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The Sforza monument

In the mid-1480s Ludovico Sforza, the ruler of Milan, engaged Leonardo to make a bronze equestrian monument to his father Francesco. For several years little work was carried out other than the design drawings, but from 1490 Leonardo studied the form of the horse intensively, in both casual and formal poses and with detailed measurements. After his initial sketches he seems barely to have considered the figure of Francesco.

Leonardo built a clay model of the horse, well over life size, and took a piece-mould ready for casting. But in 1494 the bronze assembled to make the cast was requisitioned to make artillery, and the project was suspended. Five years later an invading French army deposed Ludovico Sforza. Leonardo’s clay horse was used for target practice by the French troops and destroyed.