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The Battle of Anghiari

Leonardo’s most ambitious painting was the Battle of Anghiari, commissioned in 1503 by the Florentine government for the Great Council Chamber of the Palazzo della Signoria.

The huge panoramic mural was to show a celebrated victory of 1440 over Milanese forces. The composition was to centre on a fierce cavalry skirmish, with opposing troops advancing from either side. Only the central portion, known as the Fight for the Standard, had been painted when Leonardo was called back to Milan in 1506, and that was obliterated fifty years later.

Leonardo prepared meticulously for the project, studying groups, individual figures and expressions, and surveying male nudes systematically from front, back and side.