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“Perfect, perfect, perfect,” says Professor Carlo Pedretti of the recently discovered ‘Horse and Rider’, a bronze sculpture by Leonardo da Vinci, May 2012. This bronze was cast from a mold handcrafted by the master in beeswax over five centuries ago…
Leonardo’s dreams seem to have surpassed the dreamer. It is amazing to see all of his lost objects popping up all over the world. It is no wonder since Leonardo lived like a nomad for the most part of his life. At times on the road, he would trade a painting or a sculpture with a farmer for the simple living necessities. So, in the end he had work scattered all over the Italian territory, but not necessarily in rich Palaces.
The Dream And The Dreamer by Ton Pascal “Perfect, perfect, perfect,” says Professor CarloPedretti of the recently discovered ‘Horse and Rider’,a bronze sculpture by Leonardo da Vinci, May 2012.This bronze was cast from a mold handcrafted by themaster in beeswax over five centuries ago… Leonardo’s dreams seem to have surpassedthe dreamer. It is amazing to see all of his lost objectspopping up all over the world. It is no wonder sinceLeonardo lived like a nomad for the most part of hislife. At times on the road, he would trade a painting ora sculpture with a farmer for the simple livingnecessities. So, in the end he had work scattered allover the Italian territory, but not necessarily in richPalaces. Take a look at the dates and places on chart at the bottom of this page tobetter understand Leonardo’s journey. Some of the reasons for this incredible genius’wandering life were his impetuous character, pride, insecurity and fears. And to top itall, Leonardo carried with him his own ‘Pandora Box’; his birthright. He was anillegitimate child, born out of wedlock, which was a common occurrence then, butnevertheless quite humiliating and legally limited the living prospects of the poorchild. On that particular time and place, 1400 Italy, an illegitimate child had no rightsto property, high schooling or to hold any public job. Leonardo’s professional choicesin life were few. He could become a man servant, a priest or an artisan. And artisanwas his birth father’s choice. At fifteen he took the boy to a painter’s atelier and lefthim there to become an apprentice. Leonardo was out of his birth father’s house forgood. From there on they hardly ever spoke to each other. A case in question that illustrate Leonardo’s plight, is his inheritance from hislate uncle Francesco, with whom he had spent a few years of his childhood. The oldman had left Leonardo a little farm-house in Vinci. Once the Will was readLeonardo’s half-brothers sued him, stating that as an illegitimate child he had norights to that property. After years of litigation, the court’s final verdict stated thatLeonardo could inhabit the house until his death but it would never be his property forsale or trade. Fortunately enough, Leonardo, a quick learner, lived his life anddreams to the fullest counting only on his intellect because friends were few andfamily support was none. Leonardo dreamed of accomplishing something that would have a validpurpose and have an immediate, highly emotional impact on the viewer, in short, amaster piece. It is no wonder that in 1482, when the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforzamentioned to Leonardo that he would like to build the largest equestrian statue in theworld, a monument to his father Francesco Sforza, Leonardo, at once, jumped at it.He didn’t waste any time, the following day he presented the Duke with a first design.Il Moro liked the design and commissioned it on the spot. Right there one of theLeonardo’s major dreams started to unfold. 1
The monument was huge. They both thought big, but this big had never been seen, even in ancient Greece or Rome, not to mention Milan in 1482. Nothing in this scale had ever been attempted before. To everyone’s amazement, Leonardo’s calculations called for seventy-five tons of bronze for the horse alone. There had never been anything cast in bronze of this size before and no foundry existed then that could handle this complex engineering exploit. But that was no problem for Leonardo who calculated, invented, and sketched new ways to accomplish his dream. Like an obsession, the horse project took a lot of Leonardo’s time. By the end of 1497, Leonardo finally put his hand to work on the sculpture. Heconsidered sculpting a tedious manual job. From the tons of blocks of fine red claythe huge animal started to take shape. Two years later Leonardo finished a full scale,clay model that was ready for casting. This project took seventeen years of intensiveresearch, sketch studies, and labor. The resulting sculpture surpassed anything theDuke and everybody expected. The finished, monumental clay model of the horsealone stood twenty-four feet high. The ‘Sforza Horse’ as it was called, wasprominently displayed in the Sforza Castle courtyard and brought people from allover the country to admire it and praise the Master. Then in early 1499 disaster occurs! The French invade Milan and take overthe Sforza Castle. Leonardo was unhindered in his private quarters at the palace. Bythen, he was the town’s biggest celebrity. The conqueror French King, Louis XII,even named Leonardo ‘court painter’ and allocated him a decent salary, butLeonardo didn’t trust the new French governor Charles D’Amboise. Claiming somelame excuse of unfinished commission, Leonardo asked permission for a short leave.Permission was granted. Leonardo and his household took to the roads looking fornew patrons and didn’t come back to Milan. The governor sent spies and messengers all over the Italian territorydemanding Leonardo’s immediate return to Milan. He was, after all, the court painterof the King of France, and his absence from the Milanese court was unacceptableand inexcusable, said the messages. Leonardo finally agreed to return to Milan butmainly to escape the law suit the ‘Gonfaloniere Signoria’, the governing body ofFlorence, had brought against him for not finishing a paid commission, the fresco“The Battle of Anghiari.” Leonardo had the chock of his life when he entered his old quarters of theSforza Castle. The much-admired masterpiece, seventeen years of hard labor, hisbeautiful horse had been destroyed by French soldiers, which used it as a targetpractice. That was the end, for Leonardo, of one of his much loved dream. But the dream lives on… 2
In 1977, Charles Dent, of Fogelsville, PA, a retired airline pilot and lover of artsbegan work to recreate Leonardo’s colossal vision. Charles died in 1994 after 15years of loving labor on the project. The organization he had created to finance thisventure brought in Nina Akamu, a talented animal sculptor, to finish the job.Leonardo’s horse replica, the monumental sculpture, twenty-four feet high, wasfinally accomplished in two copies in 1999. On September 10, 1999, exactly five hundred years to the date after the destruction of Leonardo da Vinci’s colossal horse, Charles Dent’s modern tribute to Leonardo was dedicated in Milan, Italy, at the hippodrome de San Siro. The second sculpture is now at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, a natural park in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. The human figures dwindle besides the majestic size of the horse. Leonardo’s original project would still have Francesco Sforza on the horse in full armor, which would bring it to at least another ten feet higher. Ton PascalImportant dates in Leonardo da Vinci’s life.1452: Birth: April 15, in the town of Vinci, Italy.1460: The young boy move to Florence with his grandfather.1467: 15 year old Leonardo starts his apprenticeship with Andrea del Verrocchio.1472: Leonardo enter Florence’s Painters guild. He is 20 year old.1476: Public trial. Leonardo is accused of sodomy, he is acquitted.1482: Disillusioned with Florence he enters Ludovico Sforza’s court in Milan.1490: Salai, a 10 years old street urchin, move in with Leonardo.1497: Start to sculpt in clay, the ‘Sforza Horse”1498: After 3 years of work Leonardo finished the mural ‘The Last Supper”.1499: France invades Milan. Leonardo leaves town.1500: Leonardo and his household travel to Venice, Mantua and Florence1502: Cesare Borgia is his new patron. Leonardo travel all over the Papal States: Romagna,Marche, Imola.1503: Leonardo escapes Borgia and goes back to Florence.1504: Death of Leonardo’s estranged birth father.1506: Leonardo returns to Milan.1512: France loses Milan.1513: Leonardo gets a commission from the Pope’s brother and move to the Vatican.1515: France re-conquers Milan.1516: Alienated and humiliated by the Papal court, Leonardo moves to France. 3
1519: On May 2, Leonardo da Vinci died peacefully at the Chateau de Cloux, France. 4