Guardian art critic Jones rejoices in revealing the talents of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo and the challenge of deciding who was the true master.
Competition was fundamental to the culture of brilliance in Renaissance Florence, driving creativity and innovation. The contest between Ghiberti and Brunelleschi to create the bronze doors of the Baptistery is a case in point; the author firmly states that the committee was correct in its choice of Ghiberti, leaving Brunelleschi to his dome. There is a wealth of information about da Vinci and Michelangelo, and Jones skillfully harvests the best, amusing with his delightful asides and enlightening with his erudite opinions. As Giorgio Vasari declared, da Vinci was the first great artist of the period who defined nature, perspective and technical mastery, while Michelangelo was its ultimate genius. The story focuses on two commissions to decorate the Great Council Hall of the Palazzo Vecchio, with each artist painting an opposite wall. Jones deftly analyzes their talents and personalities. The preening da Vinci launched theories and works of art but seemed only to enjoy the journey, as he often failed to complete his works. His interests constantly distracted him from his tasks. Michelangelo, on the other hand, was an emotional, fiery poet constantly seeking a cause for his anger. While da Vinci was a master of dissection and produced brilliant drawings, Michelangelo presented the human body as an idyllic landscape. Even as they appeared to be at odds, each often used ideas from the other, like Leonardo’s bastions of Piombino, which Michelangelo copied for Florence.
Art lovers, Renaissance junkies and even travelers will love this book, which brings these two geniuses to vivid life and teaches how easy it is to love art.