The Day the Renaissance Was Saved

The Battle of Anghiari and da Vinci’s Lost Masterpiece

240 Pages

Published November 2015

The Day the Renaissance Was Saved
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About the Book

It was a battle that change the course of history, and was immortalized in a massive painting by Leonardo da Vinci that was thought lost for centuries . . . until now.

On a sweltering day in June 1440, near the Tuscan town of Anghiari, the simmering conflict among Italy’s principal powers exploded into a battle whereby Florence and the papal States joined with Venice to defeat the previously unstoppable army of Milan. The shocking denoument would open the way for the flowering of Florentine culture, and the birth of what we now know as the Renaissance.

There was, perhaps, no stunning evidence of this than a massive painting by Leonardo da Vinci commemorating the Battle of Anghiari, a masterpiece that quickly became famous—but then was mysteriously lost. Until recently, that is, when researchers made a breathtaking discovery of the location where it has been hidden for more than four hundred years.

In The Day the Renaissance Was Saved, Niccolò Capponi—a direct descendent of Niccolò Machiavelli, as well as of a Florentine general who was a key strategist of the campaign at Anghiari—weaves the story of da Vinci’s lost masterpiece through the narrative of the history-changing battle, and offers context on the development of humanist thought and the political intrigues of fifteenth-century Italy.

Complete with maps and twenty-four color images, this is military history, political history, and art history all rolled into one, from a scholar whose ancestors were key players in the scheming, plotting, and fighting that led to this pivotal moment in Western history.


”Capponi provides an intense but relatable look at key Italian families in the era’s unforgiving struggles between the influence of city-states and papal power…The narrative itself flows smoothly in Naffis-Sahely’s English translation, allowing Capponi’s smart imagery to shine through as he illuminates Florence’s successful struggle for survival.” —Publishers Weekly

“Capponi presents a scholarly yet engaging account of the events leading up to and including the little-known, historically significant Battle of Anghiari…A significant survey of an important battle and its outcomes as retold by an expert of Italian Renaissance military and political history.” —Library Journal

The Day the Renaissance Was Saved is a peeling onion of hidden motives. [Capponi] contends that Western history would have taken a dark turn if the brutish Milanese had won the day.” — Open Letters Monthly

“No shortage of plot in this historian’s account. There’s Milan clashing with Florence, the Papal States, and Venice; a lost work by the Mona Lisa’s master; a tipping point that shifted the course of history, brought the Medicis to power, and might be responsible for the Renaissance itself.”
Vulture, 45 Books to Read This Fall

“A fascinating account of a turbulent period in European history. Not only are the key figures covered in detail, but the tactics and strategies of the mercenary armies of the day also are included.”—Military Heritage

“Capponi has an excellent grasp of the material. He describes the battle’s history effortlessly yet in great detail…Recommended for scholars and students of Italian military and political history, Florentine history, and the Italian Renaissance.”—ARLIS/NA (Art Libraries Society of North America)

Praise for Victory of the West: The Great Christian-Muslim Clash at the Battle of Lepanto

“Capponi lives up to his reputation in his first major U.S. publication. A fresh, multilayered analysis.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Great attention to detail … An absorbing and even thrilling account.”

Praise for An Unlikely Prince: The Life and Times of Machiavelli

“Detailed and engaging.”
—Times Literary Supplement

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