The Creation of Leonardo Da Vinci's Horse
Nina Akamu: The True Artist
Leonardo da Vinci was a masterful artist. Ironically, one of his most famous masterpieces, Leonardo da Vinci's Horse, was not actually constructed by him, rather by a woman several hundred years later.
This magnificent statue reaches higher into the sky than a two-story building and is made of pure bronze. Although many know it as Leonardo da Vinci's Horse, the actual caste was done by Nina Akamu. The reason it is often thought to be his creation is because he was commissioned to make this equestrian statue by Francesco Sforza in 1482. His intent was to build this statue with seventy tons of bronze. Unfortunately, because of the war, there was a heavy demand for bronze and there ended up being a shortage for such things as art, despite the medal being set aside for his masterpiece. Nina was very impressed by his drawings and plans for this masterpiece that she created her vision of this beauty, five hundred years after he was originally commissioned to create it. It was finished in 1999.
Da Vinci DrawingsClick thumbnail to view full-size
One of the reasons Nina was so captivated by this project was the intensive research da Vinci did when preparing for this project. Leonardo was known for his complete care and time he took crafting each masterpiece, often taking years on each project. This horse was no exception. He spent sixteen years working on it.
He began his work by studying the horse and drawing extensive, accurate photos of them in order to better understand how to create this masterpiece. Despite his many drawings, no one knows for sure what the intended position of the horse was going to be when he set out on this adventure. Many believe that Nina Akuma's final product is an exact replica of what he intended to create, although she has stated that she never intended to make a replica of Leonardo da Vinci's horse. Her true intent was to build a horse in homage to the great work that Leonardo da Vinci did.
The Clay Model
Da Vinci did make a replica of his plans made out of clay and it was finished in 1492. At the time there were only two other equestrian statues, and this one was going to profoundly exceed their size. Prior to this one, an Italian artist Donatello who was known for his larger than life sculptures created a horse statue in Padua and Andrea del Verrocchio's completed one in Venice.
Leonardo made his great plans for its casting after these two were already created. Michelangelo must have felt competition with da Vinci because he rudely criticized Leonardo's attempt and even told him that he would be unable to complete such a great feat. Unfortunately, Michelangelo was correct due to a need for cannonballs in the war during November 1949 to defend themselves against Charles VIII. Later, even the clay statue was used for target practice and eventually collapsed, losing the only replication of his intended plan, which is why the final project's intentions are unknown. It was at this time that Leonardo da Vinci became an architect and made plans to protect his country against invasion during the Second Italian War.
Nina Akamu Rectifying An Old Idea
Nina Akamu was inspired by this great artist and decided to make an homage to him that took her three years to complete the project. First, she created a master horse that stands eight feet tall, which was like a plan for the much larger version. In order to enlarge her master equine, she used a pantograph, which she used assistance in the measuring due to its vast size.
She followed da Vinci's lead by first creating it with clay. After she built it with clay, she then used a blue rubber mold and applied a fiberglass resin mother mold on top of that. Once the statue was ready for bronze, they had to heat it up to 2000 degrees. As you may expect, she was unable to mold it together in one shot, so she did each piece separately, and then welded the pieces together.
It was first unveiled in Milan, Italy then transferred to Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan where it resides today. It is located in the center of the gardens where you can go up and touch it. Many people, including myself, have laid underneath the lowered back foot, and taken pictures as if being stamped on by this monumental giant horse. Having seen it many times in person, it is a brilliant sight to see.
- Leonardo da Vinci's Horse. Accessed February 28, 2018. http://www.studioequus.com/leohorse.html.
© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz