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Leonardo da Vinci
(Vinci 1452 - 1519 Amboise)
||first half of the 16th century
||28 x 24 x 15 cm
||Purchased from the bequest of István Ferenczy in 1914
Leonardo was trained in the workshop of Florentine sculptor Andrea Verrocchio, then won many prestigious commissions for sculptures. However, apart from contemporary accounts, a few autograph notes and many magnificent drawings very few traces remain of Leonardo the sculptor. His two monumental equestrian memorials ended in failure. The huge clay model for Francesco Sforza's equestrian statue in Milan, finished in 1493, was destroyed by the French invaders, and the Trivulzio funeral monument got only to the planning stage.
It would be tempting to compare the Budapest statuette with these failed Leonardine equestrian monuments, but its origins should be sought elsewhere. The type of the Budapest equestrian can be found in the preparatory drawings for a fresco in the Florentine town hall, The Battle of Anghiari, begun in 1503 but later destroyed. In one of these sheets an annotation by Leonardo indicates that he used small wax figures to compose the complex, dynamic battle scenes of the fresco. The model for the Budapest statuette must have originally been just such a small-scale wax figure, which in the process of enlargement lost something of the dramatic tension apparent in the drawings. The invention, the extravagant twist of the horse as it rears up, and the vigorous dynamic composition of the rider, certainly derive from Leonardo. It is not however known whether the master himself had a hand in casting the small bronze, or whether it was done by an apprentice.