Breeders’ Cup Trophy: An Homage to the Horse Centuries in the Making

November 7, 2020

Fourteen champions will receive the exquisite Breeders’ Cup World Championships trophy this weekend. This amazing sculpture has a centuries-old history.

The Breeders’ Cup Trophy is an authentic bronze reproduction of the original Torrie horse that was created in Florence by Giovanni da Bologna in the late 1580s. The horse is an ecorche, showing the muscles of the animal in detail. Its original purpose is unknown, though it may have been made as a study for the equestrian statue of Duke Cosimo I of Florence, cast in 1591. It reveals the influence and example of Leonardo da Vinci. 

Leonardo da Vinci’s study sketches of the horse.

The most recent monumental equestrian sculpture in Florence, before that of Duke Cosimo I, had been da Vinci’s never-completed monument to Giangiacomo Trivulzio. The Torrie horse bears a close relationship to several drawings by da Vinci related to this project in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor. Other artists, too, knew and learned from da Vinci’s study of the horse, but none came so close as Giovanni da Bologna to his vision of the beauty of the animal celebrated by art and science together.

The original ecorche bronze horse of Giovanni da Bologna is in the Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. The Edinburgh horse was acquired by Sir James Erskine of Torrie from the Villa Mattei in Rome, probably in 1803. He bequeathed it to the University of Edinburgh with the rest of his collection of old master paintings and bronzes, and it came into the possession of the University in 1836.

The Breeders’ Cup Trophy was cast from the original and was directly supervised and approved by the University of Edinburgh for the exclusive use of Breeders’ Cup Limited. The largest version of the trophy is permanently owned by the Breeders’ Cup, and is displayed at the official host track each year. Replicas are presented to the connections of the winners of each of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships races every year.

To look back at all of the recipients of this remarkable trophy visit Breeders’ Cup Hall of Champions.

Story and photo Courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

Illustrations public domain.

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