The on-line version of the essay of the exhibition catalogue on the attribution of the Budapest Horse and Rider.
Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, Horse and Rider, first half of the 16th century, bronze, height 24.4 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, inv. 5362
The Budapest Horse and Rider was purchased in Rome between 1818 and 1824 by the Hungarian sculptor István Ferenczy; its earlier provenance is unknown. Shortly after the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest purchased the entire collection of small bronzes from the Ferenczy’s bequest in 1914, the statuette was displayed as an autograph work by Leonardo da Vinci. The question whether the small bronze was only inspired by Leonardo’s ideas or it bears the master’s own hand continues to arouse a lively discussion.
The Hungarian sculptor István Ferenczy purchases the Budapest Horse and Rider in Rome together with other Renaissance and Baroque small bronzes.
Ferenczy offers his collection of small bronzes for sale to the Hungarian National Museum, but the transaction falls through. Ferenczy lists the Budapest Horse and Rider as an “Athenian Greek statuette”.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest purchases Ferenczy’s entire collection of small bronzes.
Simon Meller, keeper of the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, publishes the statuette as a model intended by Leonardo for the Trivulzio Monument. His attribution is received favourably, but with reservations. It is debated whether the Budapest Horse and Rider was made by the master himself or merely reflects his influence.
Kenneth Clark, one of the most influential art historians of the twentieth century, considers the Budapest statuette a cast by an apprentice or follower of Leonardo, after an enlarged version of a small wax or clay model made by the master himself for The Battle of Anghiari.
Anthony Radcliffe, expert on Renaissance sculpture, suggests that the Budapest small bronze was made by Giovanni Francesco Rustici, a sculptor of the next generation, after Leonardo’s small wax or clay model.
The International Congress for the History of Art (CIHA), held in Budapest, is accompanied by a chamber exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts, presenting the Budapest Horse and Rider. Mária Aggházy, curator of the exhibition and keeper of the collection of sculptures, identifies the rider of the Budapest small bronze as Francis I, King of France, and considers the statuette a model by Leonardo for the king’s equestrian statue. Over the following two decades, Aggházy dedicates several essays and a monograph to the Budapest small bronze.
The statuette is presented in the exhibition Leonardo & Venezia held in the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.
According to Martin Clayton, curator of prints and drawings at the Royal Collection in Windsor, some of Leonardo’s horse studies previously linked with the Trivulzio Monument were actually made in France during the last years of his life, and were intended for a French monument, perhaps an equestrian statue of Francis I. Although Clayton emphasises that no documentary evidence supports the idea of an equestrian monument to the French king, based on the stylistic similarity between the recently redefined drawings and the Budapest Horse and Rider, he is inclined to give greater consideration to the statuette’s attribution to Leonardo.
Pietro C. Marani, the Milanese expert on Leonardo, argues that the master continued working on the Trivulzio Monument in France, and Giovanni Francesco Rustici used his drawings in the 1530s for the equestrian statue of Francis I. Marani consequently suggests that the Budapest statuette might be a model by Rustici for this project.
After tests prove that the variant of the rearing horse that is now in The Metropolitan Museum in New York was actually made in the nineteenth century, the Budapest Horse and Rider is also widely considered a modern cast.
In the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, technical examinations are carried out on the Budapest Horse and Rider, which proves to be a sixteenth-century cast. Afterwards, the statuette is presented in a dossier exhibition with several of its variants.
The Budapest Horse and Rider is on display in the High Museum in Atlanta and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, in the most important exhibitions ever dedicated to Leonardo as a sculptor.
The statuette is presented in the largest recent Leonardo exhibition, held in the Palazzo Reale in Milan.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest reopens after three years of renovation with an exhibition dedicated to the history of the Budapest Horse and Rider.