Two skirmishes between horses and foot soldiers
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  • © Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Polo Museale Veneziano

Two skirmishes between horses and foot soldiers 1503

This is one of three small sheets of rapid sketches or primi pensieri (“first ideas”) for the lost Battle of Anghiari, painted by Leonardo in the Great Meeting Hall of the Government Palace in Florence.

They are an important record of Leonardo’s intended composition, and probably formed part of the same notebook. Along with partial copies, these tiny drawings are all that now survive of Leonardo’s compositional intentions. The drawing suggests the enormous scale and complexity of the painting, as well as its dramatic impact. Leonardo appears to have concentrated on one central episode in the story of the battle of Anghiari, the Fight for the Standard.

The sketch vividly calls to mind Leonardo’s written account of how to portray battles, contained in his treatise on painting, where he describes how the artist should try to capture the violence and chaos of battle in his paintings, by including the effects of artillery smoke mixed with dust-laden air.

  • Medium Pen and ink with brown wash over traces of stylus
  • Size 14.7 x 15.4 cm
  • Location Galleria dell’Accademia

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