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Da Vinci's horse

   by alejandro angeles for Re-Invent a Work of Art (2013)

The history and finished masterpieces of Leonardo Da Vinci are very well known, but within his sketchbooks he wrote and thought about this lesser known work of art. I was inspired by the sketches of his unfinished horse that he struggled with for over a decade trying to make a reality. The detail and thought he put into these horse sketches included inventing new ways of casting bronze and developing an internal structural system to support a contraposto horse, balancing on only two of its legs. This was thought to be impossible in his time, not to mention that he wanted the thickness of the bronze to be uniform throughout the entire piece. Da Vinci's horse embodies more than just a beautiful sculpture, it represents art, science and technology all in one piece, and it has inspired me to portray it in my own artistic style.

The idea for my sculpture first started with a sketch of the horse in elevation. From that image, I transformed it into a mechanical creature using motorcycle engines and parts as inspiration. It was important to me to give the illusion of a mechanical horse since the original drawings of the horse were so well detailed, and also to capture the imagination and the spirit of the original horse sketches.

From my drawing, I cut template pieces that would be transferred to the components that I had to work with from the mystery box. The sculpture I made consists mainly of the different wood pieces that came in that box. The solid pieces of wood were cut in half to provide enough material to carve out the legs; in my rendition of the horse, the legs are the most important part of the piece because they are meant to give the illusion that the horse is in movement. Also, because the sculpture was to be standing on only two of its legs, it was important to make sure that I sized the legs accurately and kept everything proportional. The second most important part of the sculpture was the head, which I made using the sculpey clay since it is very detailed. The front body of the horse was made using the oak plywood as a frame to support the other components of the horse. The belly of the horse was constructed using the thin pieces of wood cut into circles and then slotted into each other to create a sphere resembling an early steam engine. This was later filled in with sculpey and other mechanical components. The steel wire from the kit was cut and twisted together to be used as a frame for rigidity and to resemble hydraulic lines on the horse. The spine was built by gluing three of the dowels and then cutting them in sections and adding glue sticks as spacers to join the front of the horse to the back. Pieces were sculpted from scraps of wood from the legs to join the belly of the horse to the rear legs of the horse. The mane of the horse was built using the thicker wood veneer which was then glued and layered to build up the neck of the horse. The final piece was the base, which I made using the canvas board; it was painted black and then finished with a coat of resin to give it a high gloss finish. Before the horse was glued to the base, it was painted in tones of copper, gold, and metallic gray. The weathered look was achieved by using a copper metallic surfacing coat and applying a patina green antiquing solution. To give the horse scale, an abstract human figure was sculpted using the plastic pellets.

The history and finished masterpieces of Leonardo Da Vinci are very well known, but within his sketchbooks he wrote and thought about this lesser known work of art. I was inspired by the sketches of his unfinished horse that he struggled with for over a decade trying to make a reality. The detail and thought he put into these horse sketches included inventing new ways of casting bronze and developing an internal structural system to support a contraposto horse, balancing on only two of its legs. This was thought to be impossible in his time, not to mention that he wanted the thickness of the bronze to be uniform throughout the entire piece. Da Vinci's horse embodies more than just a beautiful sculpture, it represents art, science and technology all in one piece, and it has inspired me to portray it in my own artistic style.

 


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