Monday, November 12, 2012

Polish horses covered with animal skins - della Bella's prints

today we will travel to Rome AD 1633 and see some horses as seen and drawn by XVII century Italian artist Stefano della Bella.
Our king Wladysław IV sent his friend Jerzy Ossoliński as his ambassador to the court of His Holy See Urban VIII in Rome.
Our royal ambassador made an entry into Rome that became famed for the fine horses (some with actual gold horseshoes), splendidly mounted and attired riders and general wealth and opulence displayed by Ossoliñski's retinue.
But the subject of my entry today is the use of wild animal skins for saddle cloths/shabraques used on some horses of the Ossoliński's court.

   The usage of large animal pelts is nothing new in the Eurasian horsemanship (eg discussion of Greek and Macedonian usage of lion, panther etc skins is discussed in the book by J.K. Anderson titled Ancient Greek Horsemanship) - the most famous is Alexander the Great's shabraque in the Mosaic. The image above shows a Hellenistic Period stallion covered with a panther skin, smartly secured on the horse.
Russian scholar A.V. Simonenko in his book "Sarmatskie vsadniki Severnogo Prichernomorya" ( Sarmatian horsemen of the Northern Black Sea)  reconstructed some of his riders with panther skin as a saddle cloth.

 Thracians who fought the Greeks, Macedonians, Skithians, Romans and whoever moved onto their lands also used the leopard skins for their saddle clothes as evidenced by their tomb art:
The Thracians disappeared within the sea of their Slav, Iranian and Turkic invaders after these peoples had settled in the Balkans however some of their customs perhaps did not, perhaps adopted and practised due to their martial character and extravagance.

   The riders of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and their neighbours to the south, the ones from the former Kingdom of Hungary and their conquerors from Ottoman Turkey liked tu use these lion, leopard or even bear skins as coverings for their horses, underneath the saddles or as a horse cape, covering already saddled horse (as in the example on top of this post).

The Balkan riders and their horses covered in lion skin are epitomised in this image:

And one with a bear skin here:

So let us see the della Bella's prints - commentary written on each images:






there will be more about this entry into Rome in the future, or so I hope

1 comment:

abdul666 said...

The equipment of
heavy cavalry proposed by Maurice de Saxe in his Rêveries show multiple Polish influences: the metal 'wings' on the helmet, the peculiar kopia lance, the fur schabraque... Of course de Saxe had personal reasons to know well Poland and its military traditions.