loren Eric Swanson: Leonardo's Horse

Monday, October 29, 2007

Leonardo's Horse

In the late 1400s Leonardo was commissioned by Ludovico Sforza (under whose patronage Leonardo created The Last Supper on the wall of the refectory of Santa Maria dellle Grazie) to build an equestrian monument to honor his father, Francesco, the previous grand duke of Milan. Leonardo steeped himself in the study of the anatomy and movement of the horse and crafted a plan to create the greatest equestrian statue ever constructed. “After more than a decade of work Leonardo constructed a wooden and clay model twenty-four feet high. Vasari (Leonardo’s biographer) wrote that ‘there was never a more beautiful thing or more superb.”’[1] Leonardo calculated the monument would take over 80 tons of melted bronze to cast this masterpiece. Unfortunately his patron needed the bronze for canon for defense against the invading French and the model of the horse was destroyed as the conquering French archers used it for target practice.

In 1977 National Geographic published an article entitled The Horse That Never Was. The article described Da Vinci's conception of the Sforza equestrian monument and told the story of the destruction of his model in 1499.
A pilot and art collector Charles Dent read that article and conceived a dream to build Leonardo's Horse - Il Cavallo - and give it to the Italian people as a thank you gift for the treasures of the Renaissance. Although he never lived to see its completion, he left $1.5b of his estate to see his dream fulfilled. The project was designed by a Japanese-American sculptor, Nina Akuma and after another $4.5 was raised the statue was finished and unveiled in Milan on September 10, 1999 five hundred years from the day the original model was destroyed.[2]
Today I flew into Grand Rapids Michigan to be part of an Externally Focused Seminar tomorrow. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a picture of Michelangelo's horse in the airport! I found out there was a copy of the statue at the Fredrick Meier Garden. I had to see it. It was absolutely spectacular--a work worthy of Michelangelo.

[1] Gelb, Michael J. How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci. Delta Trade Paperback reissue edition (June 2004) 30.
[2] http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/july-dec99/leonardo_9-10.html


At Saturday, January 17, 2009 12:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the horse was designed by Leonardo Da Vince, you said so yourself.
Where did michalangelo fit into this equasion?

At Saturday, January 17, 2009 12:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, and i ment davinci, i'm just awful at typing

At Saturday, January 17, 2009 3:48:00 PM, Blogger Eric Swanson said...

What was I thninking...? it is DaVinci's horse...I'll see if i can change the post


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