2. The rivalry between Michelangelo and Leonardo (and general rivalries amongst artists). This one shouldn’t have been surprising, and yet, for some reason, I’ve never thought of Michelangelo and Leonardo crossing paths. In my head, Da Vinci predated Buonarroti, but that wasn’t the case (although he was more than twenty years older). As King points out, the two artists had a “well-known dislike of each other.” Apparently the saucy youth, Michelangelo, taunted Leonardo for failing to properly execute the casting of “a giant bronze equestrian statue in Milan.” Da Vinci, in rebuttal, lambasted sculpting as a generally lesser art and sculptors — seeing as how they were perpetually covered in marble dust — as dirty. No wonder all of Florence was abuzz when the two greatest artists of the age were hired to fresco separate walls in a room of the Palazzo della Signoria. Sadly, for the Florentines yearning for a good fight and the rest of us throughout time who are denied the wonder of what would have surely been a masterpiece of a salon, neither artist successfully executed his fresco: Michelangelo was summoned to Rome by the Pope, and Leonardo’s experimental style didn’t work; he got fed up and went back to Milan. Still, the book is full of fireworks between Michelangelo and other artists — Bramante, most notably, but he also gets surly with a number of his assistants. Such, I suppose, is the nature of genius.
As a side note, there was a paragraph in the book that mentioned Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael all together. Because I’m of a certain age, I was really hoping that Donatello would make an appearance and that they would binge eat pizza and say “Cowabunga!” Sadly, I looked at the index and found that, while he does get mentioned, it isn’t at the same time as the other three. Drats.