Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Palio in Florence AD 1418

Salvete Omnes,
Medieval world  was the time of flowering of the European culture, while  in terms of arts the XV century with its abundant visual representations are simply some of the loveliest.
Perusing the Cleveland Museum of Arts website (I have a book on the Museums' arms collection) I came across some very interesting images, including this cassone - plural cassoni - (a large self-standing floor chest) by Giovanni Francesco Toscani (  c. 1380-1430 ), who described himself as painter of cassoni (cofanaio).
the subject of this panel is a Tuscan palio dei barberi (eg dissertation on palio) or race - horse race - in Florence during the feast of Saint John the Baptist in June AD 1418.
well, enjoy some of the images of competitors and their horses in a rather violent and dangerous display of medieval horsemanship -
so representing various city districts and riding bareback, with a strong nahajka ( Polish for a horse whip ) in hands and without mercy towards their competitors and their horses (injured and fallen horses), these young male riders pound towards the finish line where the city elders await them; while spectators, including many  fair hair maidens and ladies, good burghers, and monks and street urchins are lined along the course of this urban streets race.  



caparisoned horses at the finish

 Maestro Giovanni Francesco was a good painter of horses, conveying with his bold brush work the action and dangers of this spectacular city event.
His horses do not look like the heavier , more powerful knightly destriers but are slicker and fleeter than the famous and expensive war horses, perhaps they were bred for racing in the sunny Tuscan countryside or brought from the horse breeding areas of southern Italy ( although, the 'Barbero' (plural 'Barberi' ) means a Barb horse, from the breeders in North Africa).  No curb-bits seem to have been used on the race horses.
the other panel from this casone - from the Bargello Museum in Florence


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