Molly McMule's Horse Tales - 1001 Stall Stories

Leonardo da Vinci's Horse

"Mornin' Molly."

"Ginny, you startled me. How come you're out so early today? You usually don't make an appearance until the sun is really up in the sky," said Molly. "Must be because spring is in the air."

"Yes, even though it's misty the sun is coming out and it seemed a good time to take in some of the nice fresh air," Ginny replied. "What are you doing, just standing there and looking out over the pasture?"

"Take a look at Beau, standing out there in the meadow, just like a statue. He's so still and looks so tall and magnificent, all alone, not moving an inch," Molly noted. "It reminds me of the story of Leonardo's horse."

"Leonardo's horse? What is that all about? Who was Leonardo? And why should Beau remind you of that?" inquired Ginny.

Molly started to tell her and soon realized that Ginny was not alone. The other stable mates had also gathered and were listening intently, filled with questions too.

Pasquale, the senior in the group, snickered with wisdom and chimed in, "Leonardo was really somethin' - a downright famous painter and sculptor from Italy. His last name was da Vinci and he foaled - 'scuse me, was born - in 1452, and even when he was a wee youngster, folks said he had heaps of artistic ability. Why, when he was in his mere teens, his Pa took him to the city of Florence to take art lessons from Andrea del Verrocchio, the most famous artist of the time, I reckon."

"So what does art have to do with the way you're all looking at Beau?" sassed Desi. "Pictures get hung on the wall, and you can't do that to Beau!"

"Like Pasquale said, Leonardo was a sculptor too," explained Molly. "Even though he painted the famous Mona Lisa among many other masterpieces, he was interested in a lot of other things. But when he was thirty years old, he was asked by the Duke Sforza of Milan to sculpt a bronze statue of his father on horseback." Molly continued, "Leonardo was so excited about it that he planned to make the largest statue of a horse ever. He would make it four times the size of a real horse. And, he would make it in steps - first the horse, and then the rider. The horse alone would be over 20 feet tall."

"Wow, how long was that going to take him?" queried Equinox.

"Well, quite a while, because Leonardo was working on other things at the same time, like engineering a city plan for Milan. He also designed weapons and a defense system for the castle, all the while he was collecting about 57 tons of bronze for the statue and planning a model. But about 17 years later, he finally finished a 24-foot clay model, which he placed in a vineyard near the castle. It looked magnificent, but it was never to be completed," said Molly.

"If he got that far, what kept him from finishing it?" Ginny asked. "Seems the bulk of the work had been done."

"Unfortunately, it was after the time that the Trojan Horse had made its appearance and Troy was conquered. So when Louis XII of France and the Duke of Milan got into a political battle, the Duke sent the bronze collected for the statue to be made into cannons. Meanwhile, the French invaded and when the French archers saw the horse and thought about Troy, they began using the clay model for target practice. The damage done by the arrows was great, and in time, weather took its toll on the rest of the statue. Leonardo died regretting that he never could complete the statue, but realized that because of the times, nothing could be done," Molly said.

"Gosh, how sad that it couldn't be made," said Equinox.

"That ain't all there is to the story," Pasquale cheerfully informed the group. "There's a new statue in Milan, made from Leonardo's plans that somebody rediscovered in 1965. A pilot from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Charles C. Dent, took a huge interest in the horse statue after readin' an article in 'National Geographic'. So after he retired in 1980, he set about seein' just what he could do to have a statue completed, and mustered up volunteers and got donations for the project."

"What an undertaking that must have been," said Ginny. "It's not easy to get enough people interested in a project of that sort to really make it happen."

"But Dent did, and in 1999, five years after he died, Dent's horse was finally displayed in a new Cultural Park in Milan, Italy. So at last, Leonardo's horse is standin' tall for all to see, jus' like he had pictured it about 500 years ago," said Pasquale. "The gift was an expression of good will and peace to the Italian folks."

"And there were no enemies in it like the Trojan Horse?" questioned Desi.

"No, Desi," Pasquale chuckled.

"So there is a happy ending to the story after all," said Molly as they all watched Beau come prancing in from the meadow, wondering what they were all talking about.

Molly says, if you would like more information about Leonardo da Vinci, there are a number of children's books about his life. "Leonardo da Vinci" by Diane Stanley is a good source of information, as well as "Da Vinci" by Mike Venezia and "Tell Me about Leonardo da Vinci" by John Malam. There is a lot of information on the Internet too. Just check out his name and also check the website for Charles C. Dent, for a lot more about the completed statue.