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Module 11: Leonardo’s Horse

            Leonardo’s Horse

Image Source Page: http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1312387018l/418887.jpg


Fritz, J. (2001). Leonardo’s Horse. New York, NY: G.P. Putman’s Sons.


Leonardo’s Horse is an engaging story about a little known fact about Leonardo da Vinci. Although he was an amazing artist who accomplished many great things, there was one goal he did not achieve. In the late 1400’s, Leonardo da Vinci was asked to create a large, magnificent sculpture of a horse as a gift from the ruler of France to the duke of Milan. Due to many circumstances, he never finished this project.

In 1977, an American named Charles Dent heard of the unfinished project and decided to complete it for Leonardo da Vinci. Charles worked the rest of his life too on the sculpture project, but did not complete it. On June 27, 1999 the horse sculpture was finally completed by artist, Nina Akamu with the help of Charles Dent’s family.

Soon after the sculpture was unveiled in Milan in from of a joyful crowd of Italians and Americans. At last, the horse sculpture was complete on behalf of Leonardo da Vinci and Charles Dent. A peaceful and joyful sense of unity was shared by the two nations.

My Impression

Leonardo’s Horse is a wonderful story full of entertaining and little known facts. The reader learns about Leonardo da Vinci as a person and is reminded that all people have set backs and misfortunes. The story teaches a great deal about art, specifically the sculpture making process. It provides a great example of how with determination, a person or group of people can accomplish great things.


The first part of this unusual book presents the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci, highlighting his work on a monumental statue of a horse, which, despite many sketches and the making, in 1493, of a 24-foot-high clay model, was never cast in bronze as planned. The story begins again in 1977, when American art lover Charles Dent read about Leonardo’s Horse. He dreamed of completing the statue and presenting it to the people of Italy from the people of America. Although Dent died in 1994, the work went on until sculptor Nina Akamu completed the statue, which was unveiled in Milan in 1999, 500 years after the destruction of the original clay sculpture. Combining biography, history, and art, Fritz’s absorbing text is both a lively introduction to Leonardo and a tribute to Dent. The curious shape of the book–rectangular at the bottom and rounded at the top–is reminiscent of the silhouette of a domed building, and illustrator Talbott makes good use of the irregularly shaped pages in his pleasing and occasionally dramatic illustrations, which are done in watercolor, pen-and-ink, colored pencils, and collage. A memorable choice for reading aloud. Category: Books for Middle Readers–Nonfiction. 2001, Putnam, $16.99. Gr. 4-7. Starred Review

Phelan, C. (2001, October 15). [Review of the book Leonardo’s horse, by J. Fritz].  Booklist Online 98(4). Retrieved from http://www.booklistonline.com/

A veteran writer of lively biographies has turned her attention to quite an engaging story: the biography of an equine sculpture. She starts with Leonardo da Vinci and his fascination with everything-drawing, sketching, writing, and musing-and with making: sculpture, weapons, even party tricks. He made a 24-foot-high clay model of a horse for the Duke of Milan, but before it could be cast, French archers and rain destroyed it. This haunted Leonardo for the rest of his life. It haunted American Charles Dent in the 1970s, also, and he vowed to produce Leonardo’s horse as a gift from the American people to the people of Italy. He died in 1994, but sculptor Nina Akamu and a host of others kept his promise. In typical Fritz (“Why Not, Lafayette?”, 1999, etc.) fashion, her story is filled with engaging details of Leonardo’s personality and his world. Likewise, the contemporary process by which the horse was created and cast is described with enough detail to fascinate but not to bore. Talbott (“Forging Freedom”, 2000, etc.) uses mixed media and collage to create his illustrations, which range from utterly recognizable scenes of Florence to the ghostly horses at Leonardo’s deathbed. The contemporary images are drawn with as much spirit and vitality as the Renaissance ones. An unusual biography for young people, and one well worth poring over, its format is also noteworthy. It has a rounded top, giving the artist ample opportunity for the dome under which the horse was built as well as a chance to explore a unique way of picturing a unique world. Together, Fritz and Talbott have forged an extraordinary tribute to two dreamers 500 years apart. (author’s note, Web site) 2001, Putnam, $16.99. Category: Biography. Ages 7 to 12. Starred Review. © 2001 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus. (2001, September 15). [Review of the book Leonardo’s horse, by J. Fritz].  Kirkus Reviews 69(18). Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com/

Uses in the Library

Leonardo’s Horse would be a great book to use to teach about main characters and supporting characters. This book is unique in that the main character is not a living being, but rather a sculpture. This book demonstrates that the main character of a book does not have to be a person or an animal.

After reading the book, ask the students who the main character is. Many may incorrectly say Leonardo da Vinci. This could open the open door for a discussion about what is and is not a main character in a story.               


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