- Museum number
Studies of horsemen for the Battle of Anghiari; including one charging with a spear at top l
Pen and brown ink
Verso: A man lunging, with right leg extended
- Production date
- 1503 (circa)
Height: 82 millimetres
Width: 120 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Studies for the unfulfilled 'Battle of Anghiari' mural which Leonardo was commissioned around October 1503 to paint in the Sala del Gran Consiglio in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. Leonardo's painting was intended to commemorate a Florentine victory over the Milanese in June 1440 and the following year his younger rival, Michelangelo, was asked by the Florentine republican governement headed by Piero Soderini to execute a companion piece depicting a Florentine defeat of the Pisans at the Battle of Cascina. The patriotic nature of the commission reflected the embattled position of the Florentine Republic at the period with the city struggling to recapture the key port of Pisa that had broken free from Florentine control in 1492 when the French invaded Italy. The choice of Leonardo and Michelangelo to paint these two works in the Florentine seat of government pitted the greatest native artist of their respective generations, but in the event neither delivered. Michelangelo completed a cartoon (a full-scale drawing) for the central episode in his fresco, the so-called 'Bathers' (1885,0502,116 is a study for the central figure in this composition), while Leonardo worked on his cartoon and then switched in May 1504 to begin painting the central episode of the work, the 'Fight for the Standard', which he executed in an experimental oil technique which rapidly disintergrated. What remained of Leonardo's painting was covered over around 1563 by Giorgio Vasari when he executed a fresco cycle of Florentine military victories in the room. The intended location of the two works is disputed but it was most likely on the west wall flanking the seats of the chief officials of the Florentine republic, the 'gonfaloniere di giustizia' and the 'priori' (for an excellent guide to the history and chronology of the commission see Carmen Bambach's entry in the Metropolitan Leonardo catalogue pp. 479-85).
The sketches of battling horsemen on the recto can be compared to other drawings for the same commission. The motif of the galloping horse with his belly almost touching the ground ('ventre à terre' as described in the BM 1950 entry) at the top left is found in a more schematic form in a diminutive pen study in the Biblioteca Reale, Turin (15577; Popham, 1946, no. 197; illustrated in colour as no. 103, p. 551 in the 2003 Metropolitan catalogue) and in a slightly more developed form in a red chalk drawing at Windsor Castle (12340; Popham 200, illustrated in colour as no. 85, p. 448 in the 2003 Metropolitan catalogue). A more finished red chalk study of a similar horseman, albeit truncated just behind the rider, is found on a drawing in the Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice (236; Popham 191; illustrated in colour as no. 86, p. 490 in the 2003 Metropolitan catalogue). The idea of having one horse mounting on the back of another and biting it is found in a different form with no riders involved on a very similar sheet at Windsor (12330; Popham 195). In the BM this group is combined with another rider charging in from the right who is about to spear a fallen horseman. The latter tries to protect himself with his shield from the blow. A similar group is developed at the top right of a pen study in the Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice (215A; Popham 192B; illustrated in colour as no. 81, p. 480 in the 2003 Metropolitan catalogue). The man galloping to the left, pulling something over his shoulder, bottom r., seems to be the horseman trying to grab a standard from his foe, who appears in another Accademia pen study (216; Popham 193B; illustrated in colour as no. 83, p. 484 in the 2003 Metropolitan catalogue). A similar group was copied in metalpoint by the young Raphael c. 1505 on a sheet now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (176, Parker II 535; the detail is illustrated in colour in H. Chapman, T. Henry and C. Plazzotta, in exhib. cat., London, National Gallery, 'Raphael: from Urbino to Rome', 2004, fig. 20, p. 35). The Florentine capture of the Milanese standard was the only part of the composition that Leonardo painted on the wall, and this was recorded in copies (the most famous example of which is the Rubens drawing in the Louvre reproduced in the National Gallery Raphael catalogue as fig. 19, p. 35).
Popham and Pouncey in the 1950 did not associate the foot-soldier on the verso with any of the figures in the surviving 'Anghiari' drawings. However, Neufeld and Joannides related it to the soldier seen from the rear in the lower study of a skirmish in the Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice (215A; Popham 192B; illustrated in colour as no. 81, p. 480 in the 2003 Metropolitan catalogue). As the verso study was almost certainly drawn as an idea for a soldier in the 'Anghiari' composition this association does not seem implausible, although the similarity between the two figures is perhaps not sufficiently close to make a direct connection secure.
Lit.: G. Waagen, 'Treasures of Art in Great Britain, Supplement', London, 1857, p. 31; B. Berenson, 'Drawings of the Florentine Painters', Chicago, 1938, II, no. 1029; A.E. Popham, 'The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci', London, 1946 (and later editions), no. 193A; G. Neufeld, 'Leonardo da Vinci's 'Battle of Anghiari': a genetic reconstruction', "The Art Bulletin", XXXI, 1949, 3, pp. 172-8, n. 24, figs 1 and 4; A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 109, II, pl. CIII (with previous literature); A.E. Popham, in exhib. cat., London, Royal Academy, 'Leonardo da Vinci quincentenary exhibition', 1952, no. 123; N. Turner, in exhib. cat., BM, 'Florentine Drawings of the sixteenth century', 1986, no. 6; P. Joannides, 'Leonardo da Vinci, Peter-Paul Rubens, Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret and the 'Fight for the Standard', "Achademia Leonardi Vinci", I, 1988, p. 85, fig. 19; J. Roberts, in exhib. cat., London, Hayward Gallery, 'Leonardo da Vinci', 1989, no. 13; exhib. cat. Hayward Gallery, London, 'Leonardo da Vinci', 1989, p.64(13); G. Nepi, Sciré, in exhib. cat. Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 'Leonardo & Venice', 1992, nos. 32-32a; F. Zöllner, 'Rubens reworks Leonardo: 'the Fight for the Standard', "Achademia Leonardi Vinci", IV, 1991, p. 18; C.C. Bambach, in exhib. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Leonardo da Vinci Master Draftsman', 2003, under no. 83, p. 483; M. Kemp, in exhib. cat., London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 'Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment and Design', no. ????
Popham & Pouncey 1950
The horsemen on the recto seem to be studies for the Battle of Anghiari, the commission for which Leonardo received not later than October 1503. To try to fix the exact stage in the evolution of the composition to which these sketches belong would involve an elaborate study of the whole subject, which would be out of place here. Motives on this sheet reappear on other drawings and in the finished cartoon. The horseman riding ventre à terre seems to be the same as in drawings at Venice (Bodmer 289) and Windsor (no. 12340). It should be noted, however, that handwriting on the former is dated, by most authorities, not later than c. 1490. The motive of one horse mounting on the back of another and biting it is found in a different form on a very similar sheet at Windsor (no. 12330). The horseman, top r., spearing a fallen foe, who tries to protect himself with his shield, occurs on a sheet at Venice (Bodmer 294). The man galloping to the 1., pulling something over his shoulder, bottom r., seems to be the horseman trying to wrest the standard from his foe, who appears in three drawings at Venice (Bodmer 294, 295, 296) and as a central motive in the lost cartoon itself. The foot-soldier on the verso is not, so far as we can see, recognizable elsewhere.
Literature: BB 1029; Bodmer 291 (verso 298); Popham 193A; Clark, Windsor, under no. 12340; Popp 51; Seidlitz, ii, p. 80; Richter, i, p. 375; S. Meller, Prussian Jahrbuch, xxxvii (1916), p. 236; Poggi, pl. 98; Venturi, p. 132, fig. 106; Nicodemi, pl. 94 (recto); Bottari, pl. 111 (recto); Giglioli, p. 120, pl. XCVIII (recto); G. Neufeld, Art Bulletin, xxxi (1949), pp. 172 ff.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1952, London, Royal Academy, no.123
1986, BM, 'Florentine Drawings 16thC', no.6
1989, London, Hayward Gallery, no.13
1992, Venice, Palazzo Grassi, 'Leonardo & Venice', no. 32/
1995 Jan-Mar, Southampton Art Gallery, 'Drawing the Line', no.115
2006/7 Sep-Jan, London, V&A, 'Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment and Design'
2013, Aug-Dec, Venice, Gallerie dell' Accademia, 'Dall'Uomo Vitruviano'
2019-2020 24 Oct-24 Feb, Paris, Musée du Louvre, Léonard de Vinci
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Back of mount inscribed with Gibson's price code "3.2." Then to Richardson, and Uvedale Price.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number