An annunciation

In an earlier post I explained that Giorgio Vasari, in his painting of the Battle of Marciano, portrayed Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo as two musketeers standing side by side.

I revealed in another post how Vasari placed references in the scene to Leonardo’s painting, Lady with an Ermine, and also intimated that other works attributed to Leonardo were referenced, namely the Mona Lisa and the Salvatore Mundi.

One painting for sure that Vasari utilised in the battle scene was Leonardo’s Annunciation.

Detail of the Angel Gabriel from The Annunciation, by Leonardo da Vinci, Uffizi, Florence

I was intending to use this post to explain the connections Vasari made to The Annunciation, but having examined Leonardo’s painting in more detail, I shall delay on that and instead reveal some surprising embedded elements not normally recognised with what is said to be the earliest extant painting produced by Leonardo. 

Botticelli had knowledge of the underlying detail. He made reference to it in the Uffizi version of The Adoration of the Magi. So did Vasari in the Battle of Marciano.

By the hand of Leonardo

I mentioned in the previous post that the study and placement of hands was important to Leonardo da Vinci in his work. It is claimed that Leonardo may have suffered with ulnar palsy, or what is known as “claw hand”. I posted about this diagnosis at the link below.

Botticelli, Mantegna and Ghirlandaio are three artists who portrayed Leonardo with a clawed hand and Giorgio Vasari made reference to this disability in his Battle of Marciano fresco. He shows Leonardo’s right hand gripping the wedge-shaped flask while refilling the musket with gunpowder. Notice also the horse-tail at the side of the flask. This is a reference to the flask also representing the shape of a Greek harp or lyre. Leonardo made a similar instrument in the shape of a horse head as a gift for Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. This gift is also alluded to elsewhere in the fresco.

The hand also represents a crab, the fingers its legs. An eye is depicted in the corner of the pouch between the thumb and forefinger. The crab feature is also part of a group of disguised creatures listed as forbidden food in the Book of Leviticus, written in Hebrew from right to left. Leonardo was known to write with his left hand, possibly because of the abnormality in his right hand. He generally wrote from right to left on the page in a style known as mirror-writing.

Having pointed out in my previous post the connection between Leonardo’s musket and his painting of the Lady with an Ermine, (the ermine is a type of weasel, one of the forbidden foods) are there any other Leonardo’s paintings to be found in this section of Vasari’s fresco? 

Let’s look at the honey or gold-coloured sleeve covering Leonardo’s left arm. Could this be a pointer to the rippling folds in the gold-coloured sleeves of the famous Mona Lisa painting? Cerca Trova (Seek and Find).

Another painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci is the controversial Salvatore Mundi, sold at auction in 2017 for $450 million U.S.  Could there be any indication that this work features in Vasari’s Marciano fresco. I believe there is.

My understanding is that the Salvatore Mundi is a mirror reflection of Leonardo. Observe the globe held in the claw hand of Christ’s left hand, but in reality Leonardo’s right hand if we keep in mind it is a “mirror” portrait. And so the hand raised in blessing is therefore Leonardo’s left hand, and perhaps a pointer to the Salvatore Mundi portrait being made by “the hand of Leonardo”.

There is another reference to the Salvatore Mundi elsewhere in this section of Vasari’s fresco, and to an earlier painting by Leonardo: The Annunciation. More about this in a future post.

The Annunciation, c. 1472-76, Leonardo da Vinci, Uffizi, Florence

Look-a-likes and the Big Reveal

Battle of Marciano by Giorgio Vasari, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Just why did Giorgio Vasari embed so many bearded look-a-likes in his Battle of Marciano fresco in the Palazzo Vecchio? A clue can be found in a similar motif, the rows of round-helmeted soldiers lined up as peas in a pod, appearing to be cast from the same mould. Musket balls, maybe?

The musket-ball motif can link to the two men firing muskets in the section of the painting I pointed out in my previous post, the “Sons of Thunder”, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. Leonardo is depicted as one of the many bearded look-a-likes.

That Leonardo is placed shoulder-to-shoulder with Michelangelo is for a reason. Vasari has utilised a similar motif from one of the most famous fresco scenes in the world – The Creation of Adam – that forms part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo.

Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo

In making this connection Vasari revealed, quite intentionally, and confirmed in another section of the Marciano fresco, that Michelangelo’s portrayal of God is, in fact, Leonardo da Vinci!

The angel portrayed behind God’s right shoulder is Michelangelo. Another artist portrayed in the “pod” is Sandro Botticelli. Here, Michelangelo, like Vasari, referenced paintings by Botticelli and Leonardo to create this scene, and I shall explain more about this in a future post.

“God created Man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.…” (Genesis 1 : 27), which explains the bearded men motif in the Vasari fresco, all made in the image of God.

But was Vasari pointing to another scenario, and two more famous paintings associated with Leonardo: the Mona Lisa, and the portrait of Christ known as Salvatore Mundi?

Some art researchers have hypothesised that Leonardo is the model for both paintings – “male and female he created them.”

The Mona Lisa (Louvre) and the portrait known as Salvatore Mundi