Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Usarz in training ...

     Hussaria or our winged hussar  ( польский гусар)  had to train their horses a lot, until their horses were so well trained and  fiery that,  as one of our  Polish poets from the 17th (XVII) century Waclaw Potocki wrote in one of  his poems,   when trumpets called hussars to battle such  horse  would beat the ground with his hooves, would raise his head high and neighing announced his readiness to serve his rider.  I use masculine  gender when talking about their horses for according to the sources usually stallions  ('drygant'/'ogier') or   geldings ('walach') were used exclusively as war horses.  Mares were used for breeding and non-military transportation.
      After all, according to another Polish poet of the mid-17th century Wespazyan Kochowski , a winged hussar was a giant of martial prowess when had a brave horse, strong breastplate,  saddle (presumably hussar saddle or 'husarskie siodlo')  with a 'koncerz' (tuck, estock).

In my sketch our noble towarzysz (companion), mid 1640s, is dressed in his undershirt, loose pants of steppe Turkish-Tatar style, yellow leather boots with hussar spurs and Hungarian-style magierka (hat).  Let's say he is in his  'majdan' (another Persian via Turco-Tatar word in our language) paddock gentling his future warhorse.
     His saddle is of that already mentioned  hussar type, as exemplified by surviving  winged hussar saddles in Moscow and Stockholm, with Polish-Tatar iron stirrups, and with a simple 'potnik'(sweat pad) or 'mituk' (blanket) under the saddle. He has his 'kopia' (lance) in the 'tok' (leather container) hung from the saddle's 'kula' (horn) - nota bene  similar to the Mexican and Western saddles' horn.  And he is training his young horse ('munsztuk' or curb bit in his mouth) to turn while distracted by the presence of his kopia. Most likely he has his 'szabla' (saber) on his left side and a 'koncerz' under his left thigh.

Imci Wespazjan Kochowski poems can be read via google books:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Passing of Richard Hook

Hello friends and fellow travelers,
I just found out that on or before January 12 , 2010 one of the most important military artists passed away.

I must say Mr. Richard  Hook art, this modern master of military art,  has influenced me in many ways over the two decades since   I first encountered his artwork when browsing through Osprey books in a bookshop, its name long forgotten,  in Athens, Greece.
My favorite  artwork of Mr. Hook has to do with the Native Americans (Indians, Ameridians, Indianie).
For many years he had researched the Plains tribes and created some of the most fascinating reconstruction illustrations ever produced on the subject. But he painted Aztecs, Apaches, Creeks (Muskogee), Iroquois or my favorites - Shawnees.

His work will be greatly missed by this blogger   - :(

R.I.P. sir Richard - may Gods welcome you with open arms at the Heaven's gate.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Kon Polski Polish Horse

         With this post I am returning to the horses, saddles and Polish-Lithuanian ( we could add Ukrainian as Ukraine was Polish then too, while Lithuania) horse tack of the XVI-XVIII (16-18th) centuries. The most preeminent Polish hippologist  prof. Witold Pruski wrote in his seminal work - "Two Centuries of Polish Breeding of the  Arabian Horses  (1778-1978)" -  that the best horse flesh in Old Poland came from what today constitutes the former Soviet Republic of  Ukraine.
 Contrary to many legends and good wishing these horse were not Arabians, but of Central Asian  and Anatolian & Armenian (Turkish) origin - I will write about that some other time.
Prof Pruski stated in the chapter I of his book that  the Turkish horse was an exclusive, particular breed of war horses bred  by the Ottoman Turks (especially in the ancient Armenian kingdom of Cilicia incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the beginning of the XVI (16th) century)  ).
Our Polish horses were often with ram's head and Roman-nosed, adhering to the old Ancient Roman standards for horse head - small in size, noble, thin skinned, alert and pointy ears, wide nostrils, intelligent and prominent eyes {one day I am going to write about that :) ] .

Nobody painted better Old Polish horses than Jozef Brant and Juliusz Kossak, two Polish painters of the XIX (19th) century.
Jozef Brant
Juliusz Kossak

In my humble drawing (by the way a different version of this drawing was published here in October 2008) a 'pacholik' (young servant/retainer) holds a rumak (from Turkish word argamak that in turn comes from a Persian word - he, horse traditions always lead to the ancient Iranians of Eurasian steppe and Central Asia)  dressed as winged hussar horse.

Rumak (Polish nobles rode stallions to war)  is saddled with a 'siodło usarskie' (hussar war saddle) of mixed Central Asian, Ottoman Turkish, Crimean Tatar and Italian provenance with a Tatar-Polish stirrup,  a smaller Turkish or Tatar 'czaprak' (shabraque) underneath the saddle, while the horse  is a bitted with a curb-bit. There are weapons too, a set of wheellock pistols, most likely German in manufacture, and a long armour piercing 'koncerz' ( tuck) attached to the saddle.  Feathers on his poll, feathered wing at the saddle, and a buńczuk - horse tail (Turkish-Tatar tug/kutas) - at his throat completes the picture..

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Крымские татары Crimean Tatars Tatarzy

Hello friends,
Today little text and more sketches of my imaginary fabulous horsemen of the southern Russian/Ukrainian steppes -  the Crimean Tatars (Tatarzy, Крымские татары ) - especially of the 16-17thc centuries (XVI-XVII). 

In Polish horse culture many words have their origins in the culture of these steppe people - my favorite is 'bachmat' - sometimes bigger, other times smaller, but strong, fleet, compact  and especially brave Tatar  warhorse.

Please note they are unfinished sketches.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Annus Novus

Annus Novus,
... and again we've got ourselves a brand New Year, 2010 years from the legendary beginning of the Christian era. I hope this new 2010 will see more peace and tranquility than the last one. We are visiting Colorado Springs, and yesterday we hiked a bit in the Garden of Gods, an ancient Ute Indians winter camping ground converted into a park, c'est la vie. Perhaps tomorrow we will ride horses at the Air Force Academy – eh, sweet vacation. Colorado is beautiful, Pikes Peak snow-white, while bison and mule deer burgers are very tasty, thus I must conclude that nothing beats the Western US – with the exception of the Brooklyn Public Library and one very helpful librarian- many thanks Ms.Isabela :) .
Meantime I did some sketching over the Christmas vacation and one these 'playthings' can be seen here – this is a copy of a horse head from the Achaemenid site at Persepolis. I converted it a bit to make it more 'colorful' if you will. The bulging forehead and ram nose is the peculiar trait of this ancient Median horse. Raised on lucerne and fabulous grasses of Media these horses rode into history ... with Herodotus, Xenophont and others :).

This new year has very, very promising outlook– ancient China horses and chevaliers, more Eurasian nomads, more noble Polish-Lithuanian riders and their steeds, finally some Medieval themes etc. Time will show …