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The Creation of Leonardo Da Vinci's Horse

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else we're destined to repeat it.

The da Vinci horse is very large, which you can tell by the lady who is standing between its back legs.

The da Vinci horse is very large, which you can tell by the lady who is standing between its back legs.

Nina Akamu: The True Artist

Leonardo da Vinci was a masterful artist. Ironically, one of his most famous masterpieces, “Horse That Never Was," was not constructed by him, instead of by a woman several hundred years later.

This magnificent pure bronze statue reaches higher into the sky than a two-story building. Although many know it as Leonardo da Vinci's Horse, Nina Akamu did the actual caste. It is often thought to be his creation because he was commissioned to make this equestrian statue by Francesco Sforza in 1482. He intended to build this statue with seventy tons of bronze.

Unfortunately, there was a massive demand for bronze because of the war, causing a shortage for such things as art. Nina was very impressed by his drawings and plans for this masterpiece that she created her vision of this beauty five hundred years after he was initially commissioned to make it. In 1999, she completed the masterpiece.

The Drawings

One of the reasons Nina was so captivated by this project was the intensive research da Vinci did when preparing for this project. Leonardo, known for his complete care and time crafting each masterpiece, often took years on each project. This horse was no exception. He spent sixteen years working on it.

He began his work by studying the horse and drawing extensive, accurate photos of them to better understand how to create this sculpture. Despite his many drawings, no one knows for sure what the intended position of the horse was going to be when he set out on this adventure.

Many believe that Nina Akuma's final product is a replica of what he intended to create. However, she has stated that she never intended to make a replica of Leonardo da Vinci's horse. Her real intent was to build a horse in homage to the great work that Leonardo da Vinci did.

This hoof is nearly as tall as I am. This is the front hoof of the equine statue.

This hoof is nearly as tall as I am. This is the front hoof of the equine statue.

The Clay Model

Da Vinci did finish a replica of his plans made out of clay in 1492. At the time, there were only two other equestrian statues, and this one would profoundly exceed their size. Before this one, an Italian artist Donatello, known for his larger-than-life sculptures, created a horse statue in Padua and Andrea del Verrocchio's completed one in Venice.

Leonardo made his grand plans for its casting after creating these two. Michelangelo must have felt competition with da Vinci because he rudely criticized Leonardo's attempt and even told him that he would be unable to complete such a remarkable feat.

Unfortunately, Michelangelo was correct due to a need for cannonballs in the war during November 1949 to defend themselves against Charles VIII. Later, even the clay statue was used for target practice and eventually collapsed, losing the only replication of his intended plan, which is why the final project's intentions are unknown. At this time, Leonardo da Vinci became an architect and made plans to protect his country against invasion during the Second Italian War.

This is the Horse's Face. It is very detailed and well planned, just as da Vinci wanted it.

This is the Horse's Face. It is very detailed and well planned, just as da Vinci wanted it.

Nina Akamu Rectifying an Old Idea

Inspired by this great artist, Nina Akamu decided to make an homage to him that took her three years to complete. First, she created a master horse that stands eight feet tall, like a prototype for the much larger version. She used a pantograph to enlarge her master equine, which she used assistance in measuring due to its vast size.

She followed da Vinci's lead by first creating it with clay. After she built it with clay, she then used a blue rubber mold and applied a fiberglass resin mother mold. Once the statue was ready for bronze, they had to heat it to 2000 degrees. As you may expect, she could not mold it together in one shot, so she did each piece separately and then welded the pieces together.

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The statue made its first appearance in Milan, Italy, then was transferred to Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where it resides today. It stands in the center of the gardens where you can go up and touch it. Many people, including myself, have laid underneath the lowered back hoof and taken pictures as if being stamped on by this monumental giant horse. It is a brilliant sight to behold.


  • Leonardo da Vinci's Horse. Accessed February 28, 2018.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz


Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on February 23, 2011:

If you ever come to Michigan, you should stop at Frederick Meijer Garden to look at it. It's quite neat!!!

clpartin from Northfield, Minnesota on February 22, 2011:

This was so exciting to read! For someone to commemorate a piece Leonardo had dreamed of creating is really touching. Thank you for writing such a great piece!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on February 15, 2011:

I agree, he truly was. Think of what he could create now, with all the resources now.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on February 15, 2011:

This was a fascinating read. I learned something new today. Great hub! LdV was really ahead of his time.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on October 19, 2010:

I vaguely remember that. I'm going to have to look into it, and if it's true, I'll have to add it to my hub! Thanks for reminding me of this really awesome fact!!!

me on October 19, 2010:

i heard that the girl who finished the horse carved leonardos name in one eye and the other eye had charels name in it and hers in the main

sudipta1971 from Durgapur on April 15, 2010:

Nice Article

Chip from Cold Mountain on April 15, 2010:

Just finished reading a book about daVinci and now I've found your article. Great timing! I really enjoyed reading this.