HORSE and RIDER                                                   


University of Oxford Research Laboratory for Archaeology and History of Art

1990-1997 – Scientific Analysis

The beeswax horse was sent to The University of Oxford’s research lab for radiocarbon dating by accelerator mass spectrometry.  Samples of beeswax were taken from under the horse’s leg and a sample from the wooden plinth.  The results for the beeswax indicated an age range between 1470AD and 1700AD, while the wooden plank indicated a range of 1470AD to 1690AD, both with a 9504% accuracy rating.


The Palynology Unit of The Royal Botanic Gardens – Richmond, London

1990 – Pollen grains have a highly resistant outer coat composed of a substance called sporopollenin.  The outer walls of pollen grains are ornamented with sculpturing and apertures which form a pattern, often distinctive of a particular plant family or even sometimes a particular species.

Core samples were taken at various depths and locations on the beeswax statue attempting to ascertain the types, amounts and age of pollens within the beeswax.  Pollen was present in small amounts, with high concentrations deeper into the lower chest of the horse.  Data gathered suggests in the broadest possible terms, pollen came from southern Europe, probably a cornfield or cultivated land before the use of herbicides.



      Sotheby’s Department of Restoration, London

2003 – Sotheby’s performed a technical examination of the beeswax model which depicted an equestrian group in the Renaissance.  Methods that were applied during the technical examination, included:

  1. Exam under binocular microscope
  2. Exam under ultra-violet light.
  3. Fourier transform-infra-red spectroscopy (FTIR), gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy (GCMS)
  4. X-radiography


J.H. Larson, the technician for the Conservation Centre, wrote in his concluding remarks.

“The evidence of the wax analysis and the radiographs suggest that this is a wax model of some age that has been subjected to restorations over a considerable period of time.  Its consistency with wax modelling techniques of the 16th century and the complexity of its restorations makes it unlikely that it is a 19th pastiche.  Whilst it is impossible to conclude that the technique can link its origins to any particular artist, the attribution to Leonardo da Vinci cannot be ruled out in terms of date or quality of manufacture.  There is little doubt that the model has an energy and a dynamism that still show through its damage appearance. The quality of the modelling seen in the brocade jacket suggest that the artist was an accomplished sculptor with a fine eye for detail.  The unusual pose of the horse also demonstrates a flair for dramatic and adventurous composition.  The sculptor would also need to be certain that he could translate this composition into bronze without encountering structural problems.”