The Lost Battles

The Lost Battles

Michelangelo and Leonardo lived five centuries ago, but their works still obsess our culture, with a popular and universal quality that nothing else matches.
They have been equally revered and famous since their lifetimes, but our admiration for them exists mostly in isolation of each other. But in 1504 they competed with each other directly, to paint the walls of a room in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. It is remarkable enough that the same city had produced two such geniuses in the same century -- let alone that they met and exhibited together. But this competition, perhaps the most important event in the history of Renaissance art, the moment at which individual style came to command its own value, has been largely forgotten because the rival works did not survive.
This great artistic clash, Jonathan Jones argues in this riveting account, marks the true beginning of the High Renaissance. Re-creating sixteenth-century Florence with astonishing verve and aplomb, THE LOST BATTLES not only sheds new light on the making of the modern world but, in its portrait of two cultural titans going toe to toe, rewires our understanding of the personalities of the Renaissance's greatest icons.
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  • Simon & Schuster UK | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416526056 | 
  • September 2011
List Price £8.99

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THE LOST BATTLES by Jonathan Jones

A riveting re-creation of the moment when Michelangelo and Leonardo went head-to-head to compete for a commission in sixteenth-century Florence: and i

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About the Author

Jonathan Jones
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Jonathan Jones

Jonathan Jones is the art critic of the Guardian. He appears in the BBC television series Private Life of a Masterpiece and gives talks at the Tate and other galleries. In 2009 he was a judge for the Turner Prize. Jonathan lives in London with his wife and daughter.

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Jonathan Jones
Q. how did you come to write The Lost Battles?

A. The Lost Battles is about Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the Renaissance; about war, politics and everyday life as well as about art. It tries to be as exciting as a novel but is steeped in detailed historical reconstruction and full of intimate discussions of works of art. That sounds like a plug... well it is... but how did I came to write it? I grew up in north Wales where there are a lot of castles but not many art galleries, so I did not see the big London museums much in childhood. Instead, the first art exhibition I ever visited was on holiday in Italy when I was thirteen. It was in the great hall of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence and it was an exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical drawings. I was transfixed. You could say The Lost Battles comes directly from that experience because it is not just about Leonardo but about the very room where he saw the show, which in 1504 when the book begins was called the Great Council Hall. A few years ago I read, in Giorgio Vasari's sixteenth century classic The Lives of the Artists, about how Leonardo took on Michelangelo - his junior by twenty-five years - in a competition to paint murals for this Great Council Hall. It was a direct standoff between my two favourite artists. I couldn't get over my fascination with this story and so, here is my book about it - an attempt to discover what really happened, who "won" the competition, and what it tells us about these two men and the world they lived in. In a nutshell: the day I chanced on a story that brought to life these two artists whose works I have loved since I was a child, I was fated to write The Lost Battles.

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