Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wesolych Swiat!

Hello again,
we, Polish people, celebrate Christmas with 3 days of eating and bonding,  especially reestablishing family and friendship bonds, and it is a very joyous time of the year.

However, in today's little entry I would like to  return for a moment to the time of the other great Jewish (and a bit Arabian) king of Judea  known to us a  Herod the Great , whose dynasty ruled, solely with Rome's nod and approval,  the last independent Jewish kingdom in the Holy Land (ending with the death of  Agrippa II circa 100 AD) The other independent Jewish state was the  khanate of  nomadic Chazars of the Pontic-Caspian steppes, but  more than a millennium after the last Herodian ruler.
I just received, as a Christmas gift, this little Heracles (so much good info0 of a book published by British Osprey, titled 'The Army of Herod the Great,' written by Samuel Rocca and nicely illustrated by Christa Hook.  It is a book about the military of the Jewish-Hellenic client-state  existing on the borders of the Roman Empire.
There are many interesting figures in this book,  especially Hatrene warriors,  or the Thracians and Galatians in Herod's service.  But my first 'love' is another cavalryman mentioned in the book and painted there along with his commander. It is the 'Babylonian. '

I sketched this horseman out off the plate F in the book, sort of coping it and changing some.
He is a member of  this so called Babylonian light horse archers unit, created by one Jewish nobleman named Zamaris and hired by Herod. Zamaris  at some point of his adult life moved from the Parthian kingdom, where Jews had lived and prospered for centuries,  to the Herod's realm and entered Herod's army as commander. Mr Rocca, after Shutzman, says that from Mesopotamia our Zamaris emigrated along  with his entire retinue and  initially must have created this 'Babylonian' unit of horse archers for  the Herod's army out of his retainers. Jospehus Flavius, the Jewish_Roman ancient historian, wrote about Zamaris and his riders (AJ XVII , 24).

He wears Parthian ridding coat with fur trimming (slit from the hem to hips to allow easy mounting and ridding horses), quilted tunic, quilted hat,  Leather belt covered with gilt-metal plates,  and tied with laces. His weapons are the two unstrung composite bows, with a tubular quiver (unseen as covered by his coat), and long sword (unseen), suspended from the second belt, and his horsewhip, quite a weapon itself - eg just read the Tyrant novels by Mr Cameron.
Horse has a typical horned and stuffed leather saddle, secured with broad breast and croup straps, adorned with bronze pahalerae (medallions),  while his saddle is covered with a cloth...  His horse' snaffle bit has long psalion bars for stability etc. I drew  his horse's tail tied as the Iranians used to do, and its forelock is also tied up with leather thong, in the same Iranian  martial fashion ( this sketch and info  pertaining to the cavalryman are based mostly on the Mr Rocca's book).

I did my sketch entirely on my Linux computer, using GIMP and MyPaint drawing with the Wacom tablet.

Merry Christmas...
I found more info on the Babylonian horsearchers unit - according to Jonathan P.  Roth, Zamaris came to Judea around 20 BC, possibly having defected from the Parthian service. He and his followers (500 soldiers and 100 relatives) were taken by Herod into his service as horsearchers, and settled in town called Bathrya, in Batanea. This military colony under Zamaris was organized in such a way that Zamaris' unit performed military service in exchange for freedom from taxation (what a great king Herod was!  the next tulers tired to change this approach).  The unit survived Herod's and Zamaris' deaths, and was commanded, according to Flavius Josephus,  first by Zamaris' son  Jacimus or Jakimus (who trained soldiers in arts of horsemanship and horse archery, and provided king's bodyguards)  and then his grandson Philip Ben Jakimus, who was of strong hands and friend of Agrippa.   The Babylonian archers unit size also increased over time, from 500 to several thousands, again according to F. Jospehus who claimed that this 'Babylonian' unit was as large as the rest of king Herod Agrippa forces. Most likely Philip as strategos  was the commander of the 2000 cavalry that king Agrippa II sent to quell the budding Great Uprising in Jerusalem  (66AD )which failed but they were allowed to retire from the city. Then they fought alongside the Roman army during this long and difficult war, with Philip fighting and surviving the large Roman defeat at Beth Horon, later being most likely the commander of the entire Herodian army   (Roth,  Jewish Forces in Roman Service p.  6 - 23,  Flavius Josephus  on Zamaris and his unit  p.210-11 here )

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Khumbuz-Tepe ostracon

This is the famous Khumbuz-tepe ostracon from southern Chorasmia (Uzbekistan), dated from late IV to III century BC.
I included my own ad hoc conceptual representation of the armored saddle as suggested by Philip in his commentary to the Massagatean warrior...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hussar officer - Imci Pan Porucznik

let me return  for a little moment to the Polish-Lithuanian Respublica of the 17th century with this little sketch of a Husaria officer.
I hope to 'paint' it digitally some time soon.  Meantime he will be riding this blog in black and white. Please note that in a Turkish fashion (or perhaps more ancient - Macedonian and Scythian) his horse has a leopard skin spread underneath his eastern (Turkish-Tatar) saddle. His Hungarian style boots are placed in the Polish (of Tatar origin) stirrups and he guides his horse with an aid of the heavy German-style 'munsztuk' (Polish for 'curb-bit'), as advised by the famous Polish-Lithuanian author,  aristocrat, and winged hussar himself Krzysztof M. Dorohostayski (Dorohostajski or Дорогостайски) , of Leliwa coat of arms, a great rider himself, participant of many wars, eg war with Ivan the Terrible, war with Sweden where he distinguished himself as a cavalry commander under the command of grand hetman Krzysztof Radziwiłł Piorun at the victorious  battle of Kokenhausen (Koknese) June 23, 1601...
He is the author of this worthy Polish language treatise on horsemanship titled  'Hippica' , published many times during the 17th century in the Commonwealth, now accessible on google books - thanks google :)
for your enjoyment I hope ...
pa ka [Valete]

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Old watercolour - Plains warrior fantasy

hello again,
long time ago I drew a sketch of a mounted Native warrior, and then  I went over it with 'dry-brush' watercolour - the end result was  this rather fantasy-related drawing of a Plains rider (North American native warrior of the pre-1840s).
As I can recall my then-intent it had to do with this idea of showing a native warrior along with his war paraphernalia - coup stick, long lance, bow and arrows etc - displaying a captured musket/rifle and cartridge pouch of a US army soldier.
I say pre-1840s because he has tanned leather tubular leggings with coup marks and has not many items that can be related to the European, Mexican or American manufacture. His hair is adorned with eagle feathers with coup marks and his medicinal bird - crow or some other black bird . while his concave shield with various ritual images and hawk feathers etc should have been held by a shoulder strap and/or rim handle, as Plains shields were not held in the Old World fashion, by a hoop or handle in the middle of a shield.
He has a blanket wrapped around his hips, a typical Plains fashion until the end of the era, i.e., early XX century. In the millenia old tradition he painted his pace, and  his torso and arms, and has a gorget-like shell and trade beads  necklace on his chest. I gave him a choker but I do not think it was a good idea, well, too late as watercolours are hard to correct..
His mount has a eagle feather in its forelock, medicine and war exploits marks painted  on its body - coup marks etc, while there is a scalp lock hoop hanging on the war bridle, note that the bridle is but  a single rawhide rope with its end trailing the ground. The function of the scalp lock attached to the war bridle was not only to show this horse and its owner's war prowess, but also more practical as it caused a horse to keep its head lower when moving or risk being smacked around the sensitive head ( nostrils, jaw, face etc)  by the hooped scalp lock - quite ingenious horse-riding aide invented by the Plains tribes, well attested in the rock  and ledger art of the Plains. I am not showing his apishamore (Piegan word for the treeless leather/hide Plains saddle)but it may be covered with his blankets etc.
Horse's tail is tied for war and thus not visible.

There are things that I missed: a knife in a decorated sheath, war-club or hatchet. Proportions are off and things are unsteady but I still like this image, so it will stay.

   I got another old watercolour of Plains mounted warrior  that I will post next time the Plains warriors are subject of my notes and musings.
pa ka

Monday, November 16, 2009

Massagetan warrior I

...this is a version of my original Massagetan horseman.
   ... according to the already mentioned archaeologist, who is not my friend even by a longest Mongolian bow shot ;) , named Marek Wozniak the armor corselet consisted of leather plates or plaques sewn together and 'needle work' covered with leather 'ribbons' - somewhat similar to the Orlat warriors of the Orlat bone plaque or Kumbuz-Tepe , helmet based on the Samarkand find , sewn onto his hat aka ''bashlik.'' This type of reconstruction was proposed by the Kazakh archaeologists before but for much later dates. There is an English translation of Yablonsky article on the Massagetan warrior find

The shoulder protectors are based on the prof. Olbrycht discussion as have been reconstructed by  dr. Gorelik (his book on Alexander of Macedon and the Iranian world) of the Chirik-Rabat and the Gorelik's intepretations of the Chirik-Rabat and Saka in general.
find Chirik-Rabat here

... already mentioned Wozniak suggested the sword to be a typical longer Scythian version, as shown in 'The Golden Deer of Eurasia' or . I picked the battle ax  upon perusing  my Scythian and Saka book collections and it belongs to the southern Siberia finds published by Gryaznov (V century BC).

     Horse whip is my own 'imagination'  (if you read 'Tyrant' novels you may find out how deadly this 'nahayka' whips could  have been) while his belt is of south Siberian origin I saw in Gorelik's article on the Saka armor. The sword sharpening stone aka whet stone is a typical steppe tool, hung from nomads belts, typical find in the Pontic and Caspian steppes, also my own addition. The same with the choice of a bashlik type based on the Siberian Saka finds by the Soviet and  Russian archaeologists.

      This particular armour concept, especially choosing of Orlat bone plaques (variously dated to II c. BC to V c. AD  and do find this great article about the plaques  )  as basis  for the armour reconstruction and type of neck guard - segmented instead of one metal sheet (segmented is used by the later Saka, Yuezhi, Kangju or Huns, while single sheet was developed and used by the Saka being the earliest steppe collar),  has been heavily but substantively criticized by Ruben aka Mein Pantzer on the and my friend Patryk Skupniewicz.  Ruben pointed to a Taraz find

Having read (mostly) the Polos'mak book on the Pazyryk Saka's clothing I think that pants, boots, and tunic need to be reworked a lot. I am going to add a later Saka gorytos - longer and much more powerful bow as found by the Chinese in the former Saka and Uigur lands in the Chinese Turkestan (Xinjiang) - there is this delightful  article on Atarn archery website
Another set of elements are missing here, those are the cultural,  ritual and religious items always found in the Siberian kurgans of the Saka and related to their believes. Other items I could add here are the feathers and animals skins, especially snow leopard, wolf or tiger pelt adornments as natural part of the Scythian, Saka, Yuezhi, Hun, Turkic, Uigur, Mongol  warrior 'wolfbands. '  In this particular Saka aka North Iranian case the deer, wild boar and wild felines imagery shall find itself added here. After all, as my friend Patryk always points that  Shahnameh's Rustam was a Saka...
I shall correct them too, I hope.

Massagetan warrior

for a few weeks now I have been trying to research the theme of an armored Caspian steppe warrior of the 4th century BC - the Massagetan warrior or a member of a Saka Tigrakhauda/Tigraxauda, - Pointed Hat Sakaname of  the Achaemenid Persians.

This particular topic has been long overdue for me. About a year ago or more I drew a 'straight forward' Massagetan armored rider reconstruction based on a drawing and description done by an archaeologist, the idea was to show the Achaemenid warriors during the time of the Macedonian Conquest, as a result I have more images of Persian warriors, mostly infantry so they do not 'qualify' to appear here :).

I had consulted it with my friend Patryk, who has been writing about the Saka and Parthian warriors for his forthcoming articles and a book (perhaps), and he pointed some issue that would need to be addressed in order to arrive with more up-to-date image - I will try to work out these issues to be happy with the research etc.
There is this discussion going on here, on the -* that somehow triggered the return to this topic.
and I am attaching another image so some other discussion regarding Scythians etc as depicted in the Christian Cameron's book -'Tyrant' a finre adventure in the 4th century steppes of Eurasia - may be somehow enriched - the attached image is the compilation of Cimmerian (Kimerian) swords drawn some years ago by M.V. Gorelik, foremost specialist on the steppe peoples' warrior appearance.
I intend to draw some mounted Cimmerians in the near future.

* dead link - they changed the server -

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mustangs in peril

today's post will be about politics and lack of respect for horsebreeding, history and traditions rather than art, unfortunately.
US government decided that wild horses that inhabit the fringes of the Western US are too much for the environment and too much for the government (too expensive). Bureau of Land (mis)Management and Secretary of Interior, one mister Salazar, decided to remove all the wild horses from their herd management areas to private ranches in the Eastern US, the horses being sterilized etc. This is in spite of what US Congress said in 1971 (after many years of reckless and brutal campaign to eradicate the wild horses from the public lands in the Old West):
An Act Of Congress
"Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; (and) that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people ..."(Public Law 92-195, December 15, 1971). I guess these horses no longer enrich the lives of the American people..
Dr Dan Phillip Sponenberg pioneered the study of wild horse genetics and he wrote many articles on the subject (eg “ Evaluation of Pryor Mountain Herd Area BLM Horses” Aug 1993) including the proper management of the wild mustang herds as direct descendants of the Iberian horses that were brought to the Americas from the Caribbean Islands He was aided by dr Gus E. Cothran from Kentucky who analyzed the wild horses from the Pryor Mountains as per their ancestry, and found them the direct descendants of the Iberian horses. Many other studies confirmed the historic and genetic uniqueness of these wild horses in the remote areas of the Western US.
Therefore these wild horses in the Pryors, Cerbat and Kiger BLM areas are as indigenous as they can be – they are actually more American than most of today's human Americans. The ancestors of these wild horses first appeared here millions of years ago on this North American continent and from there they migrated to Eurasia, only to return in 1519 AD. They’re living on the fringes of their natural habitat, and their numbers are a tiny fraction of what it used to be in the 19th century (one million in Texas alone). They are part of the Western natural habitat, unless one is talking about restoring the pre-1600 AD natural habitat of the West, with all plants and animal life. But I do not see large herds of bison, elk and pronghorns followed by the prairie wolves and peregrine doves etc appearing outside the few preserves etc – last time federally protected bison herd tried to walk out the Yellowstone Park the FEDS themselves shot them point bank. This type of horse as in the Cloud series by Kithrens – the Spanish mustang – exists nowhere in the world and should be protected as any endangered species in the Americas.

The BLM is not doing the job, they have not been protecting the herds or the wild life in general – especially the genetic viability of the so called special herds – Pryor, Cerbat, Kiger etc. The are protecting ranchers (lately almost exclusively corporate ranchers, as family ranching is a dying species out West) interests and Wall Street money invested in those cows and their calves grazing on the public (our) lands where they are paying next to nothing for the grazing fees. And it is our tax money that is paying for these ludicrous policies and practices. ON top of it the overgrazing leads to tremendous losses, both in monetary value (one billion a year) and damage to the range.
I cannot believe the stupidity and shortsightedness of the people involved in the mismanagement of the mustangs...
I saw wild horses several times during my trips to the West, in Nevada and Arizona mostly - in fact the pictures above was taken in Arizona.. on the Tohono O'dham reservation south of Phoenix, where about 2000 wild horses rescued from BLM clutches roam freely :)

Hope Ryden has been the foremost defender of the wild herds and she has written many books
A good book to read will always be a classic by Frank Dobbie titled 'Mustangs' but another that I strongly recoment will be Nobody's Horses which is the story of the dramatic rescue of the wild herd of White Sands, New Mexico.
On film nothing is better that the Ginger Kathrens' saga about the wild horses of the Arrowroot Mountains of Montana - with a stallion aptly named Cloud as a chief protagonist - on PBS
Ms Kathrens own website - ""
some links to more info

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Saka and Skuda in one steppe dwelt

Sketches of the 1st millienium BC steppe horse masters - I know the ladies are missing, they should come shortly :) patientia virtutem est, amici mei.

working.. the Parthians of sorts

...some sketches of proverbial Parthians, in various stages of 'undress' :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nomad sketch update

A little update of a nomad sketch - digital variety in gimp and mypaint :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mypaint-GImp paint studio nomad

I have been working on this nomad and his horse (potentially there will be one or more horses) using only Mypaint and GIMP Paint Studio. So far the programs and this resulting image have been very much to my liking, actually I really love Mypaint flexibility and 'painting' experience.
As per this horseman - eventually this guy may become a Saka noble, as I am moving deeper into the Eurasian steppes of the Late Bronze and Iron Age eras.. The saddle is drawn after the Pazyryk finds (Altai region of Central Asia) and Chinese III century BC terracotta army horse saddles of  Chin dynasty Emperor.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New painting programs etc

for those who use computers to paint and either do not want or cannot afford Photoshop or Correl Painter programs I have some really great news - a very useful and absolutely free painting and drawing program that works in Windows XP and Ubuntu 9.04 (I recently migrated to Linux - see ya windows) known as Mypaint -
.... and a fine extension to GIMP that makes that program more like painter's digital media we do need - Gimp Paint Studio
it's creator's blog -

This is the way I like the Internet aka world wide web to function - free access, open source programs, free society, exchange of ideas...

I intent to work on this image of an ancient Iranian horseman and his stallion with those two new programs/enhancements.
until the next time

Igor Baranko - comix creator

I would like to present this blog today, blog by one of the most talented artists in the difficult genre of comix (comics) art - Igor Baranko.
I did like his Native American series - Le danse du Temps
But this new two volume (one so far published) on the 17th century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Wild Lands of the southern Ukraine, and the chief protagonist Ukrainian Kozak Maksym Osa is just up my alley - so to speak. I just wish that instead of that 2008 dreadful Russian anti-Polish propaganda film titled 'Taras Bulba' they had made a movie based on Igor's work - could have been a masterpiece.
Well, you can see it here in black and white. And actually seeing the b&w drawings, before color were applied, allows us to appreciate even more Igor's work and then obviously it is a showcase of the fantastic penwork of meastro Igor -
Unfortunately for the English speaking world there has not been an English version of this story, perhaps in the near future this will change, but then 99.8 % of the fabulous French-Belgian BD or la bande dessinée (comics) never make to the English language bookstores.
well, fingers crossed.
anywa - a little sketch o a Cossack or as we say Kozak of mine

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Skuda - the horsearchers of Eurasia

Skuda, Skula, Skolotai, Saka (Skify, Skithian, Scythians, Skudra, Sogdian, Скифы, Саки, Scytowie, Sakowie ) or the Archers were the very first mounted 'Scourge of God' that had burst in the ancient world of Europe and Asia around beginning of the VII (7th) century BC. Mounted on swift horses ( according to archaeological finds - eg Pazyryk - and Herodotus mostly 130-150cm at withers geldings, armed with bow, arrows, klevetz (war ax or war hammer), spears and javelins, short and long swords they were pursuing another branch of the big Iranian nomad family- the Kimmerians or Cimmerians (yes,author of Conan the barbarian got his name from them) - and having finished with their cousins then they incidentally pillaged Anatolia, Syria, Palestine and Northern Egypt..
Defeated by Medes (who themselves might have been part of these archers and local population) and later Persian (their southern 'cousins') settled north of Caucasus - in the so called Caspian-Pontic steppe until replaced by the new wave of their Iranian cousins - the Sarmatians - at the end of the 1st millennium BC.
These Indo-European nomads of Iron Age created the most amazing art and most original culture, artifacts surviving in numerous kurgans (earthy mounds) throughout the Eurasian steppe, from southern Poland and Romania to China and Korea.

I drew/copied this king or using Iranian term - a shah - after a reconstruction by Russian archaeologist and artist Mikhail V. Gorelik. I used crow quill pen and ink, while colors come from colored pencils. Later I added background using GIMP etc.
This particular warrior with his entire golden martial outfit was found in the Solokha (Солоха) kurgan located on the Dniepr River, near Nikopol in Ukraine.
He has a iron scales cuirass, bashlik (felt or leather cap) and Greek helmet adopted to his Scythian use and taste, golden Scythian belt on which two most important attributes of the Scythian male costume were hung - a Scythian sword in scabbard, and a Scythian gorythos or gorytos - a leather or felt container for both a bow and arrows, where some extra arrow points and sharpening tools could also by carried.
He wears typical nomad pants - designed for riding, and soft leather boots.
He is also wearing shins protectors or greaves (there were of bronze).
He carries a bronze mace or 'buzdygan' - a weapon and a sign of his authority (this symbolic aspect buzdygan of was to survive in the Eurasian steppe military cultures until the XVIII (18th) century AD, eg 'hetman's bulawa' in Poland and Ukraine).
Riding whip or nahaika - they used no spurs - was another aspect of their horse culture.
Finally he carries two shafted weapons - a short spear and a javelin - and iron laminated shield.
This find was dated to the early 4th century BC, and was one of the richest finds ever in Ukraine... Westerners aka Europeans and Americans call the western Saka by the name - Scythians - taken after the Herodotus Histories' name usage (which a Greek term) but our nomads called themselves Skuda. Persians of the Darius the Great times (end of the 6th century BC) used term Saka, and differentiated between their northern cousins by adding different names related to their locations in the steppes and relationship to the Achaemenid Empire- Saka paradraya, Saka tigraxauda, Saka haumavarga, Saka para Sugudam.
I've got to draw a horse for him, with the full Scythian outfit.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Old Drawings continued...

Now, this rider is supposed to ride an Arabian stallion – Polish noblemen usually rode stallions (and also  geldings), Polish XVII century literature is full of references (eg poetry of Waclaw Potocki) to a 'zrebiec' (young stallion or colt between 3 years to 6-7 years of age). Although many associate Arabians with the Polish horse breeding there is very scant evidence of Arabians being present in any significant numbers in our Polish nobility stables prior to mid 1800s. There are many references to the Arabians, like in the Royal Stud at Knyszyn (1570s) or during the post-Vienna 1683 period, but so called popular literature of the period, letters, inventories, legacies, testamentary provisions always talk about the Turkish horse as being the most noble and worthy.

This drawing also belongs to the same set, mentioned in the previous post, and is not really of any particular time frame etc. I used multicolor Pigma micron pens and watercolor, and lately went over with GIMP and Photoshop etc.

The fanciful hat comes form some XVIII century painting showing Bar Confederates (Polish Civil war of 1768-72 that ended in the First Partition of Poland between Prussia, Austria and Russia).
But his riding żupan or 'zhupan' is earlier, pre-mid 1600s, you can see that according to the Polish clothing fashion the lining is of a different color than the garment itself.
I drew him as a left-handed person but according to the primary sources left-handed persons and red-headed men were not really welcomed into the cavalry companies (banners or choragwie), as supposedly capable of bringing bad luck or being untrustworthy.
Nolens volens I did my drawing with with 'muy mucho gusto', as I liked the horse and the way this rider sat in the saddle – saddle I took from many painting by Polish preeminent painter of the historic genre - Julish Kossak. The stirrups are traditional Polish, his riding boots may be booty taken form a defeated Western reiter. Since he is a lefty his bowcase is on his right hip while under his left htugh he has a 'koncerz '(tuck, estoc), another steppe and Islamic weapon retained in Poland until the early XVIII century. Another very particular weapon of choice and prestige shown here is a 'nadziak' (warhammer), that during the 1600s became part of the national noble costume and in itslef was a fearsome weapon, its origins going back to the Scythian, Persian and Saka kings of the 600-500 BC.

My main interest here is the red mane and tail of his 'Arabczyk' (Arabian horse) – well, Polish noblemen copied so much the Turkish fashions that by the late 1500s  they were dyeing their horses, usually with red, and not only the horses mane and tail but also legs and lower belly. When Polish embassies made their entries into Rome and Paris (respectively 1630s and 1640s) the onlookers and chroniclers could no hide their wonder with the richly caparisoned and very spirited horses, with dyed bodies and manes and tails...

Old Drawings ...

Many years ago when B.Clinton was US president and in Poland there was comrade Alexander Kwasniewski presiding from the Warsaw's Belvedere Place, I did a series of drawings of Polish noblemen on horseback, or rather some horses with their riders pretending to be Polish riders.
Historically correct they were not and definitely on the fantasy side, yet I had lots of fun drawing them using various Pigma micron pens and watercolors. I did clean the drawing and changed the color of the Background with GIMP and PS.

This image is supposed to show one over-armed szlachcic (nobleman) of the early XVII (17th) century.

He is wearing a Hungarian style 'magierka' (headgear), a type of hat very popular with Polish nobility between 1560-1640s (more or less), a short 'zupan' (zhupan a riding coat of ancient Iranian - Sarmatians, Scythians - nomads provenance), and riding boots where the heel was of iron and shaped like horseshoe (R. Brzezinski writes about this Polish footwear in his Osprey's book – Polish Winged Hussar). The stirrup suppose to be of a Polish type, based on the Tatar stirrups – most Polish riding gear was based in the Caspian-Pontic steppe traditions.
Under his left leg he is carrying a pallasch (a Polish Palasz) a fearsome broadsword that had its origins with the Sassanian, Turkic, and Islamic knightly traditions. I drew a Tatar looking sabre that was usually carried under the bow case. He is carrying a 'nadziak' in his right hand, a fearsome weapon indeed.
Bow case ( 'sajdak' or 'sahajdak' in Polish) is a fantasy piece, the same with saddle, although it is very loosely based on the original saddles of the time period. Horse tack is a bit fanciful but especially towards the end of the 1600s Polish horse tack became more Oriental (Tatar and Turkish). The horse tail (tug or kutas) or 'bunczk' (bunchuk) hanging from the horse's neck was adopted early in the 1500s by the Polish horsemen, and was often dyed red and adorned with colorful silk cords, gold, silver and precious jewels.
By the way a big or small mustache was a must for a Polish nobleman - His Royal Majesty King Jan III Sobieski, Prince and Marechal du France Prince Jozef Poniatowski, and Conqueror of the Soviet Russia Marshal Jozef Pilsudski are the most famous examples of that continuous fashion that lasted from the early medieval Poland until the mid 1990s. Even today it is the part of traditional Polish male appearance, although not in fashion that much with the young bucks.

Monday, August 10, 2009

CURB BIT of Byzantine provenance

 we went to the MET today, to see the Afghanistan treasures of the Bactra-Margiana, Saka and Kushan eras (hope to address these in the future posts), and also the old medieval drawings (I will do a post on some nice drawings I found at the exhibit dating to 12th century AD Turnai, France), and passing by the Byzantine art section I took some pictures of a curb bit dated between 600 to 800 AD (Anno Domini or Christian Era), an example of early Medieval art and following both the Persian and Sogdian traditions of the Sassanid era and prior ancient Roman traditions.

The bit is beautiful, inlaid with various motifs and nicely preserved - it was found in Spain, and most likely is of the Byzantine provenance, perhaps it was traded or captured by the Visigoth or Moorish conqueror of Spain, as the times were very tumultuous.

The horse's bridle  must been attached via these 2 rectangular movable pieces attached to the bit mouthpiece's 'rings.' The reins could have been attached to the surviving rings on the mouthpice or down below at the end ot the shank, where there are two rein rings welded to the shank bar. It looks as if the purchase was not attached directly to the bridle, as if in the ancient 'psalion'/cheekpieced bit. It was  quite powerful device of control, most likely used on a mount destined for war and close combat.

One day  I shall do a drawing of this bit as could have appeared  when placed in a horse's mouth etc ...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

some old drawings

as I am busy with some new and old projects I have decided to share some old images of mine - they are between fantasy and history, and between enjoyment and pure struggle to achieve a desired result, the outcome not always as happy as one would like...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

599th Anniversary

This July 15 is the 599 anniversary of the victorious battle of Grunwald .
The Battle of Grunwald (or 1st Battle of Tannenberg) was fought on July 15, 1410 between unified armies of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania, under the command of His Royal Majesty Władysław II Jagiełło (with his trusted councilor bishop Mikolaj Traba having had most likely developed this war's strategy and summer campaign), against the army of the knights of the Teutonic Order and their Western (English, German, French etc) knights-guests, led by the Grand Master of the Order, Ulrich von Jungingen.
This was one of the most important battles of the late Medieval Europe, and the probably one of the largest battles to involve mounted knights fighting one another with lances, tucks, maces, warhammers, axes, swords and daggers.
Notwithstanding the knights there were plenty many of commoners that took part in this herculean struggle, including mercenary infantry from as far away as Italy (Genoa), Tatars, Hungarians, Ruthenians (today's Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians) , Czechs, and perhaps Slovaks. As usual you may read the depiction of the battle described in many websites on this glorious net, e.g. Wikipedia.
Every year there is a great reenactment of this battle in the same fields where the final mortal struggle took place six centuries ago, I think I will attend the next year 600 anniversary, it should be fun.

Well, I just want to commemorate this anniversary with my 3-penny post, also remembering one of the most fascinating knights ever to have been born in the Polish realms – Sir Zawisza Czarny z Garbowa, of the Sulima Coat of Arms ( a great specialist on the subject of the Polish nobility coats of arms but unfortunately passed away friend Mr. Suligowski would have appreciated this post a lot :) - rest in peace, Panie Suligowski).
Sir Zawisza is very special in our Polish history ans psyche, as to this day he symbolizes the virtues of honor, duty, and courage; and his spirit is still carried in the hearts of Polish scouts (harcerze) and perhaps soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces. His life story does merit at least one Hollywood film, perhaps one day...

So I decided to show two old drawings of a knight with his coat of arms -Sulima. I really never draw knights, and these two are rather old, from the time when his majesty 'read my lips' Bush Sr. was el 'presidente' of the US or slightly little after when the great cigar smoker and truth seeker Billy Clinton assumed the post of the Commander-in-Chief (still pissed at him for having bombed into the stone age the most faithful US ally in the Balkans, Serbia ). Nolens volens I cannot vouch for any arms and armor correctness, this is for a pure enjoyment.
Could not resist to include in this post the most emotionally charged (it is an allegory and not a historical reconstruction) painting of the Polish historical genre of the XIX century – Jan Matejko's Battle of Grunwald. This artwork survived the World War Two, its survival aggravated by the numerous Nazi Germans attempts to locate and annihilate the masterpiece, and now can be admired in the National Museum in Warsaw – if you in Warsaw, Poland, do see it, it is breathtaking.
Funny thing is that pan Jan Matejko was a Czech by origin yet being born in Cracow he became more Polish than the ethnically pure (whatever that may be) Poles, and as history has it Pan Jan has become the most important Polish painter ever, no matter what all his jealous critics say - na pohybel a los criticos.

Until the next time....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July is a good month in my Polish military history - on July 4 1610 small Polish army defeated 6 times its size Muscovite-Western army at Klushino. On July 15, 1410 Polish -Lithuanian armies under king Wladyslaw Jagiello dealt crushing and overwhelming blow to the mighty Teutonic Order army, thus securing the most magnificent victory over the Teutonic Order and their Western 'guest' knights (from France, England, Reich, Italy etc) on the fields of Grunwald (Tannenberg).

Returning to hussars - today perhaps it may be desirable to talk a bit about the appearance of the winged hussars in the XVI (16th) century.
Hussars started as Serbian cavalry back in the early XV (15th) century, and became known to the West during the reign of the famous Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, who came close to become the Holy German emperor himself, and was many times a victor of the Hapsburg armies - amongst other his 'Black Army' took Vienna from them and made her his capital. Polish military commanders met with the Serbian hussars of king Corvinus during the Silesian campaigns of 1470ties. They learned and by 1500 AD we find first units of Serbian hussars in the Polish Army. By 1505 first Polish knights joined these newly appearing type of cavalry, thus our Polish hussars had been born :)
Here you can find two images of future winged hussars from the beginning of the century and more typical image of a parade-attired hussar from the second half of the same century. As you can see they started as a very light, estradiota type cavalry, and by the second half they were already moving towards more medium or even heavier cavalry, with Turkish helmet known as shiszak, curved sabre, Balkan (Serbian) shield, long lance painted and gilded ( Renaissance fashion) but yet empty inside to compensate for the tremendous length of this weapon - up to 6,3m (21 feet).
Horses, stallions or geldings, are bitted with curb-bits, ridden in rather shorter Turkish or even Eurasian steppe fashion - very similar to the Spanish la gineta - with long spurs and wider stirrups. Ornate horse harness is a must and a long Oriental carpet like shabraque or czaprak (from Turkish language) covers horse's back. The pennon seen here -of the early Serbian hussar - is small, the later hussar has quite a large pennon but soon their pennons would grow up to 2,7 m ( 9 feet) in length... The second rider has a large peacock feathers bunch on top of his shishak but our and Hungarian future hussars will be covered with eagle wings, ostrich feathers, wild animal skins and other wild beast symbolic imagery going back to the ancient Eurasian steppe traditions. Then add tuck ( koncerz, panzersrecher, estock), mace, pair of pistols, war-hammer or war-ax (in the ancient Eurasian steppe tradition going back to the Scythians-Saka) and armour, and we will see fully developed winged hussar.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Progress and corrections on the King of Kings hunting

summer is about to hit us with some warm weather in NYC, so definitely there will be less work to be done at home :)
Some little corrections (his bow mainly as I was advised on the great forum for ancient world military history enthusiasts and reenactors
I did on the famous Sassanian King Bahram Gur, and started adding some color.
Plus I started working a little on some older images of the Sassanian knights... so they will make their appearance here sooner than later ;)
pa ka

Thursday, June 18, 2009

a little more finished winged hussar of 1600-10s

this time I am showing you a little drawing that I did long time ago and recently changed a bit (computer canvas :) ). Done in the fashion of the Stockholm Roll's winged hussars, but with a pistol in the holster hung at the pommel.
At this excellent and highly recommended site you can find pictures of the entire painting known as the Stockholm Roll (it is called Stockholm because when in 1655 AD Swedes captured Poland's capital - Warsaw - they stripped all the city palaces, including the Royal Castle, of any and all valuables whether these might have been movable or just works or architecture, stone work, murals attached or paintings glued to the walls, and our Roll depicting the ceremonial entry of the king's bride into the old royal city of Cracow was one of such painting attached to the walls in the Royal Casttle.
The Swedish robbers took the painting off the walls and carried it to Sweden and there it remained until it was returned to Poland in the 1970s.
Yet many thousands of Polish cultural treasures remain in Sweden's collections, probably never to be returned - somewhat like the Elgin marbles

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sassanian king Bahram Gur 'hunting' Hephthalites

Hello again,
I am working on many different sketches of the past (reworking them from drawing and watercolor paintings into the digital 'paintings'), but at this time would like to share with you something that is a curious (to me) combination of several persons efforts.
The story goes like this - the initial sketch was done based on my friend Kaveh's drawing - he did it for late Angus Mcbride so this famous illustrator could paint the plates for Kaveh's Osprey book on the Sassanian heavy cavalry, the particular plate depicting death of Julian Apostate battling Sassanian cavalry- then I did a sketch based on Kaveh's and then my friend Patryk - a scholar of the Ancient Iranian military, eg author of the Sassanian cavalry article for the Ancient Warfare Magazine vol.1, issue 4 - made many suggestions on how to improve and how to arrive closer to the probable historic appearance of such Sassanian rider wielding both a pistol grip Sassanian sword (the forerunner of a sabre grip) and short Sassanian bow.
Why the title - well, Patryk had suggested that this could be a depiction of Bahram Gur during hie famous campaign against the White Huns or Hephthalites - and I liked his title so it will stand...
Many thanks to Patryk :)
to be continued

Saturday, May 16, 2009

the XVI (16th) century German Cavaliers

Back in the saddle again...
I researched and painted these images for a book on the battle of Lubieszow AD 1577 (Radoslaw Sikora, Lubieszow 1577, Infort Editions 2005), between Polish Royal army and the army of the rebelious city of Gdansk (Danzig). In Polish historiography the name of this engagement is 'bitwa (battle) pod (of )Lubieszow'
you can check it on Wikipedia , although some idiot changed the name of the battle to the modern spelling Lubiszewo(albeit the full name of this town is Lubiszewo Tczewskie and not just Lubiszewo) of this Polish town's name
German account of this tragic battle, on google books :)
this one is the best in German -
They represent the new type of cavalry in the Western European armies, the cavalry armed with swords, daggers, pistols and arquebus, protected by a 3/4 armor or half-armor, and ridding much, much cheaper horses then lancers.
next time I will publish some images of the Royal army cavalry units of that battle.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cheyenne Update

I did some work on this image, especially moving his shield under his arm, note there was no handgrip or strap for the arm to slid through, and I changed the angle of the shield etc.
to be continued

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Red Shield

Upon re-reading, somewhat closer than before, of works by Dorsey,'Cheyenne', Grinnell 'The Cheyenne Indians', Cowdrey, 'Arrow's Elk Society Ledger' etc., I decided to repaint my Red Shield warrior already shown here a few weeks ago.
I started with the buffalo (bison) horse mask, and this particular item completely changed the way this image feels, I think. I recently photographed the whole book on the subject, Cowdrey et al., 'Indian Horse Masks', at the American Indian Museum library downtown Manhattan. The mask is identified as of Blackfeet origin, and since both tribes, Cheyennes and Blackfeet were so closely related, I decided to give his horse such a mask.
In the near future I will repaint his shield, the medicine (war) paint on his horse, lengthen the lance etc. I already started repainting his headdress, eg the red horns that were, according to Grinnell (and Bent :) ), painted separately one by one on the event of the wearer counting coup on his enemies.
To be continued

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kluszyn or Klushino AD 1610

Little change of time and subject - Polish winged hussars against the Western and Muscovite armies during the early summer of 1610. This was the most glorious Polish Commonwealth victory ever accomplished against the Muscovy ( Tsar(emperor) ruled State of Muscovy later to be named Russia ).

In my opinion (and many others) from the position of the cavalryman and cavalry historian the most interesting part here was the apparent necessity to charge and destroy wooden fences separating the opposing armies, the destroying being done by the horses themselves, using their hooves and breasts/chests.

Pleas note that I am not going to write the story of this battle - Wikipedia has the intro to this Polish-Muscovite war that is not too bad and an entry on the battle itself but numbers are wrong etc, yet it is not my desire to write about the numbers but about the cavalrymen and their horses

Some say there was a redoubt between the armies - actually during the battle of Klushino there was no Swedish-Muscovite redoubt - this 17th century map of the battlefield gives the best impression how this theatrum might have looked
As you can see from this map the problem facing the Polish army (and the winged hussars) had to do with the wooden fence or line of wooden fences smack in the middle of the field between the two armies, and these fences actually prevented the planned surprise that had been attempted by the early morning Polish attack.

There were gaps within this line of fences (10-15meters) and according to numerous relations about the battle some of the Polish hussars had to use their horses' breasts to break these fences in order to get to the enemy behind them.
Apparently the fences on the left wing of Muscovite side - Polish right wing - were smaller and with more gaps in-between or were torn down early in the battle as the chroniclers did not write about them, although they are visible on the map and in this painting by a Polish painter Boguszewicz who painted this canvas at the order of the m,ain actor of this battle, Stanislaw Zolkiewski.
The Swedish pike-and-musket infantry stood behind these fences (with their cavalry behind them) on the Muscovite right wing while masses (thousands) of Muscovite infantry and Muscovite cavalry stood on the Muscovite army left wing (Polish right wing).
Hussars charged these western infantry regiments via the fences, not once but at least 3 times, and then Polish haiduks (Hungarian-style Polish infantry) with 2 small falconets (it happened to have been the entire artillery of the Polish army) came and broke down the wooden fences and reduced the fighting spirit of the Westerner infantry mercenaries causing them to move rather quickly (not to say they 'run like frightened rabbits') toward their camp, although still leaving their cavalry in the field.

Therefore, Polish hetman (field marshal) Zolkiewski had to resolve this dangerous problem by clearing the Western cavalry off of the field and destroying the right wing of the Muscovite army. Consequently the Western cavalry regiments became objects of another great cavalry charge. At first, our Polish hussar banners (companies) carried out the frontal attack on the Swedish-English-Flemish reiter and arquebusier cavalry regiments, in their pursuit to destroy the remainder of the Muscovite army's right wing. The hussars' frontal charges were not successful (perhaps the great disparity of numbers and densisty of the Western cavalry formations) until the Muscovite infantry protecting their (Western cavalry) left flank had been removed (see below) and then another, final charge was made that was carried in a form of a pincer movement - at the front and at the left flank of the enemy cavalry, by some 1200-1400 hussars (1/4 of the entire Polish army on the battlefield), some with lances, the rest with tucks (pantzerstrecher, 'Turkish spear' or koncerz) and pallashes. They charged these Westerners an this time were successful. This final hussar charge against their western opponents broke the cohesive formations of the enemy and thus hussars were able to overrun the Western cavalry and destroyed its fighting ability for the remainder of the battle.

Following behind and finally passing over their heavy cavalry's tired horses the several banners of Polish lighter cavalry went after the Muscovite westerners in their pursuit for glory and loot.

On their right wing our Poles, charging repetitiously - as many as 8-9 times (but whether they charged only infantry or both the infantry and cavalry is unknown from the sources)- hussars' choragwie (companies) could not break the Muscovite infantry due to their numerical strength, density and truly amazing 'stubbornness' until several cornets of German Muscovite reiters ( Baltic German units in Muscovite service since mid 1500s) attempted to charge the already tired Poles (ridding their tired horses). These brave but rather foolish Germans, however, were beaten back and completely routed in turn, and ridding in panic, back to the safety of their camp, these German-Muscovite reiters smashed into their own Muscovite infantry regiments, causing them to be disrupted. This disruption was big enough that when our Polish lancers, charging for the 10th time and hot on the Germans' backs, closed in with the Muscovite infantry the infantrymen broke ranks and fled ( classical example of successful cavalry charge against otherwise unbreakable infantry ). Thus exploring this sudden opening our pursuing hussars rode inside the walled (kobylice protected) Russian camp and broke the very will to fight of this many times more numerous Russian army whose escaping infantrymen, eager to put plenty of space between themselves and then mercilessly pursing Polish lancers, broke down the kobylice protections in their own camp's rear and fled into the surrounding woods, in search of safety and respite.

Finally, the previously mentioned Swedish mercenary infantry retreated from the field to their camp in search of refugium and found itself to be quite alone, for their cavalry was defeated and escaped into the woods and fields desirous to save their heads; and it was at this moment when the hussar rota (company) of Andrzej Firlej ( their towarzysze and pacholiks still armed with their lances unbroken ) attacked this mercenary camp. With their charge they first broke through the kobylice barrier surrounding the Swedish camp and then in a direct, frontal charge broke through the Swedish pikemen formation - an incredible feat of military skill and prowess displayed by these horsemen and their horses.

Thus these mentioned numerous charges had more to do with the strategy of hetman Zolkiewski - and he actually wrote about this in his relation in his work titled
"The Beginning and Progress of the Muscovy War."- who wanted to keep constant pressure on the very numerous and very resilient Muscovites, and to create impression that his army was more numerical than actually presented on the battlefield. This stratagem worked very well and resulted in a stunning victory for small army against the giant Muscovite_Western behemoth.
It was the skill, the horsemanship, bravery, and superior morale of Polish lancers, endurance and patient training of their horses, and finally the tactics and strategy of the Polish commander, Stanislaw Zolkiewski that carried the day into history books :)
hope you will enjoy this little post
more to follow
many thanks to Radek :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009


 Ushta Te,

   I have read this interesting article on Buskashi and Polo written by dr Pita Kelekna, anthropologist and author of the forthcoming book 'The Horse in Human History.'
In the article, which is a part of series of articles on the horse theme & the forthcoming book  presented as a series of blog entries (quite clever and nicely introducing her book to the wider world), dr Pita writes about  the two other most ancient equestrian games Buzkashi and polo, since the first and foremost horse 'games' were obviously: horse racing, horse breaking, target shooting from horseback, and communal hunting.
Mounted warfare was the culminating and glorious end-result of all these games.

Today I just wanted to post some information about the ancient history of the Iranian game of Polo.

Actually, 'Gu-u-Chogan' is the Iranian name for Polo, while name 'polo' is a Tibetan name for a polo ball made from a willow root. 'Gu' means a ball and 'Chogan' means a stick, so it is a game of ball and stick played while ridding a horse  that after all is a player too :)
Polo is as Iranian (whether Persian o North-Iranian - Scythian and Sarmatian - is unknown) as a Persian carpet, or a Kantus (Median cloak that had become nomad attire for thousands of years, and in the 16th century ended up in Poland as a part of national costume known as Kontusz)) or a meydan (polo field).

Actually, the first accounts of the existence of chogan or the stick and ball game came from the time of Achaemenid Shah (king) Darius (Darayavaush) the Great (522- 486 B.C.).
And 2 centuries later his namesake & of the same dynasty, Darius III  sent Alexander of Macedon a polo mallet (chogan) and a ball (gu) with an invitation to play polo match instead of fighting battles. As we have learned in 5th grade (at least in the Polish elementary schools' history class) this particular handsome & chivalrous  invitation did not work and Alexander took his lance and galloped on ( a Thracian, Tessalian or Nissean stallion Bucephallas, as seen in this image from the Naples Museum in Italy) across the Achamenid Empire and eventually did conquer the whole Achaemenid world and beyond. As result the Greeks and Hellenic culture spread as far east as northern India and Afghanistan while eastern (Buddhism etc) influences filtered west into the Hellenic thought and culture.
I will write some day on Eummenes of Bactria, Ghandara, Indo-Sakas, Kushans and other equestrian rulers of that part of the ancient world.

Ad rem, there are other numerous mentions of the chogan/polo in the ancient Sassanian Persia, starting with the reign of Ardeshir, the first of Sassanian kings.
The slayer of Romans and builder of cities shah Shapur I (r. AD 226–241 and I will write about him soon, there are images of him ridding his stallions, he was a dashing warrior) when a young boy, he  was tested whether he was the real son of the already mentioned king Ardashir by use of his daring and courage during a game of polo.
Shah Shapur II (AD 309 to 379), another Sassanian ruler of Persia, learned to play the game of polo at the age of seven.
Finally, at the Sassanian courts the noble women played polo in the 'meydan' as well. The most famous of these aristocratic women was beautiful princes Shireen who played many a prince.
Also, the ancient Pehlevi text and later Persian chronicler al-Tabari confirm that when the future hunter-king Bahram V Gur( r.421–438)
was growing up he received three tutors in the arts of: reading, hunting, and polo along with skills of weapons.

So going forward just a little bit we end up with the most masterful Persian epic Shahnameh that was composed in the late 10th century.  The native Persian court poet Ferdowsi wrote into the Shahnameh plenty of references about the chogan game, by then played already in the courts of imperial China, Japan, Central Asia courts, and the Arab caliphate etc but we should remember that he wrote his epic 1500 years after the first mention of the game, as I have shown above.
Along this little introduction of the ancient polo, I am adding my own 'tracing' of one of the prime examples of the Sassanian sumptuous art - in form of metal plates with etchings or etchings and relief inside the metal plate - this website has many of them I am going to do a separate post about this plate and many others, God willing.
But note this king rides a stallion, the horse's mane has been crenelated in a manner most ancient to the Iranian nomads, his tail tied and adorned with ribbons (swallow tail shape, perhaps to represent the swiftness of that bird to  give a horse more swiftness as in the American Indian belief), there is an early curb-bit along with a metal cavesson muzzle and no forehead strap or nose band (cavesson replaced it), but there is a strap under the mandible in the same fashion as seen on the Persepolis relieves(5th century BC) . The cinch seems to be of some fabric and not of leather. Discs adorn breastplate and crouper, similar to the Roman and later Hunnish horse harness styles. There may be a tamga - horse owner mark - on this stallion chest. I did not concentrate on the rider so he is rendered rather elementarily.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I was going to publish another of my drawings today but instead would like to mention several blogs that I have been following as of lately. Nevertheless I am going to attach one already on the net.
My biggest discovery this so is this blog . Girasol (Sunflower) is the author of that blog and I must say it is a wonderful resource center for Latin American and American horses and horsemanship.
also there you can learn about horse publications and other horse related items.
Another blog I just discovered, well actually she discovered me first - thanks, is this blog on the Native American (Indian) beadwork and its historical reconstitution and reproduction . The author is this amazingly talented and devilishly or divinely :) blessed with tremendous patience and ability to reconstruct ancient beadwork Washington state artist and scholar named Angela Swedberg. I love her work while especially I look after the photos of the old American Indian horse tack and horses themselves.
Another site that I follow because I use it to learn how to paint with GIMP is where author, another Washingtonian named Xia, shows his artistic talents and teaches us, the web students, how to operate and use computer graphic programs to create images from start to finish, in Photoshop and Gimp.
I have another passion, miniature military sculpting - websites like or Polish forum One of the people engaged in this passionate artistic discipline and whom I admire a lot is this Atlanta based miniature sculptor and Renaissance armor and weapons scholar Agustín 'Augie' J. Rodríguez and his blog is where he show his research and works in progress.
Saddly one of my favorite horse sites - is no longer working, too bad for that site's author, often harsh and strong-worded, is so knowledgeable about horses in the old, pre-1960s way ;).
Another author, dr Deb Bennett, is also big on my list of sites to visit

Finally, my most favorite American Indian site is which has the authentic Plains warriors drawings made around the time of the Plains Indian Wars (post 1860s), and these drawings must be the primary sources on the subject how the 19th century Plains warriors and their horses, how they rode, fought. loved and looked, and not the paintings by the Euro-American artists like Remington or Russell.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Old Polish stirrups

today another little image in the theme of the Old Polish horse tack.
This time the stirrups - this particular set comes to us from Russia where they've been preserved ever since one of the the Polish Royal Envoys left them there, with many other gifts including horses, saddles, arms, silverware and textiles, during the frequent diplomatic exchanges of the first quarter of the 17th century, between the Polish Kings and the many Tsars of that time period.

These stirrups, along with 4 other pairs indentyfied as 17th century Polish, are housed at the Kremlin's Armory - Оружейная палата Oruzhenaya Palata.

They are made out of cast iron, then they were covered in gold (gilded) and small turquoise stones were set in the three-leaves structures, decorating them as if flower cups. They are 15cm high and they were originally attached to a Polish or oriental saddle, although they cannot by connected to any particular saddle at this time. They appeared first time in the Kremlin inventory in AD 1647.

I used the Wacom tablet and GIMP to 'paint' this image.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I would like to show today, on this very nice Spring day, a watercolor of a member of the Cheyenne Mahohewa Warrior Society. Cheyennes are my most favorite caballeros of the Great Plains, right behind them are their cousins the Blackfeet, then Crow, Kiowa-Comanche, Lakota etc. Mahohewas or Red Shields or Red Shield owners were a military society found amongst the two divisions of the Cheyenne tribe. They were famous for their buffalo(bison) horns headdresses and red-painted shields with the bison tail attached. They were also know as Buffalo-bull warriors - and this name speaks for itself, as buffalo bull was considered the bravest and most dangerous of all the animals on the Great Plains.
If I were to paint this one again I would have added a headmask for his horse - I have been doing some reading and nothing struck me as so important in my studies on the Plains warriors and their ways as the recent book on the horse masks by Mike Cowdrey and Ned & Jody Martin - I should also mention Bill Holm and his book 'Sun Dogs and Eagle Down,' wonderful reconstructions of the tribal people of North America where I saw horse mask in the painting titled 'Parade' dedicated to the reconstrction of the Nez Perce man and woman on horseback.

I did this watercolor long time ago (1990s), upon reading several books: the Rev. Thomas Mails' books 'Mystic Warrior of the Plains' and 'Dog Soldiers, Bear Men, Buffalo Women' and 'Fighting Cheyennes' by Bird Grinnell. I was very impressed with Rev. Mails work, although this impression as far as his scholarship has worn off a bit, but I am still a great admirer of his art, especially the ink drawings and many of the paintings. Unfortunately don Thomas passed on in 2001 and probably can be found now with his heroes in the Everlasting Hunting Grounds.
Bird Grinnell or more properly George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938) was an early American anthropologist who started studying the Plains Indian cultures when the 'Indian wars' of the Great Plains were still raging on, the conflicts between the aboriginal peoples and the Old Uncle Sam's Army. During his distinguished career Grinnell wrote many books and I think his most important ones are the ones dedicated to the Cheyennes, although he also studied the Pawnee and Blackfeet. I was very very curious how he acquired his first-hand information from the Cheyenne informants, and for many years I was unaware that he actually had used the most important (in my opinion) man in the history of the survival and preservation of the old Cheyenne ways - George Bent, a metis (his father was William Bent, a famous Indian trader, and his mother was Owl Woman, a Cheyenne woman of a very important family) , one-time Confederate soldier and Cheyenne warrior.
It was George Bent who while living in Oklahoma, supplied all the informants, Bent did all the translations and who sent his own notes from his own examinations and interviews with old 'hostiles' and their wives, the traditionalists etc. Many of these old-timers were about to depart from this world, as the early 20th century was the hardest for the Indian tribes of the Great Plains, and Bent sensing the urgency of his mission to collect as much information as possible was often perplexed when Grinnell would not show proper respect to the old warriors and their wifes, nor did Grinnell seemed to share the same feeling that the world of traditional Cheyennes was slipping away because the traditionalists, often more than 90 years old were withering away. Bent was not a saint himself, but this is another story, already told by George E. Hyde (another assistant to Bird Grinnell) using Bent's letters and recently by Haalas and Masich (2004).
But Birdy Grinnell 'forgot' about George Bent and gave him no credit for all his field work. Nevertheless, thanks to the cooperation of these two individuals we can read and learn about the Old Cheyenne ways. Obviously there were other early scholars who studied the Cheyennes, amongst them George Dorsey and James Mooney, but first two Georges cleared the way, so to speak.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Old Polish saddle tree 2

this saddle or rather its tree with some metal (gilded) ornaments and its ebbing covered with leather is stored in the storage room of the Polish Amry Museum in Warsaw.

Normally such saddle tree would have been covered with an expensive fabric and fabric-covered leather skirts would have been attached to it with the leather thongs partially visible here. Note the slots for the cinch and the stirrup leathers.
This was not a winged hussar saddle as it has rather small and narrow cantle and pommel, and it  is rather narrow... armoured lancers needed more room so to speak
there are two other examples of the old Polish saddles, two different types, all of them used in the late 16th and then 17-18th centuries.