Monday, June 29, 2009

The Sorrel Fighting Stallion - FOUND!

This is a post about the importance of using original source materials, not copies.

There are a number of models from the 1960s that came in the Five-Gaiter’s unique "Sorrel" color palette: the Family Arabians, the Western Prancing Horse, the "Bay" version of the original Donkey, and most notoriously, the Fighting Stallion. Some hobbyists assumed that these models were a rare and/or unknown special run or special order of some type.

I speculated, in an article I wrote several years ago for one of my Samplers, that these models were just a color variation of the Bay: in fact, the majority of "Bay" Western Prancing Horses are in this peculiar shade (one that I sometimes refer to as "Chocolate Milk Sorrel.") It’s only at the very end of the Bay WPH’s run where they actually start looking more Bay-like (but he never becomes true "Breyer Bay": he keeps his gray hooves!)

(Oh, the irony: the "Bay" version of the Bay Western Prancing Horse is actually the variation!)

While scanning the picture for the previous post from the 1968 Collector’s Manual, I took a closer look at the Fighting Stallion’s picture. Even though the picture is small, and in printed in sepiatones, the photo is obviously of the Sorrel version. He has the gray hooves typical of the Five-Gaiter’s Sorrel paint job!

For comparison, here’s a photo of the Bay Rearing Stallion from the same catalog. His hooves are quite obviously black.

The hooves are the main characteristic used to distinguish the Bay from the Sorrel. The body and mane/tail color may vary greatly and can be almost indistinguishable from Bay, but the Sorrel always has light gray hooves. Always.

The photographs used in the 1968 catalog are the same ones used in the 1966 through 1968 price lists; I don’t know if they were used anywhere else. The various incarnations of the Dealer’s Catalogs from 1966 through 1969 depict the Alabaster, not the Bay. The 1965 Dealer’s Catalog does use a sepiatone version of what appears to be a Bay Fighting Stallion to depict the Rearing Stallion (who was new for that year.) Unfortunately, I don't have a very good copy, so I really can’t make any judgments from it one way or another.

And that’s what the issue was here. I didn’t notice the gray hooves in the 1966-1968 pricelist pictures because they weren’t originals: they were multi-generational copies. I couldn’t tell that the hooves weren’t black - they were too small, and too blurred, for me to tell. My 1968 Collector’s Manual is an original, with the original contrasts and tones preserved.

It doesn’t just happen in black and white copies, either: color shifts occur in color copies and photographs, too. It’s particularly a problem with digital pictures on the Internet; most people don’t change the settings on their cameras, which are often set to make automatic color corrections. Whites get whiter, darks get darker, and colors shift from warmer tones to cooler ones, depending on the light source.

This is why I am loathe to make judgments about things such as color variations, Chalkies and Pearlies based on photographs on the Internet. Photographs can lie - or at least, not tell the whole truth. There’s enough bad data out there to overcome - we shouldn’t generate more based on poor quality copies and hastily-taken photographs!

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