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The Lost Battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo, and the Artistic Duel That Defined the Renaissance

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  217 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
From one of Britain’s most respected and acclaimed art historians, art critic of The Guardian—the galvanizing story of a sixteenth-century clash of titans, the two greatest minds of the Renaissance, working side by side in the same room in a fierce competition: the master Leonardo da Vinci, commissioned by the Florentine Republic to paint a narrative fresco depicting a fam ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Knopf (first published June 1st 2010)
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Mar 31, 2013 Patrick rated it did not like it
Wow. Very disappointed. Interesting history ruined by three things:

1. The tangent-style organization allowing the author to "impress" the reader with every obscure connection, real or imagined, he can make between Leonardo and Michelangelo and every good art thing ever. The over attribution is similar to another book I disliked, How Shakespeare Changed Everything, though this is much better researched. I don't think the author manages to defend his title "defined the Renaissance" even with his h
Feb 13, 2012 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting story from a pompous writer. I would swear Dr Frasier Crane wrote this book.....
Cassandra Kay Silva
Nov 19, 2011 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, art
The title to this book is slightly misleading. Although it does in some ways start to cover the myriad relationship that existed between Leonardo and Michelangelo its skips many of their greatest works,and rivalries highlighting a few and touching on other artists to get straight to the point of the creation of likely the two greatest drawings ever completed Leonardo's The Battle of Anghiari, and Michelangelo's Battle of Cascina. This is the reason for the title the "Lost Battles". These two gre ...more
May 13, 2012 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone with an interest in art, let alone Great, Timeless Art, let alone the Renaissance in general, in my opinion this is THE book to read. It's ostensibly about the 'competition' (between Leonardo and Michelangelo) of the Great Council Hall paintings commissioned by Florence's government at the time, but uses this basis to sum up the artworks of Da Vinci and Michelangelo (and loads of others for that matter) both before and after this competition, and all within the context of the basic na ...more
Sep 27, 2013 Subowal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about the two greatest figures of the Italian Renaissance – Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci – and how the rivalry between them shaped the renaissance.

Leonardo was the senior artist, Michelangelo the young prodigy. Leonardo was known better for his paintings and drawings, Michelangelo excelled in sculpture. In 1503 Leonardo was commissioned by the City of Florence to paint a mural in the Great Council Hall of Palazzo Vecchio on the battle of Anghieri. A year later Michelangelo got
Craig Masten
Jan 24, 2014 Craig Masten rated it really liked it
As a present artist and former graduate student of history who is about to visit Italy for the first time, I found this book to be well timed and useful reading.
The artist part of me loved the rich and often surprising information about Leonardo and Michelangelo, as well as how they influenced and were influenced by each other. The author made surprising well-documented connections--as one might expect from an art historian--and spiced with anecdotal incident to keep the narrative lively.
The h
Aug 24, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book in the only decent bookshop I could find in Hoi An Vietnam. (To digress a little: there are a couple of shops that sell heaps of illegal reprints that are badly printed and poorly bound). Back to the Lost Battles.

I initially thought this was just about the battle between da Vinci and Michelangelo. However, the plot thickens and we find it more significantly relates to the loss of perhaps the two greatest works of art ever. The loss of those two great works is complex and amazi
Mar 30, 2014 Glen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be a strange mixture of excellent writing and frustrating analysis. Jones' writing style is very appealing and I learned a lot about Renaissance art. Having read about Leonardo, I was much more familiar with his life than that of Michelangelo so it was a good learning curve for me. The premise of the book held my attention throughout and helped piece together an part of history where I was not well informed.

On the negative side, what was consistently frustrating was the reoc
Caroline Manley
Oct 10, 2015 Caroline Manley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a huge art history buff I really loved this book; in my opinion it's one of the few books I've read that talks about these two artists (especialy Leonardo) in a very real, human way. It was interesting to read and, though I'm incredibly biased towards Leonardo, I learned a lot about Michelangelo and have come to appreciate his work more.

To give some criticism of this book: the author tries much too hard to make connections between every one of Leonardo's and Michelangelo's pieces. Comparing t
Jul 02, 2013 Lisa rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
An impulse read from the local library's "New Books" shelf. I wish I'd grabbed the book next to it instead. What promised to be an interesting read about the rivalry between Leonardo and Michelangelo turned into a dull plod through pages of college arts essay style tangents padding out what ought to have been a much leaner, more focused effort. Jones' lack of focus undermines the title thesis that the duel between the two great artists defined the Renaissance and makes it difficult to discern th ...more
Dec 10, 2011 bkwurm rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title refers to the 2 frescoes that were to have been painted by Leonardo and Michelangelo on the walls of Florence's council chamber. Respectively, the battle of Anghiari and the battle of Cascina, both artists' rough cartoon sketches were, when exhibited, a sensation. Unfortunately, politics and other factors contrived to prevent both frescoes from being completed or even started.

The tracing of the influence both artists' concepts had on subsequent painters was fascinating. I would liked m
Apr 07, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing
An engaging piece of popular history. The narrative focuses on the two great artists, but we are, in fact, treated to an exploration of one of the crucial moments in Western history and culture. Jones gives us enough of the history of art, politics, science and technology, as well as philosophy and religion to help us understand that the two rival geniuses (not to mention their rivalry) must be understood both within the context that produced them and in terms of their profound influence on succ ...more
May 26, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"You don't need to chip away at Vasari's frescoes to see The Battle of Anghiari. It's shadows are eternal, it's truth as old and as new as human folly. Switch off the latest barbarisms on the television news, close your eyes and it will come to you." -
This book contains very little of the actual paintings themselves and much more background. However, in all the books I have read about Leonardo, never have I read one that is able to encapsulate the relationship between Da Vinci and Michelangelo
Jan 28, 2013 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little disappointing. It provided some very fascinating information, but the author rather lost some credibility when he maintained that virtually every piece of art by either Michelangelo or DaVinci created after the David was in response to the others work. For example, many of M's "tondo" paintings and carvings were a direct response to the style of DaVinci? Some of DV's efforts were solely created to show is own interpretation of works by M???

While it's well known they had a personal dista
Feb 23, 2013 Socraticgadfly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-and-music
Interesting take on "battles" Leonardo and Michelangelo had, especially a duel where both were commissioned to paint murals for the Great Hall of Florence, inspiring citizens of the Republic to more martial devotion to the city.

I do think Jones may overstate the case about how much enmity the two felt toward each other, but I'm not sure. I do think that, in general, he reads himself into the history a lot. (Though I did find the sections on Machiavelli interesting.)

That said, while it's arguable
Sep 30, 2014 Martha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am no art historian so cannot take exception to any of Jonathan Jones' theories about the relationship between Da Vinci and Michelangelo. This may be the reason - one of the reasons - I liked this book so well. It never plods. It is full of interesting facts as well as enthusiastic speculations. The pages pop with Jones' passion for his subject. Believe me, my highest compliment is to say I would love to attend one of his lectures.
Celia Montgomery
This is a convincing portrait of the two greats. Who knows if they really felt so much animosity towards one another, but it sure is entertaining to consider the possibility. The book also contains some small enjoyable revelations. I loved reading Leonardo's packing lists (lots of pink), and I was surprised to learn of Michelangelo's risky loyalty to Republican Florence. This would be a great book to read before traveling to Florence (which is, of course, my plan!)
Nov 01, 2012 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, history-cultures
Technical, but worthwhile. Listened to review on Diane Rehm show and the author was a scattered speaker. After reading a few chapters I can hear his voice in my head and realized his head is filled with facts, as the writing is filled with facts, but once you get used to his style it is easy to follow. Wonderful insight into Renaissance daily life.
Lucas van Lierop
I very much enjoyed the premise of the book, and won't hesitate to admit that the author clearly knows his stuff. That being said, his constant need to stop the flow of his writing to add his own opinions and (often gauch) descriptions of the works of art being discussed made it a bit of a slog to get through. I is finish it though, so that's something...(10 points for Gryffindor, I suppose)
Daniel Kukwa
It starts out very well, but it quickly becomes too caught up in trying to cover FAR too much in such a short span of pages. A bit more coherence, organization, and some judicious editing would turn a great read into a fantastic one. By the end, the point becomes rather lost, amongst the multitude of biographic threads.
Sep 02, 2013 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was fascinated by the professional rivalry between Leonardo as an old man and the young Michelangelo. Even the sexuality differences between the two was center stage. A must read for those interested in the lives of these great artists.
Mar 17, 2013 Joyce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting stuff, but too much talk talk talk. Somehow the author seems to know the true deeper meaning of every renaissance work of art. I wound up skimming large portions of the book. Also spent a lot of time searching for pix of various masterpieces, major and minor, on the web.
Robert Giambo
Dec 16, 2012 Robert Giambo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It was a nice, accessible art history book. Easy to read. Obviously was about Leonardo and Michaelangelo. The title is a little hyperbolic. They were two artists with different styles and approaches but not mortal enemies as the title would imply.
David Shlingbaum
Extremely interesting book about Leonardo da vinci, michelangelo, renaissance, art and war.
Interesting for art lovers, history fans and people interested in Leonardo.
Written in an flowing language, full of details and places you would want to visit later.
Apr 01, 2013 Riet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Een goed geschreven boek over de veronderstelde rivaliteit tussen Michelangelo en Leonardo da Vinci.Ik denk, dat de schrijver heel veel "hineininterpretiert", maar desondanks is het een fascinerend boek over de renaissance kunst in Florence. Makkelijk leesbaar en met veel mooie prenten.
Nov 20, 2012 Marilyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, art
I first heard the story of this battle from a fabulous tour guide while standing in the Piazza Signoria in Florence. This book enhanced the story--I just wish there had been more pictures. I found myself taking notes to look up a lot of the artwork referenced by the author.
Jan 07, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it, it was a great book about two phenomenal painters and how competition shaped their careers and their art, it was awesome!
Dec 07, 2015 MariMel rated it really liked it
thoughtful, well-researched and engaging. the author assumes a lot but draws of vivid portrait of two great artists.
Nancy Chantraine
My "status updates" say it all . . .
Mordechai Rackover
I genuinely disliked this book.
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JONATHAN JONES is art critic for The Guardian and writes for numerous art magazines. He appears regularly on the BBC and gives talks at the Tate Modern.
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