The battle between knights

1440, June 29. Around the bridge that crosses the millstream, on the straight road that runs beneath the walls of Anghiari and leads to Borgo Sansepolcro, there is a battle between Milanese and Florentine knights to capture the Visconti flag. The event was painted by the workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni around 1450 and would be depicted later, in its historical form, in the Battle of Anghiari by Leonardo Da Vinci, conceived in the years 1503-1506. The historical action of the day is immortalized by the position of Niccolò Piccinino who, on his horse, extends his right arm above his head to form an arc, a movement set by both Apollonio and Leonardo Da Vinci. A battle in which about seventy men fell, according to Neri Capponi, the Florentines commissar present in the battle, but where however, the loot between materials and prisoners was great. It was not then the battle in which only one man died, as reported by Machiavelli in the Florentine Histories.

It is through the work of Leonardo Da Vinci that this fifteenth century war, between Italian knights of fortune, has become the reference for all representations of fights between knights. Leonardo’s battle becomes an archetype, certainly known by Jacques Courtois, Italianized into Giacomo Cortese, ex-soldier and painter, who became one of the specialists of works of this genre in the mid-seventeenth century. In his works dismay and fear are the dominant feelings that shine through the faces of the knights, not Leonardo’s bestial ferocity. For wars had changed, almost no more “pacts” were used to resolve a siege, the sabres had given way to guns, pay was low and war, unlike the times of the fifteenth-century companies, was also conducted in winter. 

On display