Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ladies and hawking

Salvete Omnes,
I titled today''s post:  ladies and hawking.
I chose a calendar image from the famous XV century manuscript originally painted for Jean, Duc de Berry and titled Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. The manuscript was  painted by three Low Countries master painters known as the Limbourg  brothers, who painted the bulk of the work, but sadly died, perhaps prematurely, circa1416AD, and hence during the XV century at least 2 or 3 additional painters had added miniatures to this folio since 1420s.
One of them was master Barthelemy, Flemish-born painter who worked in the Kingdom of France and Duchy of Burgundy etc, who is famous for his miniature work, including calendar miniature paintings within the Tres Riches Heures.(we shall visit some of his works in the future, God willing)
Also master Jean Colombe, French master of the famous Les Passages d'oultre mer du noble Godefroy de Bouillon, du bon roy Saint Loys et de plusieurs vertueux princes (Crusader chronicles), and many others, was involved in finishing Tres Riches Heures and including retouching strokes within the folio.
Another painter, the Intermediate Painter he is called and various speculations have been made about the authorship including brushwork of master Barthelemy. So this unspecified painter created the  August calendar page.
It is that artist workk we will look at today. It was most likely, due to the fashion displayed by the noble riders in the manuscript, painted in 1420s.
we have a scene showing hunting with hawks or the noble and ancient art of hawking or falconry - probably a Central Asian or Eurasian steppe hunting method invented by the Saka horse warriors, nota bene ancient Greek doctor Ctesias of Cnidus wrote about hawking within ancient Iranian milieu. It was perhaps the Sarmatians (Alans) , and Huns and steppe Germans who brought this hunting method to Western Europe towards the end of the Western Roman Empire. In addition to the Central and Western Asian hunters, within the Arabian milieu the faris knight seem to have been a falconer too, and this art is practiced in the Arabian and Islamic world. Nowadays the Kazakh hunters who hunt with eagles are most picturesque. In Polish tradition we have had many references and works on the subject. The art seems to be making a come back these days in the West too.
In the Middle Ages we have many works on the subject, including the most famous and beautifully illustrated XIII century manuscript, simply put a how-to-book,  De arte venandi cum avibus by Holy Roman emperor Frederick II.
In our image there is a hunt with birds on horseback, there are 3 horses with mounted figures holding hawks and falcons etc and the most striking figure is the lady riding side-saddle mounted on a beautiful white that is a very expensive XV century noble gaited horse or palfrey.
Lady riding side-saddle, horse's tack in uniformed dyed leather

hawk plainly visible, also the other horseman's hawk is visible
a closeup of the horse's front, showing splendid tack, reins and breastplate with a chest pendant
this couple, riding a grulla gray stallion, also a stepping palfrey, the lady riding behind her man in a fashion still seen in Spain and Portugal
attendant with additional hawks

double reins, curb-bit rein let loose, while the snaffle reins used with a very light horse's mouth contact indicating a 'finished' horse. Note dyed leather matching bridle, reins, breastplate and croupper,
nobles hunt but in the heat of the summer it is the harvest time and the peasants work the fields, here harvesting corn and removing the cut grain with stalks onto the cart drawn by horses, we can see the collar and harness

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