A sculpture entirely made of beeswax. Over 500 years old. Authenticated to have been hand-crafted by the Renaissance Master himself. The work of a horse and rider in full military regalia is believed to have been a model for a larger monument of politician and military figure Charles D’Amboise, a friend and patron of Leonardo da Vinci’s. So where was it all this time? Shortly after the artist’s death, the model disappeared from public view, inherited by his trusted apprentice and close friend Francesco Melzi, who became principle heir to Leonardo’s possessions. When Melzi passed, the beeswax model was auctioned, and has since changed hands, always remaining in private collection. Although it has been preserved remarkably well, all things considered, its survival is not without some weathering. Time and travel over the centuries took its toll, in addition to the general deterioration of the beeswax.
Enter American real estate businessman Richard A. Lewis. In 1985, Lewis’ friend, Paul Wagner, was part of a group of businessmen who were shown the maquette while in Switzerland. With their interests piqued, they enlisted world renowned da Vinci expert Professor Carlo Pedretti. He endorsed its authenticity, after examining the original mold that had been taken from the beeswax sculpture. By 1987, an opportunity was presented to Lewis, who then became owner of the original mold, dubbed “Horse and Rider,” and its supporting documents, establishing provenance.
It seems retirement was the catalyst for the casual art enthusiast to bring his admired possession out of the closest 25 years later, and onto the public stage by allowing a limited number of reproductions to be produced and sold, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit The Salvation Army of Southern Nevada. Lewis employed the revered American Fine Arts Foundry to produce 996 castings, 900 in bronze in three patinas, retailing for $25,000 a piece, and 96 in silver for $30,000.
The four city world tour, to promote the story and reproductions, kicked off August 27 in Los Angeles with a privately held event at the befitting historic Greystone Mansion. On display for us captivated guests were all four versions of the reproductions, the original cast and mold, and books documenting “Horse and Rider” including a limited edition (#36 to be exact, owned by Rod Maly of Art Encounter) of The Queen’s Collection which officially catalogued the masterpiece in 1987.
I could have stood there at great length studying the exceptional detail and craftsmanship. It’s no wonder tears were shed from some experts upon inspection, and Pedretti had declared it “Perfect! Perfect! Perfect!” The anatomical proportions, and command of the horse are captured perfectly. Then, imagine the finesse in carving the tiniest of features with such precision onto beeswax. Genius! Adding to the thrill was seeing the discernible impression of da Vinci’s thumbprint left behind on the horse’s breastplate. For most of us, this will be a once in a lifetime experience, not to be forgotten.
Today, the beeswax original is believed to be in a private collection housed in London. It will be interesting to see how the art collectors’ world will respond to the limited editions, and their affect on the value. Never has this manner of reproduction been done before. Regardless, owners will belong to a uniquely rare membership, and be part of art history.
The “Horse and Rider” castings accompanied by the original mold, derived from the sole surviving da Vinci sculpture in existence, gallops ahead with the next tour stop, New York.
For more information on “Horse and Rider,” Richard A. Lewis, and how you can purchase a limited edition model, please visit www.davincihorseandrider.com
For information on Rod Maly and Brett Maly, the fine art appraisers and brokers selected to be exclusive worldwide distributor of the limited run castings, please visit Art Encounter
To learn about bronze casting, and the creative team of artists behind the reproductions, please visit American Fine Arts Foundry
Photos taken by Lawrence Davis with the AMAZING Sony NEX-5NK Camera.
Read the review of this fantastic camera: Sony NEX-5NK Camera Review - Go On Take the Shot