Manuel Tolsá lives on for Mexico City residents as the sculptor who created the famous and sardonically nicknamed El Caballito. Sent as an emissary of the King of Spain to nail down Neo-Classicism. This was to bethe official Counter-Reformationist style of the crown, and indeed, of all civilized society. His work was never going to be easy. Against all odds, he prevailed.
Manuel Vicente Tolsá Sarrión (1757–1816) was born and educated in Spain. He studied architecture and sculpture in Valencia and Madrid. In 1790, the King of Spain appointed him to direct the newly created Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City. The next year, he arrived with crates of books, plaster copies of classic sculpture from the Vatican Museum, and the tools of a master architect.
Upon finally reaching Mexico City, the city government made him supervisor of the water and drainage systems of the frequently flooded capital. He set to work replanting the Alameda Central and soon after found himself involved in just about every public work of any consequence. This lasted for the remainder of his life.
His time in Mexico City spanned barely 25 years. But it marked a prolific period of public works intended to stave off the impending pressure of the growing independence movement. He somehow made furniture, church altars, and cast cannons. He opened a bathhouse, built coaches, and established a kiln. And all of this was secondary to the great building projects of the day.
Tolsá died in 1816. Even the jarring split with the Spanish crown couldn't divide Mexico City's warm regard for the artist and builder. Interred in the church of Santa Veracruz, and later transferred to San Fernando. The Manuel Tolsá Museum more carefully elaborates and celebrates his life and work.