Davide Calandra is a sculptor known for his dedication to monumental sculpture, in which he can cleverly combine historical investigation and a celebratory feeling. He studied at the Albertina Academy in Turin where he was a pupil of Enrico Gamba (1831-1883) and Odoardo Tabacchi (1831-1905). Calandra then stayed in Paris, the city that would help him define his own language which was widely influenced by ancient art, but also based on a formal balance that came from realism – especially in portraits and animalier works.
After long sessions of drawing from life, Calandra specialised in the production of equestrian, military, and commemorative statues. His first work was the Monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi in Parma (1893), which soon proved the author’s ability to join encomiastic impulse and realism, as well as refined details and fluent work- aspects that would characterise Calandra’s official groups of sculptures, including the magnificent and animated Monument to the Duke of Aosta in Turin, inaugurated in 1902. The production of monuments culminated with the project for the decorative frieze of a new hall at the Chamber of Deputies, with a representation of Italy’s unification.
In the meantime he was also engaged in a more “intimate” kind of art, anecdotal and less important. In 1879 he started participating in some Turin exhibitions with portraits, genre sculptures, and small scenes of considerable decorative impact with exuberant pictorial effects, as in Flower in the Cloister. On several occasions he also exhibited animal sculptures, such as the terracotta sculpture Dog’s Head, presented at the Milan National Exhibition in 1881, or Royal Tiger, made of marble and presented at the Turin National Exhibition in 1884. In those animalier works the energy of the poses and the vigour of the forms resemble the agility of the equestrian subjects exhibited between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The daring little bronzes dedicated to the Piedmontese Dragoon are an example in which the “robustness of the horse” (Thovez 1902, p. 336) is exalted, as in other studies of impressive thoroughbred and old horses – including Pensive presented at the 1909 Venice Biennale, which was made in conjunction with a markedly realist production, all concentrated towards the end of the nineteenth century.
Belonging entirely to a rural dimension, and conceived during his stays in the countryside – in Murello, “where he worked a lot outdoors” (Grasso 1915, p. 907), – this production consists of peasants, workers, oxen, horses, all subjects that show a desire to start from “real sources, working in the open countryside and giving shape to men and beasts” (Rubino 1915). His Three Horses’ Heads With Horseshoe – a sculpture made of bronze with a marble base that could be included in this specific rural repertoire – is presented as an unusual decoration where the heads of the three animals peek out from a big horseshoe placed horizontally on the base.
The “fiery horses” (Pica 1909, p. 284) seem to be moving their intertwined necks nimbly, neighing and snorting, “the beauty of the forms and the attitudes […] attracted him towards a more natural and sincere kind of art, encouraging him to shape the forms in their own environment, surrounded by air and hit by the light…” (Thovez 1902, p. 333). Calandra seems to give life to a sort of hunting trophy, a decorative divertissement and an exercise in style, mindful of the great equestrian impetuosity and the harmonious synthesis of the glorious official compositions.