Venerable beads

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 44, Autumn 2015

Page 67

A Ute beaded shirt

Venerable beads

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 44, Autumn 2015

Page 67

A lifetime's passion for Native American art and a career in films has enabled horseman extraordinaire Mario Luraschi to amass an outstanding collection, as Jim Haas discovers

Mario Luraschi bought his first piece of Native American craft at the age of 13 – a pair of moccasins, demonstrating, so the story goes, that a great journey starts with small (in)steps. The renowned horse trainer and stunt rider's collection of Native American art and artifacts now comprises some 600 pieces, from which he is offering a selection of choice examples at Bonhams Native American art sale in San Francisco. These include a rare Upper Missouri River beaded war shirt, a Sioux quilled cradle and doll, as well as a fine Crow pipe tomahawk.

As a boy growing up in Paris, Luraschi was obsessed with Native American culture – an interest that was inspired more by books than by Hollywood. "Of course I was interested in westerns, but more important was what I read. I wanted to understand why the Indians in the films are portrayed as the bad guys, when the reality was so different." This in turn sparked an interest in horsemanship, and by 18 the young Frenchman was an accomplished rider.

After leaving school, he found work at a Native American-themed amusement park in France – the Vallée des Peaux Rouges, which included an Indian village from which Mario would lead out his fellow Indian braves to attack a train.

"One day, a big film crew arrived. They couldn't get one of the stunts right, so I stepped in to help..." Luraschi went on to work on more than 500 films in the US, as well as directing his own.

Fortunately as an adult he has been able to spend substantial amounts of time in the American West, not only working on films, but recruiting other riders for the cavalry spectaculars he organizes for Disney, among others. This extensive traveling has allowed him to indulge his fine eye for Native American art and artifacts. "I have spent a lot of time on the reservations casting for Disney. In Montana, the Crow and Cheyenne are very fine riders. I also spent a year living in Santa Fe in New Mexico. It was a fantastic time not just for me, but for my collection."

Jim Haas is Director of Native American Art at Bonhams, San Francisco.

Sale: Important American Indian Art from the Collection
of Mario Luraschi
San Francisco
Monday 14 September at 11am
Enquiries: Jim Haas +1 415 503 3294
jim.haas@bonhams.com
bonhams.com/native american

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