Sunday, July 31, 2016

Maryna Mniszech from Laszki Murowane & Moscow

today let us go back to Europe, and to the lands of the winged hussars.
some years ago I wrote about this painting - showing Polish tsarina Maryna Mniszech going to her coronation  in Moscow. I wrote that that it had been lost.
Well, it has not been lost, but rather the Russian took it ... far away, to Russia, and presently it is kept at the Moscow State Historical Museum.

The canvass was painted (perhaps by Szymon Boguszowicz from Lwow), for the Mniszech family castle at Laszki Murowane during the first half of the XVII century, and then was taken to the Wiśniowiec Palace, the XVIII century opulent  magnate residence of the Wisniowiecki and Mniszech families (destroyed mostly during the Polish-Soviet War of 1920, and some more during the 1939-45 period of the Soviet and German destruction of the cultured Central Europe).


a fragment of the above Maryna's coronation painting, showing  splendid garments of the Polish nobility and her own coronation costume
in her betrothal painting there are more fine examples of historic Polish costumes

and finally her husband, tsar Dimitri , in a very royal stance typical of the period,  appearing very martial wearing a  set of armor not dissimilar from those worn by the wealthy winged hussar comrades.

ps if you are in Moscow, Russia, try to see if they display these fine and very  Polish XVII century paintings.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Cremony's Comanche chief Janamata

still grazing horses in the prairies - :)
John Cremony, soldier, explorer, traveler and interpreter, wrote a book titled ''Life Among the Apaches '' in 1868. This book is quite extraordinary and full of exquisite detail on the life of the Apache and other tribes during the period of 1847-60s. The Long Riders Guild has an article on his ride across the Jornada de Muerto pursued by the Sierra Blanca Apaches in 1851 (perhaps I will attach the excerps from this fantastic feat ).
Today I will share with you another part of the book, this one a short description of an encounter with a Comanche war party during the Mexican-American War of 1846-48.

My first business acquaintance with "Lo" occurred in the year 1847. A band of about one hundred Comanche warriors, led by a chief named Janamata. or the
"Red Buffalo," taking advantage of the subdued and defenceless condition of the Mexicans, crossed the Rio Grande, about seventy miles below Old Reynosa (Reynosa Viejo, the older settlement 9? miles west from Reynosa), and
commenced a series of depredations. 

Information was immediately given to the American officer commanding at that post, and the writer was detailed, with a force of fifty men, to drive off the invaders, with orders not to engage in hostilities, unless the Indians proved refractory and deaf to all other appeals.

After marching fifty miles, which was accomplished in two days, we arrived at the scene of operations, meeting the Comanches on the highway. Our force was immediately disposed to the best advantage, and placing a white handkerchief on the point of my sabre, I advanced alone toward the chief, who, leaving his warriors, rode forward to meet me. He spoke Spanish fluently, having evidently acquired it in his many marauding excursions into Mexico.
     Janamata was a good type of his tribe, in point of physical development. He was about five feet ten inches in height, with well proportioned shoulders, very deep chest, and long, thin, but muscular arms. His forehead, was very broad and moderately high, his mouth enormous, and garnished with strong white teeth. His nose was of the Roman order, broad and with much expanded nostrils, which appeared to pulsate with every emotion; but his countenance was rigid and immovable as bronze. 
His arms consisted of a bow and quiver full of arrows, a long lance, a long sharp knife, worn in the top of his moccasin boot, and a very good Colt's  Paterson revolver. A strong shield of triple buffalo bide, ornamented with brass studs, hung from his saddle bow, and his dress was composed of buckskin and buffalo hide well tanned and flexible, but wholly free from ornament. 

Lino Sanchez y Tapia watercolor
''I afterwards learned from a Texas Ranger that he was called Janamata, or the "Red Buffalo," from a desperate encounter he once had with one of those animals, which had ripped up his horse, and attacked him on foot. 

In this encounter Janamata had only his knife to depend on, as he had lost lance and bow when unhorsed. It is related that as the buffalo charged upon him, he sprang over the animal's lowered front, and landing on his back, plunged his knife several times into its body; then, as suddenly jumping off behind, he seized it by the tail and with one cut severed the ham-string. These details made an impression upon me at the time which has never been effaced or weakened.''
(story not dissimilar to this Minneconjou Sioux more tragic story about the chief called La Corne Suelle who using only a knife was killed by a bison bull/tatanka - see Edwin Thompson Denig, Five Indian Tribes of the Upper Missouri: Sioux, Arickaras, Assiniboines..,p.23-24).
Unfortunately John Cremony did not remember anything about the Comanche horses during this encounter.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Kurz Journal p. 5.1

Salvete Omnes,
continuing from yesterday (Kurz Journal 5.0) we are still on September 23, 1851, and while returning from the bison chase Rudi Kurz heard the story of mustang capture that did not end well:

On our way home Mackenzie pointed out to me on the left bank of the Yellowstone a prairie where several years ago he caught a wild mare — an adventure that came to a tragic end.
Kurz drawing of horses

He was riding the fleet-footed John at the time and found that he was some distance ahead of the pack horses that were to carry the meat as usual to the fort as soon as he should have the luck to kill a buffalo.
In the distance he saw a drove of dark-colored animals grazing ; he directed his course so as to gain the wind and take them by surprise. He made ready his rifle and gave fiery John the reins as soon as he thought the distance favorable.
But when he got sight of the herd again he saw that they were not buffaloes at all, but wild horses. As the horses took to flight immediately, for they were just as shy as the former, Mackenzie laid his gun across his lap and seized his lasso of twisted leather, fixed the noose, and pursued the fleeing herd at a riotous gallop. John soon drew near his wild blood relations and Mackenzie selected from among them a black mare that was accompanied by a young foal. He rode after her and with his right hand swung the lasso, catching her head in the noose, while, with his left hand, he held fast to the other end of the rope. He drew in the thong, choking the imprisoned animal by a violent jerk backward that forced her to stop, while at the same time he reined in his own horse. The foal turned back and kept near its mother, now brought to a stand by means of the choking noose and thereby subdued. Then, with the assistance of Spagnole, who happened to be hurrying by, Mackenzie bound together the mare's feet, so that he could leave her lying there while he followed the chase, for he dared not return home without meat.

Unfortunately he did not find buffaloes as soon as he expected and his return to the place was delayed until the next day, when he found only the colt's head, tail, and feet. The mother also, his captured mare, had already fallen a prey to wolves.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Kurz Journal p.5.0

Salvete omnes,
I have decided to return to the Kurz' Journal  and this episode the author would tell you about his first bison hunt in the Upper Missouri prairie country.
Kurz arrived at  Fort Berthold on July 8 1851 and was to stay there working as a clerk. Due to a cholera outbreak among the Indians in August,  the manager from Fort Clark Dorson arrived there and ordered Kurz to go across the Missouri River to stay at the second post run there by the American Fur Company - 170 miles as crow flies,  said Kurz. His guide Bellange and he left on  September 1, and arrived on the 6th (or so) at the destination. (some other time I will pull interesting bits and pieces from that journey, as well as about the return to his station or post at Fort Berthold).

Buffalo Chase begun on September 23, 1851[p.138-40]:
This has been a splendid day in my experience; I have been on the chase for the first time and shot my first buffalo. Sketched my first buffalo from life.

After breakfast old Spagnole [Joe Dolores], our cattle herd (doesn't look like a shepherd) brought news that huntsmen from the opposition fort ['dobies']  were running buffalo on the lower prairie. At once Mr. Denig*, with much kindness, offered me the pacer so that I could chase buffaloes with Owen Mackenzie [half-Indian, half-Scott] and so have an opportunity to study them. 

Mackenzie rode Condee. We were therefore admirably mounted, and having no orders to bring meat back we followed the hunt with no other object in view than our own pleasure. Mackenzie was to kill a fine specimen so that I might have the chance to make a sketch. My equipment consisted of my sketchbook, carried in my pouch, which was swung over my shoulder, a rifle laid across my lap, hunting knife stuck in my belt at the back, and a bullet pouch hung beside
the powder horn, also suspended from my belt. Mackenzie had returned only this morning at breakfast from a buffalo hunt of several days in another region; it was therefore most kind of him to ride out again with me before he had taken any rest.

How different are one's sensations when sitting a fiery courser whose desire is always to advance beyond the pace, which one must constantly restrain, lest the animal be carried beyond control from excess of high spirits, from sheer delight in the chase — how  different from riding a weary, melancholy nag that one wears oneself out with beating and prodding without getting on any faster. What a difference it makes in one's feelings ! 
When provided with an excellent mount, the blood courses more rapidly through one's veins, one's heart leaps for joy; Nature seems entrancing! 
We could not have chosen more beautiful weather — warm sunshine, clear air, a cloudless sky, and the wide, wide horizon, in the far distance, merged in blue
haze. The ground was dry — no dusty stretches, no bogs or fens. 

We had to go 5 miles at a brisk pace before we reached the herd we were
in pursuit of. We were beginning to think that the "dobies" had spoiled our sport when, near the so-called Butte de Mackenzie (named for the father of my companion on the chase), we came unexpectedly upon a small group of both old and young bulls. Some of them were lying in the grass near a spring at the upper end of a coulee; others were comfortably grazing round about them. We changed our course at once, rode around the hill, along by thickets of wild cherry and
plum trees that covered the coulee, in order to fall upon the buffaloes unawares. But the sound of hoof beats had already warned them; those we had seen lying on the grass had sprung to their feet, and, with tails aloft, speedily took to flight.

At a mad gallop we crossed the brook and followed close upon the fleeing herd. Even the horses shared our eagerness and tried to outdo each other, but I allowed Mackenzie to get ahead so that I could observe him. With his keen eye he had already selected his victim, approached within 2 feet, and fired. So true was his aim that the animal lay dead as I passed on a gallop. It might be truly said that suddenly he fell to earth. In the grip of death he groaned, beat the
ground with his hoofs, and rolled over on his side. So accurately had the ball pierced his heart that I thought at first he had fallen from sheer fright. But we went much farther. I had a great desire at least to shoot at a buffalo. Mackenzie bade me follow him; we set out again at a gallop and came up with the herd. 

 Kurz described his own achievements at hunting bison and then drawing in situ:

He singled out a bison for me and forced the animal apart from its companions. I pursued it over the rolling prairie until I was so close I couldn't miss aim.
At my first shot the ball entered just a little too high; he turned in such a way that my second shot struck his right knee. 
Then Mackenzie rode forward and in passing the old fellow sent a bullet into his heart. 
The pouch swung across my shoulder was a great hindrance when I was shooting, because I was forced to keep it in position with my left arm and yet found it difficult to do that and at the same time fire a gun.

While in full chase, drawing nearer and nearer the fleeing herd, we reloaded our rifles. Mackenzie was laughing the while at the wounded buffalo, who was trying to run, notwithstanding a bullet in his heart. In truth he was killed ! He could go no farther. All at once he stood as still as a block and looked angrily toward us, his nose dripping with blood. I reined in my pacer and took aim, intending to shoot the animal in the head and bring him down. My horse, all
in a heat from the swift gallop, could not stand quietly; he snorted, he foamed, he pawed the ground; as a result, my shot went amiss, merely grazing the forehead of the monster. He hardly moved his head. But he began at last to sway, placed his feet wide apart to balance himself, but nothing could help him more. He was obliged to come down, first on a fore knee, then on his side. The beast was too thin to serve me for a model buffalo; therefore, we left him lying
there and rode back to the first one we had shot. We dismounted, tethered our horses with long halters, and allowed them to graze while I made as exact drawings as I could, showing different views of the fallen bison. As soon as I had finished my sketching, Mackenzie cut out the tongue and other choice bits of meat to take to his wife. Then we galloped home. 
What joy ! 

until the next time 

*Mr Denig, the factor (manager) or bourgeois at Fort Union - as described by Kurz himself [page 120]
Bellange delivered the letter he brought to a small, hard-featured 

man wearing a straw hat, the brim of which was turned up in the back.
He impressed me as a rather prosy fellow. He stopped Bellange short, just as the
 latter was beginning a long story he wished to tell; on the other hand, he ordered 
supper delayed on our account that we might have a better and more plentiful meal.
 A bell summoned me to the first table with Mr. Denig and the clerks. My eyes almost 
ran over with tears ! There was chocolate, milk, butter, omelet, fresh meat, hot bread — 
what a magnificent spread ! I changed my opinion at once concerning this new chief; 
a hard, niggardly person could not have reconciled himself to such a hospitable 
reception in behalf of a subordinate who was a total stranger to him. 
After we had eaten he apologized for not having a bed in readiness for me; 
that night I must content myself with buffalo robes in the interpreter's room; 
better arrangements would be made next day. [...]


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fighting Cheyennes - libre

Salvete omnes,
today we will ride to the country of the Great Plains horse people, where winds will never stop blowing.
   in the past I pointed to the so called ledger drawings as the best source for the Plains Indians history, imagery and fine example of graphic storytelling done by the horse warriors themselves. My favorite Great Plains tribe, the Cheyennes,  had some very fine artists skilled in telling the stories of their exploits.

The Plains Indian Ledger Art website has digitalized 15 Cheyenne ledgers (11 Northern Cheyenne and 4 Southern Cheyenne) and one ledger of the Southern Cheyenne/Arapaho origin.

I would like to point your horse - :) - towards this still great book - ''The Fighting Cheyennes'' by George Bird Grinnell.
First published in 1915, after many years of work with the Cheyenne through George Bent (I would like to point you to his fine biography by his contemporary and fine Plains people historian George E. Hyde,  titled  'Life of George Bent: Written from his Letters' (1967)  or this one, that is not very trustworthy - David Fridtjof Halaas, and Andrew E. Masich,  'Halfbreed: The Remarkable True Story Of George Bent.')
Bellow find  three  reviews written and published in respectable research journals already in 1915-16,
this one by Ralph Linton: (The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Dec., 1916) ).  
No student of American history can fail to have been struck with the partisanship of the sources available for the study of the Indian wars of the United States. The Indian histories of the past century were usually written with feeling, and therefore interest, ran high ; while their authors, if they had not been actively engaged in fighting the subjects of their books, were usually densely ignorant of Indian life and psychology. In all cases they looked upon the Indians as enemies whose victories had to be accounted for in some way which would save the reputation of the whites, while their defeats must be correspondingly magnified. It is refreshing therefore, to encounter such a work as The fighting Cheyennes which, in setting forth the wars of that tribe, draws its material from both white and Indian sources, and which, while scarcely impartial, does not attempt to suppress any of the facts. The author numbers among his friends many army officers who took part in the later Cheyenne wars, while his long association with that tribe has enabled him to gather information at first hand from old men who participated in their stubborn resistance. The book is thus in large part compiled from the narratives of eye witnesses; while in the frequent cases where the white and Indian accounts disagree, or where the partisans of either side disagree among themselves, the conflicting narratives are given and
the reader is allowed to make his own choice. In conflicts of the former sort, the author 's decision is uniformly in favor of the Indians, for whom his book is avowedly a plea; but his partisanship does not detract from the value of the work, and is perhaps needed to counterbalance that of the earlier white authors. Indeed, it would be hard to read the details of the various massacres and outrages perpetrated by the white troops, as gleaned from their own official reports, without becoming a partisan and acquiescing to the decision of the committee of 1865 that, "In a large majority of cases, Indian wars are to be traced to the aggression of lawless white men." (Committee appointed by resolution of Congress, March 3, 1865. Report, of 1867.)

In the various Indian accounts of raids and battles, the book offers the specialist in the history of the Indians of the plains a wealth of material not hitherto available, while its correlation of the white accounts now extant would also prove useful ; but from an ethnological point of view it leaves much to be desired. There is no attempt to describe concretely the culture of the tribe, nor to explain its organization and religious concepts, factors which played a very important part in determining the actions of the group, as well as those of the individual. At the same time there are many references, to the various soldier societies for in- stance, which would be unintelligible to any one who had not some slight knowledge of the social organization of tribes of the plains. The book contains many concrete instances of the working of various beliefs and institutions, but these are unintelligible to the historian or layman, to whom they appear as strange customs without context or background ; at
the same time these accounts lack the accuracy and detail necessary to make them of value in comparitive* ethnological study. Viewed from this direction, the book appears as another of those hybrids, neither scientific or truly popular, upon which so much time and energy have been wasted. To the person whose interests are neither ethnological or historical, the book should appeal as an excellent account of frontier adventure, seen from a new angle. It contains plenty of brave deeds and hair-breadth escapes, the actuality of which makes them doubly interesting.''

James Mooney - The American Historical Review, Vol XXI, Oct 1915-July 1916
Of some twenty wild tribes formerly ranging the great Plains from Canada to the Mexican border, one of the most important, owing chiefly to their central position adjoining the overland trails, was that of the Cheyenne, or as they call themselves Dzitsistas, nearly equivalent to "kinsmen". Formerly of eastern Minnesota, they drifted across the Missouri; and for eighty years past have lived in two divisions, widely separated but keeping up a friendly intercourse, viz., the northern, ranging chiefly along the North Platte in company with the Sioux and Northern Arapaho, and now gathered upon a reservation in Montana, and the southern, much the larger division, ranging south from the Arkansas, in company with the Kiowa, Comanche, and Southern Arapaho, and now residing with them in western Oklahoma. The whole tribe at its best may have numbered 3500 souls or perhaps 800 warriors. The latest census gives 1420 for the northern and i860 for the southern division.

The author of this latest contribution to tribal history has a long and intimate acquaintance with the Northern Cheyenne, but his knowledge of the Southern and more important' division is comparatively limited, and the difference is at once apparent as soon as he leads his readers south of the Arkansas. The bias of the work is indicated in its title. From frequent listening to their own narratives of old-time warlike deeds the visitor may unconsciously imbibe their own idea of
their superior valor, but while the Cheyenne are truculent and hot-headed, and correspondingly hard to deal with, there is nothing in their history to show that they were better fighters than their neighbors. In 1837, matched against Indians, they were completely routed by the Kiowa, a smaller tribe, with the loss of every man of their best warrior company, 48 in all. In 1868, on Arikaree Fork in Colorado, Colonel Forsyth with 53 plainsmen, fighting on foot in the open, successfully held off some 500 picked and mounted warriors for eight days, inflicting considerable loss, until relieved. The Cheyenne speak of this engagement as a fairly even encounter. In the outbreak of 1874-1875 the Comanche took the initiative and were the last to surrender. In the Fort Kearney and Custer massacres the Sioux were the principals and the Indians outnumbered the soldiers fifteen to one.

The principal events in Cheyenne history for the last hundred years are sketched in interesting fashion, chiefly from Indian reminiscence, with occasional reference to other sources of information. All of these events are a part of the general history of the plains and have been repeatedly written up by Bourke, Mooney, Robinson, and others, as well as in published official reports. We get few new facts, but we get the Indian viewpoint and incidentally much valuable light upon Indian belief and custom. The story is simply told, with none of the exaggerated statement and impossible happenings common to Indian " bestsellers". Of all these, probably the Forsyth fight has been most sensationalized, although the plain fact of 50 men against 500 would seem to be sufficiently heroic. The Chivington massacre byColorado volunteers comes in again for deserved condemnation, and the Fort Robinson
tragedy closes the story of resistance to inevitable fate.

In many places, particularly in the chapters dealing with events in the south, there is a looseness and vagueness of statement inseparable from a work based largely on the recollections of illiterate informants, but which could easily have been corrected from official and other published sources. Thus the Lone Wolf of 1837 is confused with his grandson of the outbreak of 1874, and it is stated that he died "not long ago ", the actual date being 1879. It is stated that " a Comanche " brought the pipe, i. e., the invitation for a general rising, to the Cheyenne, the author being apparently not aware that this was Quana* Parker, half-breed chief of the Comanche, and the ablest and most famous character in the history of the confederated tribes. He commanded in person at Adobe Walls, where, as he stated to the reviewer, he led 700 warriors, but — with a smile — " no use Indians fight adobe ".
In his account of the disposition of the Cheyenne prisoners after the surrender the author says that " about 25 " were selected and sent to Florida, " where they were held five years ". The official statement is 33, and they were held exactly three years. Of the DullKnife flight from Fort Reno he says, " of the 300 Indians 60 or 70 were fighting men ". The official Record of Engagements says 335 Indians, including 89 men.

The most notable instance of this defect is in the account of the great Medicine Lodgetreaty of 1867, by which the southern tribes were assigned their final reservations. Speaking of the slowness of the Cheyenne, he adds, " apparently the Cheyennes did come in and sign, though definite information as to this is lacking ". The Cheyenne, as one of the principal tribes concerned, certainly did come in and affix their signatures, and their coming, as described to the present reviewer by Senator Henderson, one of the commission, and Major Stouch, in charge of the escort of Seventh Infantry (not Seventh Cavalry) troops, was the dramatic event of the gathering. They came on full charge, several hundred naked painted warriors, yelling and firing their guns as they rode, every man with a belt of cartridges around his waist and a smaller bunch fastened at his wrist. " I confess ", said the senator, " I thought we were in peril ".
As a compendium of Indian reminiscence from the Indian stand-point, obtained directly from the actors concerned, the work has a peculiar interest, and it is of value for the sidelight it throws upon tribal belief and custom. As history it is lacking in exactness.'

Clark Wissler -  available in pdf format at American Anthropologist 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Inspiration from Delacroix

Salvete omnes,
 just an inspiration for today -

two XIX century painting by Eugene Delacroix .
Both show the North African Moors saddling their spirited Barb (?) horses.
So I am and looking at some of his equine paintings and  I wonder about his Moorish horsemen and their tack.
Nota bene a beautiful Moorish saddle from Ottoman Turkey at the Livrustkammaren. An example of XIX century saddle. Modern but traditional saddles from Maghreb.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Saddle from Livrustkammaren

some time ago one of my Facebook  friends from Ukraine posted an image of a saddle that is in fact in possession of the Swedish museum of Livrustkammaren.
This saddle is quite unusual in many aspects.

It is described as dating back to the beginnings of 1600s, but it was owned by Swedish king Karl X Gustav, who lived between 1622 to 1660 AD. Perhaps it was one of the captured saddles, the war booty, in Poland during the infamous pillage of the Respublica during the war called aptly the Deluge.

It is a bit unusual in the sense of its appearance (perhaps doing an x-ray would solve most of the construction question) -
that is the saddle's general outlook, embroidery, and saddle horn seem indicate the Polish winged hussar saddle type, but then there  are the long rolls ( thighs support ) & the seat itself seems rather highly stuffed when compared with the some of Polish saddles in the collection.

The saddle below, however, is the most unusual (almost looks like a late XV- early XVI century converted to a more fashionable XVII century use) and also is thought to have come from Poland, but is dated to AD 1605.

So perhaps the Karl X Gustav saddle represents a hybrid saddle, a fusion of Western, Polish and Turkish & Tatar influences?

There is another curious saddle and this later one, also interesting saddle from the times of Karl XI.
Some XVII century cinches from the museum's collection


Monday, July 18, 2016

Millennium Polish Cavalry Monument

the Polish military celebration of the 1050 anniversary of the Polish state is fast approaching - August 15, 2016. There will be marches and parades, including a mounted parade in front of the Poland's President in Warsaw.

In the capital of Polish Republic there is this busy intersection called the Rondo Jazdy Polskiej ('Polish Cavalry Roundabout'), and to the side of this roundabout just where Mokotów Field park beings there stands the 'Pomnik Tysiąclecia Jazdy Polskiej' ( 'Millennium Polish Cavalry Monument' ).
The monument arose due to the popular demand, it was founded by the money collected from the donations, and it was designed by Mieczysław Naruszewicz, sculptor and industrial designer, and so it stnad today in its unfortunately it is not the best example of how to display a monumental sculpture of this caliber - basically the monument is facing the park and not the traffic (viewers) at this quite busy Warsaw intersection. Some say the cavalry is charging south, towards our Czech brothers.

For the ideological reasons, built during the Communist Jaruzelski Junta reign,  the monument does not include any figure of the winged hussar, or a knight or any reference to the noble traditions of the Polish cavalry. Instead it consist of two figures - a mythical mounted druzhina warrior and a Communist cavalry horseman.

The plates on the column list some of the battles Polish cavalry participated in, from Ad972 to AD1945, but the list does not linclude the last charge by the Polish cavalrymen, this one being an action in 1947, when the 'WOP Konna Grupa Manewrowa' (Mounted Maneuver Group') charged the UPA sotnia at the foot of the Chryszczata Mountain in the Bieszczady Mountains.

The Wołyń (Volhynia ) Genocide - traditionally commemorated by the Poles around the world on July 11 or the Bloody Sunday - was remembered last week, I am eagerly expecting the very first feature film, Wołyń,  by Wojtek Smarzowski hopefully coming out this Fall to the theater near you.
Perhaps should tell you a story - when I lived in Brooklyn, my landlady, then an elderly woman but full of life and 'joke,' was a Pole from Volhynia who luckily survived the genocide, but losing her parents and a sibling and many other relatives during these horror times. First, her father had been killed by the Germans and their Ukrainian helpers (she was not sure who did it, he had been first interrogated and tortured by the German police but was allegedly released to go home to have been found murdered when his way),  then a year later in 1943 being a little girl she saw her very mother and her little brother murdered by the Ukrainian neighbors. Her brother and she hid in the attic of their home, where another Ukrainian neighbor found them there but mercifully allowed them to run away to their family (auntie) in the distant village (she was 8 and her brother  was not yet 10 years old).
Their home and the farm buildings and their lands were taken by the Ukrainian state and neighbors, so they, being refugees from their village and Poland being occupied by the Soviet Army and Volhynia lost to the Soviets, were never compensated for their property (eventually the brother and she  found home and started their own new families in the US).
[all photos are from Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Titian's Ecce Homo and 2 horses & bridles

let us move deeper into the European history today, and thus I would like to invite you for a little excursion into the world of the Italian master Titian or Tiziano Vecellio...
Should I add that I absolutely admire and enjoy Titian's works (eg 1, 2,3, 4, 5... ), especially his religious and mythological works, his nudes and portraits. Perhaps I should - :)
I own one large album of his works by Sir Claude Philips, but then Wikimedia Commons users and Google Art project allow us, by providing high resolution photos, to get so close to many of the paintings that we can almost touch the brushwork , or so it seems.

So, while looking a this large painting by Titian - Ecce Homo - (the painting is quite dark in the area of horses, perhaps due to the aging process and various restoration/protection efforts) I noticed several interesting aspects of the contemporary riding equipment, costumes and finally quite naturalistic horse portraits.

First horse and rider - going left to right - is a Saracen (Ottoman Turk in costume and appearance) thus his horse also might be Turkish - nota bene it is a palomino. The bridle appears to be influenced by the Turkish design, but the curb-bit has some long 'S' shaped shanks.

a closeup on the bridle - the low noseband is very interesting.

but then this net-like covering with tassels is similar to the French XVI century equestrian tack, often designed by the Italian artists. Perhaps it was copied from the Ottomans?

German/Italian/Spanish? - note the long, narrow head, small ears, and a bold face

a closeup - large, expressive eyes and neighing mouth (another very animated horse in this Titian's painting)

 actually the horse is not dissimilar to the horse face in the famous Breda painting by Diego Velazquez - perhaps an Iberian horse then?

this horse and the Velazquez horse have stockings - coincidence, or preference for colorful horse markings...

a breastplate and short-shanked curb-bit

Riders appear in contemporary outfits - one a Saracen (Ottoman Turk) and the other a 'Roman' (Italian or German nobleman)

the soldier in a foreground wears an interesting short crimson velvet? coat with long kontusz-like sleeves (going back to the Median/Persian riding coat kantuš), while the figure behind him has a long expensive chain-of-mail coat on the second figure. Both are wearing swords, with two different kinds of suspension.

 Nota bene in this painting this costume was used as well, except over the armor

staff weapons - a halberd and a partisan, also a flag
Finally, I could not tell if these two horses are shod..

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Zhao Mengfu's horses


again thanks to the users of the Wikimedia Commons, we are given  a rare glimpse into the world of Chinese painting some 700 years ago.

First, I am going to add that I do have a favorite dynasty of the Chinese awfully long imperial history - that would be Tang China and her multiethnic empire (at least until the An Lushan rebellion).
Yuan Dynasty is a Chingizid Borjigin Mongol dynasty that had conquered then much partitioned China, unified the country into one imperial state but eventually, after about a 100 years, was forced out of the 'Han' China by the nationalistic Han revolt which in turn  gave raise to the Ming Dynasty etc (I am sure you can read all about this on the Web).
Chinese arts did not stop flowing under the Borjigin Celestial Emperors - eg article on the subject here.  A sample of figurative art under the Mongol rule.
Yuan Dynasty, Yang Guifei Mounting a Horse, by Qian Xuan (1235-1307).

So, this artist Zhao Mengfu came from the highest circles of the Mandarin clans, from the imperial (Song Dynasty) clan of Zhao. He was a prolific artist and awfully skillful calligrapher.

for now we will just enjoy the paintings themselves, but in the fure I may exlpore some interesting info appearing in these works of art.