Sunday, December 10, 2017

the Magi's Adoration of Jesus - Bartolo di Fredi's horses

Salvete Omnes,
the season of holidays is upon us with the Star of Bethlehem shining high somewhere in heavens - between January 6 and today  I plan to bring  more XV century paintings of the Magi (Wise Men, Trzej Krolowie, Los Reyes Magos etc  - see the New Testament: Mathew chapter 2 on the Magi ), since these paintings usually contain some of our favorite equine subjects i.e., horses, horse tack and riders.

So today  let us travel to Sienna, to the panels conjured by  master painter Bartolo di Fredi -

Note that  the bits on these bridles contain ornate large discs or cheekpieces covering the mouthpiece so these are snaffle-bits.  There are no curb-bits or curb-chains in the foreground horses' bridles, however, in the paintings and drawings of Pisanello where there are similar bridles such curb-chains are present. So perhaps di Fredi omitted them? In the narrative taking place in the upper part of the Siena panel the horses of the Magi caravan have double reins so perhaps there there had curb-bits?

one Adoration painting is held at the MET and was painted circa 1390 AD -
the three horses here (the forth is visible only as per its ears) are gray, raven black and roan - perhaps indicating the 3 Magi. Different colors of their bridles'  leathers, each appropriate to the horse's color i.e., so it would be easily visible and pleasing to the eye.
a closeup on the horse heads
breast collar/breasplate visible here along with the front arch/pommel of the gray horse saddle

and the second Adoration from the Pinacoteka Nazionale di Siena - the upper part of this panel contains more narrative storytelling than the truncated MET one.  The story starts with the Magi leaving their country somewhere in the east (right side of the panel) and first arriving in Jerusalem to confer with king Herod (Herod the Great he was), and then continuing on to Bethlehem and to the shepherds' barn where the King of the Jews, baby Jesus was born. the XIV century graphic storytelling.
clearly a finely bred horse at least a palfrey or  even dextrarius, of unusual color . Saddle here is not a war saddle but a typical late XIV and early XV  saddle for travel and parade.
 Horses are shod, with gold horse shoes? The stirrup visible here is of the most ornate and sumptuous make, studded and clearly a piece of noble, aristocratic ownership. Crouper in the color of the rest of its tack, i.e., red, with golden thread design and gold leaf adornment? Rear arch/cantle is painted or embossed? Front arch/pommel is clearly visible and gives indication of its size and width. No cinch is visible but on the upper part of this panel we can clearly see textile cinches.
stallions neighing

we can say something about the riding style - long legs, long stirrups, left hand holding rather loose reins.
The horses shown in their full state appear to be finely bred type, well trained and gentled, with some showing their airs (perhaps) thus indicating high level of horse training in XIV century world of chivalry, specifically the world of Italian chivalry.
presence of the hunting dogs is interesting, reflecting chivalry traditions of taking their hounds on a trip etc
Note that the horses ridden in the upper part of the panel have double reins, so perhaps that indicates that they are using curb-bits along their snaffle bits?
There are camels with lots of load, as camel could carry even 600 pounds, and camels indicate the foreign, non-Christian/ non-Italian aspect of the journeying magi.



Friday, December 8, 2017

Horses and fires in Southern California

Salvete Omnes,
 I have been following the reports about the Southern California fires - I used to live in San Diego long time ago and still have some friends there.
The Santa Ana winds, they used to bring warm and dry air after the November wetness and rains have brought fires and danger  this time - although fires seem to have been an integral part of the California ecosystem and some plants - perhaps the most dangerous is eucalyptus -  need the fire to release seeds so they can actually explode in fireballs etc. The ecosystem there is awfully fragile and fire adapted, while urban development  caused many communities to have been built in the chaparral and shrub country, and owning to the nature of Southern California these burn and burn, often and deadly. This article tries to dispel some myths about the chaparral fires and ecosystem.
One of my college friends had fought California fires for several years during his prison sentence and being quite tough Chicano guy he told that that was the scariest and most dangerous thing he ever had done. So good luck to all firefighters there.

Ad rem that is to horses,
this part of California is full of stables, barns, famous stud farms and horse training facilities and racetracks etc. Many areas where fires are burning contain numerous stables throughout the hill country, and these are in mortal danger - eg ABC News videos and article from Dec.6, 2017.
This Dec. 7 2017 article from the San Diego Union-Tribune gives a glimpse into what is taking place in those horse facilities right now. There is video included in the article, not too long but quite telling. What adds to the story is that these are expensive English thoroughbreds worth tons of money.
San Louis Rey Downs near Bonsall in San Diego County LA Times reported as burning, with a number of horses, out of 450, presumed dead. CBS8 fuller report here, with many videos.
Long time ago my grandmother used to tell me stories about wars and violence of fires and floods, and she lived through 2 world wars, with her farm going up in smoke at least once, that  she said that  our docile stabled horses were extremely difficult to remove from the burning stables and barns, and often fought the handlers' efforts to take them outside, thus burning and suffocating to death. One way to remove them was to cover their heads with blankets and ty the blanked so they would not see anything and led them on the lead rope to safety.
a voice from the past:
US Cavalry (4th Cavalry Regiment) Lieutenant Johnathan Boniface in his work  The Cavalry Horse and his Pack(1903  ) stated - horses are easily frightened by fire and it is difficult to control them [..] the horse tries to remain in his burning stable simply because it is his home, wherein he has been accustomed to feeding and sleeping and being well cared for. The horses, in case of fire occurring at the stables, should be removed to a safe distance and securely tied up , for[..] if taken out and turned loose, are very apt to re-enter their stables and perish (p. 358-359).

 In the SDU-T and CBS you can see that the panicked horses are just flying around, with their Mexican and other handlers working hard to take them to some safety.

Good luck Southern California but it does not look good thus far.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Glories of Old Poland by Sztolcman - eagles and Madonna

Salvete Omnes,
looking at the presented collection I have decided to add more  images
of eagles, the symbol of Polish Crown and people, and of Madonna
the Holiest of Holy or our Queen of Poland - the Black Madonna of Jasna Gora Monastery - on these gorgets

Madonna from Koden with a votive plate on the right  and  next to it a votive plate from 1611, note the lance shaft being used as a shaft for the cross and religious flag, also hussar swords shown as the noblemen's arms

a votive plate - Madonna with Child with an eagle on her bossom

a White Eagle from Wachock

 most likely XVIII c winged hussar armor and XVI century kapalin helmet (for a retainer perhaps)

a sword - karabela

a mace - bulawa -

a piernacz mace

a kufel (beer stein)

powder flask and spoon and its carrying case 

a cartridge box of the Saxon kings period-  most likely it was the Polish soldiers who invented those cartridge boxes in the XVI century - friend of mine from the National Museum in Warsaw is writing his dissertation on this very subejct

a lamp
 Kontusz sashes



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Glories of Old Poland by pen & brush of Wladyslaw Sztolcman

Salvete Omnes,
 again I am searching FBC and this time I found this collection Dominika Jeżewskiego Skarbiec Zabytków Polskich znajdujących się w prywatnych zbiorach Warszawy, malował z natury Władysław Sztolcman od r. 1909 -
Warsaw-domiciled  draughtsman and painter Władysław  Roman  Sztolcman  (1873-1950) was hired by a well know Varsovian collector or art and antiques Dominik Witke-Jeżewski (1862-1944) to draw and paint the artifacts in private collections in Warsaw etc (then Russian Poland since 1815). You can see the surviving plates in the already mentioned Warsaw National Museum site.
these are some of the palates from the collection -  drawn with unrivaled attention to detail and splendid in their beauty

winged hussar's armor,





standard / banner,

hussar kopia (lance) in a form of a hetman's lance,

an eagle allegedly from the Jan III Sobieski's pistol holster,

and finally

kontusz sashes

how to tie a kontusz sash  - Paul is tying the kontusz sash while a young historian, lawyer-in-training and reenactor Grzegorz Szymborski serves as a live model..
 - Paul Zambrzycki’s Sashes and Tapestry Workshop

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Salvete Omnes,
researching FBC  I came across this image:
It is a photo taken by Alwina Gossauer of Rapperswil of a watercolor painting by Juliusz Kossak, they say, showing artist's idea of a famous XVII century Polish Lisowski Kozak .
I love Juliusz Kossak's art and this one is a bit different. Perhaps it is a copy after Kossak's ?
 Polish Museum at Rapperswil. 
Powyżej, reprodukcja fotograficzna obrazu przedstawiającego, podobno,  Lisowczyka pędzla Juliusza Kossaka namalowanego w 1872 roku a wykonana przez Alwine Gossauer z Rapperswilu.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Cuyp's fine hunters

Salvete Omnes,

December is upon us - and we are all charging towards Christmas' Eve and all that beautiful Christmas Season.
Huntsmen halted - Birmingham, Barber Institute of Fine Arts - is another fine painting of hunters in very orientalised costumes (allegedly Hungarian) and their fine horses by the Dordrecht born and bred painter Aelbert Cuyp, who without visiting the sunny Italian Peninsula was able to convey  the warm glow of the southern European light, also note the unusual and rather 'conjured' landscape. Accordingly, Cuyp studied the Dutch and other masters who had visited Italy and studied their paintings in Dordrecht in order to produce his own golden-glow light, in which he was quite successful.  On the museum page they make a claim that Cuyp was influenced by the poetic light of Claude Lorrain.

 These  three hunters are allegedly the sons of a Dutch diplomat and statesman Cornelis van Beveren. The African groom or page is this time armed with a fine hinting sword and dressed in similar, orientalised fashion of his masters.The black groom in this painting reflects the colonial history of the Dutch Republic, their far flung sea trade, including slaving ship ventures and participation in direct slave trade between the New Worl  and African Continent, as well as their still small but very profitable African, American and East Asian colonial possessions and their exploitation.
It was the age of Embarrassment of Riches, as scholar Simon Schama calls the Dutch Golden Age, time of unprecedented posterity and influence during the XVII century. It was the British ships and the French guns that brought that Golden Age to a closure, but then nothing last for ever, does it?

highly decorated saddle, note the lack of the thigh support with breastplate

cinches and longs leather stirrups

fine hot-blooded  mounts, perhaps Oriental blood in dapple grey horse and perhaps a Spanish or more eastern the black one, or perhaps both horses are  Polish or Hungarian or Turkish imports , note the ornate bridles with curb-bits?

beautiful bay - perhaps Spanish, Polish or Barb - with ornate bridle with a bit, short curb-bit? 

fine  pasterns and hooves shod with horse shoes

low-set tail of the dapple-grey horse, also note its crouper, on the bay in the background there is another fine breastplate
More Cuyp in the future -:)