Frederic Remington: The Rattlesnake

Frederic Remington: The Rattlesnake

The November 9–10 Arts of the American West auction will feature The Rattlesnake, a bronze sculpture by Frederic Remington.

In 1905, ten years after creating his extraordinary first sculpture, The Bronco Buster, Frederic Remington returned to the subject of the single mounted cowboy in motion on the rearing horse. When Remington created The Rattlesnake it in some ways echoed his first sculpture, but in other ways The Rattlesnake incorporates all that Remington had learned about making sculpture over the previous decade.

In The Bronco Buster, the cowboy and his horse move from left to right, while in The Rattlesnake Remington reversed the format. The snake that has spooked the horse and put the cowboy at risk rises on the foreground of the base. The horse’s eyes are riveted to his diminutive antagonist and the horse has drawn back his forelegs under him as he rears back, away from the danger. The horse’s tail whips around his hind quarters, and the cowboy, who wears woolly chaps to protect himself from the cold and wind, looks down at the danger on the ground before him and firmly grasps his hat. The Rattlesnake is quintessential Remington. It depicts a moment of acute motion and intense drama, frozen in bronze.

Remington had a restless imagination. He grew displeased with the awkwardly cantilevered pose in his initial version ofThe Rattlesnake, where the horse seemed about to fall backwards, and he created a new larger version around 1908. This second version of The Rattlesnake has become, after The Bronco Buster, Remington’s most popular sculpture, showing Remington in full command of his sculptural powers.

In 1918 when this specific bronze was cast, Roman Bronze Works, Remington’s favorite foundry, was incorporated for the first time.

The foundry marking [Roman Bronze Works Inc. N-Y-] on this specific cast of The Rattlesnake echoes that important and particular moment in time. 


– Michael E. Shapiro

Senior Advisor, Museums and Special Collections