the season of holidays is upon us with the Star of Bethlehem shining high somewhere in heavens - between January 6 and today I plan to bring more XV century paintings of the Magi (Wise Men, Trzej Krolowie, Los Reyes Magos etc - see the New Testament: Mathew chapter 2 on the Magi ), since these paintings usually contain some of our favorite equine subjects i.e., horses, horse tack and riders.
So today let us travel to Sienna, to the panels conjured by master painter Bartolo di Fredi -
Note that the bits on these bridles contain ornate large discs or cheekpieces covering the mouthpiece so these are snaffle-bits. There are no curb-bits or curb-chains in the foreground horses' bridles, however, in the paintings and drawings of Pisanello where there are similar bridles such curb-chains are present. So perhaps di Fredi omitted them? In the narrative taking place in the upper part of the Siena panel the horses of the Magi caravan have double reins so perhaps there there had curb-bits?
one Adoration painting is held at the MET and was painted circa 1390 AD -
the three horses here (the forth is visible only as per its ears) are gray, raven black and roan - perhaps indicating the 3 Magi. Different colors of their bridles' leathers, each appropriate to the horse's color i.e., so it would be easily visible and pleasing to the eye.
|breast collar/breasplate visible here along with the front arch/pommel of the gray horse saddle|
and the second Adoration from the Pinacoteka Nazionale di Siena - the upper part of this panel contains more narrative storytelling than the truncated MET one. The story starts with the Magi leaving their country somewhere in the east (right side of the panel) and first arriving in Jerusalem to confer with king Herod (Herod the Great he was), and then continuing on to Bethlehem and to the shepherds' barn where the King of the Jews, baby Jesus was born. the XIV century graphic storytelling.
|clearly a finely bred horse at least a palfrey or even dextrarius, of unusual color . Saddle here is not a war saddle but a typical late XIV and early XV saddle for travel and parade.|
|we can say something about the riding style - long legs, long stirrups, left hand holding rather loose reins.|
|presence of the hunting dogs is interesting, reflecting chivalry traditions of taking their hounds on a trip etc|
There are camels with lots of load, as camel could carry even 600 pounds, and camels indicate the foreign, non-Christian/ non-Italian aspect of the journeying magi.