LEONARDO da Vinci
(b. 1452, Vinci, d. 1519, Cloux, near Amboise)
Bronze, 24,3 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest
This is the only authentic sculpture of Leonardo, and it is probably the last work of the master.
Recent research work and the analysis of manuscripts of the period led to new discoveries on the origin of this small but impressive bronze mounted figure. In spite of the thorough examination of the plans and sketches for the Sforza and Trivulzio monuments in Milan, experts failed to recognize how this model differed from the representations of commanders of that age. Neither did they consider a statement made by art chronicler G. P. Lomazzo in 1584, according to which Leonardo had made marvellous models of horses for his last patron, Francis I, King of France.
The playful virtuosity in this piece is in perfect accordance with the young prince's life-style. The old master may have achieved the final solution to the sculpture designed as an open-air monument in his last years between 1516 an 1519. The additional interest of this impressive work is that, for all its balance, it carries within it the seeds of a new age by disrupting the harmonious calm of Renaissance art. The piece in Budapest is one of those models made for Francis I, who wished it to be cast in bronze as a monument after Leonardo's death. Though he never managed to carry it out, there is evidence that the king held this piece of art in high esteem all his life. Leone Leoni, a Milanese sculptor of a later period, also did his best to acquire this famous and valuable piece.