Very early, important Spanish ring bit with Texas history. Possibly of Conquistador vintage, and in an exceedingly scarce configuration. Mano figas hang from the wide, 1 3/8” chin bar and the ring flat; the cast cheeks have a scroll design. 3 7/8" mouthpiece with high port (missing roller). It is a striking and unique artifact of the "Age of Discovery" in North America.
Accompanying the bit is a copy of a letter relating to the discovery of the bit by Harold Gage Thompson, contemporarily related and signed by Cecilia Thompson in 2005 (transcribed below). Also included are 2006 research/study photographs identifying the bit and describing its features on the reverse.
Mano figa (also fica or higa), translates to “fig hand” and is an ancient symbol or talisman that dates back to Etruscan Italy, but spread to other countries and cultures. It is most usually considered an obscene gesture, and is worn to ward off bad luck or the evil eye. The horse that wore this bit appears to have been well-protected, as more than twenty mano figa hang from the piece.
EX: Harry Hudson Collection.
Lot 199, Brian Lebel's Old West Auction - June 10, 2017, Fort Worth.