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Leeds Art Gallery

A design for an equestrian monument (RCIN 912357)©

During the 1480s the ruler of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, commissioned Leonardo to execute a bronze equestrian monument, well over life size, to his father Francesco.

This early sketch for the monument shows Francesco, nude and wielding a baton, on a horse rearing over a fallen foe. Such a complex pose was too ambitious to realise as a colossal bronze, so Leonardo switched to a more conventional walking horse. For four years he laboured on the clay model and mould to cast the monument, but in 1494 the bronze he had assembled was requisitioned to make cannon, and the monument was never cast. Five years later invading French forces used Leonardo’s full-size model for target practice and destroyed it.

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