“The Traders,” a Santa Fe bronze sculpture that is 1.2 life-size, was completed in 1988 and is permanently installed on the College of Business plaza between the Business Complex and Guthrie Hall. The Traders statue depicts early commerce during New Mexico’s territorial days. Set in circa 1850, the three figures represent the tri-cultural heritage of New Mexico: Indian, Hispanic and Anglo.
The statue’s dedication and unveiling were held on Homecoming Saturday, October 29, 1988, as part of NMSU’s Centennial anniversary and Homecoming celebrations.
Duke Sundt, Artist and NMSU Alumnus (’71) — I feel particularly fortunate to have been chosen to create this monumental sculpture entitled ‘The Traders.’ It was my intention to capture a moment in history, circa 1850, by portraying the positive and progressive interaction of these three people representing different cultures involved in the activity of trading goods. In researching this project, I met and visited with some very resourceful people who educated me on the history of early commerce in the state of New Mexico, as well as the type of clothing and tools used at that time. I am indebted to historian Charles Bennett at the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and to Stephen Zimmer, curator for the Philmont Scout Ranch Museum, Cimarron, New Mexico, for their valuable assistance.
Of the eight monumental sculptures I have completed to date, ‘The Traders’ has given me the first opportunity to do a multi-figured sculpture with an historical theme. I enjoyed all aspects of creating it and hope all who see it will realize the effect and importance of trade among the Hispanic, Indian, and Anglo people in New Mexican history.
Gathered together, their attention is focused on items of trade—skinning knives, Green River knives, and English and French tomahawk heads—spread out on a beaver skin on the ground at their feet.
Crouching down over the collection of knives and tomahawks, the Indian examines a tomahawk head in his right hand. He holds a steel-tipped spear in his left hand and is wearing leather fringed leggings and low-top moccasins with a blanket draped over his shoulder.
Standing on the Indian’s right, the Hispanic vaquero has a pommel bag slung over his right shoulder and is wearing a high-crowned, medium-brimmed hat with a braided band, a short jacket over a loose cotton shirt, and cotton pants with leather leggings which, opened to the knee, reveal a dagger in his bota. His low-top moccasins are fitted with Spanish spurs.
The Anglo, bent down on one knee, balances a Hawkins rifle with his right arm. A typical mountain man, he is wearing a short crowned hat, buckskin shirt, and leather pants and high top boots. His powder horn and bag are strapped across his shoulder, and a Green River knife in a Plains-styled sheath and a tomahawk hang from his leather belt.
Duke Sundt’s interest in sculpture can be traced back to his childhood memories of living in Copenhagen, Denmark, where monumental bronze sculpture is a common sight. He was fascinated with the huge works of art and made repeated visits to view certain favorite sculptures, an experience he never forgot.
In 1971, Duke received his Bachelor of Arts degree from New Mexico State University and upon graduating “began his education.”
I worked the bareback bronc riding event while rodeoing…. I then chose the next hardest way to make a living: being an artist.
As the artist, I chose an early trade scene circa 1850 in Northern New Mexico as my general subject. To insure the historical accuracy of my subject, I conducted extensive research at the Palace of the Governors Musuem in Santa Fe, as well as the Ernest Thompson Seton Museum at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico.
—Duke Sundt, Riverbend Fine Art