''It will be the largest equestrian statue in the world'': thus declared Leonardo da Vinci to his patron Galeazzo Maria Sforza, who commissioned the Master to create the sculpture dedicated to his ancestor, Francesco Sforza.
When Galeazzo Maria died, it was his brother Ludovico Sforza who carried on with the ambitious project, fueled by da Vinci’s genius. But the fate of the equestrian statue was to be troubled, as the project met with various interruptions and changes, the way many of Da Vinci’s endeavours often did. Leonardo finally managed to carry out a gigantic model in clay, said to be more than 7 metres tall. He now needed a huge quantity of bronze to attempt the final casting. But in the meantime the political situation had evolved for the worse. Milan was facing a French invasion and bronze was more urgently needed for guns. All hopes of completing the work dissolved with the fall of Ludovico il Moro in 1499. Leonardo left Milan and the clay model of the horse was destroyed by French soldiers who used it as a target to practice their crossbows on. The Master’s Horse therefore remained a project, and was never actually completed. Its story nevertheless inspired Charles Dent, a former American airline pilot who, after reading about the horse, began to raise the necessary funds for the costly casting.
Unfortunately, he only managed to create another mock up. He passed away in 1994 and was never able to see the development of his idea, which was finally carried out in 1999 under the guidance of the sculptor Nina Akamu.
In order to be mounted above the marble and granite plinth where it now stands, Leonardo's horse was actually cast by Nika Akamu in separate pieces that were then welded together. The finished work can now be admired in front of the Milano Hippodrome.
If you happen to be at the Hippodrome because you love sports and horse racing, do not think that is all Milano has to offer when it comes to sports. Click here to discover all the venues for sports in Milan: you might be surprised.