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From New World to Old

Rich Americans have a reputation for buying a European look for themselves. Why be wealthy if you don't shop in Paris, own a Picasso, drive a Mercedes, or vacation in Tuscany?

It's rare, however, when an American shows gratitude for Old World culture by putting some back.

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The latest example comes from Charles Dent, an amateur Renaissance scholar from Pennsylvania who sold his art collection to help build a bronze horse - 80 tons and 24 feet high - as a gift for Italy.

The statue's design comes from Leonardo da Vinci, whose great regret was he never built his equine vision.

The colossal statue will be unveiled Sept. 10 in Italy as a thank-you for the Renaissance, much the way the Statue of Liberty was a tribute from France to American ideals.

Dent died four years ago, but he'll be remembered as having both a gift for art and an art for giving.

His gift horse comes two years after the opening of the new "Wooden O," the Globe Playhouse of William Shakespeare, a project made possible by Chicago-born actor Sam Wanamaker, who died in 1993 before it was finished. He was shocked that London had not rebuilt the original theater that burned down in 1613.

One more transatlantic gift giant is Alberto Vilar, who currently recycles his wealth from computer stocks into opera productions in Europe as well as New York. His generosity helps keep this art form alive and well.

These three men have had vision, taste, aesthetic passion, an ability to muster resources, and a gratitude for Europe's rich cultural heritage.

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That sure beats shopping in Paris.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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