The Rattlesnake by Frederic Remington

Name: The Rattlesnake | Artist: Frederic Remington Media: Bronze | Year(s): 1906
Frederic Remington | The Rattlesnake | 1906 | Bronze | Private Collection

About the Work

In January 1905 Remington exhibited nine bronzes at Knoedler & Company's galleries in New York City. The newest bronze featured in the show was The Rattlesnake, copyrighted just two days after it went on exhibition. Remington's description of the subject on the copyright application was as follows: "Cowboy on bronco. Rattlesnake on ground ready to attack horse. Horse shying and in a position denoting fright." According to Riccardo Bertelli, the proprietor of the Roman Bronze Works foundry where it was cast, The Rattlesnake was one of the artist's favorite works. "Fred was really pleased with it," Bertelli recalled. "He felt that it fulfilled his desire for faithful realism and fine artistic rendering."

Range horses were very susceptible to rattlesnake bites, especially while travelling over rough terrain where a snake could be suddenly encountered. Contrary to popular belief, a horse will not rear up and pound a coiled snake with its hooves. As Remington knew, a horse would shy away from a rattling snake, especially if it had been bitten before. In Remington's bronze depiction, the rider, his horse, and the snake itself all show the element of surprise, embodied in their sudden and dramatic sideways motion; the action is open and unrestrained. Indeed, it is important to look at this sculpture from all directions in order to appreciate Remington's daring sculptural conception. It must have been difficult for Bertelli and his men to cast this work in bronze; the sharply cantilevered pair of horse and rider puts great stress on the animal's legs at their thinnest point near the base.