Leonardo's Horse (also known as Gran Cavallo) is a sculpture that was commissioned of Leonardo da Vinci in 1482 by Duke of Milan Ludovico il Moro, but not completed. It was intended to be the largest equestrian statue in the world, a monument to the duke's father Francesco. Leonardo did extensive preparatory work for it, but produced only a clay model, which was destroyed by French soldiers when they invaded Milan in 1499, interrupting the project. About five centuries later, Leonardo's surviving design materials were used as the basis for sculptures intended to bring the project to fruition.
The Horse (Modern Version)
In 1977, Charles C. Dent, a United Airlines pilot, began work to complete the unfinished sculpture in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His efforts to set up an organization to finance the project proved a difficult task that required more than 15 years. He founded a nonprofit organization named Leonardo da Vinci's Horse, Inc. (LDVHI) to support the project.
Charles C. Dent projected cost of the horse came to nearly US $2.5 million. In 1988, LDVHI enlisted sculptor/painter Garth Herrick to begin part-time work on the horse. Charles C. Dent died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 1994, leaving his private art collection to LDVHI, the sale of which brought more than $1 million to the fund. Peter C. Dent, nephew of Charles C. Dent, took on leadership of LDVHI after Charles C. Dent, passed away on Dec. 25, 1994 – serving as the organization’s President, CEO, and Trustee.
By 1997, Tallix Art Foundry, in Beacon, New York, the company contracted by LDVHI to cast the horse, had suggested bringing Nina Akamu, an experienced animal sculptor, on board to improve upon the Dent-Herrick horse. After several months. Nina Akamu determined that the original model could not be salvaged and concluded that a completely new sculpture needed to be executed.
Leonardo had made numerous small sketches of horses to help illustrate his notes about the complex procedures for molding and casting the sculpture. But his notes were far from systematic, and none of the sketches points to the final position of the horse, with no single definitive drawing of the statue. Akamu researched multiple information sources to gain insight into the original sculptor's intentions. She studied both Leonardo's notes and drawings of the horse and those of other projects he was working on. She reviewed his thoughts on anatomy, painting, sculpture and natural phenomena. Her research expanded to include the teachers who had influenced Leonardo. Akamu also studied Iberian horse breeds, such as the Andalusian, which were favored by the Sforza stables in the late 15th century.
Additional renderings of The Horse of different sizes are displayed in the United States and Italy.
The American Horse
The second full-size cast of Nina Akamu's design became known as The American Horse, which was commissioned by philanthropist Frederik Meijer and was placed at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, a botanical garden and sculpture park in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Oct. 7, 1999.
The Vinci Horse
An eight-foot bronze version of the sculpture stands in Leonardo’s birthplace, Vinci, Italy, where it was dedicated on Nov. 17, 2001. Made possible with gifts from several benefactors, including Peter F. Secchia, the former United States Ambassador to Italy, and his wife, Joan, The Vinci horse inspired an sister city relationship between Vinci, Italy, and Allentown, Pa. A plaza in Vinci, Italy, also was named in the memory of Charles C. Dent.
The Baum School Horse
A 12-foot replica was placed in Charles C. Dent’s hometown of Allentown, Pa. in the Charles C. Dent Memorial Garden at The Baum School of Art, where it was dedicated on Oct. 4, 2002.
The Da Vinci Science Center Horse
The Da Vinci Science Center – the organization that is shaped by the merger of LDVHI and what was then known as the Discovery Center of Science and Technology – displays a three-foot replica of The Horse in in its main lobby, which was dedicated when the science center opened its current location on Oct. 30, 2005. The Da Vinci Science Center’s sculpture also has appeared on loan at the Discovery Times Square Exposition in New York, N.Y., and at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pa.
The Wyoming Horse
An eight-foot-tall replica of The Horse was placed in Sheridan, Wyoming, where it was dedicated on Aug. 20, 2015. The Wyoming Horse was commissioned by the Wyoming Community Foundation on behalf of the Sheridan Public Arts Committee as part of the city’s commitment to the arts. Sponsors of the Wyoming Horse were Sheridan Media, Frackelton’s Restaurant; The Phoenix Limited Partnership; the Sheridan Johnson Community Foundation; the Wyoming Community Foundation; and Kim and Mary Kay Love.
Another 24-foot-high recreation (7.3 m) of the Sforza horse, based on different design interpretation, was manufactured by the Opera Laboratori Fiorentini S.p.A., in collaboration with Polo Museale Fiorentino and the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy. It is made of steel frame with special resin coated fibreglass, to make it look like bronze. It is made of six pieces and can be transported and re-assembled. It has been at display at various locations during exhibitions on Leonardo. Some of these are;
- "The Mind of Leonardo" at the Museum of Modern Art, Debrecen, Hungary. (16 August to 2 December 2007).
- "Leonardo: 500 Years into the Future" at the Tech Museum, San Jose, USA (27 September 2008 to 25 January 2009)
- "The Mind of Leonardo" at the Palazzo Venezia, Rome, Italy (1 May to 30 August 2009)
- "Leonardo da Vinci – Hand of the Genius" Sifly Piazza at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, (6 October 2009 to February 6, 2010).
- "Peter C. Dent Biography". Da Vinci Science Center.
- "The Full Story of Leonardo's Horse". Da Vinci Science Center.
- "Leonardo's Horse". Da Vinci Science Center.
- "The Additional Horses". Da Vinci Science Center.
- "The American Horse". Da Vinci Science Center.
- "The Vinci Horse". Da Vinci Science Center.
- "The Baum School Horse". Da Vinci Science Center.
- "The Da Vinci Science Center Horse". Da Vinci Science Center.
- "The Wyoming Horse". Da Vinci Science Center.
- "The Mind of Leonardo". Brunelleschi.imss.fi.it. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
- "'Exhibition Featuring Work of Leonardo da Vinci to Open at High Museum in Atlanta, October 2009'". High Museum of Art. September 1, 2009.
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