Where is Leonardo’s horse located?
When we guide our guests around Milan, we are frequently asked a question: “Where is Leonardo’s horse located?“. The answer is a long, articulated story, so follow us in our quest of the famous statue.
Leonardo da Vinci spent decades of his life in Milan, a city that he truly loved. In 1482, Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, challenged him to build the largest equestrian statue the world had ever seen in honor of his father, Francesco. Always distracted by the most diverse projects and artistic works, only in 1493 Leonardo presented a 24’ clay model of the statue, from which a bronze horse could be made.
But those were troubled years, and when the Duchy of Milan was engaged in a war against the French, Ludovico Sforza confiscated the 80 tons of bronze that had been set aside for the horse to make weapons. Things got even worse, and in 1499 Milan was invaded by the French army, whose archers used the huge horse model for target practice, reducing it to ruins. Leonardo’s molds and sketches of the original horse were lost, and the project abandoned.
Now we have to move forward in time by 5 centuries and in space to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where a retired pilot and collector, Charles Dent, read in 1977 of an extraordinary finding: a few years before, the lost sketches of Leonardo’s horse had been found in the Biblioteca Nationale in Madrid.
He decided he would be the one to complete the project, with the collaboration of Japanese-American sculptor Nina Akamu. The outcome is not exactly what Leonardo had in mind. According to Akamu herself, “the sculpture which I created for the Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse Inc. … is not intended to be a recreation of his sculpture. However, it has been significantly influenced by certain works of art and writings from that period, and specifically Leonardo’s notebooks and accompanying drawings with great emphasis on his involvement with the Sforza monument.“
The final, giant bronze horse was finally installed in Milan in 1999, but unfortunately Charles Dent died before he could see it.
It now stands, proud and bold, at the entrance to the secondary grandstand of the San Siro gallop racetrack in Milan.
If you are interested in Leonardo’s life and works, and want to know more about its closeness with our beautiful city, join us on a guided walking tour of Milan. We have plenty of stories to tell you and places to show you!