Royal Armouries

Saddle, possibly for the Hungarian Dragon Order

Images

colour photo of a saddle with decorated bone plaques

Saddle, possibly for the Hungarian Dragon Order. Early 15th century (VI.95)

  • colour photo of a saddle with decorated bone plaques

    Saddle, possibly for the Hungarian Dragon Order. Early 15th century (VI.95)

  • colour photo of a saddle with decorated bone plaques

    Right side view of saddle, possibly for the Hungarian Dragon Order. Early 15th century (VI.95)

  • colour photo of a saddle with decorated bone plaques

    Top view of saddle, possibly for the Hungarian Dragon Order. Early 15th century (VI.95)

  • colour photo of a saddle with decorated bone plaques

    Rear view of saddle, possibly for the Hungarian Dragon Order. Early 15th century (VI.95)

Date: 1416 | Object number: VI.95

This ‘ancient German saddle’ was displayed in the Western vestibule of the New Horse Armoury by the mid 19th century. Its bone plaques are decorated with dragons, and it is possibly a gift from the Emperor Sigismund to King Henry V on his joining the Hungarian Dragon Order in 1416.

Statistics

Object Provenance: Austrian or Hungarian, early 15th century
Object Number: VI.95
Dimensions: height 375 mm (14.76 in)
Width front: 370 mm (14.5 in)
Width rear: 485 mm (19.1 in)
Length: 520 mm (20.5 in)
Weight 3.2 kg (7 lb)

Saddle, possibly for the Hungarian Dragon Order

Description

Constructed of wood veneered with decorative bone plaques with a high forward curved bow, the outline of the cantle forming two semi-circles set at an angle to the tree. Pierced on each side with slots for the girth and stirrups, and holes for the panels and harness. The underside of the saddle is lined with birch bark.

The bone plaques are decorated with dragons and foliage. Those on either side of the pommel have a scroll held at the top by a hand and below the mouth of a dragon, inscribed in gothic lettering, in South German dialect:

right side: ‘ich hoff des pesten / dir geling’ (I hope the best fortune may attend you);
left side: ‘hilf got / wol auf sand Jorgen nam’ (Help God! Forward in the name of St George).

Two scrolls at the back of the cantle are inscribed ‘im ars / is vinster’ (in the arse it is black). At the point of the bow is a cross of St George, and the whole design is emphasized by inlays of black, red and green mastic.

A plain saddle of this type is shown in an engraving by the South German
Master ES, active 1466-8, of St George (M Lehrd, Late Gothic engravings of
Germany and the Netherlands, New York, 1969, no. 131). Others are shown in ‘the battle’ by the Master of the Death of the Virgin, active in the first half of the 15th century (Lehrd no. 9), and on an early 15th century playing card in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (Courtauld box 421, German school).

A very good representation appears in an illumination of the mid 16th century
Trous’sches Bruchstuck in the Bib. Jagiellonska, Krakow (A von Oechlhauser, Die Miniaturen der Universitäts Bibliothek zu Heidelberg, II, Heidelberg, 1895, pl.16). Another good representation is in the panel painting of St George and the dragon attributed to Van Eyck, in the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

The fullest account of this group of saddles lies in Julius von Schlosser, ‘Elfenbeinsättel des ausgehenden Mittelalters’, Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, XV, 1894: 260-94.

The publication of the Sigismundus exhibition catalogue in 2006 includes a listing of all 22 of the known saddles of the group (pp. 277-8), an essay by Maria Vero about them (pp. 270-6) and the exhibition brought eight of them together. Vero speculates whether this one might be a gift from Sigismund to Henry V together with the York sword in 1416.

Publications

John Hewitt, Official Catalogue of the Tower Armouries, London, 1859: 41, vi.61. It is recorded in his Guide of 1845 as displayed in the New Horse Armoury, Western Vestibule, in the Cabinet on the west side.
A.R. Dufty and W. Reid, European Armour in the Tower of London, 1968, plate CLII.

Exhibited

Sigismundus rex et imperator, Budapest, Szepmuveszeti Museum,
18 March – 18 June 2006; Luxembourg, Musée National, 13 July – 15 October 2006

References

C. Paggiarino, The Royal Armouries, masterpieces of medieval and renaissance arms and armour, Milan, 2011, volume 1, 104–9
Sigismundus rex et imperator, Budapest, 2006, no. 4/69 p. 361-2.

This ‘ancient German saddle’ was displayed in the Western vestibule of the New Horse Armoury by the mid 19th century. Its bone plaques are decorated with dragons, and it is possibly a gift from the Emperor Sigismund to King Henry V on his joining the Hungarian Dragon Order in 1416.

Statistics

Object Provenance: Austrian or Hungarian, early 15th century
Object Number: VI.95
Dimensions: height 375 mm (14.76 in)
Width front: 370 mm (14.5 in)
Width rear: 485 mm (19.1 in)
Length: 520 mm (20.5 in)
Weight 3.2 kg (7 lb)

Related Objects

Saddle Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: VI.495

Themes Menu

Line of Kings