Classic Saltillo Serape

46” x 98”
Dates to the 1st Quarter of the 19th Century


Classic Saltillo sarape, first quarter 19th C, with a red vertical zig-zag field, diagonal border, and concentric diamond center. This type of Saltillo sarape with it’s predominantly red palette, and vertical columnar field is perhaps the most imminently recognizable type.

This particular example has an unusually lively diamond center as well. The design parameters of classic Saltillos necessarily adhere to a somewhat disciplined order, but the diamond centers are where the creativity of the weaver often expresses itself and this this sarape has an almost psychedelic center.

Classic Saltillo sarapes utilize three natural dyes; cochineal, indigo and a one of several vegetal yellows that appear regionally. With brilliant primary colors to begin with, a range of secondary colors could be readily achieved by over dyeing or varying the saturation of a given dye bath. In their day before the advent of synthetic colors, Saltillos were among the most colorful of man’s creations and were described by contemporary observers to contain all of the colors of the rainbow. They are perhaps the most ambitious, highly crafted textiles ever produced in the Western hemisphere.

Woven as stylish outerwear garments exclusive to the upper class of citizenry known then as “criollo hacendados” and designed to be worn as a poncho with the wearers head thru the “boca manga” slit left open in the center of the diamond, classic Saltillo sarapes were first woven for mounted horsemen during the Spanish Colonial period in Mexico.

In years to come, some would be collected as “trophies of war” and brought back to the United States from the Mexican American War in 1847. They found an audience among American Cavalrymen such as the previous owner of this sarape, General Charles Francis Roe, of New York.

Roe is best remembered as the first officer to arrive at the Custer battlefield in 1876, and was tasked with writing the highly detailed official report for the Army. Ironically, General George A. Custer himself owned a classic Saltillo sarape that was sold at auction in the past twenty years. The Roe sarape remained in his family estate until the past decade.


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