June 20th, 2013


The Lost Battles: Jonathan Jones

Leonardo was a bit of a sissy, Michelangelo a tough; Leonardo was a gun for hire, Michelangelo a patriot; Leonardo was a freethinker, Michelangelo a true believer. They hated each another.

The decision to give them walls to decorate in Florence's Great Council Hall pitched them directly against one another. Michelangelo's Battle of Cascina was a call to arms, Leonardo's Battle of Anghiari a pacifist manifesto. Neither picture was completed- and neither survives except in preliminary sketches and copies. Jonathan Jones uses this story of competition and confrontation as the focus for a wide-ranging exploration of the Florentine High Renaissance.

Nothing I've read about Leonardo and Michelangelo has ever given me such a clear and convincing idea of what these two sacred monsters stood for- and what they were like as people.


My parents were gardeners. I'm not. They made me not be a gardener by coercing me into weeding flowerbeds when I'd much rather have been reading books. What a futile waste of a weekend, I thought, fighting a war against Nature you're never going to win- and my sense of injury produced a kind of sentimental identification with the weeds I was uprooting.  (In the same spirit I once ripped a mole trap out of my grandparents lawn and chucked it in the shrubbery.)  My mother went out yesterday with her walker and started pulling weeds and I felt shamed into joining in. It made me angry with both of us.  Also she spotted the rabbit hole near the house that I've been keeping from her and wished a fox on it. Why? What harm do the rabbits do? Nibble a few leaves that's all. She's just down on them for being wild and out of order. Same thing with the hawthorn by the front gate she wants Matthew to chop down- a proposal that makes my heart ache. Weeds, rabbits, hawthorns- they're what I love about being here.

I mostly manage to hide it, but living like this in my mother's house, I keep turning back into a furious child.