Monday, February 27, 2017

Piero del Pollaillo's lancers and horses

a short trip to the XV century world of chivalry and religious art of the Italian Peninsula, where in the north, in Lombardy, Tuscany and Veneto many talented and prolific artists flourished working for the Catholic Church and various wealthy patrons. 
ad rem,  a lesser known Florentine artist Piero del Pollaillo painted a huge canvass showing the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, a fairly common religious theme among the period (XV-XVI century) painters.
This painting contains some interesting information about the period in the background, namely, apart form the foreground scene of rather gruesome martyrdom, the very background of this masterpiece shows horsemen - lancers or knight and men-at arms - in various posses and angles.
They appear to be wearing a Milanese type of armor, popular in the XV century throughout the Christian world of Europe, along with the Gothic one.
Horses are not too tall, but powerful and stallions, bay, black, and various gray.
These are members of the chivalry and military, these armor being awfully expensive while their war mounts were almost equally costly, and more prone to injury and loss.

 the above lancer holds a very long lance, I played around with the proportions and it seems to me that it might be a weapon over 4-4,5 meters long (the horse is a warhorse or dextrarius opertus, about 1,5m tall at the withers, the man is rather tall so perhaps 1,7-1,8m, together they stood about 2,2-2,4m tall, and the lance is more than twice as long as the height of the mounted knight). Perhaps it is a fluted lance, or a hollowed one like the winged hussars, for the grip on this lance is rather close to its butt?
 this figure on a black horse (a raven one - :) ) and his companion appear to be some sort of commanders, with their fine armor, and the maces they wield around. Their horses have particularly fine saddles, perhaps painted or covered in red leather as well as the tack is red leather, with tassels. Serious long shanked curb-bits are used and only a single set of reins. There is no crouper, but the tail is tied, German fashion? Perhaps these are Hungarian knights, as the long haired figure bears some resemblance to Mathias Corvinus, who knows?
very little here is seen, but the partial view of a dextrarius, bay with fine but not flashy breastplate, curb-bitted and collected.
more fine powerful warhorses and riders, at least two riders are with lances, one appears to be wearing an arming doublet.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

an early Middle Pleistocene horse

just a short link to an article already published in Nature from 2013.
It is a very interesting article on the origins of the modern equids - for this discovery of an early Middle Pleistocene horse in Canada, in permafrost, allows various scientists to study the ancient equids from inside out,  especially to trace their genome sequence, including more support for the separation between the domesticated horse and Przewalski horse. Also this discovery shows that horse was domesticated within a narrow geographic area and with limited number of animals.
North American Pleistocene Horse by Philip Newsom(c)

Another article on the subject, just in more descriptive manner.

Beautiful paintings by George Stubbs - via wiki Commons - showing dams (brood mares) and their foals.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

some sketches

February is almost over - Spring and New Year* almost upon us :)
Some sketches in making (some will stay that way I am afraid ), all of them within the winged hussars theme and within the time period of His Royal Majesty the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Stefan Bathory's reign:

*Spring Equinox or the ancient Indoeuropean New Year, still celebrated by the Persian and Iranian-related peoples around the world as Nowruz.. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cieszynka rifle circa 1610 and winged hussars

a short post about a rather unusual subject:
AD 1610 wheel-lock gun with its particular gunlock plate adorned with a fight scene engraving showing winged hussar cavalry armed with lances and bows pursuing the pistol-armed Western style reiter cavalrymen.

The engraving is singed with an monogram HL.F and based on its origin and history is qualified as a Tscheshinke/Teschinke (Cieszynka) rifle (wheel lock ) made by one of the master craftsmen from the Silesian town of Cieszyn/Teschen, famous since the Middle Ages for their intricately made gun, rifles, pistols and combined weapons.
It was one of two guns made for the Polish monarch Sigismund III circa AD 1610 that then the the king made these guns his gift to his brother-in-law the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II in Vienna, Austria, where it has been safely residing at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
The hussars are shown in their full panoply - lances, armor, the companion with a wing,  his retainer with a shield etc.

retainer with a shield

more winged armored hussars and a sabre armed retainer

perhaps an allegory of the Polish king attacking his Swedish cousin
The photo gallery at wiki commons.

there is a fairly new book on the Cieszyn/Teschen gun making school .
Chicago Art Institute has some examples of the Teschen guns - eg this from 1650. or from 1630. The Higgins armory shows this one.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Pisanello - horses with slit nostrils

Italian artist Pisanello left us a number of drawings showing horses, mostly heads, and elements of horse tack, mostly bridles with curb-bits.
Among them there is a collection of horse heads and horses with slit nostrils, ancient practice (started during the Bronze Age, eg Tell el Amarna relief et XVIII Dynasty other chariot horses)  hopefully abandoned worldwide.
 In my post about the Hungarian horses I quoted one author from XVIII century, 
and repeated many times in various publications, stated about peculiar custom among the horsemen of the Hungarian Kingdom:
''..the Hussars and Hungarians slit their [horses] nostrils, with a view, it is said, to mend their wind, and, at the same time, to prevent their neighing in the field; it being affirmed that horses, whose nostrils have been flit, cannot neigh. It has not indeed been in my power to examine this particular, but it seems natural to think, that the operation can only weaken their neighing.

to this I can add another quote today :
‘’[..’]while the Hungarian and Transylvanian horses are light and agile. As the means of strengthening their respiring faculties, the Hungarians slit their horses' nostrils and also adopt this method to prevent their neighing in times of martial encounter.’’
 This practice had been widespread, for example in the XVII century we are told by Jacques de  Solleysel, Le Parfait Mareschal ( 1674) that nostrils splitting was practiced in the Spanish domains (including the Americas), in the Holy Empire (especially the military horse), and in France (but only horses with a broken wind).
As late as 2nd half of the XIX century Icelanders practiced this 'technique,' in North Africa as late as the XX century, and in Mongolia well into 1920s in order to heal broken-winded horses, but allegedly well into the 1970s in Iran donkeys had their nostrils slit.
William Youatt, The Horse, 1870, wrote:

''The nostrils should not only be large, but the membranous substance which covers the entrance into the nose should be thin and elastic, that it may more readily yield when the necessity of the animal requires a greater supply of air, and afterwards return to its natural dimensions. 
Therefore, nature, which adapts the animal to his situation and use, has given to the cart-horse, that is seldom blown, a confined nostril, and surrounded by much cellular substance, and a thick skin; 
and to the horse of more breeding, whose use consists in his speed and his continuance, a wider nostril, and one much more flexible.
 The inhabitants of some countries were accustomed to slit the nostrils of their horses that they might be less distressed in the severe and longcontinued exertion of their speed. 
The Icelanders do so to the present day. 
There is no necessity for this, for nature has made ample provision for all the ordinary and even extraordinary exertion we can require from the horse. Some very powerful muscles proceed from different parts of the face to the neighbourhood of the nostrils, in order to draw them back and dilate them.''

I did a drawing of this horse tack

Perhaps more information on the equid nostrils slitting in this article (I have not read it, the prof. Mary Littauer was very knowledgeable on the subject of ancient practices and horsemanship)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Aleksander Orlowski - Bashkir lancer with his horse

one of my most favorite horse painters imci pan aleksander Orlowski, who left partitioned Polish Kingdom to seek a better day in Sankt Petersburg, Russian Empire, and found the imperial patrons quite ready for his talent.

So to start of the cold month of February -
a nice, large and thus very detailed study of a Bashkir horseman and his moun;
our bellicose Bashkirs being part of the Russian Imperial forces participated in the Napoleonic wars, sort of irregular cavalry along with the Kalmucks, Tatars, Kirghiz and other nomads of the Russia's steppes at that time; at first they were often mixed a bit into the Don Cossacks host, and they since 1812 they had their own regiments. - in English dr Stephen Summerfield goes into more detail in his book on the Cossacks and other irregular cavalry of the Russian army of the Napoleonic period.

 Note the typical light steppe saddle with a pillow - jarczak [Polish] yarchak - and his bridle arrangement with a third rein for leading.
 The Ufa Museum has a large collection of maestro Aleksander's works showing Bashkirs.
We should remember that maestro Orłowski was a veteran of the failed Kosciuszko insurrection  and was very keen of drawing and painting his memories of that hot and ultimately failed struggle.

Nota bene a contemporary military illustrator Azat Kuzhin is a Bashkir from Bashkortostan - you can see his work here.
Azat  has done some illustrations for the Karwansaray Publishers - Ancient Warfare and Medieval Warfare magazines et al. 
Also for others -  like these.
I also have a privilege of knowing Azat and calling him a friend and colleague.
                          Vivat Polish-American-Bashkir  friendship -  :)