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

Head-to-Head Competition: Florence, Rome, and France: 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 13 – Head-to-Head Competition: Florence, Rome, and FranceIn 1503/1504, the rulers of Florence decided to pit their two most famous artists Leonardo and Michelangelo in a duel like no other. Each were assigned a huge section of wall in the Hall of the Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio, the old city hall, and instructed to paint a battle scene from the city’s illustrious past. Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina (fought in 1364) would display his mastery of the human body because part of the composition illustrated soldiers bathing. Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari (1440) would allow him to display his mastery of movement and energy because part of the composition illustrated men fighting on horseback.  With each fresco estimated to be three times the size of The Last Supper and sitting side by side in the space, the Hall of the Five Hundred would have been arguably the greatest art site on earth.  Why then is there no trace – except for one tiny tantalizing clue – in the Hall today?  After competing for years in the arenas of sculpture and painting, Leonardo and Michelangelo would face off one last time, this time in architecture.

Show Dates & Times:

5/13/15 - Wednesday

10:30 am,

$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.

Developed by Whitelancer Web Development |