The Re-Creation of Leonardo's Horse
No complete sketches exist of Leonardo's horse so any attempt to reproduce it involves much careful study and a degree of guesswork. Nevertheless, it has been successfully done with a team of enthusiasts from the United States working to bring Leonardo's dream horse to life. This cannot be considered a faithful reproduction due to the lack of a good blueprint, but copies of his drawings were studied, along with drawings and photographs by other Renaissance artists. From this an interpretation of Leonardo's horse was built.
This is believed to be the world's largest equine statue and was gifted to the Italian city of Milan. Building costs for the 10-12 ton, seven metre high statue were almost US$6m and funding for the work took 20 years to collect. An obvious question is why Leonardo requested 80 tons of bronze for his statue and the answer is we really don't know. Leonardo's horse would have had an elaborate rider which would account for some of the difference.
The horse came about after amateur sculptor Charles Dent saw some copies of Leonardo's sketches which were rediscovered in Spain in 1966. Dent sculpted a clay model of the horse with the thought of building it, then presenting the statue to the people of Italy. Ironically, Dent's death in 1994 provided much of the funding as his will was primarily a bequest for the horse and provided the needed money to take the animal to the foundry.
The manufacture of the bronze statue was entrusted to the Tallix Art Foundry in New York, where it was cast in seven sections. Leonardo aimed to cast his horse in one piece, however experts today say they would have been quite impossible mainly because of the difficulties involved in handling such an enormous amount of hot bronze, keeping even temperatures, and ensuring the bronze coated all the crevices properly. The horse was also easier to ship in sections (head/neck, body, four legs, tail) and was welded together in Milan.
Then, on September 10th 1999, five hundred years to the day after archers used Leonardo's clay model for target practice, the bronze horse took its place in the city of Milan.
Love for the gift was not universal with some people branding it tasteless and claiming that the great work of Leonardo could never be recaptured. The Milan city council claimed to be thrilled with the work, but did not choose to place it in a central area of the city, instead placing it outside the Hippodrome racetrack.
The only other casting of the horse was be for Grand Rapids in the U.S.A. Referred to as the American Horse, it was installed in October, 1999. Another Leonardo horse is being built by the Japanese, however this is of fibreglass.