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Equestrian Silver in The River Plate – Platería Ecuestre Rioplatense

Javier A. & José M. Eguiguren Molina

Foreword: Dr. Fernando Romero Carranza
Eguiguren Arte de Hispanoamérica, 2014

Spanish & English editions
Printed by Akian Gráfica Editores, Buenos Aries.
496 pp.

English Edition: u$d 200
Spanish Edition: u$d 150

The research work Equestrian Silver in the River Plate took almost ten years from inception to publication. The Eguiguren brothers, renowned experts in the field, continue their studies of Hispano-American decorative arts, leading on from co-authoring El Apero Criollo Arte y Tradición (Criollo Riding Gear, Art and Tradition), El Poncho Arte y Tradición (The Poncho. Art and Tradition) and The Mate in America). This extensive book boasts 500 pages, 400 photographs and 700 bibliographic sources, and covers the most important pieces belonging to museums and private collections, both domestic and international. As such, the core of the study contains the systemization of more than 700 verified biographical footnote citations that will serve as a reference for future researchers.

The book was declared to be of Cultural Interest by the Argentinian Ministry of Education. In its pages, it analyses and illustrates the explosion of equestrian silver production in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and the south of Brazil during the 19th and 20th centuries, thereby becoming the most comprehensive study of the only region in the world where luxury equestrian silver (both for horses and riders) developed at a great scale and with unique characteristics in the history of decorative arts.

For the researcher and antiques dealer José Eguiguren, one of the two authors, a personal penchant for equestrian silver implements was the point of contact at which the gaucho and the rancher came together. He had always been struck by the tastes of the rider saddling his horse with its luxurious criollo tack, accompanied by the dazzling adornments of his own gaucho clothing. Along with his brother Javier, José researched hundreds of sources from the Viceroyalty and from the post-independence period, thereby cataloguing the varying pieces from 21 major museums and private collections throughout the world, such as Madrid’s Real Armería, the Museo Lázaro Galdiano and the Museo de América, both also in Madrid, the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Museo Gaucho in Montevideo and a wide range of national and provincial museums in Argentina.

With a brief introduction on the The Origins of horsemanship and its implements, along with a historical overview of the birth of each of the equestrian elements throughout antiquity, this work of research traces the two Hispanic schools of riding at the time of the Discovery of America: The European Brida and the Al-Andalus Jineta. As such, the book includes the Equestrian Armor (Barda) of the Emperor Charles V of Spain, which serves as a basis for the complex introductory chapter Equestrian Style and Silver in the River Plate.

Almost eight centuries of Islamic presence in the Iberian Peninsula left behind a rich riding heritage in Al-Andalus, which was part of Hispanic and Mediterranean culture. Various elements of this equestrian culture were transmitted by the Spanish Conquistadors following the discovery of the Americas at the end of the 15th century. As such, the history of equestrian tradition in South America, and in this particular case the River Plate region, goes back to the origins of Criollo culture. It has its roots in the riding techniques that were prevalent throughout Spain, with its inherited Iberian and Andalusian influences regarding horse ornamentation. This continued throughout the Viceroyalty, reaching its pinnacle after Independence in the 19th century, and lasting into the first decades of the following century.

The equestrian techniques of the old herdsman (the vaquero) of Al-Andalus, and the shifting frontiers between the Christian Kingdoms where they roamed (with their highly agile and sophisticated form of riding), were roots that lived on and evolved in the Gaucho, the rider of the vast plains of the pampas which, despite their fertile soil, were known as “el desierto”, the desert.

Equestrian Silver in the River Plate gives special importance to the historical backgrounds connecting the world of Iberian riding with the Criollo one: Rural Culture, including a study from the Discovery and the founding of cities across the Río de la Plata, up to the mid-twentieth century and the analysis of the introduction of horse and livestock from Iberian Peninsula and their evolution during the Viceroyalty and the post-independence period.

With a total of 19 chapters, the majority of the research is devoted to each of the silver implements used in Criollo riding gear, both for horses and riders, focusing primarily on the River Plate region. Saddles, bits, reins, headstalls and halters, horse collars, breastplates and cruppers, stirrups, hobbles, spurs, horse whips and stock whips, bolas, knives, belts and buckles, equestrian drinking cups and fire-lighting devices and smoking outlifts. These implements were not only manufactured in silver, but were also executed in gold, along with some extraordinary leather saddlery pieces. In this study, each one of these is analyzed based on its historical references and morphological evolution, alongside detailed photographs to accompany each catalogued piece.

As a consequence of the painstaking systemization of sources, and the extensive selection of implements chosen, in terms of sheer scale this is the first study to be carried out into River Plate horse-riding with these characteristics. An excellent book that may be appreciated in both English and Spanish.