The Lost Battles, By Jonathan Jones

Da Vinci's sprint in the great art Renaissance race
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The Independent Culture

In 1504, Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint a mural of a famous Tuscan battle on the walls of the Great Council Hall in Florence.

A year later, frustrated at his slow progress, the Florentine government employed Michelangelo to compose his own painting in the same room, hoping that rivalry would spur the two men to create complementary masterpieces.

Jonathan Jones's account of this competition is thrilling, written with a novelist's sense of pace. The murals were never finished, but he draws on surviving fragments to conjure a memorable image of what the finished spectacle might have looked like: Michelangelo's "scenes of bacchanalian revelry" next to Leonardo's "horrific revelation of the nature of war".