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.
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.