A beeswax sculpture of a horse and rider by Leonardo da Vinci has been cast in bronze, completing a remarkable 500-year journey for the artwork.
Confirmation that the wax sculpture was, indeed, by da Vinci, set in train a series of events that not only brought the work to life in bronze, but is also likely raise $US1 million for charity.
For over 25 years, the owner of the beeswax sculpture, businessman Richard Lewis, has kept the irreplaceable mold safe and carefully pondered its future.
Lewis has now joined forces with longtime art broker Rod Maly and certified fine-art appraiser Brett Maly, of Art Encounter in Las Vegas, to create a limited edition offering of the sculpture to the public.
Lewis has agreed to donate $US1 million to the Salvation Army based on sales of the edition.
Around 1508, da Vinci sculpted the renaissance figure in military regalia on a horse from a block of solid beeswax for his friend and benefactor, French military governor Charles d’Amboise.
The beeswax study was presumed to be a model for a larger, never-completed monument of the governor.
After his death in 1519, Leonardo’s star pupil, Francesco Melzi, inherited the sculpture along with the rest of Leonardo’s effects.
It is believed to have remained with his family, in Italy, until the 1930s when it was taken to Switzerland for safekeeping, as war broke out.
The beeswax model is well documented in the scholarly work “Leonardo da Vinci: Scientist, Inventor, Artist” by Otto Letze and Thomas Buchsteiner.
In “Leonardo: Discovering the Life of Leonardo da Vinci” French author Serge Bramly discussed the artist’s lifelong interest in horses and how they moved.
In 1985, a group of businessmen traveling to Switzerland was shown the hand-carved sculpture in beeswax.
Intrigued, they contacted the foremost authority on the life and works of da Vinci, Dr Carlo Pedretti, to authenticate the work.
Following a thorough examination of the beeswax, on July 10, 1985, Professor Pedretti proclaimed in writing, “In my opinion, this wax model is by Leonardo himself,” and dubbed the one-of-a-kind sculpture “Horse and Rider”.
Based on the authentication, they decided it was imperative to create a mold from the delicate wax sculpture to preserve the work and honour the artist’s intent.
Fascinated with the story and importance of the discovery, Lewis, an engineer and real estate businessman, took possession of the original work in New York, along with all the supporting documentation.
Twenty-five years later, the mold was restored and cast in bronze at one of the country’s oldest fine-art foundries, The American Fine Arts Foundry in Burbank, California.
In May 2012, upon examination of the bronze sculpture cast from the mold, Pedretti exclaimed, “Perfect, perfect, perfect!”
The limited run of bronze castings are being offered in four distinct patinas, each carefully selected to faithfully honor Leonardo’s vision.
The sculptures, with base, measure about 12 inches long, 12 inches high and 7 inches wide – identical dimensions to Leonardo’s beeswax original.
The original beeswax sculpture, as well as the cast and the resulting bronze replicas, were recently unveiling at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, California.
Reports suggest the replicas will be sold for $US25,000 to $US35,000.
Da Vinci was born in 1452. He was an apprentice artist by the age of 14 and started his own workshop by 20. He died in 1519.