This is the finest known copy of Leonardo’s lost Battle of Anghiari fresco. It was made in the mid-16th century and then extended at the edges in the early 17th century by Rubens, who also completed the sword of the fourth horseman.
Sometime around October 1503, Leonardo was commissioned to paint the mural of The Battle of Anghiari, for the Sala del Gran Consiglio, the recently rebuilt Great Council Hall of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, during the first years of the city’s republican government.
Judging from the three small preparatory sketches and later copies of Leonardo’s unfinished mural painting that are now the only evidence for the appearance of the work, Leonardo’s painting depicted a dramatic and forceful battle between mounted cavalrymen, much in the mode of his written descriptions of “how to represent a battle” in his treatise on painting.
Leonardo prepared an enormous cartoon for the painting in his workshop at Santa Maria Novella, and designed an innovative and highly complex scaffolding from which to execute the gigantic painting. When the artist departed Florence for Milan in 1506, the painting was left unfinished and so it remained until the redecoration of the Hall by Giorgio Vasari at the request of Grand Duke Cosimo I, when it was finally lost.