Thursday, June 30, 2011

Eurasian nomadic warriors in sketches

I am going to finish today's outpouring with some progress sketches of my beloved Eurasian nomads, the Scythians...

Traditionally some Persians of the pre-Islamic era

long weekend ahead of us here in the US, so I am sharing more of my work with y'all :) 
Since I love ancient Persian history then two sketches of Persians of the pre-Islamic era...
Achaemenid period (perhaps :) )

A Sassanian, but I think I am going to add here a second horse and change his hands position, add more adornments on his tunic and some necklaces etc
The horse chest covers I sort of took from the plate in Kaveh Farrokh's book ''Sassanian Elite Cavalry AD 224-642,'' but now I think the chest covers belong the the Acheamenid period, based on the clay rhytons discovered  in Susa showing saddled and covered horses circa VI century BC.

My old interest - Woodland Indian cultures pre-1815

this post is not about horses and horsemen, but about my older interests, namely the American Woodland Indians and their culture  of the so called Old Northwest, especially the Shawnee people, and about my plan to publish here my old senior projdect titled ''Wolves of the Middle Ground - Shawnee confederacies against the aglo-Americans  1774-1795.'' I wrote this project when I studied history at the SUNY college in upstate New York, part of my Bachelor of Arts requirement.
The project is some 120 pages long, includes maps and drawings and I shall post several chapters here on the warfare and war customs of the Woodland Indians
I did some sketches back then to add to the text, and I may rework them yet (did not know the work of Robert Griffing and others back then  frontier/griffing , but here I hope you will enjoy some pen and ink old sketches.

Reworking old sketches of the Great Plains horsemen

I am practicing with different 'brushes' and 'pencils' in MyPaint and I have started reworking some old sketches  of the Great Plains warriors

I must add that three of these sketches were based on the books by Thomas E. Mails in my collection - biography  he was a great man whose work and art I greatly admire -   Mistic Warriors of the Plains  and ''Dog Soldiers Societies of the Plains'' - Mails Dog Soldiers

Hussar sketch

started a hussar sketch; a rough idea yet to be developed quite extensively

Sketching early Hungarian hussars

 just sketching early hussar from a German woodcut - this subject I discussed in my post early-hussars-1510-20s

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hokka Hey - in the spirit of 1876

Just sketching - in the spirit of the Little Big Horn  Ad 1876 - 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Greasy Grass -Little Big Horn 1876

yesterday, June 25, 2011, there was the 135th anniversary of the battle of Little Big Horn that is the best recognized battle between the Native inhabitants of the Americas (Native Americans, American Indians - that  includes all Native peoples, even those from down south of the US-Mexican border :) ) - and the European colonizers of their Homeland. In this case, the war was fought by the members of various bands of the Lakota Sioux and their Cheyenne and Arapaho allies against the US Army, the instant battle was fought between the mounted Plains warriors and US  7th Cavalry regiment  led by the Civil War hero Armstrong Custer.
There are two heroes that come to my mind when recalling the battle - Crazy Horse  and Sitting Bull

here Sitting Bull, in his own drawing done circa 1881, more of his art here Sitting+Bull+drawing

And in this drawing by Amos Bad Heart Bull these two principal leaders of the Oglala Lakotas and their allies during the war of 1876-77 drawn together

Warriors, who took part in the battle, drew their own recollections of this conflict, in form of ledger books drawings or single sheet drawings, collectively known as ledger art. One of the most famous was the Amos Bad Heart Bull ledger art, the original lost now, bu the photographs of the original drawings were published by Szwedzicki and then in 1967 by the University of Nebraska Press as Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux by Amos Bad Bull Heart  In 1999 Herman Viola published Little Big Horn Remembered, Untold Indian Story of Custer's Last Stand  that included numerous Indian warriors drawings showing the battle and Plains Indians combat lore  -   . Recently, in 2003, there was a book published in Spokane title ''For All to See: The Little Bighorn Battle in Plains Indian Art'' by Sandra L. Brizée-Bowen, having been a compilation of art draw by the Plains Indians on the subject (I am waiting for this book from my interlibrary loan :) ), and last year another book has been published - Rubbing Out Long Hair Pehin Hanska Kasota: The American Indian Story of the Little Big Horn in Art and Word by Rodney G. Thomas, here a review Rubbing Out review.

I mustn't forget the fine little book, size wise, published by Osprey, where late Richard hook wrote and illustrated the Indian warriors of the Little Big Horn -  ospreypublishing Hook Little Big Horn . I must recommend books by Richard M. Hardorff – author of “ Lakota recollections of the Custer fight: new sources of Indian-military history” (U. of Nebraska 1997),''Cheyenne memories of the Custer fight'' (U. of Nebraska Press, 1998), ''Hokahey! A good day to die!: the Indian casualties of the Custer fight'' (U. of Nebraska 1999), ''Indian views of the Custer fight: a source book'' ( U. of Oklahoma 2005)

Cheyenne warrior and artist Wooden Leg  story of the battle wooden_leg_little_big_horn

 Fine article on the Half Moon Ledger with images rt-of-war-lakota-style here a very interesting side story, the return of tribal artifacts to the tribal museums and burial grounds under wiki/Native_American_Graves_Protection_and_Repatriation_Act , as may be the case with this ledger as it was allegedly taken from the funerary lodge.
Interesting blog article here, in the context of American Indian, artists and Little Big Horn 
Obviously one interested in the Plains warrior art must visit this awesome site, already listed on my blog,

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another sketch by Jerzy Kossak & Circassian mailed cavalrymen


I found another sektch by Jerzy Kossak, painter I mentioned yesterday, showing winged hussars and a 'pancerny' (mailed) cavalryman of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Nota benethe horses here have unmistakable Arabian descent, especially the bay stallion in the foreground. Please note that in  XIX and XX centurie photographs and  paintings Circassian (Adyge) and Khevsur ( wikipedia Khevsureti )warriors looked very similar to the pancerny Polish-Lithuanian cavalrymen
Similar subject in Jozef Brandt's art  pinakoteka zascianek Brandt

Circassians in Aleksander Orłowski's art  pinakoteka zascianek Orlowski :

In Sir William Allan painting - note the horse and his furniture, this is XIX century painting by a Scotish painter who visited the Caucasus mountains  wikipedia William Allan painter

Photos of Circassians and Khevsur from before the Bolshevik Revolution

And the ''real McCoy'' - XVII century image of such 'pancerny' ''towarzysz'' (companion)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Two Paintings by Jerzy Kossak showing winged hussars

I would like to share with you thess two paintings by Polish painter Jerzy Kossak , of old Kossak family from Cracow-Krakow, who painted during the first half of XX century, mostly horses, portraits and military subjects eg pinakoteka.zascianek Jerzy Kossak 
 These two paintings show winged hussars in battle, astride their splendid steeds. about to go into the inferno of  fighting; especially the second painting  narrates the beginning of fateful charge by  a  single hussar banner  against the entire Osmanli Turkish cavalry in front of their camp at Vienna. The charge proved that mass cavalry assault would be possible and thus king John III Sobieski ordered the entire cavalry - 20,000 - to charge the Turkish forces down the slopes.
 Battle of  Chocim Anno Domini 1673 chocim_1673

Battle of Vienna Anno Domini 1683, siege_of_Vienna  or  imperfect article  on wikipedia-Battle_of_Vienna

sorry for the poor quality of these photos

Friday, June 17, 2011

Old Polish proverb with a horse in a background

a friend, Polish-American, asked me to explain the old proverb
Old Polish saying ''słowo się rzekło, kobyłka u płotu'' or ''The word has been said, the mare at the fence/gate''. I decided to follow up with this story you can read bellow and a sketch. As for the saying well, it is thought to have originated during the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, during the second half of XVII century. ...
One fine day during the reign of our good king  John III Sobieski, 1674-96 AD, a poor but well mustachioed nobleman or ''szaraczek''  from Podlasie, for some reason known in English as Podlachia, was riding his thin grey mare to see the king, known amongst the poorer szlachta and lower classes of Masovia and Podlasie as ''Sobek,'' in his hunting castle at Marymont, now a 'barrio' in Warsaw.  He had been traveling already for 3 days and was rather tired.He left his poor home with an idea  that he was going to ask our king for a vacated position of ''wójt'' (vogt) that his deceased brother Melchior once had held.

Our szaraczek named Jakub Zaleski was dressed in his grey homespun ''kontusz'' with 'wyloty' ( a ridding coat - old attire of warriors on the Eurasian steppe) underneath wore a red ''żupan,'' with the sign of his nobility or an old saber at side ( hung from his rather faded cloth belt by old and  narrow leather thongs)  he rode on and thought about his speech to the king. Unlike rich and well-to-do,  he wore black leather boots, ( rich gentry wore yellow and magnates red leather boots), while his fur kolpak (hat) was already long past its finest days. Underneath his hat he had shaved head but for some hair on top - a true Sarmatian hairstyle he sported.
Zaleski was all around a typical example of our szlachta, who thought nothing improper about seeing the king in person, for he was of those who elected the king at Wola election and as a Polish nobleman felt himself equal any magnate.

When he was coming ever so closer to the Marymont hunting castle, he saw a man walking towards the castle dressed like himself in nobleman clothes, of rather large but graceful body, but with a noble warrior face, adorned with a fine mustache, wearing similar clothes to himself but of a much better quality, and red boots with golden spurs, at his belt hung  a hunting sword and a Turkish hunting carbine was suspended from his shoulder, the gun was richly gilded in gold and with precious stones inserted. He called out and graciously this man stood waiting for him. 

Zaleski took off his kolpak and asked politely about the king calling the king Sobek instead of Sobieski. King's courtier, described his position  his new friend,  said that the king Sobek was not at the castle.  Then proceeded to inquire about the nature of szaraczek's  visit. Zaleski told him that he was of a rather poor nobility,  but a good man with two sons in kings' cavalry, and that he wanted to get from the king the appointment as wójt after his deceased brother. Asked by the courtier what would have happened if his good king Sobek refused, Zaleski said that the king would have to kiss his own mare's tail (in some versions behind). Smilingly courtier gave Zaleski a ring and told me to show it to the castle guards so they would allow him inside to see the king, but to wait for an hour before proceeding.  So they parted and hungry but much more relaxed Zaleski went  into his provisions, where in his saddle bags he fished out and ate dried  ''kiełbasy'' (sausages) and bread. When time came,  he could see the castle clock on one of  the castle's  towers tolling the hour, so he mounted his mare and rode on to the castle.   

As he was approaching the castle he took a good look at the ring, where in a blood red stone there was engraved a coat or arms in a form of empty shield. He did not know but this was Janina , coat of arms of the Sobieski family. 

Zaleski entered  king's castle and being led inside the castle to the courtyard saw  that 'his' courtier , who stood dressed as he was outside even with his hat on,  was in the mist of many nobles and grandees surrounding him with their heads naked bowing and showing utmost respect.  Zaleski now realized that he had spoken to his king Sobek, that this was his king, John III Sobieski.
King John, who had a great sense of humor and appreciated the brave and daring souls amongst his subjects, asked surprised Zaleski whether he remembered their discussion in the forest and what about his promise to have his king Sobek kiss his horse's behind /tail if his king Sobek refuses to give him the wojt appointment - and Zaleski, already on his knees and showing respect to his sovereign by having touched his king's boots  answered quickly and without confusion that his own mare was waiting at the fence ... Amused king, smiling,  awarded the wojt position to Zaleski..  and the new proverb was born. 

Nothing is know about the fate of his grey mare after his appointment :)

This is the version told by K.W Wojcicki in Biblioteka Warszawska, volume IV, Warszawa 1876, pages 499-504

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Post Islamic Conquest - Persian Rider

this is a drawing from a post-Sassanian silver plate done in a style of Sassanian metal work showing royal hunts. One of the foremost experts on this art was late professor Boris Marshak, excerpts from his book with plates are here Marshak's toreutics .
This figure is the central fragment of this plate from Hermitage -  - from  so called  Greater Khorasan , made most likely in late VII century or later, showing a prince Pur-i (Pur-e) Vahman - so named in works by Marshak, Darkevich, Lukonin, Harper etc,  or according to Yaacov Lev  this is Arabian conqueror Ibn Rahman (however Lev's info on the horse tack and horse traditions is suspect) - galloping on his fine steed with a fully drawn bow.
A 'reconstruction' drawing along with more information on this warrior's horse and  equipment will follow later this month, fingers crossed.

Image of a saddled horse - Greater Iran - early Islamic period

 in the spirit of post-Islamic period, perhaps late VII  century or even as late as early  X century AD, I am showing here a fragment of a dish showing a  horse, saddled and bridled.
Horse has all the typical  Iranian/Persian tail and mane treatment shown in the earlier Sassanid metal plates eg  - - its  the tail is braided, with a ribbon, and its mane is fashioned in the ancient style, however its forelock is not tied nor wrapped like in the Parthian or Sassanian images, perhaps the very sign of new times in the Greater Iran. Yet the big 'phalerae' on is shoulders and hindquarters go back to the Sarmatian horse tack.
The saddle is similar to an image shown in the relief work (lintel) in the early Christian and Armenian ''Mren Cathedral'' (presently Turkey)  (we shall revisit this Armenian site and the Georgia's Mtzketa Chruch of Holly Cross Jvari monastery  ) . Dr Nicolle, in his book on the Sassanian Armies (Montvert,1996), on page 57 talks about Mren's Armenian saddled horse, pointing that the saddle lacks 'any raised cantle' and 'has no stirrups ' - dating the image to 640 AD. Then perhaps this very image here is also dated to VII cenury rather than VIII or X AD.

Another Sassanian horse

a quick ballpen sketch of a Sassanian horse and a warrior -  some erasing done with Gimp and MyPaint :)



Sassanian horse sketches

some scetches of Sassanian horses

This horse is a based on the reconstruction in K.Farrokh's ''Sassanian Elite Cavalry', plate B,
This one is based on various Sassanian plates - eg State Hermitage Sassanian plates
And this is a concept sketch of a Sassanian Asavara ( Warrior) heavy cavalry.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Banu of Rayy - sketch I

 I decided to start a drawings based on the ''Banu of Ray'' image - well this is the first sketch
It will be black and white - I am using MyPaint and some GIMP

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sayyida of Rayy - period of the Buyyid rule - early Islamic rider

I found this image on the Internet - when looking for the images of 800-1000 A.D., especially from the Tahirids ( /wiki/Tahirid_Dynasty ) Nishapur ( I wan to tackle the mural painting of a horseman from there) and eastern Iran and Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan , a period of independent Islamic Iranian rulers eg Samanids ( wiki/Samanid ),  Buyids ( etc, when at the Samanid court the ''Shahnameh'' was written by Ferdowsi  , and Iranians experienced a renaissance of sorts after a 'century of darkness' -  , and this image in fact appears on page 60  of my copy of a book by Kaveh Farrokh's 'Sassanian Elie Cavalry,' Osprey Pub. 2005, with a statement - that is was post-Sassanian Banu of Rayy (modern Teheran), and that ''women continued to appear in the military leadership roles in Persia long after the Sassanians collpased in the 7th century AdD''.
The image itself comes from an Iranian book on arts etc (info by Dr Farrokh), and the name given there is 'BiBi Shahrbanu of Rayy' and curiously enough this is the very name for a Sh'ia shrine in Ray, now a suburb of Teheran - perhaps I should just quote the entire paragraph from
[...]The legend attached to it is that Šahrbānū, a daughter of the last Sasanian king, Yazdegerd III (632-51), was cap­tured by Arabs and taken to Medina, where she became the wife of Ḥosayn, son of ʿAlī. To him she bore a son, ʿAlī Zayn-al-ʿĀbedīn, who was the fourth Shiʿite imam. After the battle of Karbalāʾ (61/680) she fled back to Persia, pursued by her dead husband’s enemies. They were close to her when she reached Ray, and in desperation she tried to call on God; but instead of Yāllāhu her weary tongue uttered Yā kūh “O mountain!”, and the mountain opened miraculously, and she passed living into its rocks. In due course a shrine was built at the place, which may be visited only by women and male descendants of Moḥammad. The legend of Šahrbānū as “Mother of the Nine Imams,” which goes back to at least the ninth century a.d., has some importance in Shiʿite tradition, but no historical basis, and no version of it associates this putative daughter of Yazdegerd III with Ray. Its association with that town, it has been suggested, was due to the existence there of a place that had formerly been holy to a Zoroastrian divinity, namely Anāhīd (q.v.), whose local veneration was thus continued in
Moslem guise. Anāhīd had the cult-title of Bānū “Lady,” and her shrine at Ray may well have been devoted to her as Šahrbānū “Lady of the land” (i.e., Iran). In the shrine’s zīārat-nāma she is also called Šāh-­Jahān “King of the world,” Šāh-e zanān “King of women,” and Jahān-Bānū “Lady of the world.” The oldest part of the existing shrine buildings is assigned to the tenth century, with extensions in Safavid and Qajar times. In the inner sanctuary is a fifteenth-century “tomb,” purporting to contain the princess’s body, in the manner of an ordinary emām-zāda. That the shrine was originally a Zoroastrian holy place is supported by the fact that a similar legend attaches to the Zoroastrian sanctuary of Bānū-Pārs (q.v.). The link with Anāhīd is strengthened by there being a sacred pool at the foot of the hill, where pilgrims make petitions before ascending to the shrine itself.[...]

I am  curious why this rider is/was named a Banu/Bibi/lady? and why she was a ruler of Ray ( the line of emirs of Ray are neatly described here, starting with  wiki/Rukn_al-Daula ) , where I have found no trace of an official woman ruler in the Buyid or any other Iranian Islamic dynasties. As per 'women of royal descent participating in rule' in Sassanid Iran we got this article by Haleh Emrani  on princes Boran raise to the Persian throne, an exceptional event in the Persian history  sasanika/pdf/e-sasanika9-emrani.pdf .
True, Ray  Buyyids had one known  de facto woman ruler - Queen Mother or Dowager ''Sayyida,'' emir or shah Fakhr al-Daula's wife, who allegedly run the Buyid state until her death even when her older son  assumed Ray trone (perhaps the  reason why Maḥmūd-e Ġaznawī did not invade the Buyid realm without an adult male ruler is that for he feared no action on the part of Dowager Sayyida, who it is said even had written a letter to him imploring him not to attack for there was no glory in an attack on a woman; a clever rouse one must admit, so no wonder she was a de facto queen, but when she died Mahmud did and deposed the last Buyid ruler Majd al-Daula,son of Fakr al-Daula and Sayida), but no official queens, governors or other rulers  of Ray of this period are known to history. Authors Lois Beck and Guity Nasht wrote about Majd al-Daula and his exceptional mother Sayyida in their book Women in Iran on pages 83-84.  
 So perhaps this is Dowager Sayyida hawking ?
 Now turning to the image itself as per horse harness, we can clearly see a full bridle with some strong bit forcing the horse to open his mouth ( it is a stallion),in a pose somewhat recalling the Sassanid imagery, with breastplate and crouper, richly ornamented and with hanging pendants, attached to the saddle,  his tail tied or gathered in the middle in the ancient Iranian fashion, and with a full mane (unlike the pre-Islamic rulers of Persia). Rider uses one hand to guide the horse (animal is collected and nicely or lively stepping) though neck reining, while seated in a richly carpeted saddle (perhaps a shabraque of  then already famous Iranian textile work), uses two cinches to secure the saddle and feet in boots firmly in the stirrups. (well, one foot and one stirrup, the image doe snot show the other leg)
Interestingly enough this rider's coat, 'helmet' and hairstyle are similar to the senior officer and junior ''ghulam'' (read more on them at  )  reconstruction 'of ghulam cavalry mid-9th to 11th centuries'' , figure 1 in plate D by Graham Turner, in Dr Nicolle Armies of the Caliphates 862-1098 AD, Osprey 1998.
ps I have just obtained a book by Dr David Nicolle, ''Early Islamic Arms and Armour,'' and had already other images of the early Islamic warriors and their mounts so more to follow on the early Islamic knights, including some on the pre-Islamic Arab poetry and mounted warriors.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Crimean Tatars sketches continued

 it has been a nice dry Spring thus far and I am busy with horses :), riding, sketching and lately learning to train them.
A while back I 'published' this post on the Crimean Tatar sketches -  - I have made some progress that I would like to share with you:

The  sketch above is based on a watercolour drawing made after mural paintings once located at the castle of Podhorce( freshly edited entry at ), by the will of Joseph Stalin now in Ukraine, while near another old castle town of Podhajce  (some 90 km directly south of Podhorce - map here ) many battles were fought, including the last  major battle ( victorious for the Commonwealth) that took place between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth forces and those of the Crimean Tatars in AD 1698 (at this time the article at Wikipedia is less than miserable)

 In this older drawing I had to correct the placement of the bowcase and painted a covering on the arrow quiver (known in Poland under the Tatar name of 'taftuj').
More to come...

I would like to  welcome the new  followers of this blog,  - ''Witajcie '' :)