Military Review

“The Battle of Angiari” and “The Battle of Marciano”. Leonardo da Vinci and Giorgio Vasari


Copy of The Battle of Angiar, by Peter Paul Rubens (Louvre Museum, Paris)

Prophet, or demon, or wizard,
Keeping an eternal riddle
Oh Leonardo, you're a harbinger
Another unknown day.
Look you sick children
Sick and gloomy centuries
In the darkness of future centuries
He is incomprehensible and harsh -
To all earthly passions passionless,
This will remain forever -
Gods despised, autocratic,
Godlike man.

Dmitry Merezhkovsky

Art and история. A series of articles about armor and weaponsdepicted on the canvases of the great masters, caused a generally positive reaction from the VO visitors, and many began to ask to tell about certain paintings that attracted their attention. But it doesn’t always work out. However, there are topics that are simply impossible to get past. This applies to some paintings belonging to the most prominent artists of the past. And today we will look at two of them at once: Leonardo da Vinci's painting “The Battle of Angiari” and the creation of the painter and biographer of the great Leonardo Giorgio Vasari - the fresco “The Battle of Marciano”.

Let's start with the battles, since both of them are not very well known in our country, because these are “fights” between Italians that took place at the turn of the Middle Ages and the New Age, about which nothing was reported in our domestic history textbooks.

So, let's start with the first one. It was a battle between the armies of Milan and the Italian League, which was led by the Florentine Republic. It occurred on June 29, 1440 near the city of Angiari during the Lombard Wars and ended in the victory of the league forces. The second happened later, namely on August 2, 1554. It was the battle of the last of the many Italian wars that took place at Marciano della Chiana. Its consequence was the absorption of the Siena Republic by the Duchy of Florence.

On that day, the league forces were located at Angiari, a small town in Tuscany, and consisted of four thousand papal throne troops commanded by Cardinal Ludovico Trevisan, about the same number of Florentines and 300 Venetian horsemen led by Micheletto Attendolo. Some of the Angiari residents also decided to speak under the banner of the Pope.

The army of the Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, commanded by the famous condottier Niccolo Picchinino, approached the scene a day earlier. Moreover, another two thousand men from the city of Sansepolcro, lying nearby, joined the Milanese. Pichchinino was sure that he had more troops than the enemy, and ordered to attack him in the afternoon of the next day. But when the Milanese went from Sansepolcro to Angiari, they raised so much dust on the road that Miquetto Attendolo noticed their progress and managed to put the troops on alert.

The canal blocked the road to the Milanese. But there was a bridge over it. However, the Venetian horsemen managed to approach him before the Milanese. They restrained the enemy for some time, and although the reinforcements of captains Francesco Pichchinino and Astorre II Manfredi forced them to retreat, the papal forces managed to fully prepare for the battle and even launch a response attack on the right flank of the Milanese. The battle was very stubborn and lasted for four hours. However, this was only the visible part of this battle. The fact is that while all this was happening, part of the league’s troops performed a district maneuver in order to cut off a third of the Milan army, which crossed the canal and left it behind him. The Milanese did not notice this. As a result, although the battle continued until nightfall and even in the dark, the Milanese, despite not having a numerical superiority, lost the battle. The forces of the league folder won a complete victory.

“The Battle of Marciano” by Giorgio Vasari, 1563 (Palazzo Vecchio Museum. Florence)

As for the battle of Marciano, it all started with the fact that in 1554 the Duke of Florence Cosimo de Medici, with the support of Emperor Charles V, decided to oppose his last rival, the Siena Republic, which in turn received help from France, with which it fought Charles V. Florentine army commanded Gianjacomo Medegino - "little Medici", as he was called. Moreover, it included three buildings. The first was Federico Barbolani di Montauto, who had 800 soldiers (his target was the city of Grosseto), the second was Rodolfo Balloni, who had 3000 soldiers (he was supposed to take Pienza), and the main forces under the command of Medegino, including 4500 foot soldiers, 20 guns and 1200 sappers. The main attack was to be carried out against Siena and conducted from three directions.

The Sienans entrusted the defense of their hometown to the general of the French service, Piero Strozzi. French troops took part in the fighting on the side of the Siena, as well as the Tuscans who broke away from the Medici.

Florentine troops approached Siena on the night of January 26, 1554. After the failure of the first attack, Gianjacomo Medici launched a siege, although he did not have enough people to completely block the city. Balloni and Montauto were unable to take Pienza and Grosseto, and French ships threatened the Florentine supply line passing through Piombino. In response, Cosimo hired Ascanio della Cornia with 6000 infantry and 300 horsemen, and waited for the imperial reinforcements to approach.

To ease the enemy’s pressure on Siena, Strozzi launched a sortie on June 11. Leaving part of the French troops in the city, he marched on Pontedera, forcing Medegino to lift the siege and follow him, which, however, did not prevent Strozzi from uniting at Lucca with the French contingent of 3500 foot soldiers, 700 horsemen and four guns. On June 21, Strozzi captured the town of Montecatini Terme, but did not dare to get involved in a battle with the Medici, but decided to wait for the approach of French reinforcements from Viareggio. At that time, Strozzi had 9500 foot soldiers and about 1200 horsemen, while the Medici had 2000 Spanish, 3000 German and 6000 Italian foot soldiers and 600 horsemen, while new reinforcements from Spain and Corsica also moved to join him.

Meanwhile, Strozzi returned to Siena, as the situation with the supply of the city became critical. Piombino could not be taken, so help from the French did not enter the city. It was decided to leave the city and defeat the enemy in a field battle. In the next three days, the Sienans occupied several nearby towns and forced the enemy to gather all their forces for a general battle.

On August 1, Strozzi learned that the imperial Florentine troops had finally come and were preparing for battle. In the morning, the enemy forces were built against each other as follows: 1000 Franco-Sienna cavalrymen stood on the right flank of the Sienans, 3000 Landsknechts formed the center, 3000 Swiss formed a reserve behind, and 3000 Frenchmen were located on the left flank. In addition, there were 5000 Italian infantrymen under the command of Paolo Orsini. The army was located on a gentle hill, which was convenient in every way.

The Medici on the left flank put 1200 riders of light cavalry and 300 heavy under the command of Marcantonio Colonna. In the center was the infantry: 2000 Spanish veterans and 4000 German Landsknechts, commanded by Niccolo Madruzzo. The right flank was the strongest: 4000 Florentine foot soldiers, 2000 Spaniards and 3000 Italians. However, these infantrymen did not differ in high combat qualities. Behind the three rows of infantry was artillery, which was supposed to fire through the heads of its soldiers. In reserve were another 200 Spanish soldiers, veterans and another company of Neapolitan horse arquebusiers.

“The Battle of Marciano” by J. Vasari without a frame

The battle began with an attack by the Medici riders on the left flank. They scattered the Franco-Sienese cavalry who fled from the battlefield. In response, Strozzi attacked in the center. Landsknechts quickly ran down the hill on a slope, but imperial artillery with their cores managed to inflict serious losses on them. In turn, the Medici also moved forward the center, which caused panic in the Strozzi troops. And then the heavy cavalry of the Column returned and attacked the German infantry from the rear. The result was that the entire center of the Sienans rushed to save themselves. And only the French infantry not only maintained its battle formation, but even, being surrounded on all sides, fought to the end. Strozzi himself was wounded three times and was taken out of the battle by bodyguards. The battle itself lasted only two hours. Losses of Siena were very significant: 4000 killed and 4000 wounded or captured.

As for the paintings of interest to us, the “Battle of Angiar” was supposed to be painted by Leonardo, who had been recognized by then, but the fresco on the opposite side of the “Battle of Cachine” was young Michelangelo (27 years old). The two frescoes ordered by the Florentine Republic to decorate the Council Hall of the Senoria Palace in Florence in order to glorify their power for centuries. That was the goal of the customer, but by this time both masters had a keen sense of competition and, above all, they wanted to prove to each other which of them was, so to speak, “first” in all respects. Their work was monitored by a third genius - Raphael, who at that time was 21 years old.

Another copy of Leonardo’s fresco by Rubens (Louvre, Paris)

For his ambitious picture, Leonardo used the encaustic technique ("fixing with heat"), which he read about in Pliny's book, and, alas, he suffered a severe setback. Yes, he drew a cardboard with a sketch of the fresco, and the Senoria commission approved it. Yes, both he and the cardboard of his “opponent” were exposed in public and deserved universal admiration. According to the artist, this mural was to be his most ambitious creation. Its dimensions were 6,6 by 17,4 meters, that is, it was three times larger than the Last Supper. And Leonardo very carefully prepared for its creation, studied the description of the battle and even designed special folding scaffolding that could raise and lower the painter to the required height. Yes, and he chose the plot is very unusual. He did not show the whole battle with the masses of people and horses, but only one of its key episodes — the battle of several horsemen for the banner.

To be continued ...
Articles from this series:
Pavel Korin. "Alexander Nevskiy". The insoluble task of a restless soul
“The Battle of Grunwald” by Jan Matejko: when there is too much epic
"Heroes" Vasnetsov: when the main epic in the picture

Subscribe to our Telegram channel, regularly additional information about the special operation in Ukraine, a large amount of information, videos, something that does not fall on the site:

Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. Edward Vashchenko
    Edward Vashchenko 13 March 2020 09: 36
    Strongly Vyacheslav Olegovich! Very, very interesting article, sorry, but you need to wait for the continuation.
    Italy XNUMXth century and its wars are an interesting page in History, and in the vein that you are considering, it is doubly.
    1. kalibr
      13 March 2020 09: 49
      Good morning, Edward. The sequel is written in moderation and will be released after this material. It could not be put into one. It turned out very big, hard to read.
      1. Edward Vashchenko
        Edward Vashchenko 13 March 2020 10: 04
        Good morning!
        It could not be put into one.

        How familiar this is.
    2. Aleksandr1971
      Aleksandr1971 20 March 2020 21: 59
      It is curious that as a result of this battle there were phenomenally few dead. If there were any, it was only as a result of accidents. And the reason was that in mercenary armies of condottiers it was not customary to kill the enemy in battle. After all, now the enemy, and tomorrow an ally. It was accepted to be taken prisoner for subsequent ransom. The great N. Machiavelli wrote and focused his attention on this vicious practice.

      Then, when Italians faced real opponents in the face of the French and Spaniards, they were shocked by the fact that these foreigners were shooting at them with cannons to kill, and not just scare them.

      By the way, the faces in the characters in the picture came out extremely ugly. In my opinion.
  2. Undecim
    Undecim 13 March 2020 09: 56
    Given that "to be continued", there is a fear that my comment may "get ahead of the events", but as for me, the story of these two paintings is very interesting and dramatic in itself.
    Copy of The Battle of Angiar, by Peter Paul Rubens (Louvre Museum, Paris)
    Yes, and he chose the plot is very unusual. He did not show the whole battle with the masses of people and horses, but only one of its key episodes — the battle of several horsemen for the banner.
    In fact, a copy of the painting "Battle of Angiar" does not exist and we do not yet know how it looked in reality.
    Rubens' work is just the central part of the picture, moreover, it was made in the engraving of another Italian artist - Zaccia Lorenzo il Giovane. In turn, there is no certainty that he performed his engraving from the original.
    Moreover, Leonardo didn’t finish his painting, in its unfinished form, it lasted for about fifty years and was destroyed by none other than Giorgio Vasari, who led the reconstruction of the Five Hundred Hall and painted his own “The Battle of Marciano” in place of the Da Vinci painting. .
    Therefore, the painting "The Battle of Angiar" has a second name - "Lost Leonardo".
    But whether the picture is really "lost" - the question has not been fully clarified. There is an assumption that Vasari painted his picture on top of da Vinci's painting. This detective is not yet finished and deserves a separate article.
    By the way, Michelangelo also left his picture unfinished and left for Rome at the invitation of Pope Julius II. And his unfinished painting was destroyed by the envy of his skill, the Italian artist Bartolomeo Bandinelli.
    1. Pane Kohanku
      Pane Kohanku 13 March 2020 12: 20
      And his unfinished painting was destroyed by the envy of his skill, the Italian artist Bartolomeo Bandinelli.

      People do not change. At least I was taught at the university that Plato bought and burned the works of his opponent Democritus. Wikipedia writes that this is a myth. So or not - God knows, but not a single work of Democritus has reached us! hi
    2. Yamato1980
      Yamato1980 13 March 2020 15: 10
      People have nothing holy winked
      1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
        Kote Pan Kokhanka 13 March 2020 16: 20
        Quote: Yamato1980
        People have nothing holy winked

        Here just the sacred person had so much that he did not accept other people's work in principle !!!
        Wise was Socrates, who did not write his work!
        1. 3x3zsave
          3x3zsave 13 March 2020 21: 06
          Saw the "wormhole" in Plato! laughing
          1. Pane Kohanku
            Pane Kohanku 14 March 2020 00: 30
            Saw the "wormhole" in Plato!

            Worms, or what? laughing
            1. 3x3zsave
              3x3zsave 14 March 2020 08: 13
              "An experienced woodpecker will help Buratino get rid of worms"
          2. Korsar4
            Korsar4 14 March 2020 05: 11
            "Why didn't England please him?" (from).
        2. Pane Kohanku
          Pane Kohanku 14 March 2020 00: 35
          Wise was Socrates, who did not write his work!

          but why, if there is Plato, who will describe everything in color? good
          1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
            Kote Pan Kokhanka 14 March 2020 06: 28
            Quote: Pan Kohanku
            Wise was Socrates, who did not write his work!

            but why, if there is Plato, who will describe everything in color? good

            So all the glory and all the dirt went to the last !!!
      2. Trilobite Master
        Trilobite Master 13 March 2020 19: 55
        Quote: Yamato1980
        People have nothing holy winked

        In recent times, saints were made of Leonardo and Michelangelo, down to turtles. Then they were hardly considered such lights. And unfinished works had to be completed. Shame is in the main hall, in front of respected people ...
        This is now for Leonardo the papers with which he wiped are ready to collect and sell at auctions. Then people were easier. Maybe it’s right.
        1. Undecim
          Undecim 13 March 2020 21: 06
          In recent times, saints were made of Leonardo and Michelangelo, down to turtles. Then they were hardly considered such lights.
          Here you are mistaken. Michelangelo was already called "divine" by his contemporaries and he was the first artist whose biography was published during his lifetime. The same Vasari, about whom in the article, considered him not only the best artist, but also the best sculptor and architect.
          1. Trilobite Master
            Trilobite Master 13 March 2020 22: 11
            Quote: Undecim
            Michelangelo was already called "divine" by his contemporaries

            Interestingly, I did not know about this. Then it is really surprising that his work was destroyed, and Bandinelli was not injured for this.
            1. Undecim
              Undecim 13 March 2020 22: 46
              The relationship of Michelangelo and Bandinelli is also a kind of detective of the Renaissance, a kind of Mozart and Salieri, only in painting. There everything is famously twisted. Vasari, already mentioned by us, who always admired Michelangelo, was a disciple of Bandinelli, who hated Michelangelo all his life.
        2. Pane Kohanku
          Pane Kohanku 14 March 2020 00: 33
          This is now for Leonardo the papers with which he wiped are ready to collect and sell at auctions.

          Michael, I am ready to sell mine in astronomical volumes! Will you help? PR? drinks and from the cat - a bonus!
          1. Phil77
            Phil77 14 March 2020 12: 55
            As art installations? I’m disappointing that the Turkish Shakir Goksbar overtook you, but .... Oh, that’s it! He uses unused paper for his work. So there’s still a chance! laughing
        3. Yamato1980
          Yamato1980 14 March 2020 14: 03
          I agree with you yes
  3. antivirus
    antivirus 13 March 2020 18: 21
    Italian infantry and 600 horsemen, while new reinforcements from Spain and Corsica moved to join with him.

    other distances - Poles and Germans knew them - from Smolensk to Moscow - 400 km, to Yaroslavl another 250. the truth from Krakow to Smolensk you need to drag 1000 km !!!
    and from Naples to Rome -230 and another 200 to Siena. and paved roads