Artibus et Historiae no. 56 (XXVIII)

2007, ISSN 0391-9064

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DAVID SUMMERS - Michelangelo's Battle of Cascina, Pomponius Gauricus, and the Invention of a gran maniera in Italian Painting

This essay begins from the coincidence between the publication in Florence in 1504 of the De Sculptura of Pomponius Gauricus and Michelangelo's beginning to work on the cartoon for the Battle of Cascina, which was to have joined Leonardo da Vinci's Battle of Anghiari in the Sala del Gran Consiglio of the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence. Gauricus's varieties of perspective — from above, on the level, and from below — are examined, and it is suggested that the first of these is a justification for the arrangement of space to be seen in Roman battle sarcophagi. A fourth, "superior" perspective is compositional, a metaphorical "brilliance" achieved by the display of skill and ingenuity, especially in figures. This corresponds with the "terrible" style in rhetoric of Hermogenes, appropriate to grand themes such as battles. Michelangelo took the gran maniera invented for the Battle of Cascina to the lofty themes of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

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