Mystery of Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina

Review of Joost Keizer's "Michelangelo, Drawing and the Subject of Art" (2011)

In January this year I added an entry on Michelangelo’s The Battle of Cascina, a cartoon for a never-completed mural in the civic heart of Florence which is one of the most celebrated and influential works in the history of art. A composition on paper with nearly twenty life-size figures, it was worn to shreds by admiring artists sketching it. Today it is known through a copy. I argued at the time that the faceted rock of the river bank is a metaphor for Michelangelo’s mind. Joost Keizer’s recent analysis in the September Art Bulletin made me think again because he identifies additional problems with conventional understanding of the scene, problems that I had not noticed.

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