Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense) Belonging to an Armor for Field and Tournament Made for Duke Nikolaus "The Black" Radziwill (1515–1565), Duke of Nesvizh and Olyka, Prince of the Empire, Grand Chancellor and Marshal of Lithuania
Timm Radt kindly pointed me to this remarkable image from MS. Bodley Canon. Bibl. Lat. 62 "The Canonici Apocalypse ", fol. 005r, Peterborough, England, dated to 1320-30. Find a zoomable online version here .
The horseman is completely clad in mail armour with a steel skull cap on his head. He wears a sleeveless robe on top which is close fitting around the chest and is girded very high in the waste. The rich folds suggest a very wide skirt, much like the garments unearthed at Herjolfsnes , Greenland. His spurs feature little star-shaped wheels as pricks.
The armoured horseman rides a stallion which is quite typical, although this one is plain brown, while many war mounts depicted elsewhere in contemporary art are dapple-grey horses. The high-framed war saddle supports the rider and his legs are extended down and forward in typical medieval fashion. Otherwise, horse-gear is fairly plain. Note the spiked horseshoes improving traction.
Kunz Lochner was one of the few Nuremberg armorers of the mid-sixteenth century to achieve an international reputation. His patrons included the Holy Roman Emperor, the dukes of Saxony, and the king of Poland. This horse armor bears only the Nuremberg mark but can be attributed to Lochner on stylistic grounds. The elaborately embossed and etched decoration of the peytral (chest defense) includes an abbreviated inscription that may be interpreted: 1548 K[rist] I[ch] T[rau] G[anz] V[nd] G[ar] H[ans] E[rnst] H[erzog] Z[u] Sachsen (1548 In Christ I trust wholly, Hans [Johann] Ernst, Duke of Saxony). Duke Johann Ernst (1521–1553) may have commissioned the horse armor for his attendance at the Diet of Augsburg, a political assembly of the German nobility called in 1548 by Charles V to deal with the crisis of the Reformation.