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Sioux Horse Effigy

A masterpiece of Lakota sculpture, the Sioux Horse Effigy dance stick, ca. 1870, was probably carved to honor a wounded horse and is considered one of the greatest equine sculptures in the world. This singular piece of the museum's collection is incorporated into the Society's logo.

Carved out of wood, this 3-foot-long sculpture is enhanced by its real horsehair mane and tail. Leather reins and bridle exhibit care with which this sculpture was made. The horse is also riddled with holes, bullet wounds. Red paint, blood, seems to seep from these wounds, suggesting that it died in battle. Blood also runs from the horse's mouth in the form of red horsehair. Its ears are backward slanting, showing fear and pain. The horse's elongated body and forward leaping motion suggest a leap from life to death.

The Horse Effigy is now traveling with the exhibit entitled The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky and it will be off display until the Fall of 2015.

The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky is the name of the traveling exhibition for which the Sioux Horse Effigy is a part. The exhibition brings together around 140 of the most important works of Plains Indian art from North American and European collections. The show features art from many Plains Indian Nations, including the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Omaha, Comanche, Kiowa, Pawnee and others. The exhibition sites are the musèe du quai Branly (Museum Branly) in Paris, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of art in Kansas City and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The Sioux Horse Effigy has a very prominent position in the exhibition. The show’s curator, Gaylord Torrence, described the Horse Effigy as being one of ten truly quintessential pieces to the show. Mr. Torrence is one of the nation’s leading scholars of Plains Indian art and is the Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art at the Nelson-Atkins. The Plains Indians builds upon the legacy of the Nelson-Atkins’ 1977 landmark exhibition Sacred Circles in which the Horse Effigy was included, and from which it gained its international fame.

The show premières at the musèe du quai Branly (April 7 – July 20, 2014) before showing at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (September 20, 2014 – January 11, 2015) and ending at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (March 2 – May 17, 2015). The Sioux Horse Effigy will return home to South Dakota in the summer of 2015.