Presentation bolas / boleadoras
Place of Origin: Argentina
Date: First half of the 20th Century
Diameter of balls : 650mm (2.5 inches)
Here we have a very rare set of presentation boleadoras (or bolas). The term comes from the Spanish word bola, meaning ball, and is given to a type of throwing weapon made of weights attached to the ends of interconnected cords and used to capture animals by entangling their legs or even wound them if thrown with enough force. Boleadora were most famously used by the gauchos (cowboys) of South America but they are thought to have more ancient origins. Depending on the individual weapon’s design, the thrower grasps the boleadora by one of the weights or by the nexus of the cords. He gives the balls momentum by swinging them and then releases in the direction of his prey.
This set consists of three beautiful lapis lazuli balls of equal diameter, connected through their centres with long lengths of plaited leather cords, and finished with decorative silver caps on both poles that show floral motifs. Lapis lazuli is a hard metamorphic rock, used as a semi-precious stone due to its intense blue colour. The most famous mines are in Afghanistan, but lapis is also mined in the Andes Mountains in Chile, which is the obvious source for the balls in this set. It is likely to have been made as a presentation piece for a wealthy or important man. For comparison, a presentation set with elephant ivory balls and silver fittings is in the collection at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum in Austin, Texas, and was given to President Johnson by His Excellency Lieutenant General Juan Carlos Onganía, president of Argentina, April 13th 1967 (accession number 1967.19.1).