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Gérard Edelinck, The Battle of Anghiari

The Battle of Anghiari, ca. 1660

Gérard Edelinck (1640 - 1707)

RA Collection: Art

Three men riding raging war-horses engaged in a ferocious conflict for possession of the standard that would mark the battle's victor.

Gerard Edelinck's print depicts the Battle of the Standard, the central section of an ambitious mural project commissioned to Leonardo to commemorate the Florentine victory over the Milanese army during the Battle of Anghiari in 1440.

Leonardo design was intended to decorate a wall in the Sala del Gran Consiglio (Great Council Hall) of Palazzo della Signoria in Florence - together with a facing fresco by Michelangelo on the Battle of Cascina. Prior to their execution Leonardo and Michelangelo's two full-scale preparatory cartoons were exhibited and much admired by the younger generation of artists and acclaimed by Benvenuto Cellini "school for the world" (scuola del mondo). None survived the test of time.

Michelangelo abandoned the project after the completion of his cartoon. Leonardo began executing the composition adopting an experimental technique that proved to be disastrous. Inspired by the Roman method of encaustic painting. This involved a ground of heated beeswax to which oil pigments were applied. To quicken the drying time of the completed sections, Leonardo installed braziers under the fresco. But as described by Vasari, the wax-based pigments could not sustain the heat and the fresco "began to drip, in such a way, that very quickly, Leonardo abandoned it". Over the turn of few years Leonardo's battle was so deteriorated that about 1563 Vasari covered the walls with a monumental cycle of battle scene from Florentine history.

Only few extant autograph sketches and drawings document Leonardo's design, while the battle composition is preserved in later copies such as the Rubens drawing now at the Louvre from which Edelinck's print is derived and the Ruccellai drawing reproduced in a plate in the Etruria Pittrice (1791-95). These remain fundamental visual evidence of Leonardo's grand scheme.

Object details

The Battle of Anghiari
Engraved by
Gérard Edelinck (1640 - 1707)
Original attributed to
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519)
Drawn by
Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640)
ca. 1660
Object type

450 mm x 603 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number

Associated works of art

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