Treasures: Rendition of ‘Bronco Busters’ likely not ‘original’

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: I am very interested to know the value of our bronze horse and rider statue by Frederic Remington. The piece is signed by the artist. Thank you. – H.S., Toledo, Ohio

DEAR H.S.: Frederic Remington was born on Oct. 4, 1861 in Canton, N. Y. He attended art school at Yale University but, surprisingly, he found sports such as football and boxing more to his liking.

His first trip west was to Kansas City as a businessman, but he soon began studying art once again at the Art Students League in New York City and began submitting Western-themed illustrations to magazines such as Collier’s and Harper’s.

Over the years Remington captured the vanishing life in the American West as a painter, illustrator and sculptor. He produced the prototype of the statue belonging to H.S. in 1895 and it was cast by the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company in New York City using the sand casting method.

The piece is entitled “The Bronco Buster” and it is by far the most popular of all Remington statues. The first versions of “The Bronco Busters” were cast by Henry-Bonnard and are about 22 inches tall. However, in the early 20th century, Remington moved to the Roman Bronze Works, which is also in New York City. There, the figures were cast using the lost wax process and were in a larger size of about 32 inches tall.

There is an “original” of Remington’s “The Bronco Buster” in the White House Oval Office. It is No. 23 and cast by the Roman Bronze Works in 1903. Altogether it is thought that the Roman Bronze Works cast 93 examples of “Bronco Buster,” there are said to be about 300 “originals” of this particular statue in existence.

Perhaps we should explain our use of the word “original.” There is only one true original of “The Bronco Buster” and that is the one sculpted by Remington himself, and from this, Henry-Bonnard and the Roman Bronze Works made their various castings. These subsequent pieces that were authorized by Remington (and later his wife after the artist died in 1909) are considered to be “originals” or “multiple originals” by collectors.

These “originals” are very valuable, but later copies – i.e. those made after the death of Remington’s wife, Eva, in 1918 – are considered to be reproductions and have only a modest value for the most part. This brings us to the question: “Is H.S.’s rendition of “The Bronco Buster” an original, and was it made by either the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company or the Roman Bronze Works?

The answer to this is very simple: We doubt it very seriously. First of all, it is not signed by the foundry and this is a bad sign. Second, it is on a marble base and this, too, is a very bad sign because the originals generally do not have a marble base.

Most of the reproductions of “The Bronco Buster” that are on the current market sell in the low hundreds of dollars, but we did find a solid silver example for $27,000 and an 8-1/2 foot tall versions for $16,000.

Unfortunately, we do not know the size of the example in today’s question or the details of its origins so we cannot offer even a hint about the value. But it is our opinion that it is probably worth less than $500.

For prudence sake, however, H. S. needs to have this piece authenticated and the place nearest to Toledo for him to do this is Mongerson Galleries in Chicago.