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14th Century Armoured Horseman

 

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. See a modern example here .

His long-bladed single-handed sword seems to be mounted with a wheel pommel. The blade is very wide at its base, close to the elaborate crossguard with rolled up terminals and a central extension. The original silver paint has darkened over time as with most miniatures, and makes it difficult to see any indication of a fuller or mid-rib.

The most interesting detail in my opinion is , of course,  the shield strap arrangement. The horseman has suspended his heater-shaped shield from its so-called guige strap (the neck strap) which runs around the right side of his neck, over the chest and left upper arm. The illustration does not appear to reflect the effects of gravity in a naturalistic manner – a recurring problem with  iconographic evidence when trying to reconstruct the way that shields were carried on the back . But it is clear that it was a common practice, and apparently, because of armour and possibly padded under-garments, choking or tear does not at all appear to have been an issue. 

 We can see the guide strap being fastened  in the top right corner with three nails or rivets. One would expect a lot of tear on the lower single rivet. Then again, it is impossible to say if this is indeed an accurate representation of so small a detail. There is a square shape under the rider’s chin, which might be an ailette (a shoulder defence, usually bearing the riders coat-of-arms), however, ailettes usually come in pairs, and there is obviously none on his sword side shoulder. So what we see must be some something on the shield’s inside. A further strap?

Most noteworthy a detail are the two short hand straps in the shield’s lower section, fastened by means of nails or rivets. They are curving twowards each other and are clearly supposed to be held in the fist, enabling the user to lift the shield's point, which results in completely screening off the left side of his head.

14th Century Armoured Horseman
 
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