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The Lost Battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo and the Artistic Duel That Defined the Renaissance [Large Print] [Mass Market Paperback]

Jonathan Jones
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

31 Mar 2011
Michelangelo and Leonardo lived five centuries ago, but their works still obsess our culture, with a popular and universal quality that nothing else matches. They have been equally revered and famous since their lifetimes, but our admiration for them exists mostly in isolation of each other. But in 1504 they competed with each other directly, to paint the walls of a room in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. It is remarkable enough that the same city had produced two such geniuses in the same century -- let alone that they met and exhibited together. But this competition, perhaps the most important event in the history of Renaissance art, the moment at which individual style came to command its own value, has been largely forgotten because the rival works did not survive. This great artistic clash, Jonathan Jones argues in this riveting account, marks the true beginning of the High Renaissance. Re-creating sixteenth-century Florence with astonishing verve and aplomb, THE LOST BATTLES not only sheds new light on the making of the modern world but, in its portrait of two cultural titans going toe to toe, rewires our understanding of the personalities of the Renaissance's greatest icons.

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The Lost Battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo and the Artistic Duel That Defined the Renaissance + Brunelleschi's Dome: The Story of the Great Cathedral in Florence + The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; large type edition edition (31 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416526056
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416526056
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 390,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'...gripping' --The Sunday Times, April 11, 2010

'...reanimates the giddy heights of the Renaissance through its evocation of a mighty scrap between Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo'
--Daily Telegraph, April 10, 2010

'Reanimates the giddy heights of the Renaissance . . . impressively smuggles seriousness into a populist format'
--Sunday Telegraph

'A superb account of two of the Renaissance's greatest geniuses revealing the rivalrous passions that drove their work'


'A story of rivalry, political intrigue and conspiracy . . . beguilingly written' --Guardian

'A rich and intricate story . . . full of colourful incident and detail, both historical and artistic . . . Jonathan Jones writes with engaging passion' --RA Magazine

'Engaging . . . reveals the insults, egos and formal competitions that separated these two giants of the 16th century art world' --Artists & Illustrators Magazine

`Jonathan Jones weaves a rich and intricate story' --Royal Academy Magazine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jonathan Jones is the art critic of the Guardian. He appears in the BBC television series Private Life of a Masterpiece and gives talks at the Tate and other galleries. In 2009 he was a judge for the Turner Prize. Jonathan lives in London with his wife and daughter.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining romp 10 Aug 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What this book may lack in academic rigour is more than made up for in the verve of the author's story-telling. The style is journalistic which isn't surprising given Jonathan Jones' occupation. It is fluently written and, to be honest, very gripping - not something that can be said about more academic tomes. Whilst the focus of the book is on two vanished works the narrative is actually about the clash of worldviews held by the two artists (the idealised form of Michelangelo versus the realsim of Leonardo)and how these two works are representative of this clash. The intense rivalry between the two artists is used to illustrate and explain the innovation, creativity and novelty of Renaissance art. Immensely entertaining.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Champollion VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jonathan Jones has written a fascinating and compelling account of the intense and fierce rivalry between two of the greatest artists of all time -Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. His account of the battle between them as they competed is sprinkled with facts, anecdotes and vignettes which combine to bring sixteenth century Florence to life. Anyone interested in this period could do little better than this book. It is all here, the insults, the emotions and of course the background to the production of the finest art the world has ever seen. There is also a section which lists the works of art in the book and helpfully, where you can view them. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating story inconsistently written 28 Dec 2012
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I enjoyed much of this book - the information about the lives of Michelangelo and Leonardo is fascinating, and the author goes some way to bringing Renaissance Florence and Rome to life. This book compares and contrasts the work and personalities of these two geniuses, appearing to judge in favour of Da Vinci as the greater of the two, whilst recognising that Michelangelo was the more acclaimed in his lifetime. In any event both created incomparable and magnificent work which continues to delight after 500 years and which will no doubt do so well into the future

That two of the greatest artists of all time lived concurrently, and in the same city for much of that time, is remarkable enough - the story of how they were set up in direct competition with one another to create frescos in the Great Council Hall in Florence is truly fascinating.

However, I did not feel that the writing always did justice to the story - at times the narrative is rambling, at times it seems unnecessarily ornate; yet at times the way the story is told is direct, engaging and genuinely fascinating.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Giants in the playground 31 Aug 2010
What can you say about this book? It is BRILLIANT.

The author has brought together two of the greatest artists in history, two men of startling talents and differing characters and he has made them accessable and understandable. He has brought both down from the pedastels historians and artists have placed them on and given them back their humanity - virtues and vices - in a way that is well written, if a little jingoistic in places, and objective.

If it is the only book you buy on these two giants you will have one that will make them come alive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable 11 Jun 2014
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jonathan Jones weaves together details of the lives and art works of Leonardo and Michelangelo to create a highly readable narrative which really captures much of the spirit of the Renaissance. The reader can really sense the spirit of rivalry and feel the emerging sense of individualism that defined the era. In creating such a readable account however, Jones often strays into overuse of emotive, hyperbolic language. He also tends to ascribe specific motivations and states of mind to his two protagonists that are based on very tenuous inferences. If you can overlook this, the book is a very enjoyable read. If that kind of thing annoys you, steer clear.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My best book of 2010 so far... 20 Sep 2010
Anywone like myself who has not formally studied History of Art but has an amateur's interest in the Italian Renaissance will find a huge amount to enjoy here. In addition to the two genius protagonists, this story has a fascinating cast list of other artists, popes, Medici rulers and courtiers, most notably Nicolo Machiavelli.

Jonathan Jones paints his own picture of Florentine culture and politics at the beginning of the sixteenth century. He focuses on what we know of the lives and times of Leonardo and Michelangelo leading up to Machiavelli's competition, the creative processes of the two men, and ultimately the fate of their works and their influence on those who saw them.

Some of Jonathan Jones's inferences may be tenuous, although he generally acknowledges this, and the book should perhaps have had more illustrations. But it's strength, apart from the great story, is how it places the major and minor characters into a historical and cultural context and how it relates them through the artistic influence they had on each other. In this way the book makes a trip to the National Gallery or the Uffizi a much richer experience.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars snapshot of a dazzling historical and artistic turning point
This is a very fun read. Focusing on the competition between 2 of the greatest artists in history, the author illuminates what was at stake, the political context, and how their... Read more
Published 10 months ago by rob crawford
4.0 out of 5 stars Giants of the Renaissance
I enjoyed much of this book - the information about the lives of Michelangelo and Leonardo is fascinating, and the author goes some way to bringing Renaissance Florence and Rome to... Read more
Published 23 months ago by markr
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful foundation
As time goes by, notions of the Renaissance accumulate like junk mail. As the pile of unexplored hunches gets bigger, your appetite to deal with it shrinks, because you know that... Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2012 by Milo di Thernan
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lost Battles
Anyone interested in these two fascinating characters, the period and places in which they lived and the art they did (or did not) produce, should buy this book. Read more
Published on 2 Aug 2011 by RR Waller
3.0 out of 5 stars A good story, but perhaps lacking substance
The author tells a good story, and tells it with panache. However my criticism is that, forgive me for putting this rashly, he doesn't really say very much. Mr. Read more
Published on 12 July 2011 by PWagstaff
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended to all interested in these two artists
Informative, exceedingly well researched and referenced and answers many questions about the events surrounding the competition between M.A. and Leonardo
Published on 26 April 2011 by John Forrest
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