The year 1504 was one of the greatest years in the history of mankind. That year three of the greatest artists of all time converged in one Italian city, Florence, and went to work. First there was Leonardo Da Vinci. He was probably the most famous man of his day, truly a living legend at the time. Imagine being the person who painted the most famous paintings of all time (the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper), and to have future historians measure a 300 year period of time by your accomplishments. Leonardo was a painter, architect, scientist, engineer, botanist, writer, astronomer, and historian. That year the already famous genius was in Florence working on a painting of Lisa Gerandini. It was an oil painting on poplar wood, only 30 inches by 21 inches. It would be known as the Mona Lisa.
The year 1504 also brought Michelangelo Buonarroti to town. You know him as the sculptor of the Pieta and the painter of the Sistine Chapel. The Pieta was finished when Michelangelo was only 23. Look at it, and you will almost see Mary breathing and mourning. You can see the veins in the dead hands of Jesus–it looks as though He had just died moments ago. Michelangelo was in Florence in 1504 painting something not as famous: “The Battle of Cascina.” He was also finishing up that year something a bit more famous–his statue of David. I just recently went to Florence and saw this colossal statue. It is 17 feet high from his toes to the top of his head. It was a solid block of flawed marble that other sculptors would not touch. Michelangelo just told them all to stand back and watch what he could do.
The statue is so life-like it looks like it could step down off the pedestal and start talking to you. Leonardo knew about the statue and saw it. He was also on a committee to relocate the statue (it was supposed to be mounted on top of the famous “Duomo”/Cathedral in Florence). Mike did not like Leonard, and Mike was not pleased with Leonard’s ideas.
Lastly, we have the great painter Raphael Sanzio. He was the youngest of the group. Leonardo was 50, Michelangelo was 29, and Raphael was just a kid at age 21. He was in Florence at the same time as the other two, but was not involved in painting anything we call really famous or great today. But he was there learning from the great masters. Probably Leonardo influenced him the most. He knew both men, and when he later painted his famous work “The School of Athens” he put both geniuses in the painting! Leonardo is Plato pointing upward, while Michelangelo is Aristotle pointing downward.
There they are…the two great artists of the Renaissance…still arguing. Imagine being in Florence in 1504 and meeting these geniuses. But since we can’t, just pull out an art book and admire their work and thank God for such incredible talent!