Lot 173
  • 173


250,000 - 350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • David Alfaro Siqueiros
  • Conquistador
  • Signed Siqueiros and dated 5-54 (lower right)
  • Pyroxylin on Masonite 
  • 39 3/8 by 29 1/2 in.
  • 100 by 75 cm
  • Painted in May 1954.


ACA Galleries, New York
Joseph H. Hirshhorn, New York (acquired from the above) 
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (acquired from the above and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 25, 1986, lot 8) 
Private Collection, Panama (acquired at the above sale)
Private Collection, South America (and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 23, 1999, lot 32)
Private Collection, United States (acquired at the above sale) 
Steve Banks Fine Arts, San Francisco 
Acquired from the above on August 26, 2000 


This work is in very good condition overall. The colors are vibrant. A fine band of frame abrasion measuring ¼ inch in width is present along each of the extreme edges of the board. Four isolated circular areas of hairline craquelure measuring approximately two inches each in diameter are present in the upper central quadrants of the work in the feathers, face helmet of the figure. However, all of these areas, all areas of heavy impasto, and the media layer overall are stable. Under ultraviolet light examination, fluorescence occurs throughout due to the pigments selected by the artist, however no evidence of inpainting becomes apparent.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Ablaze with molten waves of glistening industrial paint, David Alfaro Siqueiros’ Conquistador rises towards the viewer in a fiery spectacle. Painted in 1954, four years after Siqueiros claimed the Venice Biennale’s highest honor for an international artist, Conquistador embodies the core tenets of Siqueiros’ praxis, in technique and in fiery lyricism.   Siqueiros’s compositional strategy was grounded in the perspectival rules established by Quattrocento muralist Paulo Uccello. Where Uccello was able to depict accurate three-dimensional space using a single vanishing point, “the poliangularidad (poliangularity) of Siqueiros’s compositions is established upon the topographic intersection of angles and triangular forms, from diverse perspectival points established by the pyramidal convention of Renaissance composition” (Irene Herner, “Escorzar, hacer mazzacchios y pintar pirámides,” Siqueiros: El lugar de la utopia, Mexico City, 1994, p. 57). Here, the balanced pyramidal composition of Siqueiros’s Conquistador is disrupted by a perspectival dissonance; the impossible angle of his head and shoulders at once imbues him with vital motion and draws the viewer into the composition. By synthesizing modern approaches to perspective from Cubism with Quattrocento geometric harmony, Siqueiros sought to improve both the legibility and emotive power of his compositions, to impart historical knowledge and inspire radical political action. 

Siqueiros believed that revolutionary art must be created with accessible means. The Americas’ first innovator in the artistic application of industrial paint, he exploited the low viscosity of pyroxylin to create rugged textures and nebulas of color. He imparted this knowledge to students at the American Artists’s Congress in New York in 1936 (among them, a young Jackson Pollock) and continued to innovate his techniques throughout his life, the subtle smoky qualities of his earlier work giving way to resplendency in mature works like Conquistador. Here, Siqueiros masterfully manipulates the dripping of this paint to meld the crimson of the Conquistador’s plumage with the glowing locks of his hair and with the tempestuous sky. 

Siqueiros’ murals are studded with labyrinthine networks of iconography; Conquistador is similarly complex. While the subject’s iconic morrión bears the shape and plumage of the helmet worn by Hernán Cortés, its hefty, gleaming chinstrap more closely relates to the animal-headed, heavily ornamented regalia worn by Aztec warriors as documented at the time of contact. In the mural panel Cuahtémoc Reborn, painted in a few years earlier in 1950 for Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes (see fig. 1) Siqueiros depicts the Spanish-slain Aztec hero born anew, clad in armor bearing both Spanish and Aztec form and symbols, wielding a glowing sword against an onslaught of flames. Conquistador may present a hybrid hero born of mestizaje, the racial and cultural mixing championed by Mexico’s post-revolutionary government as the source of Mexico’s inherent strength.