Charles M. Russell (1864–1926)
Roman Bronze Works
An Enemy That Warns, 1921
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection
Like bears, wolves would eat almost anything—from big game to rabbits, squirrels, birds, fish, insects, mice, and even snakes—to keep them going, especially after settlers eliminated the buffalo herds and began to hunt the wolves themselves to near extinction. In the catalogue for the first memorial exhibition of her husband’s works, Nancy Russell described the subject of this bronze: “The mice of the plains make their nests in the skulls of the buffalo that are scattered there. This wolf was about to turn over the skull in search of mice when a rattlesnake warned him by rattling that he was trespassing.” Russell’s wolf, modeled skillfully and effectively, recoils from the threatening snake with a mixture of fear and defiance. Tensely poised with its tail between its legs, it snarls its own warning to the venomous reptile. Russell’s penchant for naturalistic detail can be seen in the conflicting positions of the wolf’s ears; one is erect and alert while the other is laid back in fear and anticipation. Russell completed the clay model for this bronze in 1921, and it was exhibited at the Kanst Galleries in Los Angeles in March of that year. The plaster version of the model was exhibited in Denver the following December, and the bronze version finally made its debut at the Kanst Galleries in March 1922. The bronze initially retailed for $150, but the price went up to $275 shortly after. The example shown here, one of the early casts by Roman Bronze Works, was one of three casts remaining in Nancy Russell’s estate at the time of her death in May 1940.