Artist: David Alfaro Siqueiros (Mexican, 1896-1974)
Title: El Caballo
Medium: Oil on Masonite
Size: 34 ¼” x 49” ( 87 x 126 cm)
Provenance: Purchased from the artist late 1960’s, private collection Mexico City. By descent to the present consignor. Includes certificate of authenticity from Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros, dated 1975, and Adriana Siqueiros dated 2004
We are grateful to Dr. Irene Herner Reiss for her kind assistance in cataloguing this work.
José David Alfaro Siqueiros was born in Chihuahua in 1896, and died in the city of Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico in 1974. Having lived through the height of the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1917), he left home for the Constitutional Army in 1914, when he was barely 16. He had a close relationship with horses, and an understanding of their importance, and quickly rose through the army ranks to become a member of the chiefs of staff of General Manuel M Dieguez. In all the most important images of General Venustiano Carranza, as well as of revolutionary figureheads such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, the subjects appear mounted on horseback.
Fighting in the Mexican Revolution was a formative experience for Siqueiros, leading him to discover the working masses, the working class, farmers, artisans and indigenous people, but, above all, the enormous cultural traditions of Mexico. He was particularly interested in the cultures of the extraordinary pre-Columbian civilisations, and identifying the importance of the Spanish use of horses in the process of the conquest of Mexico.
A horse makes a man larger. Compared with the child who travels on foot, the cavalryman has an elevated position, which lends him more strength, more power, and more valour. But this superior position obliges him to define himself according to the use of his superiority, i.e. the cavalryman must position himself according to the direction that his path will take. And so among the guiding principles of the cavalry orders – that is to say, only those who ride horses – we find such noble concepts as valour, justice, charity, faith, courage, humility, generosity, nobility, honesty and many other excellent virtues. Another important characteristic of the horse is that it allows the rider to go further, on both the physical and spiritual planes.
The figure of the horse is one that Siquieroes included in his works from the very beginning; such is the case in the 1944 work “Cuauhtémoc contra el mito”, in which the most important element is the horse which hangs over the decapitated head, symoblising that the horse itself is the very force of the myth that Cuauhtémoc is fighting against. In the same way, in the 1951 work “Tormento a “Cuauhtémoc”, we can see the conquerors in their suits of armour and, equally, mounted on horses.
In the 1945 mural “Patricios and Patricidas”, the focal figure is that of a horse, symbolizing strength and nobility as a motor of education and change. In the 1953 work “Excomunión y fusilamiento de Hidalgo”, we can see to one side a horse rearing on its hind legs, assuming a pose of strength and nobility, paying homage to Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.
There are many works where the symbolism of the horse is a key focus, as also demonstrated in “Porfirismo a la Revolución” and “Revolucionarios a Caballo”.
Therefore, it is important to highlight the symbolic importance of those works in which the horse is the only element. It is a demonstration of respect and admiration of the animals’ strength and nobility, as we can see in the works “Cabeza de caballo” and “Caballo”.
In the work “Caballo”, we see a majestic horse, rearing on its hind legs, without any kind of harness, in a frank attitude of liberty, valour and strength, a symbol of Siquieros’ admiration and respect for these noble animals.