The small medieval town of Anghiari, located in the province of Arezzo, was at the center of a famous battle when Florentine troups, supported by the Pope, fought against the Milanese army which had recently conquered San Sepolcro and wanted to expand the possessions of the Duke of Milan in Tuscany.
On the 29th of June 1440 the two armies, led respectively by Michelotto Attendolo and Giampaolo Orsini and by famous Niccolò Piccinino, faced each other in the valley under Anghiari (today still called the "the valley of the battle"). The battle was decided at the end of the day with the victory of the Florentines army.
The battle was short and not too violent, so much so that Niccolò Machiavelli wrote ironically that only one soldier died on that day and that was because he fell off his horse, alluding to the fact that most of the soldiers were mercenaries and didn't really want to fight. The battle was crucial in the history of this area in "lower" Tuscany as the Duke of Milan definitively abandoned the area after his defeat and the Florentines took advantage to fortify their dominion in the area.
The Battle of Anghiari Fresco by Leonardo da Vinci
The victory of the Battle of Anghiari was extremely important for Florentines and in 1503 decided to celebrate their victory by commissioning Leonardo da Vinci a fresco to decorate the main room in Palazzo della Signoria, today known as Palazzo Vecchio.
Leonardo designed a large fresco depicting the battle that would be placed on the right wall in the present Hall of the Five Hundred (Salone del Cinquecento).
Taking inspiration from some works by Plinio the Elder, Leonardo decided to paint the fresco using the encaustic painting technique. This technique is also known as hot wax painting and uses heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. Leonardo set up big braziers under his fresco to create the work. Unfortunately, the procedure didn't have the expected result: the heat couldn't be spread out evenly over the fresco and, probably because of its large dimensions, the artwork was irreparably damaged. Even so, the fresco of the Battle of Anghiari remained visible for several years and many painters, such as Rubens, reproduced it. Thanks to these copies there is evidence of the grandeur of this magnificent work by Leonardo which was eventually replaced after the Hall's transformation carried out by Vasari between 1555 and 1572.
Many people think that Leonardo's fresco is still there in the Hall of Five Hundred underneath the modern paintings but surveys so far have no concrete evidence. In May 2007, on initiative of the Department for Conservation of the Cultural Heritage, a special "Commission for the Battle of Anghiari" was named that will make all the necessary tests to find out if Leonardo's fresco is underneath the Vasari paintings.
In the historical center of Anghiari the Palazzo del Marzocco, also called Palace of the Battle, you'll find many interesting details and information about this important battle and about Leonardo's work, as well as information on the city and the history of the Valtiberina over the centuries.