A Frederick Remington bronze depicting four gun-toting cowboys from the old American West could fetch $US10 million at an upcoming auction, art experts believe.
The piece, Coming Through the Rye, will go under the hammer Christie’s American Art auction, to be held in New York on May 23. Pre-auction estimates put the work at between $US7 million and $US10 million.
Coming Through the Rye was modeled by Remington, a painter, illustrator and sculptor renowned for his depictions of the old American West, in 1902. It was cast in bronze some time around or before 1906. The work stands 76.8 centimeters tall.
The piece, inscribed “Frederic Remington” on the base, is numbered “3” and bears the name of the Roman Bronze Works in New York.
The present edition represents one of the last casts produced during the lifetime of the sculptor to remain in private hands.
Christie’s describes Coming Through the Rye as Remington’s most daring and complex sculptural undertaking, capturing the spirit of the archetypal American cowboy.
Adapting the excited gestures of the riders and the actions of the horses’ pace to a three-dimensional work required an enormous technical effort. Just six of the 16 hooves touch the ground in the composition.
“Remington’s talents are evidenced in the gestures and laborious motions of his equine subjects under the nonsensical weight shifting of their inebriated riders,” Christie’s accompanying essay says.
“The extremely high level of detail in the horses’ musculature, the expressions on the cowboys’ faces, their many small accessories and the work’s multifaceted patina required even further talent on Remington’s part and expertise on the part of his foundry.
“A technical marvel in the field, Coming Through the Rye was an ambitious collaboration between Remington and Riccardo Bertelli, the founder of Roman Bronze Works, who worked closely with him on the production of his most complex sculptures.”
Remington and Bertelli created just a handful of casts of the iconic sculpture.
In May 1908, the complexity of the bronze and the difficulty of the casting process overwhelmed Remington, and the artist crashed a metal bar down on his original models.
Although there are at least 15 recorded versions of the present work, and two unnumbered prototypes, only eight had been completed before Remington’s partial destruction of his model.
The present work is one of those few casts from Remington’s original design.
Today, most of the Coming Through the Rye works cast during Remington’s lifetime are in the collections of some of the USA’s most pre-eminent institutions.