|Courtesy of LeonardoDaVinci.net|
In 1482, Leonardo da Vinci wrote an ambitious proposal to Lodovico Sforza, the powerful Duke of Milan. In addition to offering his skills as civil engineer, architect, bridge-builder and designer of futuristic military weaponry to empower and protect Milan's soldiers against the threat of French conquest, da Vinci proposed the casting of an enormous bronze statue of a horse -- the *Il Cavallo* -- to stand guard over the Duke's castle and honor his father, Francesco Sforza. Lodovico, one of the most powerful leaders of Renaissance Italy, who spent astonishing amounts of money to advance the arts and sciences, employed da Vinci and became his most influential patron.
While da Vinci maintained his studio, oversaw the work of his apprentices, and worked on painting The Last Supper, the 24-foot-tall clay version of the great horse took shape in a vineyard near the Duke's castle. Seventy tons of bronze were set aside for the casting, but when war with Charles VIII of France appeared imminent, this resource was diverted for weapons, and The Horse maintained his vigil in clay.
In 1499 Milan fell without a fight, and victorious French archers used the clay horse for target practice -- reducing it to a pile of rubble. Da Vinci was heartbroken.