The Book of Joshua is the sixth book in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. It is the first book of the Deuteronomistic history or the story of Israel from the conquest of Canaan to the Babylonian exile. It contains many different kinds of highly synthesized and edited literary materials. These include various etiologies (explanations of customs, institutions, landmarks, etc.) and battle narratives. These materials are thereby complex from a literary perspective.
The Book of Joshua relates the military campaigns of the Israelites in central, southern and northern Canaan. It tells of the destruction of their enemies and the division of the land among the Twelve Tribes. These developments are conveyed by two set-pieces—the first by God commanding the conquest of the land (Chapter 1) and, the second, by Joshua exhorting the people to a faithful observance of the Law revealed to Moses (Chapter 23).
Is the Book of Joshua of historical value? Clearly historical, the Israelites gained control of Canaan—and the book relates that it was accomplished by a series of battle victories which is not unreasonable to presume. The book’s broad narrative is generally to be founded on history.
The Book of Joshua also contains many creations of the popular imagination or folklore which makes the historical reliance on its details presented as fact in the narrative not indisputable. Where the meagerness of materials is present, however, the ancient compilers and editors did not elaborate based on broad or simple textual statements but moderated descriptions to the available details. Today’s modern archaeology, while able to provide insight into human activity in Canaan throughout this time period (13th century BCE and later), the historical quest to establish a clear, concrete connection to episodes mentioned in the Book of Joshua by this science can be hard to support.
The figure of Joshua in the role of significant military leader is integral to the narrative and found in the most ancient, original text (i.e., his role in the formation of the 12-tribe league at Shecham, Chapter 24), among other examples. All factors point to Joshua’s significant role in the conquest.
In terms of the Book of Joshua’s religious aspects there are several layers of religious tradition that are held in common but with singular or special emphases. The book relates the conquest as an act of God. For man, the act of conquest or “holy war” was closely associated to an act of worship though that idea was based on an older, primitive religious practice that was not practiced at least by the time the Book of Joshua was completed in the mid6th century BCE. The Book of Joshua also conveys another religiously primitive idea–that of collective guilt (Chapter 7).
Religious tradition is expressed in the ideas of God’s covenant and that morality is based on obedience to the Law as part of their close personal relationship to God. In chapters 13 to 21 which were added later, the book expresses God’s fidelity to the Israelites to the point of restoration of total possession of the land although while in exile that idea would be a dream. The idea of a future Israel that is restored was further embellished religiously—such as the 12 tribes gathered to worship at the sanctuary and providing carefully for its tribal priests (Chapter 22).
Joshua’s speech ends the book with a warning about the future (Chapter 23) though the following and last chapter added later ends differently. In that last chapter the people of Israel proclaim their choice to serve God (Joshua 24:24) and that the choice of Israel to be in relationship with God is a free one (24:15). The narrative of the Book of Joshua closes with Joshua’s death at the age of 110 years old and his burial among the heritage of the descendants of Joseph (24: 29, 32).
SOURCE: The Jerome Biblical Commentary, edited by Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph A Fitzmeyer, S.J., and Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.
Featured Image: George Gordon (Lord Byron) by Richard Westall (1765-1836). National Portrait Gallery, London.
Letter to the poet Thomas Moore, October 28, 1815. Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 4 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 8 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
Out of chaos God made a world, and out of high passions comes a people. Byron was describing the early nationalist fervor in Italy for which the poet played an active role. Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 8 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
I do detest everything that is not perfectly mutual. Letter, October 21, 1813. Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 3 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone. Journal, December 12, 1813. Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 3 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
Journal, March 22, 1814. Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 3 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
In solitude, where we are LEAST alone.Childe Harold, canto 3, stanza 90.
Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 8 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
Byron’s Letters and Journals, volume 9, edited by Leslie A. Marchand, 1979. The journal was written on Byron’s final journey to aid the Greek revolt.
If we must have a tyrant, let him at least be a gentleman who has been bred to the business, and let us fall by the axe and not by the butcher’s cleaver. Letter, February 21, 1820 to John Murray, publisher. Byron’s Letters and Journals, volume 7, edited by Leslie A. Marchand, 1973-1981.
Dosso Dossi (c. 1489-1542)– whose actual name was Giovanni de Lutero–was an Italian Renaissance painter who belonged to the School of Ferrara. Its scores of artists painted mainly in the Venetian style greatly influenced by Giorgione (c. 1477-1510). Dosso Dossi dominated the school that maintained its tradition of painterly artificiality. Melissa is Dosso Dossi’s masterpiece–a benign personage in the Italian epic poem Orlando Furioso (1516) of Ludovico Ariosto (1574-1533). The enchantress frees humans from the black arts of the wicked sorceress Alcina. The painting depicts Melissa at the moment she burns the seals and spells of Alcina and liberates two men from the tree trunks. The realistic dog is certainly a human being under Alcina’s spell who will be liberated by Melissa and take up again the suit of armor he watches earnestly. The trees are Giorgionesque–stylized, artificially-lighted elements that provide the magical setting for the poem’s characters. The figure of Melissa, draped in a fringed red-and-gold-brocaded robe and enriched by Titianesque glazes, is particularly alluring in the sparkling gold and green setting moored by meticulously and softly portrayed meadows, background figures, and distant city towers.
SOURCE: History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Third Edition, Frederick Hartt, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1987.
Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-c.1319).
The artistic tradition of the Sienese master, Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1255-c. 1319), was based on older Greek painting. Yet Duccio was no less “modern” than Giotto (1266-1377). Giotto, who was trained by Cimabue (1240-1302), directed his creative artistry towards concrete reality whose perception derived from the artist’s thoughts and feelings of it. Duccio would achieve a similar but unique synthesis through and from a different direction.
Duccio modernized the older Greek style creating the painting styles of the Sienese school as well as all of early Renaissance painting. Duccio’s artwork is distinguished by his discriminating advance of the Byzantine Post-Hellenism tradition in Tuscany—and following his own encounter with Cimabue who gave the Sienese artist his first important commission in Florence in 1285 —in a masterly delicate way. This delicacy and discrimination are seen in Duccio’s elegant, often light and airy, compositions and rich colors.
Over the next almost 25 years Duccio learned and deployed the elements of various pictorial traditions that by his constant intelligent blending enriched them. Duccio’s style used the iconographic schemata of the ancient Oriental-Byzantine tradition including its glorious color and poetic composition along with the ultra-contemporary French and Gothic linear style. Duccio’s oeuvre epitomizes the artist’s temperament and taste as well as a lifetime of artistic education and culture.
Yet beyond its representation of an event in a scene, Duccio’s painting, not unlike Giotto’s histories, is raised to another level by some of its formal elements – a figure, episode, or gesture – into the artist’s magical world. This quality of Duccio’s art provides a textually clear and comprehensibly observed episode—such as of the Gospels— within a setting that is carefully observed and delineated—and with its totality imbued in finer artistic and aesthetic sensibilities.
The imminent drama manifested in Duccio’s iconography works to transcend its representational anecdote, even as figures or episodes of the Bible are easily recognizable. His artwork’s plasticity, with figures and surroundings in serene harmony, emanates a power whose message supersedes, or at least is contiguous to, the painting’s ostensible, usually religious, subject matter.
In the display of such a unique artistic quality, Duccio’s artwork functions in a dream-like and imaginatively timeless dimension—a unique poetical language—while it conveys an historical condition in any of his intentionally-varying episodes. Duccio’s carefully delineated religious scenes, softly and carefully conveyed, would characterize emerging Sienese painting and make religious painting exceedingly popular in Europe over the next 450 years.
SOURCE: Giotto and His Contemporaries, Enzo Carli, trans. Susan Bellamy, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1958.
Duccio Di Buoninsegna (c.1255-c.1319), The Apparition of Jesus at the Closed Doors. The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy.
Featured Image: John Keats (detail) by Joseph Severn (1793-1879), 1819.
John Keats’s first book of poems was published in 1817 when the English poet was 22 years old. From an early age, Keats, studying under the literary Rev. John Clarke, became a passionate reader of poetry and was introduced to the theater and music which he loved. Though both of his parents had died by the time Keats was in his early teens, their respectable estate never reached him in his short lifetime. His guardian sent the minor Keats to work in the medical field. But in 1813, the young Keats abandoned that apprenticeship for another — and began to write poetry.
Keats’ early poetic mentor was Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), editor of the Examiner, who introduced Keats to great established poets such as William Hazlitt (1778-1830), Charles Lamb (1775-1834), and Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). Keats also made the acquaintance of painter Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) and made other intimate lifelong friends. In 1816 Keats wrote his first major sonnet (On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer) in which he laid out an ambitious plan for his poetry.
In 1817 Keats wrote the 4,000-line Endymion though, ever a perfectionist, Keats considered it merely a poetic exercise. Keats soon isolated himself consciously from others to benefit his art. His over-riding quest was to seek his artistic individuality and poetic voice.
In 1818 external personal and professional events circumscribed Keats’ precious independence. First, his poetry for political rather than artistic reasons was ridiculed in the press. But more problematic for the brave Keats was that some of his immediate family members had become suddenly destitute or died. Keats’ spring and summer walking tour in 1818 of England, Scotland, and Ireland resulted in Keats’s personal inspiration but a chronically weakened state of physical health. In those same months, the 23-year-old poet had fallen in love with the vivacious, pretty and thoroughly nonliterary 18-year-old Fanny Brawne (1800-1865). They soon became engaged, but Keats’ inferior health and his strained to nonexistent finances impeded their getting married which frustrated Keats.
In the rapidly reached final period of his life and poetic career, Keats wrote several of his masterpieces. In 1819 Keats wrote, one after another, The Eve of St. Agnes, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, his Odes (including Ode To a Grecian Urn), Lamia, and several major sonnets. These poems possess the characteristics of Keats’ mature work—that of grace, sensuality, and sympathetic objectivity. It sets before the reader the conflicting and contradictory nature of existence, signaling a “both-and” experience of living in the world, including grappling with the problem of good and evil. Keats writes plainly in a letter in that period about life’s suffering—it is a “world…full of misery and heartbreak, pain, sickness and oppression.”
Weakened by tuberculosis, Keats’ health took a bad turn in February 1820 so much so that the poet realized he was dying. By that fall he traveled to Italy seeking a milder climate for his health. He stayed in Rome until the end came. On February 23, 1821 —like his mother and brother before him— Keats died of tuberculosis. The 25-year-old poet was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.
Despite his gallant reluctance to yield to bitterness or despair for his life’s wasteful circumstances, with death died Keats’ ambitious plans of renewed poetic achievement and an ongoing passionate love for Fanny Brawne. Although today’s reader can continue to savor John Keats’ poems and letters prior to his having stopped writing at 24 years old, what might have been in terms of the English Romantic poet’s fully realized potential is to offer a conjecture about one of the English language’s greatest poets.
SOURCES: The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Third Edition, Volume 2, W.W. Norton & company, Inc. New York, 1974.
John Keats, Walter Jackson Bate, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1964.
John Keats, letter to his brother and sister, 1819.
John Keats, letter to his brother George Keats (1797-1841) and his wife Georgiana Augusta Wylie Keats (1798-1879). Married in England in May 1818, the Keats soon departed for America, specifically to Kentucky and southeastern Illinois by way of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Keats are buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. Mrs. Keats re-married following the death of the poet’s brother who died of natural causes while experiencing serious financial setbacks.
The poet suffered from– and died of– tuberculosis at the age of 25 years.
Letter to his brothers, George and Thomas Keats, January 13-19, 1818. Letters of John Keats, no. 37, edited by Frederick Page, 1954.
Endymion, Preface (1818). The complete line is : “This may be speaking too presumptuously, and may deserve a punishment: but no feeling man will be forward to inflict it: he will leave me alone, with the conviction that there is not a fiercer hell than the failure in a great object.”
Michael Bloomberg (born February 14, 1942) is an American businessman, politician, and author. He is the CEO and majority owner of Bloomberg L.P, which he co-founded. Bloomberg was the mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013 where he presided over a period of relative prosperity as well as controversial city-wide policies and practices such as “stop and frisk.” By having the city’s term limits law extended in 2008, Bloomberg served three consecutive four-year terms as mayor. In 2020 he became a candidate for President of the United States running in the Democratic Party primaries. According to Forbes business magazine, Bloomberg is worth about $64 billion. He is divorced and has two grown daughters.
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Edward Morgan Forster (1879–1970) is an English novelist,
short story writer, and essayist.
The heart of Forster’s literary work is humanist in nature as his characters depict—whether in Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), A Room with a View (1908), his masterpiece Howards End (1910), his most successful work A Passage to India (1924), Maurice (1971), and others — the honest pursuit of personal tracks and connections in the face of first looking to impress or please the inevitable and constantly mutating restrictions of contemporary society.
In “A Room With a View” it is 1907 and young English girl Lucy Honeychurch — “a young lady with a quantity of dark hair and a very pretty, pale, undeveloped face”– is staying at an Italian pension with her cousin and chaperone, Miss Charlotte Bartlett while on holiday in and around Florence.
At dinner in the pension they meet some other English guests: a reverend, two older Miss Alans, a writer Miss Lavish, and a Mr. Emerson and his handsome adult son, George. They discuss the merits and practicalities of having a room with a view in Florence.
The next day while touring the city Lucy faints in the Piazza della Signoria having witnessed a stabbing and is rescued by handsome George. After they establish this connection George and Lucy are together again to join a group tour of the nearby countryside. Eventually finding themselves alone, George embraces Lucy and they kiss. This is witnessed by Miss Bartlett who cuts short her and Lucy’s visit to Florence.
After visiting the Vyses in Rome, Lucy and Miss Bartlett have returned to Surrey in England. Lucy accepts one of the marriage proposals from snobby Cecil Vyse, a drawing room match. By happenstance of personal connection, George and his father, Mr. Emerson, had made passing acquaintance with Cecil at the National Gallery in London which led to Cecil inviting them to take up residence in a rental house next door to Lucy Honeychurch. Lucy immediately recalls the Emersons and their personal connection in Florence, especially with George. But her escape to Rome and then to Windy Corner, her home in Surrey, added to her being uncomfortable with their renewed intimate presence, particularly since she is just engaged to Cecil, her “Fiasco” as Lucy’s brother Freddy calls him.
Lucy rebuffs George as she ultimately breaks her engagement with Cecil with plans for herself to travel to Greece. Meantime, George has made plans of his own to leave. At this juncture, Lucy admits her feelings for George and cancels her trip. George and Lucy elope to Florence. They take “a room with the view” with the promise of living happily thereafter. Forster observed: “Passion does not blind. No. Passion is sanity, and the woman you love, she is the only person you will ever really understand.”
Chapter I: The Bertolini (7 quotes).
Chapter II: In Santa Croce with No Baedeker (17 quotes).
Chapter III: Music, Violets, and the Letter “S” (15 quotes).
Chapter IV: Fourth Chapter (5 quotes).
Chapter V: Possibilities of a Pleasant Outing (10 quotes).
Chapter VI: The Reverend Arthur Beebe, the Reverend Cuthbert Eager, Mr. Emerson, Mr. George Emerson, Miss Eleanor Lavish, Miss Charlotte Bartlett, and Miss Lucy Honeychurch Drive Out in Carriages to See a View; Italians Drive Them (6 quotes).
Chapter VII: They Return (10 quotes).
Chapter VIII: Medieval (14 quotes).
Chapter IX: Lucy As a Work of Art (11 quotes).
Chapter X: Cecil as a Humourist (11 quotes).
Chapter XI: In Mrs. Vyse’s Well-Appointed Flat (9 quotes).
Chapter XII: Twelfth Chapter (9 quotes)
Chapter XIII: How Miss Bartlett’s Boiler Was So Tiresome (13 quotes)
Chapter XIV: How Lucy Faced the External Situation Bravely (9 quotes)
Chapter XV: The Disaster Within (20 quotes)
Chapter XVI: Lying to George (11 quotes)
Chapter XVII: Lying to Cecil (14 quotes)
Chapter XVIII: Lying to Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeychurch, Freddy, and The Servants (18 quotes)
Chapter XIX: Lying to Mr. Emerson (25 quotes)
Chapter XX: The End of the Middle Ages (11 quotes)
Clodion, The See-Saw, 1775, terracotta. Toledo Museum of Art.
Frédéric Bazille, Self-portrait, 1865-66. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Heads, Female Diety; Bodhisattva; Buddha, stucco, Afghanistan/Pakistan, before 500 C.E. The Art Institute of Chicago.
(From left) Gabriele Münter, Kirche von Reidhausen, 1908, oil on canvas board; G. Münter, Girl with Doll, 1908-09, oil on cardboard; August Macke, Geraniums Before Blue Mountain, 1911, oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum.
Bill Reid, Birth of the World, Museum of Anthropology, UBC, Vancouver, British Columbia.
Mikazuki (male deity) Noh Mask, Japan, 16th century, cypress wood, colors, brass. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Aristide Maillol, Enchained Action, bronze, 1905.
Charles Collins, Still Life with Game, 1741. Private collection.
Roman Venus, Asia Minor, marble, c.165 CE. Toledo Museum of Art.
Michel Anguier, Amphitrite, 1684. Toledo Museum of Art.
The Dressing Table, William Glackens, c.1922, oil on canvas. Private collection.
Paul Manship, Dancer and Gazelles, 1916, bronze. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Charles Ray, Young Man, 2012, Solid Stainless Steel.
James C. Timbrell, Carolan the Irish Bard, c. 1844, oil on canvas. Private collection.
Gabriele Münter, Portrait Young Woman, 1909, oil on canvas; Keesvan Dongen,Quai, Venice, 1921 and Woman with Cat, 1908. Milwaukee Art Museum.
Oil jar, Greece (Athens), terracotta, 450 B.C. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Lorado Taft, Fountain of the Great Lakes, or Spirit of the Great Lakes Fountain, 1913. The Art Institute of Chicago (South Garden).
Henry Moore, Large Interior Form, bronze, 1982. The Art Institute of Chicago (North Stanley McCormick Memorial Court). Henry Moore’s 16-foot sculpture was made when the 84-year-old British artist was concerned with the construction of three-dimensional space, internal forms within solid volumes, and placing his work in a natural setting. Moore had worked primarily in stone but once these formal concerns emerged shifted to modeling and bronze casting. Large Interior Form explores mass and void as well as gravity and growth within a nature-inspired artist-created form.
Berthe Morisot, Woman in a Garden, 1882-83, The Art Institute of Chicago, September 2013.
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Adam, 1881. Bronze. The Art Institute of Chicago, May 2014.
Contemporary Art After 1960, The Art Institute of Chicago, June 2014.
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.1Leonardo 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 theBattle 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’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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Acidini Luchinat, Christina, Butters, Suzanne B., Chiarini,
Marco, Cox-Rearick, Janet, Darr, Alan P., Feinberg, Larry J., Giusti,
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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 (Up to 1833).
“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 (Up to 1833).
“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 (Part III).
“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 (Part III).
“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 (Part II).
“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 (Part III).
“Let is seek the grace of a cheerful heart, an even temper, sweetness, gentleness, and brightness of mind, as well as walking in His light, and by His grace. Let us pray to Him to give us the ever-abundant, ever-springing love, which overpowers and sweeps away the vexations of life by its own richness and strength, and which above all unites us to Him, Who is the fountain and center of all mercy, loving kindness and joy.” 17, Religious Joy (Sermon for Christmas Day), 1868.
“Ex Umbris et Imaginibus in Veritatem! (From shadows and symbols into the truth!), Epitaph at Edgbaston.
“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.