Clash of the Titans: The Lives of the Most Eminent Artists Leonardo and Michelangelo

Insults and Envy: The Master and the Upstart on the Streets of Florence: A Lecture by Roger Dell

Giorgio Vasari, the world’s first art historian, wrote in his groundbreaking Lives that Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti had a sdegno grandissimo or a “great hostility” towards one another. This two-part lecture series will uncover the source of that hostility and trace its eruptions and their consequences not only for these two unsurpassed masters, but also for the entire art world.

Conducted by the Farnsworth’s Director of Education Roger Dell (former lecturer in the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Extension School), these illustrated lectures will examine specific architectural, sculptural, and painting projects during which these celebrated artists had some interaction with each other or were in direct competition with each other. Moreover, the series will address large philosophical issues of the Renaissance, such as the role of art criticism in this culture and the categorizing and ranking of the different art mediums, in which Leonardo and Michelangelo were deeply engaged and were more often than not at odds.


May 6 – Insults and Envy: The Master and the Upstart on the Streets of Florence

After tracing the beginnings of their respective careers, the first lecture will thoroughly explore the status of the enmity between Leonardo and Michelangelo around the year 1500.  At this time, Leonardo had recently returned to his native Florence after a highly productive yet ultimately frustrating eighteen years working on an array of projects in Milan; now in his late forties he was hailed as the greatest artistic genius in Italy.  Within the city walls, however, there was another artist who like Leonardo was born outside the city, but claimed it as his own: Michelangelo.  He had recently arrived from Rome where he had completed a sculpture of Christ after the Cross supported by his mother Mary (The Pietà), and the work had caused a sensation in The Eternal City. The querulous, quarrelsome, and highly competitive Michelangelo (because of his incessant criticizing a fellow artist broke his nose) was half the age of Leonardo.  Before long, sparks would fly over a huge block of Carrara marble - eighteen feet long - that laid in a degraded state for decades after several artists tried and failed to carve it into a single figure.

Show Dates & Times:

5/6/15 - Wednesday

10:30 am,

Cost: $24, $20 members; individual lectures $14, $12 members - Advance tickets are for sale in the museum store or main lobby admission desk. Will- call tickets may be purchased online at and will be available for pick-up day-of in the Strand lobby. Doors open at 10 a.m.

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