The Battle of San Romano

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The Battle of San Romano
Niccolò Mauruzi da Tolentino at the Battle of San Romano
ArtistPaolo Uccello
Yearc. 1435–1460
Typeegg tempera with walnut oil and linseed oil on poplar
LocationNational Gallery, Galleria degli Uffizi, Musée du Louvre

The Battle of San Romano is a set of three paintings by the Florentine painter Paolo Uccello depicting events that took place at the Battle of San Romano between Florentine and Sienese forces in 1432. They are significant as revealing the development of linear perspective in early Italian Renaissance painting, and are unusual as a major secular commission. The paintings are in egg tempera on wooden panels, each over 3 metres long. According to the National Gallery,[1] the panels were commissioned by a member of the Bartolini Salimbeni family in Florence sometime between 1435 and 1460. The paintings were much admired in the 15th century; Lorenzo de' Medici so coveted them that he purchased one and had the remaining two forcibly removed to the Palazzo Medici. They are now divided between three collections, the National Gallery, London, the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris.


The three paintings are:

The Uffizi panel was probably designed to be the central painting of the triptych and is the only one signed by the artist. The sequence most widely agreed among art historians is: London, Uffizi, Louvre, although others have been proposed. They may represent different times of day: dawn (London), mid-day (Florence) and dusk (Paris) – the battle lasted eight hours.

In the London painting, Niccolò da Tolentino, with his large gold and red patterned hat, is seen leading the Florentine cavalry. He had a reputation for recklessness, and doesn't even wear a helmet, though he sent two messengers (the departure of the two messengers, depicted centre, top) to tell his allied army of Attendolo to hurry to his aid as he is facing a superior force.[4] In the foreground, broken lances and a dead soldier are carefully aligned into orthogonals, so as to create an impression of perspective. Similar to that of a tapestry, the landscape rises up in a picture plane as opposed to receding deeply into space. This illusion of a backdrop and a perspective theme resembling a stage, depicts the war as a theatrical ceremony.[5] The three paintings were designed to be hung high on three different walls of a room, and the perspective designed with that height in mind, which accounts for many apparent anomalies in the perspective when seen in photos or at normal gallery height.

Many areas of the paintings were covered with gold and silver leaf. While the gold leaf, such as that found on the decorations of the bridles, has remained bright, the silver leaf, found particularly on the armour of the soldiers, has oxidized to a dull grey or black. The original impression of the burnished silver would have been dazzling. All of the paintings, especially that in the Louvre, have suffered from time and early restoration, and many areas have lost their modelling.[2]

The panels were a subject in the BBC series The Private Life of a Masterpiece (2005).

References in popular culture[edit]

The dark horse in the Louvre panel, mounted by Micheletto Attendolo (da Cotignola), can be seen painted in a tapestry, in the first segment ("Metzengerstein") of the 1968 omnibus film Spirits of the Dead. In the 4th Episode (Lucrezia's Wedding) of the 2011 TV Series The Borgias, the London and Louvre panel is shown adorning the dining hall walls of the Florentine Prince when cardinal Della Rovere visits him in Florence.

See also[edit]

External media
audio icon Personal response: Serena Ferrente[6]
video icon Smarthistory – Uccello's The Battle of San Romano[7]


  1. ^ Paolo Uccello The Battle of San Romano NG583
  2. ^ a b National Gallery Catalogues: The Fifteenth Century Italian Paintings, Volume 1, by Dillian Gordon, 2003, pp. 378–397 ISBN 1-85709-293-7
  3. ^ «and not Ciarda, as he is often referred to" (Lorenzo Sbaraglio, Paolo di Dono, detto Paolo Uccello, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 81 - 2014).
  4. ^ Private Life of a Masterpiece, BBC TV
  5. ^ Davis, Denny, Hofrichter, Jacobs, Roberts, Simon (2011). Janson's History of Art" The Western Tradition Eighth Edition. London: Laurence King Publishing LTD. p. 538. ISBN 9780205685172.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "Personal response: Serena Ferrente". National Gallery. Archived from the original on April 19, 2015. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  7. ^ "Uccello's The Battle of San Romano". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved December 31, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Harrington, Peter, "Military history's loss is Art History's Gain," Quarterly Journal of Military History, Vol. 16, No. 1, Autumn 2003, pp. 44–49.
  • Starn, Randolph and Loren Partridge, "Representing war in the Renaissance: The shield of Paolo Uccello," Representations, No. 5, Winter 1984, 33–65.

External links[edit]

Media related to San Romano Battle (Paolo Uccello) at Wikimedia Commons