North America, Mexico, ca. late 19th to early 20th century CE. A gorgeous, ornately tooled leather Charro saddle, bearing the label "J. Warmuth y Co., Mexico". Engraved overlaid silver conchos give the piece a Classical influence - large bosses bearing a wild bearded face surrounded by grapes that looks like the Greco-Roman figure of Silenus, companion of Dionysus/Bacchus, while the front of the saddle is studded with silver discs bearing lion heads. The top of the horn has a silver disc with concentric circles. Further tiny silver discs with inlaid pearl stud the back of the saddle and the edges of the stirrups. Ornate floral and leaf motifs decorate the rest of the saddle, which also features dangling squared-off stirrups. Size: 13.5" L x 26" W x 33" H (34.3 cm x 66 cm x 83.8 cm); silver ranges in quality from sterling to 50%.
The charro is a traditional Mexican horseman, the result of hundreds of years of blended indigenous and Spanish Colonial culture. After the conquest of Mexico, the Viceroyalty of New Spain prohibited indigenous people from riding or using horses aside from certain elite members of indigenous groups that had allied with the Spanish. However, as cattle became an important part of the Mexican economy, land owners needed horse riders to manage their herds. Farmers hired mestizo cowboys, who had to obey several laws in order to be allowed to ride a horse, including that they had to use a saddle different from that used by the Spanish military. From these first riders, horse riding grew in popularity, especially after the Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821). After the war, Mexico was in chaos, and some horsemen began dressing themselves in silver-adorned finery and dressing in the distinctive clothing of "charros" - elite horse riders with large sombreros, tight trousers, and embroidered jackets. Towards the end of the 19th century, President Benito Juarez established a group of mounted police known as the "rurales" to establish order in the countryside, and they drew upon the look and style of the "charros", coming to symbolize national unity, strength, and the ideal of Mexican manhood. Perhaps the most famous charro is General Emiliano Zapata. Today, the charro lives on in the national sport of Mexico, the "charreada" or Mexican rodeo.
Provenance: private Glorieta, New Mexico, USA collection, purchased in Mexico City, Mexico
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Stand in photograph not included. Wear commensurate with age including some cracking/tearing of the leather, especially in areas where it would natural wear as on the seat and underside. Some small losses to the silver buttons and decorations but most are present. Overall in very nice condition and well maintained with clear motifs.