North America, Mexico, Puebla, ca. early to mid 20th century CE. A hand-carved wooden horse known as a "Caballo Santiago" from the traditional Santiago Dance. It features a round opening ringed by curved wooden bars so that it can be worn around the waist by a dancer known as a Santiaguero, a follower of Saint James (Santiago). The horse is carved as if in motion and wears a bridle. Size: 12" L x 40" W x 15.2" H (30.5 cm x 101.6 cm x 38.6 cm)
The Santiago dance portrays an encounter between Santiago Caballero, a reincarnation of Saint James the Apostle who appears as an archangel mounted atop a white stallion, and a group of dancers representing Satan and his followers, known as the Pilatos (after Pontius Pilate). The dance also features the subtext that the Santiagueros, who are mostly the Indians of the Sierra de Puebla, represent the true followers of Christ while the Pilatos represent the Spanish conquistadors who claimed to be Christians but treated the Indians poorly. The horse itself is treated with great respect, with one dancer whose sole role is to protect it.
Provenance: private Tucson, Arizona, USA collection, acquired between 1950 and 1985
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Wear on surface commensurate with age, including some weathering to the pigment and small surface cracks, as well as a few chips, nicks, and scratches. The hair from the horse's tail is mostly lost.