Monday, July 29, 2013

Sketches & links

I have been adding more figures to my sketches and drawings, slowly but surely the body of work will  grow... below some sample sketches.

By the way - some very intesresting articles by prof. Sergey A. Yatsenko on the Central Asian costumes during the ancient and 'early medieval' periods, especially the Tokwar/Yuezhi one is interesting to me as it covers this very interesting discovery in ancient Mongolia and her inhabitants:

 Yuezhi on Bactrian Embroidery from Textiles Found at Noyon uul, Mongolia

 Foreigners and inhabitants of Samarkand - Afrasiab

 Late Sogdian costume

Early Turks male costume in Chinese art






Sunday, July 28, 2013

Median kándys or kantuš riding coat


I have been asked about the riding outfit of the Achaemenid Great King Cyrus the Great , hence I decided to do a little entry on the so called Median Cloak - kandys or kantuš, that essentially it was a riding coat of the Persians and ... the Eurasian steppe horsemen.
A cameo gem showing a kandys clad mounted warrior attacking a chariot

But first about Cyrus or rather his tomb, for it is a list of garments and weapons found there when Alexander entered the tomb, some 200 years after Cyrus' death (Persian clothing in general ), according to the Arrian's depiction of the Cyrus tomb (Anabasis, 6.29.6) - which in my opinion is the closest depiction on the Great King riding costume (via one of the best books on the reconstructed Achaemenid Persian army by prof. Sekunda and illustrator Simon Chew) :

 there we have: a kandys (Median cloak), tunics of Babylonian workmanship and some other tunics,  Median anaxyrides (pants); colors of these garments - hyacinth(dark blue) and purple, and perhaps yellow (from saffron); neck torques (gold), akinaka (short swords), earrings of gold. Therefore, I daresay he would not wear the Elamite/Persian robe when mounted. On his head he would wear a form of a Persian hood (tiara or kyrbasia)  or  kitaris,  perhaps bound with a blue diadem with a white decoration (from Curtius' description in Historiae Alexandri Magni)
 Kandyses from Persepolis

Encyclopedia Iranica has a nice entry on the subject but in it strongly disclaims any connection between etymology of 'kantus' and Polish-Hungarian 'Kontusz' in their entry on 'candys' - so it may be so in etymological sense but clearly there is a connection between the Polish-Hungarian garments and Median kandys.

Sergey Yatsenko, in his work  ''Costume of the Ancient Eurasia (the Iranian-Speaking Peoples)''  Moscow 2006, writes that kandys was a long garment with sleeves longer than one's arms (sleeves like the Hungarian hussar jacket), that it had a turn down collar, and it had a pair or ribbons or strings at the neck/collar to tie it up on one's chest or shoulders. Sleeves of the Persians seemed to have been narrow whereas the sleeves of the Saka/Scythian kandys/riding coat were wide (vide UkokPlateau)

Furthermore dr Yatsenko writes that kandys was an ancient Indo-Iranian garment, and the ancestors of the Persians already had a special, thicker, parade-like fur coat. Persian riding coat seemed to have been a thinner one, a cloak with sleeves. But is was a garment worn by the Persian kings and warriors/nobility at hunt and at war (as described by Xenophon ).

Polish scholar of garments and costumes, Maria Gutkowska-Rychlewska, ventures to say (page 44-5), in her book the ''History of Costumes  '' Ossolineum  1968, that kandys, shown on the silver figurine (below in a line drawing), looks as if it was sewn from leather or even tanned skins, with the fur inside the garment. She adds that the garment was always shown with long narrow sleeves, and in some heavier kandyses, eg from Oxus treasure, they had the entire front lapels decorated with fur, while around the neck there was a hood or a collar. They wore kandys hanging it off the shoulders, with ribbons or strings tied in front, holding it on one's trunk. Light purple kandys might have been the particular king's coat.
Light kandys in Greek art
Famous satrap Datames who is thought to have reformed the Persian army in IV BC century.

So called Alexander Sarcophagus of Sidon:

Kandys is visible in the Partian art eg coins of various Parthian kings, we know from the description of Carrhae battle that  the eventually victorious Parthians and Sarmatians fighting for Rustam Suren that they had coats (perhaps leather ones) to cover their armor.


Commagene king's kandys
 Sassanian King Bahram II and figures wearing coats fastened with clasps

Sassanian grafito from Persepolis - showing a kandys on a horseman( more coats in the link to Calieri's article)

Roman riding coat from Egypt VII century AD

some primary sources (websites in the links) for the Achaemenid era:

[1.3.2] [...]Cyrus had recognized in Astyages his mother's father, being naturally an affectionate boy he at once kissed him, just as a person who had long lived with another and long loved him would do. Then he noticed that his grandfather was adorned with pencillings beneath his eyes, with rouge rubbed on his face, and with a wig of false hair--the common Median fashion. For all this is Median, and so are their purple tunics, and their mantles, the necklaces about their necks, and the bracelets on their wrists,
[8.1.40] We think, furthermore, that we have observed in Cyrus that he held the opinion that a ruler ought to excel his subjects not only in point of being actually better than they, but that he ought also to cast a sort of spell upon them. At any rate, he chose to wear the Median dress himself and persuaded his associates also to adopt it; for he thought that if any one had any personal defect, that dress would help to conceal it, and that it made the wearer look very tall and very handsome.
[8.3.13] Next after these Cyrus himself upon a chariot appeared in the gates wearing his tiara upright, a purple tunic shot with white (no one but the king may wear such a one), trousers of scarlet dye about his legs, and a mantle all of purple. He had also a fillet about his tiara, and his kinsmen also had the same mark of distinction, and they retain it even now. 
[8.3.14] His hands he kept outside his sleeves.1 With him rode a charioteer, who was tall, but neither in reality nor in appearance so tall as he; at all events, Cyrus looked much taller. 
[8.3.10] And all the cavalry-men had alighted and stood there beside their horses, and they all had their hands thrust through the sleeves of their doublets, just as they do even to this day when the king sees them. The Persians stood on the right side of the street, the others, the allies, on the left, and the chariots were arranged in the same way, half on either side.
[8] But it seemed to him that they took their time with the work; accordingly, as if in anger, he directed the Persian nobles who accompanied him to take a hand in hurrying on the wagons. And then one might have beheld a sample of good discipline: they each threw off their purple cloaks where they chanced to be standing, and rushed, as a man would run to win a victory, down a most exceedingly steep hill, wearing their costly tunics and coloured trousers, some of them, indeed, with necklaces around their necks and bracelets on their arms; and leaping at once, with all this finery, into the mud, they lifted the wagons high and dry and brought them out more quickly than one would have thought possible.
V. Again, when he was hunting once and Teribazus pointed out that the king's coat was rent, he asked him what was to be done. And when Teribazus replied, "Put on another for thyself, but give this one to me," the king did so, saying, "I give this to thee, Teribazus, but I forbid thee to wear it." Teribazus gave no heed to this command (being not a bad man, but rather light-headed and witless), and at once put on the king's coat, and decked himself with golden necklaces and women's ornaments of royal splendour. Everybody was indignant at this (for it was a forbidden thing); but the king merely laughed, and said: "I permit thee to wear the trinkets as a woman, and the robe as a madman.''

Some examples from the early modern era, they give a feel of how these riding coats hung on or off the shoulders:
Polish- Hungarian noblemen in their beautiful garments,



Grodno Hussars and their 'pelisses' - XIX century

*Images from Wikipedia Commons,, Gallica and other digital sources, and my little sketch of a Roman riding coat from Egypt.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cavalry horse - notes from Saumur circa 1919

 from an instructor at the French Cavalry School at Saumur (now home of Cadre Noir), in the tradition of French XVIII century riding schools, including François Robichon de La Guérinière ), comes this depiction of a cavalry horse, translated into English and published in London in 1919.
Interestingly enough, the publication of this book on cavalry horsemanship coincided with the events of the last true cavalry war (eg Battle of Komarów  between Polish 1st Cavalry Division and Bolsheviks' Budyonny 1st Cavalry Army) that raged between newly restored Republic of Poland and Red Russia, and some fine Frenchmen took part in it on our Polish side, including general Charles de Gaulle:

 Cavalry Horsemanship and Horse Training by Lieut.-Col. Blacque Belair
chief instructor at the Cavalry School, Saumur France, London 1919

The many demands made on an army horse require in him a great 
many different qualities. He has to carry a considerable 
weight,* travel long distances, and often at a fast 
pace ; he has therefore to possess endurance, hardiness, 
and handiness. These qualities are nearly always 
found in a horse which has a naturally good balance, 
good paces, breeding, and conformation. The naturally 
good balance, which is the first quality to look for in 
a riding horse, enables him to have constant control 
of himself, even with the weight of a rider on his 
back, to easily change from a slow pace to a fast one 
and vice versa; to be, in fact, supple in his movements, 
and easy to ride from the first. The theory of balance 
has not up to now been scientifically considered ; 
owing to the rapidity and frequency of a horse's 
movements, the study of balance or of conformation 
is practically limited to the study of the animal at 
rest. Anatomy is nothing but the study of organs 
from which life has been withdrawn. It is therefore 
only by riding a horse, that one can with any certainty 
decide on his merits. Experience, nevertheless, enables 
one to establish certain general rules, which fix the 
good points to be looked for in a young horse, and 
to form an opinion as to what he will grow into. 

If the horse has a wither running well into the back 
and rather higher than the quarters, the chest deep, 
and the girth groove well behind the elbows, the 
saddle will rest in a good position. The rider and his 
equipment being placed between the two ends of 
the balance, near the centre of gravity, will not disturb 
the equilibrium by overweighting the shoulders. This 
conformation, combined with well- shaped hocks, 
causes the horse to be easy to handle and control 
in a fight, and in the daily work the effort is distributed 
over the body, which consequently does not prematurely 
wear out. The paces ought to be such as will enable 
the horse to cover the greatest distance with the 
minimum of effort. This condition excludes high 
action, and places value on the level extended paces, 
which are the least fatiguing for both horse and rider. 

If the trot is more especially the pace for the road, 
the pace for fighting is the gallop. More than ever 
the actual necessities of war require the fast paces 
maintained for long distances. The army horse ought 
therefore to be above everything a galloper, and the 
relative length of the ischium is a characteristic of 
this aptitude. 

Handiness is indispensable in going through 
evolutions in open country, and it is acquired all the 
more promptly and completely in proportion as the 
horse has the necessary conformation, an open angle 
at the junction of the shoulder and arm, and powerful 
hindquarters. If the length and obliquity of the 
shoulder, combined with high withers, assists the 
balance, by enabling the rider's weight to be evenly 
distributed, it is the relative length and vertical 
position of the arm, still more than the direction of 
the shoulder, which gives freedom in the paces and 
handiness. The power of the hindquarters, which 
drive the horse forwards or backwards, gives the horse 
control of himself and of his balance ; it gives him 
the free use of his hocks and enables him to bring 
them more or less under his body ; it enables him to 
pull himself together, or to extend his i^aces according 
to circumstances ; in fact it puts it in his power to 
take any direction or speed he wishes. 

Moreover, if his confidence in his long and oblique 
shoulders enables the horse to land lightly over a 
fence without any apparent effort, it is the contraction 
and thrust from the hindquarters which gives the 
spring that carries him over. The riding horse should 
therefore have a large hip bone, projecting well at the 
side, and extending slightly above the spine, producing 
what is called the jumping bump. 

The perfect shape. — If one adds to the requirements just mentioned,
a forehand formed less by a useless length of neck than by the
addition of cervical vertebrae, and a wither running well into the back, 
one will have the frame of a riding horse in all its 
useful beauty, and in consequence, the type to look 
 One of the first qualities of a riding horse is, that 
he should carry his saddle in the proper place, that 
is to say, the girths should naturally pass well behind 
the elbows. 

The other points to look for are — 

A broad forehead and a well- set- on head. 

An open, intelligent eye. 

A well-proportioned and well- set -on neck. 

A high wither, running well into the back, and 
slightly higher than the quarters. 

An oblique shoulder. 

A long and straight arm. 

A forearm with large powerful muscles. 

A deep chest. 

A strong back. 

A wide loin with strong muscles behind the saddle. 

Well-shaped long quarters, slightly sloping and 

Large prominent hips. 

The muscles of the thighs and second thighs well 
developed and extending well down towards the 

Short, compact body with well- sprung ribs. 

Knees low down, large, wide, and flat. 

Cannon bones short and strong. 

The hocks large, straight, and low. 

The legs hard and clean, ending in four good 
symmetrical feet. 

A fine skin. 

A horse with these characteristics will not only be 
well balanced, but will move well and possess a free 
striding walk ; a trot starting from the shoulder, 
which is long, easy, and regular ; a gallop which is 
smooth, powerful, and extended. 

Quality. — This results from the constitution or 
power of endurance of the organs with regard to their 
work ; blood, which by the energy it gives enables the 
organism to resist the ordinary causes of collapse ; 
stamina or endurance in any kind of work. 

Courage, however, alone secures the maximum 
advantage of this quality. The horse's quality arises 
from various causes ; it depends upon good food from 
the earliest age, from the soil on which he has been 
reared containing lime, and so developing bone and 
strength of muscle ; but it depends chiefly on the 
breeding of the horse. It is indispensable therefore 
to secure the proper mating of the thoroughbred horse 
with the half-bred mare to transmit the blood, and to 
maintain the size.''
* the British Cavalry a man, weighing 10 stone 7 lbs, 
stripped, rides no less than 21 stone, in full marching order.* 
Polish cavalry of that war is beautifully described in a book by a Polish scholar and novelist Bohdan Królikowski title  '' Ułańskie lato (Uhlan Summer)'' (needs to be translated into English)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sassanian horses in rock reliefs 2

continuing with the Sassanian rock carvings and their portrayal in various media,   I will turn to the drawings of  Jean-Baptiste Eugène Napoléon Flandin, who together with architect Pascal Coste trekked across Persia during 1839-41  drawing and sketching and painting along the perilous journey.
These are some  of the fantastic archaeological drawings published in multi-volume edition (one volume of the text and 5 volumes of plates) titled ''Voyage en Perse'' in France in 1851.

The drawings and engraving that were made after the drawings to have been reproduced in the books are precise, archival quality, a swan song of such drawings, soon to be replaced by the photography












Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sassanian horses in rock reliefs 1

while doing some research on the ancient Persian costumes and textiles, I went back to the images showing riders and horses at various rock/stone reliefs in Iran carved during the Sassanian Empire period.
 Hence, this entry in my blog has been born - bring as many images of the Sassanian horses as I can find in my collections (from various Wikipedia archives, photos and drawings), to have them 'corralled' in one place. Sometimes I find it useful to put all the images of one subject matter next to one another, perhaps some new ideas will have been born out of such compilation.

I am going to start with the drawings, and these are quite extraordinary, since they had been made by famous British traveler, diplomat and draughtsman  Sir Robert Ker Porter, during his travels across the Asia Minor, Turkish 'Arabia,' Georgia and Persia  almost 200 years ago - these drawings were published in a two volume account of the travels titled ''Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, ancient Babylonia, &c. &c. : during the years 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820''
London 1822.
Sir Robert executed these line drawings with lots of gusto and vibrant skill, and we can see some more detail of tack etc in his drawings than in the photos of the surviving monuments today. The horses are clearly visible(or better say as Sir Robert saw them carved in the rocks in his days): strong, graceful muscular bodies of warhorse, perhaps a Nisaya horse,  not unlike the horses shown in VII century Tang Chinese art, eg emperor Tang Tai Zong horses from his mausoleum resemble these a lot. The stallions are collected,
Finally  I say stallions because it is known since Herodotus that the Persians rode stallions, a particular equestrian custom they preserved until the modern era.







.. this one particularly interesting - it shows shah Ardashir, the founder of the Sassanian Empire,  and his son Shapur I
 This another traveler to the Iranian heartland - Eugene Flandin  tomorrow or part 2 if you will

On  you can quietly pass the time exploring the Sassanian rock carvings, as the kindly scholar Jona Lendering organized them according the Sassanian kings' chronology.
Do enjoy