DescriptionManolete's Montera Worn Throughout His Bullfighting Career. Arguably the most noteworthy artifact from the sport of bullfighting ever to reach the public auction block, the presented montera (matador's hat) is addressed in Manolete's friend and noted author Barnaby Conrad's definitive study of the legend's last hours, The Death of Manolete:
Manolete put on his montera--the lucky hat he had worn since he was a boy, the only montera he had ever owned--and stepped into the ring.
The extraordinary singularity of this artifact, the one and only constant companion of history's greatest matador throughout years of artistry and fame, elevates the piece to an almost religious stature for the bullfighting afficionado. Conrad's book features a trio of photographs of Manolete saluting the presidente's box at Linares with this montera in his right hand, then tossing the hat to his sword handlers just moments before suffering his fatal wound.
The montera is designed in the classic style, luxuriously embroidered with a silk interior bearing the maker's imprint inside the crown:
Luis Alvarez Lopez, Ropa de Torear, Nuñez de Arce, 5.-Telef. 22 43 55, Madrid.
The silk is darkened with sweat staining around the rim. The montera is accompanied by a signed letter of provenance from ninety-year old Marshall Sanchez Salinas, whose family was very close to Manolete's. Mr. Salinas was immersed in bullfighting from a very early age and became a tailor of the traje de luces (suit of lights) as an adult. He writes:
Manolete was gored in Linares, Spain in 1947. Soon after his death I received many items from his mother, including his matador's hat. I write to identify the hat that accompanies this note to be that of Manuel Rodriguez (Manolete). I was given the hat directly from Manuel's mother shortly after his death.
The Manolete Collection.
"Me piden ma's de lo que puedo dar. Solo digo una cosa:que tengo muchas gans de que llegue Octubre."
Translation: "They ask more of me than I can give. I am eager to see October come. " Manolete, August 16, 1947, just twelve days before his fatal goring.
When Spain's greatest matador and the Miura bull Islero inflicted fatal wounds upon one another in a single bloody instant at the center of the Linares arena on August 28, 1947, it was the culmination of a story that had begun over a century earlier, long before either was born. Manuel Rodriguez, known to history simply as Manolete, was the son and grandson of matadors. His great uncle Pepete was gored through the heart in 1862 and became the second man to die in the Madrid arena.
The bull Islero had worried Manolete's handlers from their first inspection. The Miura line was known for its ferocity, sired from a line begun by a bull named Murciélago which survived twenty-eight sword strokes in an 1879 meeting with renowned matador Rafael Molina Sánchez. The gallery shouted for mercy for the brave bull, and its blood lived on in Spain's most feared breed. But it was not just the bull's native ferocity but his unpredictability that worried Manolete's handlers.
While bullfighting has its many detractors who see the tradition as barbaric and cruel, one must understand the sensibilities of its enthusiasts to gain the proper perspective. The issue is not the slaughter of the bull, but rather how willingly and artfully the matador presents his own mortality for the taking. Spectators recall how Manolete's feet remained nailed to the ground as the horns swept inches from his body, a style that honored the grand old tradition, valuing control and bravery over the flashy stunts that had begun to infiltrate the sport. And Manolete preferred to kill in the most dangerous style, directly over the horns with the bull charging at him, rather than allowing the horns to pass and driving the sword home from the safety of the bull's flank. For his bravery and mastery of the kill, Manolete grew to be recognized as the greatest living matador, the Spanish equivalent of American baseball's Babe Ruth in talent and fame.
Manolete had been drawn into a competition with a young matador named Luis Miguel Dominguin, who represented this flashy, youthful style slowly gaining favor. Manolete had resisted the meeting initially, but as the press and Dominguin began to paint Manolete as a coward, unwilling to face his rival, Manolete relented and agreed to the Linares contest. Dominguin thrilled the crowd with his theatrics, once sitting with his back to the bull, then kissing the bull between the horns. As Manolete's turn came, his picador was knocked from his horse by the Miura bull and the matador sprang into action, rescuing the fallen horseman and leading Islero through an intricate series of passes that had the stadium roaring with applause. Then came the time for the kill, and Manolete, in the classic style, went in over the horns. Islero hooked to the right as the blade sunk in, severing Manolete's femoral artery. Islero was dead in minutes. Manolete lasted through the night. His funeral would be the largest in the history of the nation of Spain, and radio stations played only funeral dirges for three days.
Presented within this auction is the most significant offering of Manolete memorabilia ever to be placed upon the public auction block. All lots derive from the personal collection of Marshall Sanchez Salinas, a close family friend of the Rodriguez family, and of Manolete himself.
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