Saddle

Staghorn, carved and partly colored, lined with birch bark; decorated with figures in low relief against background of inhabited scrollwork; St. George and the Dragon; men and women in fashionable secular costumes holding inscribed ribbons with initials (G and S) and German inscriptions (motto: Gedenkch und Halt "Look before you leap" or "Think and Hold", depending on translation, repeated three times).

This saddle, intended for use in parades, belongs to a group of twenty-one saddles believed to have been gifts from German emperor Sigismund I (1368-1437) to knights in the Order of the Dragon upon their induction. This saddle is decorated with bone plaques skillfully carved in low relief with depictions of courtly men and women and Saint George battling the dragon. On both sides of this saddle is inscribed, in German, "GEDENKCH UND HALT," which means literally "think and stop" or, colloquially, "look before you leap."

Provenance

Possibly by 1520, the princes of Batthyány, Hungary [see note 1]; by descent within the family to Ladislaus Batthyány-Strattmann (b. 1904 - d. 1966) and his wife, Antoinette Batthyány-Strattmann (b. 1902 - d. 1990), Körmend, Hungary; April 17, 1969, Antoinette Batthyány-Strattmann and others sale, Sotheby's, London, lot 6, to Herbert Bier, London, for the MFA. (Accession Date: May 14, 1969)



NOTES:

[1] According to notes in the MFA curatorial file, there is a tradition that this belonged either to Balthasar Batthyány (d. 1520) or his son Francis and was passed on by descent within the family. In the 18th century, Empress Maria Teresia granted the family the title of Princes Batthyany, Counts of Strattmann. The saddle is said to have been with the Batthyány-Strattmann family at this time, when it was recorded among the arms collection as a family heirloom. In the 19th century it was on loan to the Museum of Szombathély, Hungary and was subsequently returned to Körmend Castle.

Credit Line

Centennial Purchase Fund

Saddle

Place of Manufacture
Tyrol, Western Austria or Northern Italy
Dimensions
Overall: 36.2 x 54.6 x 37.1 cm (14 1/4 x 21 1/2 x 14 5/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Bone over wood core, lined underneath with hide covered with birch bark, polychromy
Classification
Tools & equipment
Accession Number
69.944
On view
Museum Council Gallery (Europe, 1000–1400 / Medieval) - 254

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