One Horned Buffalo Dancer by José Encarnación Peña


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José Encarnacion Peña, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter

This is a quintessential piece by celebrated San Ildefonso Pueblo painter José Encarnación Peña, made in the final years of his life, which are often considered his finest period. Peña often depicted buffalo dancers, and he was especially fond of the one horned buffalo dance. Legend has it that the Little Buffalo broke through the Earth in order for the Koshare to lead the people into the upper world.

What is particularly unique about this piece is that the dancers are featured as front facing, rather than in profile. This allows the viewer to see fully how the dancers dress and look. There are two male dancers and two female dancers. The male dancers are depicted with one horn on the right side of their head and four feathers on the left as part of the headdress. They carry a bow and arrow in one hand and a rattle in the other. The female dancers also have a feather headdress as well as two long orange feathers between the headdresses.

The regalia portrayed in this piece by Peña is especially intricate. The men have gray garments on their torso and wear white leggings held up by a concho belt. The females are dressed very colorfully, with orange, purple, pink, blue, and green outfits. Around their necks they wear turquoise necklaces. Peña's undeniable skill is on full display in this piece, which offers a fascinating glimpse into a sacred dance at the pueblo.

Artist signature of José Encarnación Peña (Soqueen) San Ildefonso Pueblo PainterThe painting is signed So Kwa-aweh, 77, Encarnacion Peña, Santa Fe, NM in the lower right.

José Encarnación Peña (1902-1979) Soqween - "So Kwa A Weh" (Frost on the Mountain) was painting at San Ildefonso Pueblo at the same time as Tonita Peña, Richard Martínez, Luís Gonzales, Abel Sánchez, and Romando Vigil. In his early years, he was not as prolific as his peers. It was during the last ten years of his life that he became most productive. He is represented in the collections of the Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe; Museum of New Mexico; Denver Art Museum; and many others. Though similar in spirit, Soqween's works are very different from those of his contemporaries. His works are simple, often using just two or three colors. His outlines, often done in light gray, are less important to his compositions than the thick blocks of bold colors with which they are filled. These blocks of color are the tools with which he composed his subjects: pueblo dancers, in traditional regalia, often viewed head-on instead of in profile. Soqween's style is a simple, charming, and unusual variation of the "flat" style that he and his peers were taught at the Santa Fe Indian School.

Condition: very good condition

Provenance: this One Horned Buffalo Dancer by José Encarnación Peña is from a client of Adobe Gallery

Recommended Reading: Southwest Indian Painting: a Changing Art by Clara Lee Tanner

TAGS: paintingSan Ildefonso PuebloTonita PeñaRichard MartínezLuís GonzalesAbel SánchezRomando VigilTonita PeñaSanta FeDorothy DunnJosé Encarnacion Peña

Close-up view of a section of this painting.

José Encarnacion Peña, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter
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