The prancing horse - Museo Francesco Baracca - Comune di Lugo

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The prancing horse


From 1909 to 1910, Francesco Baracca attended the cavalry school in Pinerolo , as part of the 2nd “Piemonte Reale” Regiment, which was established in 1692 by the Duke of Savoy with the motto “Venustus et Audax”. One of the most prestigious units of the Italian army, its emblem is the silver “Cavallino Rampante” , a prancing horse , on a red background, looking toward the left with its tail pointing downward. 

Francesco Baracca chose to adopt the emblem of the “Piemonte Cavalry” – with a few changes – as his personal emblem, so as to honour his own military origins and his love of horses.

 The “cavallino” didn’t appear on the first aeroplanes flown by the Ace of Aces; its debut was in 1917, when the 91st Air Squadron was established. The French Allies equipped this unit with the latest fighter aircraft: the Nieuport 17 and a few SPAD VII and XIII. The pilots used to paint their personal emblems on the right side of the fuselage of their aircraft, and Baracca chose the prancing horse as his, changing it from silver to black so it would stand out more against the colour of the fuselage. 

It has by now been proven that the cavallino  has always been black, though a multilayered painted panel in the collections, which certainly existed prior to Baracca’s death, shows it looking toward the right. 

When Enzo Ferrari, driving an Alfa Romeo RL-Targa Florio with Giulio Ramponi, won the first Savio Circuit  in Ravenna  on 16th June 1923, he came across Count Enrico Baracca, Francesco’s father, whom he had already met in Bologna some time before. That second encounter, as Ferrari himself wrote on 3rd July 1985 to Lugo historian Giovanni Manzoni, gave rise to yet another meeting, this time with Francesco’s mother, Countess Paolina Biancoli. “This is what she said to me one day:”  – wrote the Maranello  car manufacturer: “Ferrari, use my son’s prancing horse on your cars. It will bring you good luck. ” (…) “I still have Baracca’s photograph, with his parents’ dedication entrusting his emblem to me. – concluded Ferrari – “The horse was and has remained black, but I added the canary yellow background, the colour of Modena ”. 

According to authoritative testimonials, Enzo Ferrari’s choice was driven by a love of Giovanni Pascoli’s poem, “La cavallina storna”, and a great admiration for Francesco Baracca, which dated back to his adolescent years. 

After having raced for the Portello car manufacturer, Ferrari became a dealer in Emilia-Romagna and the Marche regions in 1927, with headquarters in Modena. For two years, Ferrari sold automobiles, organised races and drove those vehicles himself. The legendary “cavallino”, which would become indelibly linked to Enzo Ferrari’s name from 1929 on, with the founding of the Ferrari racing team and the adoption of the prancing horse as its symbol, hadn’t actually appeared on the automobiles yet. The debut of the “cavallino” on the Ferrari team’s Alfa Romeos only came on 9th July 1932, at the Total 24 Hours of Spa-Francoschamps in  Belgium