A Spanish Colonial Anquera

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Featured here is a beautiful Colonial Spanish anquera, or horse trapping—a leather covering attached to a saddle that covers the rump of a horse, that was recently conserved for the exhibition Muchos Méxicos: Crossroads of the Americas that opened at the museum in Summer 2021.

Anquera general view

Fig. 1. Anquera or horse trapping. Gift of the Heirs of David Kimball, 99-12-20/52901. Measurements: 100 x 107 x 6 cm (39 3/8 x 42 1/8 x 2 3/8 in.)             


The anquera is constructed from cattle hide and is elaborately embroidered with silk, plant fiber and silver wrapped cords to create detailed facial profiles and full body images, as well as floral patterns. The anquera is cut from one large piece of hide to form seven panels which would have hung down along the back of the horse’s rear.

Anquera embroidered details of figures


Fig. 2 depicts a standing figure wearing eighteenth-century European fashions. The six profiles on hanging panels may represent Indigenous people, while the seventh panel depicts an individual dressed in a frock coat holding a staff.

Saddle maker and consultant Chuck Storme's believes the anquera was made between 1750-1800 in Mexico.

Around the embroidery, evidence of tooling (or cutting) the leather is apparent including tooling of the design that was done to create a guide for the embroidery design. Working the leather in this way would have also created a thinner area to push the embroidery needle through more easily.

Fig. 2. Detail of embroidered figures on flaps

Anquera embroidered close up, silver threads

Fig. 3. Detail of silver wrapped cords and plant fiber.

The image in Fig. 3 shows silver wrapped cords and plant fiber embroidery under magnification. The background utilizes an alternating brick stitch couching technique.

Anquera natural fibers scheme

Fig. 4. Detail of the different natural fibers used on the embroidered elements.

Metallic Trim and Two-toned barber pole

The edges on the flaps are adorned with a metallic trim and a two-toned barber pole. The silver trim was handwoven on a loom that held the metal threads relatively taut. The trim was appliqued to leather by stitching down each loom-finished edges with a pair of 2-ply S pale yellow or ivory silk cords.

Detail of silver threads on Anquera's rim

Fig. 5. Detail of one of the embroidered flaps showing silver trim and two-tone pole.

The two-toned barber pole utilizes a stem stitch embroidery with four 2 ply Z natural or pale yellow plant-fiber (likely agave) cords alternating with about eight 2 ply S blue-green silk threads. The width of the “pole” is about 2.5 to 3.0 mm wide as stitched down directly into the leather.

Anquera. Red boots embroidered on standing figure

Fig. 6. Detail of the embroidered figure on one of the flaps.

The knee breeches and high boots on this individual were once solidly filled with 2 ply S black dyed silk threads using a satin-stich embroidery technique, however, prior damage has left only a narrow outline of black silk suggestive of the style of clothing that was once depicted.

Anquera embroidered man with stick

Fig. 7. Detail of one of the embroidered standing figures.

The staff held by one male figure and the front edges of his coast (Fig. 7) were embroidered using in stem stitches with metal-wrapped threads. Both individuals depicted in Figure 6 and 7 wear frock coats with metallic trim along the front of coat and at the wrists of sleeves, which were fashionable details of frock coats in the eighteenth century. The individual depicted in Figure 6 also wears what appears to be a knitted cord with two ties and  tassels (embroidered in stem stitch) about his waist.

Areas of loss in the black silk hair show the intricate tool markings beneath the embroidery work (Fig. 8)

Anquera head of embroidered figure

Fig. 8. Tool marks on leather.

Anquera, stitching on verso

Fig. 9. Verso of the embroidered leather corresponding to one of the figures.

The verso of the central figure showing stitching on the back. The embroiderer would have wanted to conserve effort by stitching through thinner leather. The artist  must have known how to achieve a particular appearance of their stitches and to keep them flat without having to make too many stitches down through the leather and back up. Also note the orange/red silk is much brighter on the reverse where it was not as damaged by light.

Anquera metal jingles or Ruido

Fig. 10. Detail of the iron jingles or ruido.

At the base of each panel of the anquera are a series of iron jingles. The jingle is called a ruido and consists of two elements, the higa and the coscojos. The higa is attached to the hide and has three smaller pendants called coscojos attached to its base through loops. The coscojos created jingling sound that encouraged the horse into a gait, while higas were also worn as a protective amulet and were commonly attached to eighteenth-century Spanish horse gear.

Anquera iro jingles detail

Fig. 11. Close-up image of the iron jingles.


Conservation treatment focused on stabilizing and safely mounting the anquera for display. Discussions among curators, exhibit staff and conservators were ongoing during treatment.

Anquera. Damage on jingles and tear

Fig. 12. Details of rusting iron ruido and tear at hole with missing ruido.

After completing documentary images, examination and a condition report the anquera was ready for treatment. Treatment began with surface cleaning using a HEPA vacuum at low suction through a screen to protect the delicate embroidery work.

Additional solvent cleaning was carried out on the iron jingles (ruido) to degrease and reduce corrosion. The trim that had become detached was reattached with fine stiches through existing holes and a conservation adhesive.

The standing figures were gently cleaned with cosmetic sponges. Additional light cleaning of the silver tarnish was carried out with a 15 -micron polishing film attached to a tiny rod in selected areas to bring out some of the silver sheen. Dry cleaning was determined to be safest due to the fragile silk fibers. However, only a slight abrasive cleaning was used to protect the silver layer and fragile fibers. Before cleaning XRF was carried out to determine the metal composition.

Anquera cleaning threads

Fig 13. Detail of the cleaning process.

The anquera was carefully turned over while sandwiched between two boards and held together with Velcro straps. The reverse side was cleaned, and tears were reinforced with toned Japanese tissue to stabilize and prevent further tearing.

Anquera verso general

Fig. 14. Verso of the horse trapping

Tiny fiber samples were taken for material identification on the verso. The results of these analysis can be seen in our section "A Closer Look".

Mounting and Display

In the first set of drawings for exhibit case layouts the anquera was displayed as it would have been worn on the horse much like the image shown here.

Anquera watercolor illustrating the use of it. 1834

Fig. 15. Detail from: 1834 ca. "The Hacendero and His Mayordomo," by Carl Nebel. From "Voyage pittoresque et archéologique dans la partie la plus intéressante du Mexique", (Paris, 1836).

Mounting the Anquera at the lab

Fig. 16. Tristan Roche and Amanda Kressler showing the anquera ready for display.

Ongoing understanding of the anquera and safety for the object led to new decisions for display.

Originally, it was thought that it would be best to display the anquera as it was worn on the horse. However, this orientation would not allow the visitor access to the intricate details of the embroidery work and details of the design. This would also put the deteriorated torn hide under significant stress. Given the preservation and safety of the object and viewing options it was decided to display the anquera flat on a vertical surface panel and to provide images of how it would be worn. Conservation and exhibition team collaborated to develop a system for mounting the anquera on a cloth covered panel with the use of a series of magnets to secure the object.

See how we mounted the anquera for display

Support with magnets to mount the anquera

Fig. 17. Back showing magnetic mounting system.           

Anquera mounted with magnets

Fig. 18. Front after mounting.

Anquera final display case at the museum

Fig. 19. Anquera on display on the display case's rear wall with horse saddle below.

Due to the deteriorated condition of the silk fibers, it was decided to display the anquera at low light levels (75 LUX) for the 1 year. The exhibit case was sealed, and silica gel was used to control the relative humidity.


Time lapse video courtesy of Amanda Kressler, HMSC

See also: Peabody Museum Shorts, Mexico and Central America



Thank you to curators Diana Loren and Castle Mclaughlin, conservator T.Rose Holdcraft, and  saddle maker, Chuck Storme for sharing their knowledge. Special thanks to Tristan Roche and Amanda Kressler for collaborating on the mounting system and for the installation of the anquera and Matt Vigneau and Molly Richmond for always lending a helping hand.


Groth, Michelle. 2020. Report on Mexican Saddle and Horse Trapping 99-12-20/52900 and 99-12-20/52901. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University

Holdcraft, T.Rose. Senior Conservator, Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard University, consultation

Loren, Diana D. “The material ambivalence of health and spirituality in colonial northeastern New Spain.” In Sacred Matter: Animacy and Authority in the Americas ed. by S. Kosiba, J. W. Janusek, and T. B. Cummins. Dumbarton Oaks Pre-Columbian Symposia and  Colloquia. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2020: 365.

McLaughlin, Castle. Associate Curator of North American Ethnography, Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard University, consultation

Rickman, David. "Anquera to Anquerita." Into History The Occasional Blog of David W. Rickman. Last modified September 3, 2018.

Simmons, Marc, and Frank Turley. Southwestern Colonial Ironwork : The Spanish Blacksmithing Tradition from Texas to California. Museum of New Mexico Press Series in Southwestern Culture. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1980.

Spicer, Gwen. 2019. Magnetic Mounting Systems for Museums & Cultural Institutions: How to Create a Magnetic System. Delaware: Spicer Art Books.

Storme, Chuck.  Saddle Maker, consultation