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Saddle (selle); also known as the 'Körmend Saddle' or 'Batthyany-Strattman Saddle' (Left side)

Saddle (selle); also known as the 'Körmend Saddle' or 'Batthyany-Strattman Saddle' (Left side)
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Right side

Secular. Religious.

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Boston, Museum of Fine Arts


Bone;wood (core);leather, hide, bark (underside and sides)

Height: 362mm
Width: 546mm
Depth: 371mm

Left side: crouching monkey; saint George and the dragon; standing princess; griffin; monkey; hybrids; bearded man holding a falchion and a shield with a face; man and woman holding scrolls; fashionable dress.
Right side: men and women holding scrolls; bearded man holding a whip (?) and a shield with a face; dragons and hybrids.
Foliated decoration; checkered borders.
Inscription on scrolls in German (repeated on both sides): 'GEDENKCH UND HALT' (literally, 'think and stop' or, colloquially, 'look before you leap').

Schlosser 1894: possibly Tyrolian.
Gaborit-Chopin 1978: Central European (probably Tyrol), c. 1450.
Randall 1993: Tyrol, 2nd quarter of the 15th century.
Detroit 1997: Central European (probably Tyrol).
Museum's opinion 2011: Tyrol, Western Austria or Northern Italy, c. 1430-1460.


Polychromy - Gilding
Traces of polychromy: black (incriptions), red and green.

Carved on both sides.

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. The inscription may have been a motto. 'The plaques, probably from the pelvic bones of large animals, are attached to the core with bone pins as well as glue (Detroit 1997, p. 261). Some areas between the upper an lower sections of the saddle are covered in leather which was painted red. Fourteen holes occur along the perimetre of the saddle; horizontal slot on either side for the girth and another small slot for the stirrup leathers.

Possibly in the collection of princes of Batthyány, Hungary by 1520 (according to notes in the Museum of Fine Arts 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); 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; Antoinette Batthyány-Strattmann and others sale, Sotheby's, London, 17 April 1969, lot 6, to Herbert Bier, London, for the Museum of Fine Arts (Centennial Purchase Fund).

J. von Schlosser, 'Elfenbeinsättel des ausgehenden Mittelalters', in Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, 15 (1894), pp. 260-294, no. 15, fig. 8. Fully accessible online as part of the Heidelberger historische Bestände: Fully accessible online as part of the Heidelberger historische Bestände:
http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/jbksak1894/0318 [accessed 24/07/2013].
L. Kárász, 'Elefántcsont-Nyergek a N. Múzeumban', in Archaeologiai Értesitö 14 (1894), p. 57, figs 7-8 .
Ungarische Kriegsgeschichtliche Denkmäler in der Millenniums-Landes-Ausstellung (Budapest, 1896), pp. 274-276, no. 838.
R. Koechlin, Les Ivoires gothiques français (Paris, 1924), I, pp. 463-464.
'Hungarian Art Treasurers', in Catalogue (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1967), no. 64.
J. F. Hayward, 'A Fifteenth century carved bone saddle', in Auction, vol. 2, no. 7 (March 1969), pp. 22-23.
Centennial Acquisitions: Art Treasures for Tomorrow, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1970, no. 34.
D. Gaborit-Chopin, Ivoires du Moyen Age (Freiburg, 1978), no. and fig. 270, p. 213.
J. Eisler, 'Zu den Fragen der Beinsättel der Ungarischen Nationalmuseums', in Folia Archaeologica 30 (1979), p. 222, no. 35, pp. 232, 234-235, no. 53.
R. H. Randall, The Golden Age of Ivory: Gothic Ivory Carvings in North American Collections (New York, 1993), no. 199, pl. 18.
Images in Ivory. Precious Objects of the Gothic Age, ed. by Peter Barnet, exhibition catalogue, Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts, and Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery, 1997, no. 70.
G. Shallcross Wohlauer, A Guide to the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, 1999), pp. 184-185.
H. Wenzel (et al.), Die Verschriftlichung der Welt (Vienna, 2000), pp. 164-165, fig. 16.
M. Verő, 'Bemerkungen zu den beinsätteln aus der Sigismundzeit', in Sigismundus rex et imperator : Kunst und Kultur zur Zeit Sigismunds von Luxemburg 1387-1437, exhibition catalogue, Budapest and Luxemburg, 2006, pp. 270-278 (fig. 5 and p. 277, no. 5).
R. D. Radway, 'In the Name of St. George: Fifteenth-Century Bone Saddles', post dated 29 March 2012 on 'On the Art of Renaissance and Ottoman Hungary...' blog: http://ottomanhungary.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/help-o-lord-may-god-help-in-name-of-st.html [accessed 24/07/2013].


Photograph © 15 July 2012 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Credit Line: Centennial Purchase Fund.

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