It is a beautiful thing when different forms of art collide. Dance and music create a wonderful combination, as do writing and graphic arts. Various art types compliment one another, and in some cases even depend on one another if full expression is to be had. But one combination that seems unlikely is theatre and 16th Century Italian art – there’s a mix you don’t hear about everyday.
Two individuals recently wrote a play called Divine Rivalry that integrates 16th Century Italian art into theatre. Divine Rivalry has a storyline that is true to its name, being about an “artistic duel” between Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo Da Vinci, two giants of the art world. Who in the play is responsible for this rivalry? None other than Niccolo Machiavelli. While the plot of Divine Rivalry sure sounds far-fetched, here is an interesting fact: it is based on true happenings.
1505 was the year that the painting duel actually happened between Michelangelo and Da Vinci, an idea that Machiavelli did indeed conceive of. What prompted Machiavelli to initiate this scenario? Probably the fact that Italy wanted to set itself apart from other countries around the year 1505. This is understandable when you consider that Spain boasted the recent finding of the New World during that time. Machiavelli thought that having two murals created to depict Italy’s “artistic brilliance and military prowess” would help raise and solidify the status of the country. Thus, the idea of having two famous artists paint together yet against one another was born.
While Da Vinci and Michelangelo were both commissioned to paint specific murals, neither artist finished the job assigned. It wasn’t until the 1560’s that the murals were painted over by another artist, Giorgio Vasari.
The individuals who penned Divine Rivalry, Michael Kramer and D.S. Moynihan, were excited to present this production to the public beginning in 2011 in Connecticut at the Hartford Stage. Moynihan commented that she had not encountered anyone who was familiar with the “paint-off” of 1505. Kramer admitted that he was thrilled to have done two years of research for the play. All in all, Divine Rivalry was a notch in the belts of Moynihan and Kramer. The success of Divine Rivalry proves that great things can happen when art is represented on stage.
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