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“From the earliest times when they were planning Florence Cathedral, the Florentines had the idea to create colossal sculptures, and lift them up around the base of the buttresses. Artists had attempted to do this in the early 15th century including Donatello and Brunelleschi, but they kept running into problems of perspective; how to make a figure satisfying when seen from way down below. None of their attempts survived, but in the 1460s, the Florentines unearthed an enormous block stone seventeen feet high, and they somehow transported it to Florence in one piece. Which in itself is a sort of engineering feet.
The Florentines gave it to a local sculptor in the 1460s to carve, but the block was very tall and very skinny and the sculptor abandoned the project. So, in the 1470s, they give the block to another sculptor who worked on it a little bit and then he abandons the project. So, right around 1500 there is this idea that they’re going to give away the block. Leonardo, who never carved a piece of marble in his life, rushes down from Milan because this was sort of a project of a lifetime, to make a colossal statue of this type. Oh, and yes, Michelangelo comes home to Florence too.
THE ARTISTIC GENIUS OF LEONARDO DA VINCI AND MICHELANGELO
By the way, Michelangelo comes home because of a massive guilt trip from his father. I’ve really never seen anything quite like this. This is an actual letter from Michelangelo’s father to Michelangelo complaining about his kids. ‘Not a single one of you is in a position to help me with so much of a glass of water, though now fifty-six years old. I have to pay for my keep and besides must cook for myself, sweep up, wash the pots and pans, bake bread. I must think of everything even when I have a headache. And if God were to take away my good health I would have to go to a hospice for there’s no one to take care of me.” By the way, he would live another three decades, and Michelangelo is just like him. He said he’s dying from the time he’s 35 and he lives to be 88, swinging a hammer right to the end.
Well, as you’ve probably guessed, Michelangelo had just came off this triumph of the Pieta, is given the block – and he creates The David. Wow.”
MORE ABOUT THE LEONARDO & MICHELANGELO
More on Leonardo Da Vinci & Michelangelo
In 1504, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), the two greatest artistic geniuses of the Italian Renaissance, were both working on enormous paintings of battle scenes for the Salone dei Cinquecento in the palace of the Florentine government. Though neither Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo would ever see their share of the ambitious project to its completion, the brilliant full-scale drawings they created of rearing horses and muscular soldiers were known in the 16th century as the “school of the world”. Notwithstanding the generational difference, the pairing of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo might have seemed like the ideal opportunity for intellectual collaboration: both were accomplished artists as well as so-called Universal Men, with shared interests across many disciplines, including painting, sculpture, architecture and anatomy. On the contrary, it only exacerbated what was described by their contemporaries as a mutual, fervent disdain, a relationship that was best exemplified by anecdotes of the two artists hurling insults at each other in the streets of Florence.
The Forgotten Rivalry: Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci
sixteenth century Florence was home to the Renaissance’s greatest talents—among them, the inimitable Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. The former was, most famously, the genius behind oils like the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. The latter, for the Pietà, David, and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
From impoverished upbringings and familial scorn to wartime trauma and failure, both men experienced their share of hardship. And it was these parallels, combined with similarities in their artistic training and style, that pitted them against each other. Their rivalry is one of the greatest artistic feuds in history, though there is only one account that gives us details of a bitter quarrel in the streets of Italy.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci, (Italian: “Leonardo from Vinci”) (born April 15, 1452, Anchiano, near Vinci, Republic of Florence [Italy]—died May 2, 1519, Cloux [now Clos-Lucé], France), Italian painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect, and engineer whose skill and intelligence, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. His Last Supper (1495–98) and Mona Lisa (c. 1503–19) are among the most widely popular and influential paintings of the Renaissance. His notebooks reveal a spirit of scientific inquiry and a mechanical inventiveness that were centuries ahead of their time.
Life and works
Early period: Florence
Leonardo’s parents were unmarried at the time of his birth. His father, Ser Piero, was a Florentine notary and landlord, and his mother, Caterina, was a young peasant woman who shortly thereafter married an artisan. Leonardo grew up on his father’s family’s estate, where he was treated as a “legitimate” son and received the usual elementary education of that day: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Leonardo did not seriously study Latin, the key language of traditional learning, until much later, when he acquired a working knowledge of it on his own. He also did not apply himself to higher mathematics—advanced geometry and arithmetic—until he was 30 years old, when he began to study it with diligent tenacity.
First Milanese period (1482–99)
In 1482 Leonardo moved to Milan to work in the service of the city’s duke—a surprising step when one realizes that the 30-year-old artist had just received his first substantial commissions from his native city of Florence: the unfinished panel painting Adoration of the Magi for the monastery of San Donato a Scopeto and an altar painting for the St. Bernard Chapel in the Palazzo della Signoria, which was never begun. That he gave up both projects seems to indicate that he had deeper reasons for leaving Florence. It may have been that the rather sophisticated spirit of Neoplatonism prevailing in the Florence of the Medici went against the grain of Leonardo’s experience-oriented mind and that the more strict, academic atmosphere of Milan attracted him.
Second Florentine period (1500–08) of Leonardo da Vinci
In December 1499 or, at the latest, January 1500—shortly after the victorious entry of the French into Milan—Leonardo left that city in the company of mathematician Lucas Pacioli. After visiting Mantua in February 1500, in March he proceeded to Venice, where the Signoria (governing council) sought his advice on how to ward off a threatened Turkish incursion in Friuli. Leonardo recommended that they prepare to flood the menaced region. From Venice he returned to Florence, where, after a long absence, he was received with acclaim and honoured as a renowned native son. In that same year he was appointed an architectural expert on a committee investigating damages to the foundation and structure of the church of San Francesco al Monte. A guest of the Servite order in the cloister of Santissima Annunziata, Leonardo seems to have been concentrating more on mathematical studies than painting, or so Isabella d’Este, who sought in vain to obtain a painting done by him, was informed by Fra Pietro Nuvolaria, her representative in Florence.
Second Milanese period (1508–13)
In May 1506 Charles d’Amboise, the French governor in Milan, asked the Signoria in Florence if Leonardo could travel to Milan. The Signoria let Leonardo go, and the monumental Battle of Anghiari remained unfinished. Unsuccessful technical experiments with paints seem to have impelled Leonardo to stop working on the mural; one cannot otherwise explain his abandonment of this great work. In the winter of 1507–08 Leonardo went to Florence, where he helped the sculptor Giovanni Francesco Rustici execute his bronze statues for the Florence Baptistery, after which time he settled in Milan.
Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo: Contrasts in Greatness
Leonardo and Michelangelo. These towering geniuses of Western art grew up in the same city, shared the same patrons, and also shared an intense dislike—for each other. But their fraught relationship was fueled by a secret fascination and a fierce competition that spurred them—and their contemporaries—to new levels of artistic achievement.
In a richly illustrated daylong program, art historian Nigel McGilchrist depicts the two artists as perfectionists and brilliant craftsmen who revolutionized the received methods of painting and sculpting for all time.
The Consequences of Competition
Two ways of confronting the same world: Leonardo as the observer and Michelangelo as the idealist. The Florentine environment, and early works that hint at even greater things: Leonardo’s Annunciation and Michelangelo’s David.
Techniques and Conservation
Leonardo’s search for the ultimate paint medium. Michelangelo as sculptor in painting, and draughtsman in stone. The problems inherent in conservation of the Sistine Chapel frescoes, and of Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Their influence on later European painting, compared with that of Titian.
Obsessions and Recurring Themes
Two ideals of beauty contrasted: Michelangelo’s depiction of death in the Pietà sculptures and Sistine Chapel frescoes Last Judgment and Entombment; Leonardo and the female face in Ginevra de Benci, Mona Lisa, and other works.
Writings, Dreams, and Nightmares
Leonardo’s Notebooks, and Michelangelo’s Sonnets and letters. The legacies of two minds with opposing views on science, religion, and the burning issues of the Renaissance.