One of the earliest and most influential Italian engravings, this print is an anomaly in many respects. It is the largest engraving of its time, and the only one signed by the Florentine artist Antonio Pollaiuolo (1431/32–1498). The Museum's impression, like others, shows the wear that resulted from handling and examination. The subject of the print has never been completely explained. Some people have argued that the print was meant to illustrate a mythological episode, while others have viewed it as a pattern piece, intended to demonstrate a range of poses and viewpoints for the benefit of other artists. Another interpretation suggests that the ten nude figures locked in combat may be gladiators fighting in funeral games, and the print itself may have commemorated the death of a prominent Florentine. Pollaiuolo's apparent interest is to describe the human body in a state of action, in varied poses, and from different angles. The figures' muscles are flexed and exaggerated but nevertheless demonstrate the artist's keen understanding of anatomy. The careful pairing of fighters in complementary poses injects the violent battle with a dancelike order.
Earls of Pembroke (British, Wilton House, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, England); Sotheby's, London, July 5, 1917, lot 119; Vendor: P. & D. Colnaghi & Co.
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National Gallery, Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Athens. "In the light of Apollo: Italian Renaissance and Greece," December 10, 2003–March 31, 2004.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," January 11, 2010–April 11, 2010.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Power of Prints: The Legacy of William M. Ivins and A. Hyatt Mayor," January 26, 2016–May 22, 2016.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer," November 13, 2017–February 12, 2018.
Hind 192.1; Bartsch XIII.202.2
Adam von Bartsch Le Peintre graveur. Vienna, 1803.
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Theodore Rousseau "Masterpieces of Five Centuries" The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. XXIX, November 1970. 1970, p. 132, ill.
Brian Kennedy The anatomy lesson: art and medicine : an exhibition of art and anatomy to celebrate the tercentenary of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Exh. cat. National Gallery of Ireland. 1992, pp. 18, 146.
The Art of Renaissance Europe: A Resource for Educators. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2000, pp. 93-94, ill.
Shelley R. Langdale, Cleveland Museum of Art Battle of the Nudes: Pollaiuolo’s Renaissance Masterpiece Exh. cat. Cleveland, 2002, p. 74, ill.
Margaret Rose Vendryes Barthé: A Life in Sculpture. Princeton, 2008, fig. no. 3.14, p. 68, ill.
Domenico Laurenza "Art and anatomy in Renaissance Italy : Images from a Scientific Revolution." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. Vol. 69, no. 3, New York, Winter 2012, fig. no. 6, pp. 8-9, ill.
Artist: Antonio Pollaiuolo (Italian, Florence ca. 1432–1498 Rome)Date: early to mid 1480sMedium: Pen and brown ink, light and dark brown wash; outlines of the horse and rider pricked for transfer.Accession: 1975.1.410On view in:Not on view