10 Deeply Personal Historical Rivalries

9. Leonardo Da Vinci Vs. Michelangelo: Pain(ts) In Each Other's Side


Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were automatically rivals through living at the same time and competing for acclaim during the renaissance. These two though, they really got personal.

Da Vinci, the elder of the two, thought Michelangelo was an arrogant upstart who didn't show enough respect to his forebears. Michelangelo meanwhile considered da Vinci stuffy and out of touch.

The feud really began in 1503, when they were both commissioned to paint massive battle scenes opposite each other in the town hall of Florence. Both artists were told by the commissioner of this work, the mayor of Florence, that they were in direct competition with each other.

According to a Florentine chronicler, during a debate concerning Dante (fan theories, one supposes), da Vinci asked Michelangelo if he could explain the passage under discussion. Michelangelo supposedly flipped out and taunted da Vinci over his inability to finish his pieces.

Meanwhile, in transcripts from a meeting to decide where Michelangelo's David was to be displayed, da Vinci says that the statue needed to be placed 'behind the low wall where the soldiers line up. It should be put there... in such a way that it does not interfere with the ceremonies of state.’

There are even references in Leonardo's notebooks where he refers to Michelangelo's paintings as 'wooden'. Neither party would be pleased to know they are considered equals today.


Wesley Cunningham-Burns hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.