Thursday, July 31, 2014

Some links & sketches

so ends the month of July, and on this day falls the birthday of my favourite French actor Louis de Funes, whom I think I saw once riding an equid in his movies, it was a mule.
Well, wherever you are, happy birthday maitre Louis :)

Amongst my old sketches I finally took picture of the whole sketch I did some years back, it was an idea for a graphic story that never went anywhere.

Of course I am sketching the Persians
Saka nomad saddles of I millennium
added a few touches to this Turkish deli
some concept sketches of Slavic warriors & horses of the X and XI centuries
( the first one after a drawing done by a Polish artist Andrzej Klein, author of the fantastic drawings for the monumental work on the Grunwald battle 1410 titled 'Banderia Apud Grunwald')

the last sketch after a drawing by a Polish great story teller and artist Szymon Kobylinski
And finally several articles to read
by Bruno Overlaet - on Sassanian kingship via Naqsh-i-Rustam and Taq-i-Bostan/Taq-e-Bostan
Marek Jan Olbrycht - Parthian Military strategy at Wars Against Rome
Leonardo Gregoratti - on Palmyrenes and Arsacids (Parthia)
Marian Feldman - on chariots in the late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean and Near East.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Carlo Bossoli - - Crimean Tatars and their world

today I would like to bring to you the lithographs made by a Swiss-born and Russian-educated (in Odessa) artist Carlo Bossoli.

In these images we can get the feel of the world long gone , the world of ancient Taurica in the mid XVIII century. Some 50 years after the end of its independence to the Russian Empire, mass migration of Tatars into the Ottoman Empire, and some influx of Russian colonistsprotected by imperial soldeirs and Cossacks.
 The Crimean Tatar world was brought to a stand still by the Russian conquest of their Crimean Khanate during the 1770s, but they did not wither and those who stayed prospered under the Russian Tsars, but then their world(with even more ancient inhabitants of the Peninsula the North Pontic Greeks, also Armenians, Germans and Poles) was  completely eradicated by Stalin and his ilk  during the murderous years of 1944-45. The Nazi Germans killed the other ancient inhabitants, the Jews, during the early occupation in 1941.
But we should return  to the prosperous  XIX century and to our wandering artist then was working under the patronage of Russian aristocrats, and perhaps enjoying the picturesque Peninsula and its inhabitants.
Thus Carlo Bossoli, who lived in southern Russia's Pontic coast until his return to Italy circa 1839,  must have visited Crimea frequently  enough to amass a collection of images of the Peninsula and its inhabitants.
The artwork  Bossoli first created, I presume as sketches and watercolors, he then copied and created lithographs, to have them printed,  and then published as 'Views of the Crimea' (with English and Russian text)  in 1853 .
Some of these memorable images showing the Crimean Tatars, their lives and surroundings.

a night  image of Bakhchysarai painted in 1857 by Bossoli

images from Wikipedia Commons

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jacques Laurent Agasse - horse painter from Swiss Alps

from time to time I 'rediscover' some works of an artists that long time ago I saw at some museum or gallery exhibit.

Today, I bring you Jacques Laurent Agasse (1767-1849), a prodigal painter of horses and animals in general. I was going though Tate Gallery website and a well and long known to me  image of a groom leading a chestnut horse popped out - and quickly I went on a hunt via Wiki Commons to find more scans of this painter's work. And by Jove, there are quite a few :)
There is a web page devoted to Mr Agasse's art and a catalog or two of his works.
 Monsieur Agasse was from Geneva in Swiss Confederacy, studied art in France before the French Revolution, and he came to England under the patronage of Lord Rivers, and in Britain he established himself as a horse painter, especially a painter of the English Thoroughbred as it appeared in the first hald of the XIX century.  Through  his paintings we can easily see that he was a great anatomist, with superb knowledge of horse anatomy. Apparently he made great use of the live studies and anatomical studies, most likely  by perusing the great atlas of equine anatomy by the great George Stubbs, and yet he had started his equine studies in Paris at the veterianry school and most likely the slaughterhouses. It is easy to see that messer Agasse was skilled in painting all sorts of horses, from the English Blood horse, Arabians, big agricultural 'workbeasts,' to nags and finally whole studs, with foals and broodmares. Apart from aesthetic values, in these painting there is plenty of information about horse conformation, riding practices, horse tack, riding attire, stables and coaches, even budding Orientalism - a wealth of information for any a student of the period horse history and genre painting.
Maestro Agasse continued painting horses and other animals for more than 4 decades in the ever so imperial and global England, however it appears that he did not end his career prosperous and was soon forgotten, but some of his creations - sic tranist gloria mundi...
The self-portrait above perhaps evokes the famous work by van Dyck of Charles I, unlucky king of England, Wales and Scotland.

It would be very interesting to see his pencil and charcoal sketches and drawings, I ordered a book from Amazon, so far the best place to buy second-hand albums and artbooks on the web, and perhaps I will learn some more about Jacques-Laurent's art and man himself

Nota bene when you read the description on the Tate's page you may be immediately struck by the pronouncement about  George Stubbs, who allegedly influenced Agasse, as the greatest of horse-painters.  Geroge Stubbs was great but to call him the greatest of horse-painters is but the English national pride and patriotic zeal and not a statement of fact, I dare say. After all all these adverbs and lists proclaiming grandeur and leading role of this or that artist are subject to a Roman saying - de gustibus et coloribus non disputandum est. Ergo, we can agree, that the XVIII century produced some extraordinary horse painters in Europe, and that they influenced the equine art in the centuries to come, even today when the digital photo cameras can produce the most outstanding and precise images..


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Grunwald 2014

in 2010 we celebrated the 600 anniversary of one the largest and most important battles of the Middle Ages - Grunwald AD 1410.
So this year it is already 604th anniversary of the Polish-Ruthenian victory (for the allied  Lithuanians under duke Alexander Vitold had been routed in the first part of the battle and returned to the battlefield only towards the end of the fight).
 Every year there is a grand reenactment of the battle at the very same battlefield, and it draws thousands of reenactors from Poland and other countries, and tens of thousands of spectators.

I found, via facebook, this great photographer and reenactor Miss Agnieszka Olbrycht, and she kindly allowed me to use some of her photos from lst weekend event in Poland.

Henryk Sienkiewicz, best known for his novel Quo Vadis, wrote a novel on the Great War 1409-11 titled ''Krzyżacy'' (''The Teutonic Knight'' or ''The Knights of the Cross''), so here we have an older translation by Basil Dahl (New York, 1900), via great internet library 
And this is our great maestro's description of the battle, with main, albeit fictional, characters Maćko (Matzko) & Zbyszko(Zbyshko)  z Bogdańca (Bogdanietz) . It is based in part on Jan Długosz's ''Annales,'' and obviously very artistic and somewhat fictitious but still great :)

on his site great French artist  Georges Ramaioli has several sketches from his series 'Les Scythes' (the Scythians) - :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

On the Sogdian painting and Sassanian connections

 I am always interested in all things pre-Islamic and early Islamic greater Persia, this time I want to share with you a link to an article titled  'Sasanian traditions in Sogdian paintings: hunting and fighting scenes' by Geri Della Rocca de Candal, available for reading or download at (or a link via this interesting Facebook page titled Eran ud Turan ). Sogdiana or Transoxiana or Turan  was the land of Silk Road traders, horse breeders, artists and sometime warriors living in the shadow of the great empires of Persia and China and roamed by the Saka and later Turks/Turkuts, until conquered by the Arabs during the VIII century AD (and known since then  as Ma warāʾ al-nahr).  Introduction to the Sogdian art via

Persian and  Sogdian hero Rustam/Rostam (known to us through Shahnameh/Schāhnāme of Ferdowsi - nota bene article on early illustrated version of Shahnameh from 1333AD) in his splendor from a mural at Panjikent (image from Wiki Commons)

Last days of Panjikent - article - and if you curious more about the last ruler of that Sogdian city and his famous palace at Mugh Mount.

From my own stable :)  I drawn this image from a metal plate of Pur-i Vahman, it represents my newest attempt at copying this image. For our interest his stallion's bridle includes the dropped-cavesson (metal noseband) plus bit arrangement, horse's tail tied like a swallow's one,  then a cropped and cranetallated mane, and clearly depicted stirrups in more or less steppe and Korean fashion. Horse tack is still adorned with Persian elements (horse tail and a phalera), reflecting Sassanian and Saka traditions.

Dr  David Nicolle talks about this plate in his other book - Armies of the Islamic Conquest (Osprey Publishing, page 42).

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fallen warrior and galloping horse from Chertomlyk

Skudra/Skuda/Saka/Scythians or North Iranian nomads of the ancient Eurasian steppes are, as you the visitors to my blog know, some of my favorite subjects.

I want to share with you the page of prof. Mikhail Treister, where you can read or download this fine scholar articles on the ancient nomads and their world.
Mikhail Treister's page
 I did copy a figure of a wounded rider and a galloping mount from the golden scabbard found in the famous Chertomlyk kurgan, dated to the middle of the  IV century B.C., as it represents the Scytho-Greek art. The kurgan's contents are  famous, especially the silver, egg-shaped,  amphora with the scenes of Scythians gentling the horses - one day I will turn to these as well.
Russian book on the very kurgan Чертомлык (Скифский царский курган IV в. до н.э.). (Chertomlyk, the Scythian Royal Barrow/Kurgan IV century B.C.)
Some artefacts from Chertomlyk - numbered 89-120 especially interesting the the whetstone with a golden handle, most likely suspended from the 'arming' belt (where the sword or swords and combination quiver-bow case known as gorytos were also hung).
Scholar Esther Jacobson writes (p. 246):'' there is  a general understanding that the narrative [...] may refer to the Trojan War, in which participated a variety of non-Greek peoples, or to a battle between the Greeks and the Persians, or even between Greeks and Amazons. It is also possible that the narrative is intended to represent a generic battle, between Greeks and non-Greeks'' (E. Jacobson, The Art of the Scythians, New York 1995)

This dramatic figure, situated of the very end of the scabbard, consists of a wounded warrior falling of the galloping horse still grabbing at the reins, and  it clearly shows some tack: the bridle, reins, bit, breastplate and saddle.
I did not copy the crested helmet below the horse's head. The horse's mane is  shorn, with several strains of longer hair near the pommel of his saddle in a typical Eurasian fashion, while his tail is not tied nor braided in more of the steppe fashion, perhaps reflecting the Greek artist's concept.
Article by prof. A.N. Shcheglov about this barrow and its treasures.
 Review of a book -''The Gold and Power - Scythian weaponry and Greek Myths.''
I should bring more of these ancient images in the future.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July

every 4th of July I think about my Polish compatriots who fought and some died while fighting for the American Independence during the Revolution.

No one epitomizes better this narrative than the hero of two countries, Kazimierz Pułaski(Casimir Pulaski), Ślepowron coat of arms, cavalry commander of the Bar Confederation (Konfederacja barska 1768–1772)

 and cavalry general and commander of the so called Pulaski Legion during the American Revolution. An link to a short article on the subject of Pulaski Legion, including the roll of the Legion. Website devoted to the reconstruction of the Legion, including articles and documentary evidence.

He wrote to George Washington :  ''I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it.''

No, I have not forgotten about Tadeusz Kosciuszko, just prefer Pulaski on this day.
Happy 4th of July to all my American friends and family.