scale. He returned to Florence the following spring but was soon back in Rome to paint, between 1508 and 1512, the Sistine Chapel ceiling. In 1506 Leonardo’s gradual departure for Milan, complete by 1508, began. Leonardo stayed in Milan until 1513 when he was invited by the pope to the Vatican. Leonardo and Michelangelo had in Florence shared a common commission from the Republic. Their two battle scenes presented, each in their own way, a tangle of intertwined figures. Otherwise, each artist created compositions of varying subject matter and style which proved seminal for art-making schools of the future. Leonardo’s swirling horsemen in the Battle of Anghiari inspired the Baroque style and Michelangelo’s bathers in the Battle of Cascina displayed a perfect template for Classicism. These two great artists also shared, despite their age difference or varying temperaments, the fact that neither of them completed their commissioned work.

Michelangelo, The Tomb of Pope Julius II, completed 1545, San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome.

Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling, 1508-1512, Rome (The Vatican).

Michelangelo, David, 1501-1504, Galleria dell’ Accademia, Florence, Italy.

Michelangelo’s David had just been placed Florence’s central square when the painting competition (“concorrenza“) between himself and Leonardo da Vinci began. Leonardo had served on his native city’s committee which decided where to place Michelangelo’s 17-foot tall marble sculpture. Today a copy stands outside the Palazzo Vecchio.

At the time of the public commission in Florence, Leonardo had just finished his Mona Lisa (1503, Louvre, Paris) and Michelangelo had just installed, in the city square, his David (1501-1504, Accademia Gallery Museum, Florence). Leonardo had been part of the city committee to recommend where Michelangelo’s David should be placed.26 Over the next decade, until 1512, Leonardo’s and Michelangelo’s unfinished wall paintings—that they both had abandoned (a worthy reason for a later Medici to paint it over)—adorned the same room possibly side by side. Michelangelo’s work was mutilated first with the fall of the Republic. Young artists had flocked to study and copy these unfinished artworks, including a young Raphael.27 In 1512 one of these artists, a 24-year-old named Bartolommeo Bandinelli (1488-1560)—he had been obsessive in studying Michelangelo’s cartoon to the point of sneaking in to the Council Hall at night—in one moment grabbed the cartoon and cut it into pieces. The motivation for Bandinelli’s destruction is unclear. The center section of Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari – namely, Battle of the Standard– remained intact on the wall and for decades saw copies and written descriptions made of it. After 1508, neither Michelangelo nor Leonardo were anywhere near Florence as both moved on to larger opportunities.28

Michelangelo, Battle of Cascina, 1504-6, destroyed copy by Aristotile da Sangallo, grisaille on panel, 30 x 52 in. The Courtauld Institute of Art, London. Leonardo openly disparaged Michelangelo’s cartoon of male nude bathers as coldly analytical. Younger artists preferred the noble and expressive form of Michelangelo’s nudes to Leonardo’s messier constructions.

Focusing on Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari, and, particularly, the Battle of the Standard, its central panel, one is impressed by Leonardo’s revolutionary approach to drawing.  Leonardo shattered tradition, specifically in drawing. First, Leonardo was not tidy in his drawing. Medieval tradition was fundamentally concerned with conserving the controlled line. A draftsman’s artistic ability was judged by patrons and cultural tastemakers by the accurate lines he created directly out of an existing model-book.  Leonardo’s early silverpoint drawing of a Bust of a Warrior in the British Museum demonstrates his ability to masterfully fulfill this Renaissance expectation.29 As Leonardo the artist developed, by the end of the fifteenth century he was attacking this long-held linear tradition in his notebooks as a failed technique.30 The fiery scribbling of Leonardo’s drawing style expresses his process of creative exploration but equally his rebellion towards the old technique. In its place, Leonardo shows himself in his drawings to be actively pushing outside the linear restraint of quattrocento drawing and formulating a new artistic standard derived from orientation to the model. As an avant-garde artist in this mode Leonardo practiced it alone for 25 years.31 The profligacy of his drawings – often multiple images on the same page of paper expressing his changing primo pensiero (“first thoughts”) – indicates the brilliancy of Leonardo’s creativity. His drawing technique points to the artist seeking to free the immaginativa to emphasize dramatic invention that included individual details (such as heads) and unto an entire scene.  Leonardo’s artistic practice worked to overturn, or revolutionize, the tradition-bound formulas imposed on art. He replaced it with a new and radical conception of nature ever-changing as the drawing framework.

Leonardo da Vinci, Bust of a Warrior in profile, 28.7 x 21.1 cm, silverpoint, c.1478, The British Museum.

Model-book page, 1390’s, pen and ink with wash and watercolors on parchment, workshop of Giovannino de’ Grassi (1350-1398).

Giorgio Vasari, Self-portrait, 1560’s. Vasari goes into admirable detail on Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari in his Lives of the Artists in editions of 1550 and 1568. That Vasari destroyed or painted over this same work by Leonardo around the same time during a re-decoration of Florence’s Grand Council Hall is difficult to reconcile with his writings.

Invested Quattrocento cultural taste-makers and practitioners found danger in Leonardo’s new artistic direction. Art producers and patrons could not understand why a single artist for his own personal exploration would forsake generations of practiced skill and systematics. The challenge for Leonardo after he discarded the model-book was difficult and clear– to invent figures and forms to replace it. This monumental task helps explain some of the artist’s motivation for working in many areas such as anatomy, mechanics, botany, and geophysics. Wide study was certainly owing to Leonardo’s “unquenchable curiosity”32 but its practical application worked to fulfill his ambition to locate source material to replace the model-book’s groupings, movements, and forms that he had audaciously sacked. The culmination of his approach is manifest in the Battle of Anghiari. To discover some of Leonardo’s unfolding revolutionary creative process makes this artwork exciting to consider as Vasari describes it in detail in his Lives:

The great achievements of this inspired artist so increased his prestige that everyone who loved art, or rather every single person in Florence, was anxious for him to leave the city some memorial; and it was being proposed everywhere that Leonardo should be commissioned to do some great and notable work which would enable the state to be honored and adorned by his discerning talent, grace, and judgement.  As it happened the great hall of the council was being constructed under the architectural direction of Giuliano Sangallo, Simone Pollaiuolo (known as Cronaca), Michelangelo Buonarroti and Baccio d’ Agnolo, as I shall relate at greater length in the right place.  It was finished in a hurry, after the head of the government and the chief citizens had conferred together, it was publicly announced that a splendid painting would be commissioned from Leonardo.  And then he was asked by Piero Soderini, the Gonfalonier of Justice, to do a decorative painting for the council hall.  As a start, therefore, Leonardo began work in the Hall of the Pope, in Santa Maria Novella, on a cartoon illustrating an incident in the life of Niccolò Piccinino, a commander of Duke Filippo of Milan.  He showed a group of horsemen fighting for a standard, in a drawing which was regarded as very fine and successful because of the wonderful ideas he expressed in his interpretation of the battle.  In the drawing, rage, fury, and vindictiveness are displayed both by the men and by the horses, two of which with their forelegs interlocked are battling with their teeth no less fiercely than their riders are struggling for the standard, the staff of which has been grasped by a soldier who, as he turns and spurs his horse to flight, is trying by the strength of his shoulders to wrest it by force from the hands of four others.  Two of them are struggling for it with one hand and attempting with the other to cut the staff with their raised swords; and an old soldier in a red cap roars out as he grips the staff with one hand and with the other raises a scimitar and aims a furious blow to cut off both the hands of those who are gnashing their teeth and ferociously defending their standard.  Besides this, on the ground between the legs of the horses there are two figures, foreshortened, shown fighting together; the one on the ground has over him a soldier who has raised his arm as high as possible to plunge his dagger with greater force into the throat of his enemy, who struggles frantically with his arms and legs to escape death.

It is impossible to convey the fine draughtsmanship with which Leonardo depicted the soldiers’ costumes, with their distinctive variations, or the helmet-crests and the other ornaments, not to speak of the incredible mastery that he displayed in the forms and lineaments of the horses which with their bold spirit and muscles and shapely beauty, Leonardo portrayed better than any other artist.  It is said that to draw the cartoon Leonardo constructed an ingenious scaffolding that he could raise or lower by drawing it together or extending it.  He also conceived the wish to paint the picture in oils, but to do this he mixed such a thick composition for laying on the wall that, as he continued his painting in the hall, it started to run and spoil what had been done, So shortly afterwards he abandoned the work.”33

It seems nearly inconceivable that Vasari could write so appreciably of Leonardo’s fresco and then destroy it. Yet its removal, whether wholly destroyed, or lost by being painted over or misplaced, is a fact. Leonardo who no longer relied on the model-book as his authority the artist answered with his own creative immaginativa and all of the facets of nature. In this revolutionary creative process, Leonardo further anticipated the modern era’s introduction of the psychological component into a drawing. The psychological element that Leonardo introduced extended to the figures Leonardo depicted in drawings but it benefited the individual artist’s ability to think and dream creatively. To this end Leonardo consciously devised mental exercises to produce psychological effects in himself.34

Leonardo da Vinci, Head of a Warrior in Profile, black chalk, 220 x 116 mm, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice. Leonardo anticipated the modern era’s introduction of the psychological component into a drawing.

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of a Warrior’s Head for the Battle of Anghiari (Recto), Red chalk on prepared paper, 22.6 × 18.6 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. It is half life size from a live model. Over the years some scholars have doubted its authenticity as a Leonardo drawing.

Verso of Study of a Warrior’s Head for the Battle of Anghiari (above drawing).

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of Two Warriors’ Heads for Battle of Anghiari (c. 1504–5). Black chalk or charcoal, traces of red chalk on paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. This is one of the most famous drawing studies by Leonardo da Vinci for the Battle of Anghiari fresco mural project.

Within wide study in the physical sciences, Leonardo attempted everything̱– and did not always finish. It was the immensity of his study and his loathing of the finished quality of the model-book that allowed Leonardo to abandon projects and pick up new and creative directions and methods. Leonardo’s world view as an artist for his art was universal—indeed, he personified the popular definition of “Renaissance Man.” In his artistic boldness and innovation, Leonardo’s methods and objectives found him its sole practitioner for years—even decades. Yet Leonardo was a man of his times. The era of the mid-to-late fifteenth century was one of social awakening to the globe and its conquest by nations and kingdoms. The historical period saw great changes in cultural perceptions based on European cities achieving charters of economic and political freedom as well as new scientific and other discoveries. These included the heliocentric model of the solar system by astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and the international voyages of discovery by Christopher Columbus (1451-1506). It was an age of revolutionary ideas and technology and Leonardo da Vinci had no doubt it included art.

In Leonardo’s drawings there is the untidy immaginativa quality in its hasty, scribbled animations. Studies for the Battle of Anghiari present a cacophony of images—drapery studies; grotesque heads; armory; horses. For each area, Leonardo’s drawing between 1503 and 1506 had reached mature stylistic development.35 Not since Leonardo’s The Adoration of the Magi in 1482 had he created a composition achieving the cohesion of gestures and inter-relationships among figures.

Nikolaus Copernicus, The Torun portrait, Anonymous, c. 1580.

Leonardo da Vinci, Adoration of the Magi, 1482, oil on wood, 246 cm × 243 cm (97 in. × 96 in.), Uffizi, Florence.

There are speculatively three panels or sections completed for the Battle of Anghiari. The most recognizable is the large central panel or section known as the Battle for the Standard. It is known by its copies by other artists. Leonardo’s central panel depicts four men, one partially hidden, riding war horses. They are engaged in the heat of combat, frozen in a frame of animated movement, for the capture of a standard during the battle. Other sections of the Battle of Anghiari—derived from Leonardo’s small preparatory sketches—depict a wild, galloping horse and a pair of belligerents on horseback. These are briefly discussed below. The most well-known copy of the central section of Leonardo’s fresco (the only section he apparently painted) is by the great artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). In the collection of the Louvre, Rubens’ copy dates from 1603 and is, in fact, a copy of a copy. Rubens copies Lorenzo Zacchia’s (1524-c.1587) copy dating from 1553 which he possibly took directly from the fresco or a lost cartoon. There are three extant copies by other artists of Ruben’s copy of a copy of the possibly original artwork.36 These copies at various removes provide insight into the impact for art through the centuries. The rest of Leonardo’s composition is conjectured based on drawings.37 The left panel or section Leonardo could have intended to be horsemen charging into battle while the right panel or section could be the taking of the bridge over the Tiber on horseback which was a key action for victory. The preparatory drawing sheets have images on top and below and may be related as part of a narrative sequence that Leonardo worked to clarify and simplify as a design until he started painting the composition.38 Throughout the project Leonardo had detail and atmospherics in mind though in its piece meal condition today, a full aspect of his creative process is irretrievably lost.39

Peter Paul Rubens, Copy of Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari), 1603, Louvre.

Horses are one of Leonardo’s favorite subjects. The Battle for the Standard portrays three soldiers on three horses with swords brandished in the smoke and flame of hand-to-hand combat. A fourth soldier on horseback is partially hidden. Two more soldiers have fallen beneath the hooves of their reeling horses and attempt to cover themselves with their shields. The weight of the horses is depicted in their meaty haunches. The horses’ heads are ancient and noble. They crush, bite, and plow into the heat of battle. The screaming head of Niccolò Piccinino –the protagonist of the Battle for the Standard — and from whose hands the standard is wrested away by Florentine soldiers (the profile on his immediate right) wore a large red cap as described by Vasari.40

The overall configuration of the scene is Leonardo’s Renaissance construction of the type of dense figures discovered on ancient Greek and Roman sarcophagi. The stylistic effect of Rubens’ copy of Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard is, by virtue of its similarity, carried forward into the seventeenth century as witnessed by Rubens’ The Hippopotamus Hunt (1616) and The Lion Hunt (1621) both in the Alte Pinakoteck in Munich. The question can be posed: to what degree is Rubens’ stylistic effect, by virtue of his 1603 copy of a 1553 copy of Leonardo’s 1503 image, inferred into Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard? Yet Leonardo’s battle, seen by thousands over decades before its demise, can be said to have directly influenced battle scene depictions whose style continued into the Romantic Period in mid19th century France.41

Fall of Phaeton, Greek marble Roman sarcophagus, 62 x 220 cm, c. 150 AD, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Hippopotamus Hunt, 1616, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Lion Hunt, 1621, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Tintoretto, Saint George and the Dragon, oil on canvas, 157.5 x 110.3 cm, The National Gallery, London.

Eugène Delacroix, The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan, 1826, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Bronzino, Allegory of Venus and Cupid, c. 1560, The National Gallery, London. The screaming head in the background on the left side of the painting is speculatively based on the head of Leonardo’s protagonist in the Battle of the Standard.

Along with these artistic innovations and achievements by Leonardo in a long, lonely process of exploration the hallmark achievement of the Battle of Anghiari is its reckless artistic inspiration.  While historical construction of Leonardo’s drawing method requires speculation, existing studies for the work, including those specific to the Battle of Anghiari, provide insights. For instance, Leonardo deployed the pen as well as chalk in preparatory drawings for the Battle of Anghiari. This practice continued the spontaneous and dynamic plasticity of his drawing technique from the 1490s42 and contained psychophysical and temporal effects.43 Up to Leonardo, the general practice for using a pen or stylus was by way of short parallel lines. In the Battle of Anghiari Leonardo is the first Italian artist to systematically use curvilinear hatching.44 A complementary contrast to Leonardo’s inventiveness is that he valued and paid attention to his work experiences. After the early 1480s he retained his sense of form and design and continued to work through particular problems that interested him within a general trend of development.45

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of Rearing Horse, light fine red chalk and hatching with traces pen and brown ink, 153 x 142 mm, Royal Library, Windsor. The horse drawn from life shows a tense rider pivoting.

Leonardo’s drawings, including his preparatory studies, convey a sensational appearance of continuous movement. Formed into a triangle the figures of combatants in the central section of the Battle of Anghiari and elsewhere move in a swirling motion similar to the apocalyptic liquid cascades Leonardo would later draw. Facial expressions, gnarled and strained on both man and beast, add their distinctive vitality to the animated whole. The Battle of the Standard works similarly to Leonardo’s mechanical drawings in their careful construction. The “machine” operates as an expression of the physicality and emotional and psychological intensity of men fighting to the death. Leonardo, as discussed, based this key scene for the city-state commission on an episode described in historical written texts.46

Leonardo in his first draft of a drawing worked to establish this general sense of movement. In first drafts he attempts the pictorial pitch that he will develop. In the second stage (“per ripruova”) Leonardo begins to create major motifs.47 The two most important primi pensieri for the Battle of Anghiari are pen and ink drawings from the Gallerie dell’ Accademia in Venice, Italy. Scholarship’s quest to reconstruct Leonardo’s creation of the Battle of Anghiari has been identified as “quixotic,”48 yet these drawings while no larger than the size of a clenched fist give out significant clues.

Leonardo da Vinci, Battle Study, two skirmishes between horsemen and foot soldiers, c.1503, pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, 147 x 154 mm (6 x 6 in.) Gallerie dell’ Accademia, Venice, Italy.

Leonardo da Vinci, Battle Study, Skirmish between Horsemen, Foot soldiers and Foot soldiers Wielding Long Weapons, pen and brown ink over black chalk and stylus, c.1503, 147 x 154 mm (6 x 6 in.), Gallerie dell’ Accademia, Venice, Italy.

In one of the preparatory drawings the horseman on the left is looking back over the horse’s haunches, a dramatic image among the handful of fighters in close combat that Leonardo will condense into a dominant motif in the Battle of the Standard. The artist’s steady progression belies his reputation as a slow worker though this inventive stage of drawing appealed to him most. For each stage, Leonardo’s drawing is a fully animated artistic expression of his subject matter. While the creative process of Leonardo’s drawing brings the image, as Heinrich Wöfflin observed, to the “verge of the unclear,”49 it also begins to reveal some of the inner workings of Leonardo’s brilliance. In exchange for the free and kinetic character of drawing studies taken to the brink, the later and final work becomes increasingly plastic and compact.50

Leonardo da Vinci, Fight for the Standard at the Bridge and Two Foot Soldiers, pen and brown ink, 99 x 141 mm, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice. It is speculated that this preparatory drawing was for the right panel (or section) of the fresco. It depicted the taking of the bridge over the Tiber River that was a key historical action to military victory for the Florentines over the Milanese at the Battle of Anghiari on June 29, 1440.

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of charging horses and Soldiers, red chalk on paper, 167 x 240 mm, Royal Library, Windsor. Anticipating Degas’s racehorses 350 years in the future, this drawing of horsemen charging to battle may represent the left panel (or section) of the Battle of Anghiari that Leonardo envisioned as a three-part narrative sequence.

Copy of a horseman from the Battle of Anghiari, pen and brown ink, brush and gray wash, white gouache on paper, 267 x 237 mm, The British Museum.

In the drawings for the Battle of Anghiari he communicates in lively action and engrossing drama the close physical contact of the horses and their riders encircling and falling upon one another in the passion and violence of war.51 The fresco in the Florentine council chambers would remind leaders of war’s brutality and, though a glorification of civic heroism and pride, the wall-sized image served to show the fury of slaughter that military battles cost. The Battle of the Standard was an image that conveyed the phrase that typified the meaning of war for Leonardo: pazzia bestialissima (“beastly madness.”)52 Recalling Bertoldo’s battle scene that originally decorated the Florentine palazzo of Lorenzo de’ Medici (“the Magnificent’) and based on an ancient Roman sarcophagus, proffered to the viewer no identifiable sides. War is not a glorious narrative, but combatants falling into one another. In addition to its classical and Renaissance allusions, its plastic form appealed to Leonardo’s beliefs and attitudes about the intrinsic nature of combat that he then looked to dramatize in the Battle of Anghiari.  

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of horses for the Battle of Anghiari. Leonardo depicts horses displaying emotion.

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of group of riders in the Battle of Anghiari, c. 1503, charcoal and black chalk reworked with brush and brown wash, Royal Library, Windsor. The left-handed hatching is for a drawing taken from a clay or wax model.

Bertoldo di Giovanni (ca. 1440–1491), Battle, c. 1480–85, Bronze, 17 3/4 × 39 1/8 in. (45 × 99.5 cm), Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.

The artistic drawings that survive which reveal Leonardo’s artistic process are an invaluable piece of a final enterprise that ultimately failed to materialize on several levels despite Leonardo believing the high-level commission was vital to his reputation as an artist.53 In the end, Leonardo was viewed by the oligarchs as not only procrastinating but having not fulfilled his contract and they sued Leonardo for breach. Yet more enduring than a legal concern was the art project involving Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. The work accomplished by these two giants of art reverberates through the centuries to today. Theirs is a legacy of the individual artist still being sought out—though by chairmen and presidents rather than popes and princes. A legacy that says artists are no longer craftsmen or tradesmen but artistic personalities in their own right with a unique and appealing style who are thus engaged for their singular brilliance.54 In the face of what was an incomplete, sometimes failed, and ultimately abandoned project—its competitive nature notwithstanding—all the variations of Leonardo’s creative activity funnels into a tremendous example for the mission of the artist –that is, to serve first neither patron nor purse nor artistic reputation —but the glory of making one’s art.

Leonardo, Self-Portrait, c. 1512, Royal Library of Turin, Italy.

FOOTNOTES: Available upon request.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Acidini Luchinat, Christina, Butters, Suzanne B., Chiarini, Marco, Cox-Rearick, Janet, Darr, Alan P., Feinberg, Larry J., Giusti, Annamaria, Goldthwaite, Richard A. , Meoni, Lucia, Piacenti, Kirsten Aschengreen, Pizzorusso, Claudio, Testaverde, Anna Maria, The Medici, Michelangelo, And The Art of Late Renaissance Florence, Yale University Press in association with The Detroit Institute of Arts, New Haven and London, 2002.

Ames-Lewis, Francis, Drawing in Early Renaissance Italy, Revised Edition, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, Second Edition, 2000 (originally published 1981).

Ames-Lewis, Francis, The Intellectual Life of the Early Renaissance Artist, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2000.

Bambach, Carmen C., editor, Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2003.

Berenson, Bernard, The Italian Painters of the Renaissance, Phaidon Press, London, 1959.

Braham, Allan, Italian Paintings of the Sixteenth Century, The National Gallery, London in association with William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, London, 1985.

Braudel, Fernand, Out of Italy: 1450-1650, trans. Siân Reynolds, Flammarion, Paris, 1991.

Clark, Kenneth, Leonardo da Vinci, Penguin Books, London, 1993 (first printed 1939).

Clark, Kenneth, Selected Drawings from Windsor Castle:  Leonardo da Vinci, Phaidon Press, London, 1954.

Durant, Will, The Renaissance: A History of Civilization in Italy from 1304-1576 A.D., Simon and Schuster, New York, 1953.

Gombrich, E. H., Norm and Form: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance, Phaidon Press, London, 1966.

Hartt, Frederick, History of Italian Renaissance Art:  Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, Third Edition, 1987.

Hohenstaat, Peter, Leonardo da Vinci, Könemann, Köln, 1998.

Isaacson, Walter, Leonardo da Vinci, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2017.

Machiavelli, Niccolò, trans. William J. Connell, The Prince, Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston and New York, Second Edition, 2016 (originally published 2005).

Meiss, Millard, The Great Age of Fresco Discoveries, Recoveries and Survivals, George Braziller, Inc. in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1970.

Popham, A.E., The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Jonathon Cape, London, 1977 (first published 1946

Saviotti, Franco, Florence, Edizione – SAFRA, Firenze, 1981.

Steinberg, Leo, Leonardo’s Incessant Last Supper, Zone Books, New York, 2001.

Turner, Jane, editor, Encyclopedia of Italian Renaissance & Mannerist Art, Volume 1 and II, Grove Dictionaries, Inc., New York, 2000.

Vasari, Giorgio, trans. George Bull, Lives of the Artists, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1965.

Wöfflin, Heinrich, Classic Art: An Introduction to the Italian Renaissance, Phaidon Press Limited, London, 1994 (first published 1952).

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Marilyn Monroe in Photographs: Celebrity (1946-1962). Rising Star.

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) is one of the great celebrities of all time. This collection of images catalogs some of the glamorous and dramatic highlights in her public life as well as private moments. For more photographs of film’s most iconic sex symbol and star, see my blog posts “Marilyn Monroe in Photographs: The Films (1947-1962)” (July 2019) and “Marilyn Monroe in Photographs: The Modeling Years (1946-1962)” (October 2019). This post, “Rising Star,” follows Marilyn from the beginning of her career to around 1954.

Rising Star.

Marilyn Monroe on February 8, 1952 at the Del Mar Club on 1910 Ocean Front Avenue in Santa Monica. She was just awarded the Henrietta Award for “The Best Young Box Office Personality” given by the Foreign Press Association of Hollywood.

Marilyn appeared on The Jack Benny Show on Sunday night, September 13, 1953. Since her Fox contract prohibited Marilyn from earning money outside her work for the studio, she accepted a new model Cadillac convertible as her fee.

Marilyn in her 1952 Cadillac 62 Series convertible. In May 1954, with new husband Joe DiMaggio in the passenger seat, Marilyn drove the car into the back of a little MG. The couple was sued for $6000 (the case was settled out of court for $500).

By 1952 Marilyn was receiving 5,000 fan letters each week.

Norma Jeane, 1945. Photograph by Andre de Dienes.

Norma Jeane, 1945. Andre de Dienes.

Norma Jeane, 1946. Photograph by Andre de Dienes.

Norma Jeane (Marilyn), 1946. Photograph by Andre De Dienes.

Norma Jeane, 1947. Photograph by Earl Thiesen.

Norma Jeane, 1947. Photograph by Earl Thiesen.

Marilyn on the telephone as producer Jerry Wald looks on. During the filming of Clash by Night (1951) Marilyn was loaned out by Fox to RKO to play a young cannery worker. Although she received plenty of attention during the production — and to the vocal consternation of one of the film’s stars (Paul Douglas) — her unexpected absences received an unsympathetic hearing from Fritz Lang, the 1952 film noir’s director. Photograph by Bob Landry.

Marilyn in Banff in summer 1953.

Marilyn at home, 1953. Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Marilyn, 1953. Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Marilyn, 1953. Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Marilyn, 1953. Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Because of the mountain of positive attention Marilyn gained by her small but memorable role in All About Eve (1950), Marilyn Monroe was made a presenter at the 23rd Academy Awards Ceremony on March 29, 1951 at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard. She presented the Oscar for Sound Recording to the 20th Century-Fox Studio Sound Department and Thomas T. Moulton, its Sound Director for All About Eve. That year All About Eve received 14 Oscar nominations, breaking the record for the most Oscar nominations that was held by Gone With The Wind with 13 nominations since 1939.

Marilyn is photographed wearing a low-cut mull dress which she selected from the Fox wardrobe for the 23rd Academy Awards on March 29, 1951.

Marilyn presents Oscar, March 29, 1951. 23rd Academy Awards.

Marilyn is a presenter at the 23rd Academy Awards.

Marilyn attends the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Annual dinner at Ciro’s on February 21, 1951.

February 21, 1951.

Marilyn in a swimsuit on August 4, 1951 at the Farmer’s Market in Hollywood. Wearing a chef hat, she cuts into a layer cake.

Marilyn at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, August 4, 1951.

Marilyn in 1951.

Marilyn Monroe, 1951. Photograph by Phil Burchman.

Phil Burchman.

Phil Burchman.

Phil Burchman.

Marilyn, 1956. Photograph by Phil Burchman.

Marilyn in December 1951. Photograph by Larry Barbier, Jr.

Marilyn, 1952. Philippe Halsman.

Marilyn, 1952. Philippe Halsman.

The Los Angeles Press Club selected Marilyn Monroe as their first Miss Press Club in 1953.

Miss Press Club, 1953.

Marilyn Monroe in 1953. Photograph by Frank Powolny.

Marilyn, 1952. Photo by Frank Powolny.

Marilyn, 1952. Frank Powolny.

Marilyn, 1952. Frank Powolny.

Marilyn, 1952. Photograph by Frank Powolny.

Marilyn, headshot, 1952. Photograph by Frank Powolny.

Children’s benefit, December 4, 1953. Photograph by Phil Stern.

Children’s benefit, December 4, 1953. Photograph by Phil Stern.

Marilyn in the early 1950’s.

Marilyn.

The year is 1951. In March Marilyn makes publicity photographs with Chicago White Sox professional baseball players Gus Zernial and Joe Dobson. In June Marilyn does a photo shoot with Nick Savano, Craig Hill and Mala Powers for the September 1951 issue of Modern Screen.

Marilyn at a party at Ciro’s, June 1951.

Marilyn in 1954 at the St. Regis hotel in New York City.

Marilyn, 1952. Ernest Bacharach.

Marilyn in 1952. Photograph by Bob Sandberg.

Marilyn in 1952 looks at a drawing of herself between two flower arrangements. Photograph by Nickolas Muray.

Photograph by Nickolas Muray, 1952.

Nickolas Muray, 1952.

Marilyn posing on a mattress cot. Early 1950’s.

Marilyn at Ciro’s at 8433 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood in 1953. Marilyn is between movie columnist/radio commentator Walter Winchell (1897-1972) and film executive Joseph Schenck (1876-1961). This was right after Gentleman Prefer Blondes was made that had the whole movie-going world fall in love with Marilyn Monroe.

On May 13, 1953, Marilyn and Sheilah Graham at the party given by Walter Winchell in movie columnist Louella Parsons’ honor, at Ciro’s. 

At Ciro’s, May 13, 1953, with nationally-syndicated movie columnist Sheilah Graham.

Marilyn poses at the bottom of an imaginary ascending staircase.

On the runway.

Marilyn in New York, 1954.

Marilyn Monroe at Romanoff’s in Beverly Hills, 1954.

Marilyn, 1954. Photography by Ted Baron.

Marilyn Monroe and Mitzi Gaynor at the reception on March 5, 1953 for nationally-syndicated American movie columnist Sheilah Graham’s wedding that had been held on February 14, 1953.

March 5, 1953.

At Sheilah Graham’s wedding reception, March 5, 1953.

Marilyn with Sheilah Graham, March 5, 1953.

Sheilah Graham’s wedding reception, March 5, 1953.

Marilyn attended Sheilah Graham’s wedding reception on March 5, 1953 with movie columnist Sidney Skolsky.

Marilyn, 1952. Photograph by Philippe Halsman.

Marilyn, 1952. Philippe Halsman.

Marilyn, 1952. Philippe Halsman.

Marilyn, 1954. Photograph by Philippe Halsman.

Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable at the premiere of How To Marry a Millionaire in November 1953. Made by 20th Century Fox, the American romantic comedy starred Lauren Bacall along with Monroe and Grable as three resourceful gold diggers in New York City. It was the first film ever to be filmed in the new CinemaScope widescreen process, although released shortly after The Robe that was also filmed in CinemaScope. These two films were the top earners for the studio that year and in the top ten of highest-grossing films of 1953. The premiere Of How to Marry a Millionaire was on November 4, 1953 at the historic art-deco Fox Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills, California. The Los Angeles landmark was renamed the Saban Theatre in 2009.

Two shots from Marilyn Monroe’s first photo session with 31-year-old photographer Milton H. Greene in September 1953. Greene had come to Los Angeles to photograph Marilyn who had been working on River of No Return, a Technicolor American Western, directed by Otto Preminger and co-starring Robert Mitchum. The 20th Century Fox film was the first CinemaScope picture made in Canada though upon its release in April 1954 critics were divided as to whether it was the Jasper and Banff National Parks or Marilyn Monroe that nature had more munificently blessed.

Top: Marilyn on crutches in August 1953 following her leg injury during filming on location for River of No Return.

Above: Marilyn returned to California to shoot indoor/raft scenes for River of No Return in September 1953 from Alberta, Canada. She still had a damaged leg.

To be Continued…

Quotes: John Henry Newman.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was a theologian and poet who was first an Anglican priest and later a Roman Catholic priest and cardinal. In the 1830’s and until his conversion to Catholicism in 1845, Newman was a leading figure in the Oxford Movement. They were a group of Anglicans who looked to create a bridge between the Church of England and the Catholic Church by adopting many Catholic beliefs and liturgical rituals from before the English Reformation. Newman eventually came to believe for himself that these religious efforts proved insufficient and he left the Anglican Communion for the Catholic Church in 1845. Already an articulate and influential religious leader in Britain, Newman’s decision brought with it the burden of having upset his friends as well as being challenged by them and others for his changed religious opinions on polemical grounds. Newman, a longtime writer and speaker, responded after a while with his now-celebrated Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1865–1866), which served as a defense of his religious opinions after he quit his position as Anglican vicar at Oxford. Newman, a 19th-century master of English prose and poetry, had already published The Idea of a University (1852) and went on to publish Grammar of Assent (1870) as well as several poems, some of which were set to music or served as hymns. In 1879, at the age of 78 years old, Pope Leo XIII named Newman a cardinal for his work on behalf of the Catholic Church in England as well as his having co-founded the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854, which today as University College Dublin is Ireland’s largest institution of higher learning. On October 13, 2019, John Henry Newman was canonized a Catholic saint at the Vatican by Pope Francis. St. John Henry Newman became the first saint canonized from Britain since 1976. In remarks by Prince Charles who led the British delegation to the Vatican for Newman’s canonization, the Prince of Wales said: “In the age in which he [Newman] attains sainthood, his example is needed more than ever – for the manner in which, at his best, he could advocate without accusation, could disagree without disrespect and, perhaps most of all, could see differences as places of encounter rather than exclusion.” London-born Cardinal Newman died in England in 1890 at 89 years old. He founded the Oratory at Birmingham in 1848 and through his writings spoke to many about the issues of faith, education, and conscience.

“A given opinion, as held by several individuals, even when of the most congenial views, is as distinct as are their faces.” Oxford University sermons, 1843.

“It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing.” Oxford University sermon, December 11, 1831.

“From the age of fifteen, dogma has been the fundamental principle of my religion: I know of no other religion; I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of religion; religion, as a mere sentiment, is to me a dream and a mockery.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua, 1864.

“I used to wish the Arabian Tales were true; my imagination ran on unknown influences, on magical powers, and talismans. I thought life might be a dream, or I an Angel, and all this world a deception, my fellow-angels by a playful device concealing themselves from me, and deceiving me from the semblance of a material world.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

“I was brought up from a child to take great delight in reading the Bible; but I had formed no religious convictions till I was fifteen. Of course I had perfect knowledge of my Catechism.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

“I read Joseph Milner’s Church History, and was nothing short of enamoured of the long extracts from St. Augustine and the other Fathers which I found there. I read them as being the religion of the primitive Christians.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

“I read Newton on the Prophecies, and in consequence became most firmly convinced that the Pope was the Antichrist predicted by Daniel, St. Paul and St. John. My imagination was stained by the effects of this doctrine up to the year 1843.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

“There are virtues indeed, which the world is not fitted to judge about or to uphold, such as faith, hope and charity; but it can judge about Truthfulness; it can judge about the natural virtues, and truthfulness is one of them. Natural virtues may also become supernatural; Truthfulness is such…” Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

“Catholics on the other hand shade and soften the awful antagonism between good and evil, which is one of their dogmas, by holding that there are different degrees of justification, that there is a great difference in point of gravity between sin and sin, that there is a possibility and the danger of falling away, and that there is no certain knowledge given to anyone that he is simply in a state of grace, and much less that he is to persevere to the end.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

“Ex Umbris et Imaginibus in Veritatem! (From shadows and symbols into the truth!)

“Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom; Lead thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead thou me on! Keep thou my feet: I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me.” The Pillar of the Cloud, 1833.

Marilyn Monroe in Photographs: The Modeling Years (1946-1962).

It has been said that Marilyn Monroe is the most beautiful woman in the world– of her time, and ours. For this iconic mid-20th century sex symbol there continues to be an almost insatiable demand for her many photographic and other images through a career in the public eye of around 15 years. From the beginning, in nearly every photographic image, Norma Jeane Baker (or Mortenson)/Marilyn Monroe exuded an irresistible natural beauty and sexiness. Marilyn was the girl next door and glamour’s Queen. The world recognized that she had a special and seemingly irreplaceable affinity for the camera as a model, celebrity, and movie star. Marilyn’s ability to communicate her radiance by way of the photographic image lifted her personal and physical qualities into a universal language and appeal. After 19-year-old Norma Jeane was discovered during World War II working in a factory on behalf of the war effort until Marilyn Monroe’s tragic and untimely death in August 1962 at 36 years old, the myth of Marilyn Monroe is defined through the lens of the still camera as much as her star qualities and trajectory as an actress in motion pictures. These images from Marilyn Monroe’s lifetime of modeling in front of the still camera hopefully works to tell the story of a special love affair between model, photographer and lens that is Marilyn’s special gift to the world.

Norma Jeane in 1945.

Norma Jeane portrait. Photographer unknown.

Norma Jeane in portrait by Richard C. Miller.

Norma Jeane. Photograph by Richard C. Miller.

Amateur model. Photo of Norma Jeane by David Conover, c. 1946.

Marilyn sweater girl. Photograph by David Conover.

Norma Jeane among the foliage. Photograph by Andre De Dienes.

Marilyn, the girl next door. Photo by Andre De Dienes.

Norma Jeane draws in the sand. Photograph by Andre De Dienes.

Norma Jeane. Photograph by Richard C. Miller.

Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe in 1946. Photograph by Richard C. Miller.

Marilyn Monroe in her first modeling job. Industry show hostess.

Norma Jeane in gloves. Photograph by Edwin Steinmeyer.

Glamour photograph of Marilyn Monroe by Edwin Steinmeyer.

Marilyn in 1946. Unknown photographer.

Marilyn’s image is featured in an advertisement for Nesbitt’s orange drink in 1946.

Marilyn in color publicity photograph by John Michle.

Marilyn becomes a bleach blonde for the first time. Photo: H. Maier Studio.

Marilyn in her first cheesecake shot. Photo by Earl Moran.

Marilyn’s “girl next door” image transformed. Photo: Earl Moran.

Marilyn in a photograph with artist Earl Moran. Photo: Joseph Jasgur.

Marilyn poolside. Unknown photographer.

Marilyn in a red bathing suit.

Marilyn in a red-striped bikini.

Marilyn in a head shot, c. 1947.

Marilyn Monroe in publicity shot, 1949. Photo: László Willinger.

Marilyn in a gorgeous publicity shot.

Marilyn in a publicity head shot.

Marilyn golfing. Unknown photographer.

Marilyn in t-shirt and rolled up jeans atop a shiny Cadillac in 1946. Photo: Richard Whiteman.

Norma Jeane at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Photo: Joseph Jasgur.

Marilyn in floral bikini. Fox Studio publicity photograph.

Marilyn with Ruffles the dog. Fox Studio publicity photograph.

Marilyn in an early Fox Studio publicity photograph.

Marilyn modeling in a fashion show. Photo: Larry Kronquist.

Marilyn in 1950. Photo: J.R. Eyerman.

Favorite model at the Pacific Coast Antiques Show.

Marilyn Monroe in Life, 1950. Photo: Ed Clark.

Marilyn, California coast, April 1951.

Cover girl Marilyn Monroe, Look, September 9, 1952.

Classic Marilyn Monroe, Life, April 7, 1952. The talk of Hollywood.

Marilyn in New York, 1952. Photo: Eve Arnold.

Marilyn in a park with a book of Irish literature, 1952. Photo: Eve Arnold.

Modern Screen, December 1952. Photo by Fox Studio publicity.

Marilyn Monroe for Modern Screen, 1952. Photo: Gene Kornman, Fox Studio.

Marilyn Monroe at the Hollywood Bowl with photographer Bruno Bernard, July 1953. Photographers loved that the camera loved her — and that Marilyn loved the camera back.

Marilyn in Beverly Hills, Fall 1954. Photo: Ted Baron.

Marilyn, 1957. Photo: Milton H. Greene.

Marilyn, Stars & Stripes, 1950. Marilyn was popular with the american troops fighting in Korea so much so that they named a mountain peak there after her.

Marilyn in a Fox publicity photo.

Marilyn, aspiring starlet.

60 Photos of EXPO Chicago 2018, Festival Hall, Navy Pier. Seventh Annual International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art, September 27-30, 2018.

Expo Chicago/2018 is the 7th annual exhibition of international contemporary and modern art held in Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall. It took place September 27-30, 2018. Expo Chicago/2018 presented 135 galleries and exhibitors representing 27 countries and 63 cities from around the world. This post’s 60 photographs are of that event.

Expo Chicago/2018 includes exhibitors four sections categorized to a specific aim:
Exposure are galleries founded since 2010 featuring one or two artists;
Profile are international galleries featuring solo or collective artists with focused installations, exhibitions and projects;
Editions + Books highlight artist books, editions, prints, collectibles, photography, collage, drawing, etc.;
Special Exhibitions” feature site specific work.

More Expo Chicago/2018 sections include:
IN/SITU highlighting curated large-scale installations (a second, outside version features large-scale sculptures in various Chicago locations);
EXPO VIDEO highlighting curated film, video and new media work;
EXPO SOUND highlighting curated sound installations and projects.

Expo Chicago/2018 was held in Festival Hall on Navy Pier in Chicago. The annual event, held since 2012, is in its seventh year.

Expo Chicago/2018 attracts thousands of attendees to visit with hundreds of gallery owners and artists from all over the world.

Expo Chicago is a major modern and contemporary art event held each year to open the Fall art season. It is held nearby to downtown Chicago and the Magnificent Mile on historic Navy Pier which is one of Chicago’s most popular tourist magnets.

One of the information desks at Expo Chicago/2018.

Expo Chicago/2018 welcomed 135 international art galleries from 27 countries and 63 cities.

Georgia Scherman Projects, Toronto. Within the framework of the show’s sections, each booth showcases the artwork of their choosing .

The artwork of Marcus Jansen was featured at Casterline/ Goodman Gallery, Aspen, CO, Chicago, and Nantucket, MA.

Artist Gina Pellón (center) at Cerunda Arte, Coral Gables, FL.

Surrealist painter Fred Stonehouse, Night King, 2018, acrylic on canvas, Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI.

Richard Hughes, Hot Step, 2017, cast polyester resin and enamel paint, Anton Kern Gallery, New York.

Ridley Howard, Blue Dress, Blue Sky, 2016, acrylic on linen, Frederic Snitzer Gallery, Miami, FL.

Admissions.

Library Street Collective, Detroit, MI.         

Artist Francesco Clemente, 2018, oil on canvas at Maruani Mercier Gallery, Brussels, Belgium.

Artwork of Larry Poons, Yares Art, New York, Palm Springs, Santa Fe.

Artwork of Austin White, 2018, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco and New York.

In/Situ: Postcommodity, Repellent Fence, 2015, Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Peter Blake Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA.

Artwork by Asmund Havsteen Mikkelsen at the booth shared by Fold Gallery, London, and Galleri Kant, Copenhagen.

Prune Nourry, River Man (detail), 2018, patinated copper tubes, Galerie Templon, Paris.

Gérard Garouste, The Eagle Owl and the One-Eared Woman, 2016, Galerie Templon, Paris.

Two views of Jaume Plensa’s Laura Asia in White, 2017, polyester resin and marble dust, at Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago.

William Kentridge, Blue Rubrics, 2018, lapis lazuli pigment on thesaurus pages, NFP Field Tate Editions, Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Frances Stark, According to This…, 2018, Silk screen on linen on panel, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York and Rome.

David Driskell, Jazz Singer (Lady of Leisure, Fox), 1974, oil and collage on canvas, DC Moore New York City.

Jansson Stegner, Swordswoman, 2018, oil on linen, Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles.

Brian Calvin, Eternal Return, 2009, acrylic on canvas, Anton Kern Gallery, New York.

Margot Bergman, Gloria, 2014, acrylic on linen, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago.

Ceysson & Bénétière, New York Luxembourg Paris Saint-Étienne.

Julie Heffernan, Self-Portrait with Nuala, 2018, oil on canvas, Zolla/Lieberman Chicago.

Chloe Wise, You would have been a castle for a moment, 2016, Galerie Division, Montreal and Toronto.

Expo Chicago/2018.

Expo Chicago/2018.

2018 artworks of Devan Shimoyama, De Buck Gallery New York City.

Expo Chicago/2018.

Chie Fueki, Kyle, 2017, DC Moore Gallery, New York City.

Naudline Pierre, Deal Kindly and Truly With Me, 2018, oil on canvas, 56 x 52 inches, Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.

Clare Sherman, Sea Cave, 2017, oil on canvas, 84 x 66 in., DC Moore Gallery, New York City.

Roberto Fabelo, Gothic Habanero, n.d., oil on canvas, Cerunda Arte, Coral Gables, FL.

Expo Chicago/2018 brings a world of modern and contemporary art to Chicago for the collector.

Expo Chicago/2018 offers the art lover in one place a plethora of opportunities to encounter the latest in modern and contemporary art from around the world.

Expo Chicago/2018 covers tens of thousands of square feet with modern and contemporary art of many kinds from 27 countries and 63 global cities.

A quiet moment with modern art.

Sculpture, painting, and other visual art forms were in evidence at Expo Chicago/2018. There is a popular on-site cafe that serves snacks and beverages.

Expo Chicago/2018.

Sharing smiles at Expo Chicago/2018.

A point of artistic interest at Expo Chicago/2018 brings out the cellphones.

Juan Roberto Diago, Grito, 1997. The artist talks about his artistic debt to Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Fort Gansevoort, New York City.

The latest artwork of Nick Dawes, 2018, Galerie Kornfeld, Berlin.

Tsailing Tseng, Black Moor Everything, Everything, 2018, oil on linen, Tuttle Fellowship.

Roberto Lugo, porcelain china, paint, luster, 2018, Wexler Gallery, Philadelphia. PA.

Lavar Munroe, Spy Boy, 2018, acrylic and earring stud on canvas, Jenkins Johnson Gallery San Francisco New York.

In/Situ: Ivan Argote, Among Us — Across History…, 2017.

Richard Hudson, Tear, 2016, polished mirrored steel, Michael Goedhuis London Beijing New York.


Aniela Sobieksi,  Girl with a Garden, 2018, oil on panel, Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee. The painting next to it sold right before I took this photograph.

The Hole NYC.

Barnaby Barford, Celebrity, 2018 , Giclée Print, David Gill Gallery, London.

All photographs and text©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system. (CR)

Dachau Prisoner and Martyr: Titus Brandsma, O. Carm., Catholic scholar and journalist.

By John P. Walsh

August 14 is the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941). Fr. Kolbe died in a Nazi concentration camp (Auschwitz) after he traded places with another camp prisoner condemned to die who was a stranger. That camp prisoner, a husband and father, survived the war. He testified to Kolbe’s heroic and charitable action as a martyr during Kolbe’s canonization process in the Roman Catholic Church. Kolbe was pronounced a saint on October 10, 1982 by St. Pope John Paul II (1920-2005).

Another Catholic martyr out of the Nazi camps who is also much worth knowing is Blessed Titus Brandsma (1881-1942). Brandsma died in Dachau concentration camp, the Nazi’s first concentration camp. Opened in 1933 Dachau’s initial purpose was to imprison political opponents of the Third Reich. Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan and Brandsma was a Dutch Carmelite. In 1985 Fr. Brandsma was declared a Blessed of the Church by St. Pope John Paul II setting him too on the road to sainthood.

Franciscan friar Fr. Maximilian Kolbe. His father was German and his mother was Polish. A journalist by trade he had dedicated his work to the Virgin Mary. Arrested in Poland on February 17, 1941 for sheltering Jews and anti-Nazi publishing, Kolbe was sent to Auschwitz on May 28, 1941. He died on August 14, 1941 after he traded places with another prisoner, a total stranger, who had been condemned to die in a retribution killing by the Nazis. In 1982 Kolbe was made a saint by St. Pope John Paul II.

Blessed Titus Brandsma as a young Carmelite friar. He became an ordained priest.

Both Frs. Kolbe and Brandsma were dedicated journalists. Brandsma was a university founder and teacher as well as a modern art advocate. In 1921 he famously defended the artistic freedom of the leading Symbolist and Expressionist painter in Belgium, Albert Servaes (1883-1966). The artist, a committed Catholic, once said “I have had only two masters. The Gospels and nature.” Yet his new art work for the Stations of the Cross caused an uproar among some Catholics who were offended by the contemporary depictions of Christ’s Passion. Brandsma supported Servaes’ work for the church of the Discalced Carmelites in Luythagen, a suburb of Antwerp (they can be found today in the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Koningshoeven in Tilburg, Netherlands). Brandsma arranged for the new art to be accompanied by Brandsma’s own meditations on them and published together in a newly-founded Catholic cultural review called Opgang, This helped present and clarify the profound religious content of the art work which worked to inspire the Catholic Flemish people as well as placate irate Carmelite superiors in Rome.

Much has been said and written on Titus Brandsma since his death in 1942 in Dachau concentration camp. One major theme about Brandsma from those who crossed paths with him in his lifetime was that he was a man of positive vitality, charity and cheer.

When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940, the Catholic bishops named Titus Brandsma as the spokesman for the freedom of Catholic education and the press. Brandsma did his job seriously and effectively. Father Brandsma, who was a prolific writer published in scores of publications, had vociferously and publicly opposed Nazi ideology since 1933 when Hitler came to power in Germany. In July 1941 Brandsma authored a Pastoral Letter on behalf of the bishops that was read in all Catholic parishes. The letter officially condemned the Nazis’s anti-Semitic laws and Dutch Catholics were informed that they would be denied the sacraments if they supported the Nazi party.

Brandsma had been vehemently opposed to Nazi ideology from the time Hitler rose to power in Germany in 1933. By speaking out and writing against it many times before the Second World War, he was finally arrested and imprisoned by the Nazis in their infamous Dachau concentration camp where he died.

The Nazis hated Brandsma’s vehement and active long opposition to them. They finally arrested him and tried and condemned him as an “enemy of the state” in January 1942. Just seven months later, in July 1942, Titus Brandsma was dead. His death was caused by the terrible sufferings inflicted on him by the Nazis. At the very end, Brandsma, like other prisoners, was used as a guinea pig for Nazi “doctors.” To combat malaria affecting German soldiers, the Nazis experimented on prisoners, in this instance, involuntarily infecting them with malaria and then using exotic and dangerous drugs in an attempt at a cure. At that point in his captivity, Brandsma, already worthless to the Nazis since he couldn’t work—and whose convictions they could not beat or dehumanize out of him — became a dead man walking.

There were around 40 million Protestants and 20 million Catholics in Nazi Germany. A vast majority of Germans including Germany’s 20,000 Catholic priests lived under Hitler’s ideology and were not persecuted by the Nazis. The Nazis wanted all culture and thought to bend to their ideology and whoever spoke or acted against that imperative were imprisoned and often murdered. The first clergymen to arrive at Dachau were Polish priests sent there in 1939 for helping the Polish Resistance against the Nazi invasion. Many of these nearly 2,000 Polish priests suffered the same brutal treatment as did Titus Brandsma — a regimen of starvation, beatings, and involuntary medical experimentation. From 1933 to 1945, of the 3,000 clergymen who were inmates at Dachau—whether Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, or Muslim — about 1,100 perished. Nearly one-third of Dachau’s 200,000 prisoners (or 65,000) were Jews, many of them Germans and Austrians.

Titus Brandsma as a young Carmelite friar.

Titus Brandsma as a 30 year old Dutch Carmelite priest. Brandsma was a teacher, journalist, and modern religious art advocate.

Brandsma as a teacher in 1924.

Bradsma was university rector at Nijmegan in 1934. Hitler had rose to power in neighboring Germany the year before which Brandsma vehemently opposed for the rest of his life.

For weeks since his arrival into Dachau concentration camp just outside cheery Munich, Brandsma had been starved and savagely beaten regularly. His body depleted of strength, Brandsma became infected with camp plague. Refusing to go to the camp hospital called by camp prisoners “a hell within hell,” Brandsma was eventually admitted. Its doctors, having no mission to heal and restore their patients often used them, as they did Brandsma, for cruel medical experimentation. In the end, the camp doctor assigned to Brandsma’s case ordered that his patient, now dying of terminal renal failure, be given a lethal injection administered by a camp nurse. The woman, a lapsed Catholic and SS functionary, survived the war and, having at that time returned to her faith, testified to Brandsma’s cause of death that afternoon in the summer of 1942. She remembered his last moments and that he reached into his tattered pocket to give her his only personal possession. It was a crude rosary made and given to Brandsma by another Dutch prisoner who had been executed.

Titus Brandsma in studeerkamer. ‘den geleerden pater uit Oss’. (FOTO GPD/PR). Bob van Huet.

One of the last photographs of Titus Brandsma before his arrest and condemnation by the Nazis as an “enemy of the state.” Brandsma had been appointed by the Catholic Bishops in Holland as their chief spokesman to defend the freedom of Catholic education and the press. After Brandsma authored a Pastoral Letter on behalf of the bishops that was read in all Catholic parishes in July 1941 that officially condemned the Nazis’s anti-Semitic laws and informed Dutch Catholics that they would be denied the sacraments if they supported the Nazi party, the Nazis arrested the Carmelite friar. Brandsma spent most of the winter and spring of 1942 in Nazi jails in Holland and was taken to Dachau concentration camp in June 1942 where he died in July 1942.

A drawing of Titus Brandsma in Amersfoort prison in Holland in spring 1942. It was drawn by a fellow prisoner who was executed by the Nazis on May 6, 1942.

When the Nazis arrested Brandsma in Holland for his exercise of free speech, the journalist-priest marveled at his bad luck: “I’m 60 years old and I’m going to jail.” Confined in assorted jails of worsening condition all that winter and into spring he arrived at Dachau in June 1942. Brandsma worked to keep a positive, indeed charitable, attitude as far as possible within a hideously barbaric situation. When he went so far as to encourage other Catholic camp prisoners to include the Nazi guards in their prayers, the other prisoners violently demurred. Brandsma retorted: “I didn’t say you ought to pray for them all day long!”

Titus Brandsma’s signature with the abbreviation “O.Carm.” after it indicating his being part of the Carmelite Order.

When Brandsma died at, and in, Nazi hands on July 26, 1942, three days later camp staff took his remains and burned them in the camp’s old furnaces. By 1943 Reichsführer-SS Heinrich  Himmler (1900-1945) had ordered and installed new and bigger furnaces. They were used around the clock to dispose of prisoner remains until April 29, 1945 when Dachau was liberated by a large force of American soldiers. The Nazis scraped Brandsma’s ashes out of the furnace and disposed of them in the camp’s unmarked pit among thousands of other victims at Dachau. Inside this once-mass killing facility set within a leafy, banal German suburb that gives it its name, it is unknown the precise number of actual prisoner deaths that occurred here between 1933 and 1945, although 32,000 deaths are recorded.

Furnaces in the crematorium at Dachau. More than 31,000 prisoners died in Dachau concentration camp from 1933 to its liberation by American soldiers in 1945. The former concentration camp is situated in the middle of a leafy, banal German suburb of the same name.

At the Dachau Memorial Site, a Carmelite convent of contemplative nuns is one of the memorials close by. Built on the site of a gravel pit where prisoners were sent to work when punished for breaking camp rules, the convent’s entrance is through a former Dachau guard tower.

Always the writer, Titus Brandsma kept writing even in prison. These prison writings are a source for amazement and inspiration today. In the depth of his own terrible suffering at the hands of others, Titus Brandsma wrote: “In the depths of our being we come upon the activity of God by which he sustains us and we are led and guided by him. We have to go to its deepest source to rediscover ourselves in God.”

The author at Dachau concentration camp in July 1984. The sculpture memorial to Dachau prisoners from 1933 to 1945 by Yugoslav sculptor Nandor Glid (1924-1997) is just behind me. Glid was a Holocaust survivor who had been a forced laborer and partisan during the war and whose father and most of his family were murdered in Auschwitz.

My photograph of the entrance gate into the camp during a visit in July 1984.

Another of my photographs from Dachau in July 1984 — barbed wire, ditch, and a watch tower. The broad expanse of the prisoner barracks were dismantled leaving only their graveled footprint.

Brief newspaper announcement of the death of Blessed Fr. Titus Brandsma, Carmelite Order. Brandsma’s cause for sainthood continues to go forward today.

Text©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system. (CR)

St. Francis of Assisi and the Portiuncula Indulgence

Featured Image: Francis Receiving the Order from Pope Honorius III, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1483-85, fresco, originally Santa Trinita, Florence, now Piazza della Signoria.

Giotto (1267-1337), St. Francis with two men (detail), 1297-1300, Upper Church, Basilica di S. Francesco, Assisi, Italy.

By John P. Walsh

A plenary indulgence in the Roman Catholic Church wipes clean all punishment for sins during a person’s entire lifetime. For something that may assure a soul is heaven bound, there are specific and precise earthly requirements to be followed. A plenary indulgence means that the punishment for sins that could well be experienced on earth or after death in purgatory are expiated or removed. A plenary indulgence stands in contrast to the more common partial indulgences which are less comprehensive and come in a far broader range.

The plenary indulgence granted by the Pope in 1216 to the Portiuncula, a lowly Franciscan chapel outside Assisi — the so-called Portiuncula Indulgence — is remarkable in church history. As with most things associated with the life of St. Francis of Assisi (c.1181-1226), the episode turned the church’s indulgence system on its head. The new pope, Honorius III (1150-1227, reign 1216-1227), who followed the powerful and influential Pope Innocent III (reign, 1198-1216), was asked by St. Francis himself for the plenary indulgence linked to the Portiuncula, the one-room chapel given to the Franciscans and the central place for many of their founder’s most profound religious experiences.

The Portiuncula (or “Little Portion”) is a 9th century chapel given to the Franciscans by local Benedictine monks. It was here that St. Francis of Assisi received his calling to be a mendicant or beggar following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Since the mid-17th century it has been enshrined within a massive basilica in Assisi called Santa Maria degli Angeli (“Our Lady of the Angels”).

Honorius III listened to the little poor man Francis and expressed extreme reluctance to grant his request. How could the mighty church bestow its fullest plenary indulgence on an obscure, rundown 180 square foot chapel when a holy place such as that might normally receive only a partial indulgence? Churches, usually at their dedication, would gain a partial indulgence of days or perhaps a year or two. The Portiuncula Indulgence which begins each year at sunset on the evening of August 1 and extends until sunset of the following day, is a plenary (or lifetime) indulgence that was approved at the highest levels of the church by virtue of St. Francis of Assisi’s bold request. The saint always insisted it was not he, but Jesus Christ Himself who was asking for the plenary Portiuncula Indulgence.

Pope Francis who when elected in 2013 took his name from St. Francis of Assisi sits inside the Portiuncula chapel during his visit to Assisi in 2016 for World Day of Prayer For Peace.

In the early 13th century the church’s only plenary indulgence was for the Crusades in the Holy Land — at first for the Crusaders themselves and later for those who provided their spiritual and material support. Interestingly, the distribution of and sharing in this sole plenary indulgence had been granted to the Franciscans. The new order (1209) which started in Assisi under St. Francis had quickly spread not only throughout Europe in Francis’s lifetime but the known world. The Franciscan Order would soon embrace both men and women, religious and laity. St. Francis’s own vocation started dramatically in 1208 at the Portiuncula, the tiny dilapidated chapel on a wide plain below Assisi, no more than an hour’s walk from the hill town’s main square.

Francis’s request to the pope who was holding court in Perugia was a bold one. The pope greatly hesitated; then assented. The cardinals and the Curia—as well as the local bishops—were opposed to the idea of a plenary indulgence for the Portiuncula. Francis’s “Little Portion” was just that and unworthy of the church’s fullest indulgence especially as an international banking system was watching and to which the church had become increasingly aligned. Unable to quash outright the Poverello’s request with its papal approbation, the cardinals and Curia worked successfully to limit its temporal parameters– allowing the plenary indulgence for the Little Portion to work for the littlest of time -– namely, one day a year, from the sunset of August 1 to that of August 2. This has remained its arrangement for more than 800 years.

St. Francis Receiving Confirmation of the Franciscan Order from Pope Honorious III, by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494), originally in a central position in the Santa Trinita, Florence, Italy. It is housed today at the Piazza della Signoria. The approval of the Franciscan order by Honorius III depicted in this fresco occurred in 1223 which was about 7 years after the Portiuncula Indulgence, This 15th-century art work provides insight into the almost public event that any papal encounter entailed.

To acquire any plenary indulgence including the Portiuncula Indulgence requires taking action regarding the work to which the indulgence is attached -– in this case, it began with pilgrimage to the Portiuncula in Assisi. It also means fulfilling three more conditions. The applicant must (1) make a sacramental confession, (2) receive holy communion, and (3) pray for the intentions of the pope. To acquire a plenary indulgence also means that not even the smallest attachment to any sin is permitted.

After their meeting in 1216 the pope offered Francis the appropriate paperwork for his extraordinary indulgence but like many times before and on integral events in the life of the Franciscan Order, Francis waved it off. This great saint concluded that even church documents could be superfluous to the actual manifestation of God’s work.

Simone Martini (c. 1285-1344), St. Francis with the Stigmata, Basilica di San Francesco, Assisi, Italy.

After St. Francis died on October 3, 1226 at the Portiuncula, its plenary indulgence’s lack of a contemporary document and continued animosity from grandiose church figures led early Franciscans to not highlight the privilege. By the 1270’s with the last of the Franciscans who personally knew Francis dying off, those brothers who had been at Perugia in 1216 to witness the Portiuncula indulgence set about making notarized statements attesting to its veracity.

In this first quarter of the 21st century Franciscans and other pilgrims continue to arrive to Assisi in a constant stream as they have since the 13th century. Their visits often include traveling the short distance to the Portiuncula which is the spiritual home of St. Francis and the Franciscan movement, all of which has made a noteworthy impact on world history. But not every visit– especially among 13th century Franciscans– provides easy historical documentation of their witness to the Portiuncula’s plenary indulgence in August. In a certain way, the origin of the Portiuncula indulgence attributed to St. Francis is shrouded in history as much as possibly legend. In 2019 the Portiuncula indulgence is in effect from the evening of August 1-2. In addition to the sacramental requirements, its plenary indulgence may be received by visiting any Franciscan church in the world and that the pilgrim in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi has that tiny terra sancta called the Portiuncula uppermost in mind so that from that place its graces may flow.

SOURCES:

St. Francis of Assisi, Johannes Jörgensen, translated from the Danish with the author’s sanction by T. O’Conor Sloane, Image Books in association with Longmans, Green & Company, Inc, 1955.

Manual of Indulgences,  USCCB Publishing , 2006.

Civilisation, Kenneth Clark, Harper & Row Publishers, New York and Evanston, 1969.

Text©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system. (CR)

Mural: Sea of Flags, 2004, by Gamaliel Ramirez, Chicago, Illinois.

SEA OF FLAGS, 2004, 2500 West Division Street, Chicago (Humboldt Park) by Gamaliel Ramirez (b. 1949) with the assistance of community members.  

The mural entitled Sea of Flags depicts Fiesta Boricua (De Bandera a Bandera), an annual 3-day music and cultural event in the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago. Attracting tens of thousands of visitors, the fiesta is held starting in late August or early September. In 2018 the Fiesta Boricua celebrated its 25th anniversary and offered 3 stages booked back to back with scores of musical and cultural performers specializing in the pulsating rhythms of Puerto Rican salsa, reggaeton, bomba, plena, and merengue music, and more.

Some of the famous people depicted in the mural Sea of Flags include Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebrón (1919-2010), Nuyorican (“New York City/Puerto Rico”) poet and playwright Pedro Pietri (1944-2004) and, depicted as a bronze statue on the image’s left side, Don Pedro Albizu Campos (1891-1965), the leading figure in the Puerto Rican independence movement.

An abundance of Puerto Rican flags in the mural is intentional by the artist and his assistants. Since Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in 1898 following the Spanish-American War — and at the same time that Spain ceded the island of Guam and the Philippines — Puerto Rico and the U.S. have had a complicated political relationship that is yet to be completely mutually resolved today.

Gamaliel Ramirez was born in the Bronx in New York in 1949. He spent most of his career in Chicago teaching and as a working artist. After 35 years in Chicago he retired to Santa Rita, San Juan, Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria in September 2017, Mr. Ramirez was hospitalized for many months and passed away on May 21, 2018. The artist of this colorful mural has left behind for us a legacy of paintings, other murals, photography and poetry.