Sunday, October 26, 2014

Napoleonic bridle

horsing  around I did some sketches of the Napoleonic cavalry bridles, mostly used by the light and line cavalry.  Plenty good info on the Napoleonic cavalry at this site - napolun
Here you can view prints by Bellange showing various soldiers of the Napoleon’s army.
Excellent prints (77 of them) by Carle Vernet showing le Grand Armee crica 1812 can be viewed and downloaded at wiki commons
My own sketch is a ballpen one, on paper, and it is a part of a dozen sketches studying brildes of the Napoleonic cavalry.
Well, 2015 should be great for the Napoleonic history afficionado, for the very next year there will be the 200 anniversary of Waterloo, and there will be a huge celebration/commemoration of this eventful  battle, I hope to attend for I am certain the reenactment festivities will be the most memorable.

Two days ago a uhlan and the last Hubalczyk, from the famous major Dobrzański's ( 'Hubal' ) Polish army unit, that fought the Nazi Germans after October 1939 as guerilla or partisan unit,  rejoined his commander and comrades in the eternal service to his country and God - Pacem aeternam, Romuald Rodziewicz !

Looking at some paintings, I found this Trojan War theme painting  to nicely close this entry, my thoughts with the passing of the last Hubalczyk - one by Antoine Wiertz, a Belgain Romantic painter of prodigial talents and herculanean strenght displayed in this piece


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rudolph F. Kurz - Journal 2

staying with Herr Kurz and his journal, another bit I want to share with you.
First, a little note he writes about the American horses he saw in Saint Louis early in his adventure:

''During the first 3 months of the year 1848 I painted a number of horses from life.
 I saw them all day long, standing before my window. American horses are bred 
from no particular stock but area product of much cross-breeding. 
They are, on the whole, excellentfor riding but not strong enough for draft horses.
 Indian ponies - dwarfed horses — resemble in many respects the spirited 
but some-what delicate Breton trotters.''

Second, about the backwoods farmers, cattle and horses.. for their wives:

Meanwhile, I made my first acquaintance with the American log cabin and the backwoodsman. The fellow chewed tobacco incessantly, spitting his brown juice right and left. The mother smoked a pipe as she swayed back and forth in a rocking chair, a piece of furniture as indispensable, it seems, as a bed. The log house is built usually with only one room; the huge fireplace serves for kitchen. The entire family and their guests sleep in that room,; its only vestige of ornamentation was found in pieced-together bed coverings called quilts. There is no trace of running water, vegetable gardens, flower gardens, or orchards, and,as compared with ours, the same might be said of their stables and granaries. The people themselves were most friendly and seemed to be contented with their lot, because they were easily satisfied.As to their appearance, they did not look healthy. Even the native-born Americans are not exempt from fever. The freshly broken forest land is by no means salutary for any one. The backwoods-man, therefore, is wont to be a tall, gaunt man with hollow chest and pale, almost ashen, complexion.

The food of these people consists, three times a
day, of black coffee with a bit of brown sugar, fried ham and
hominy (boiled maize), corn bread, and molasses. The children
are very fond of crumbling their corn bread in warm ham gravy.
Although they possessed cows and chickens, milk and eggs were
a rarity in winter.The backwoodsman seemed not to have the least
idea of stall feeding; it was far too much trouble for him to
arrange, particularly in the depths of the forest. Furthermore, he
cared too little about cattle to put himself to the inconvenience of
giving them the necessary attention; consequently, the poor beasts
presented, in winter,a sorry sight, shocking to a native of
Switzerland. At a zigzag fence that enclosed the house lot the cows had
to stand exposed to the wind, snow, and rain. With shoulders and
hoofs thrust forward and their gaunt backs covered with a crust of
snow, half-starved,benumbed with cold, their only possible comfort
the smell of corn nearby, they seemed to me the embodiment of

As excuse for this negligence toward his poor cattle the farmer declared that the beasts were better adapted to the out-of-doors than to stall feeding and, accordingly, Nature had provided especially for them; there was forage enough under the snow. With regard to wild cattle that is, in a way, true, but not when it is a question of domestic annuals.
Every beast loses in instinct in proportion to what it gains by training. The farmer gave a peck of corn more to a cow with a young calf (also, to a sow with a litter of pigs), so that the animals would not stray too far. He accustomed the cow to stay near the house, where she longingly and with bovine patience looked forward to having the corn, that she constantly smelled in the nearby corncrib, at last between her teeth. If she preferred to be independent and wander around for food, not appearing again in the evening, then the farmer went after her and brought her back with a whip and many a "hulloa" and "damn." If this treatment of cattle were confined to the backwoodsman only, it might be explained, for he cannot grow hay in the forest and has to feed his cattle on corn. But the same thing is true in the West: one rarely sees even a well-to-do farmer there who cuts winter forage, and not even then unless he lives near cities or towns, where he can sell the hay at a good price. 

The horses were protected during severe weather for the reason that the backwoodsman's wife was especially fond of horseback riding. "Visiting" — that is, riding around to visit the neighbors — is for the farmer's wife what "shopping" is for the city woman. 

paintings of George Caleb Bingham - from Wikipedia

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rudolph F. Kurz - the journal 1

I have been very interested in the history of the American Indians of the Great Plains, especially during the period of 1630s (when the Plains Apaches started riding the Spanish New Mexico on horseback) to 1868) ( the second Treaty of Fort Laramie).
I especially enjoy the period literature written by the traders, trading companies officials, and mountain men and travellers written during the late XVIII and first half of the XIX century, during the so called Fur Trade period on the Plains.
The Journal of Rudolph F. Kurz belongs to this class of sources, and yet is more unusual than the most, for it was written by an artist who perennially short of funds came to the US via New Orleans, and then worked his way up the the trading posts of the American Fur Trade Company where  lived and worked on the Upper Missouri, drawing the tribal peoples and writing about his life on the Plains ( including working under the boss Edwin Thompson Denig, whose life and work will become the subject of some posts, I hope - via library collection).
The Journal was written in German and finally translated by Myrtis Jarrell and published by Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology   in 1937. The American editor of Kurz's journal  J. N. B. Hewitt wrote in the foreword (Washington 1937) :

Mr. Kurz witnessed a number of historically important events in 
the valley of the Mississippi River. While in this great western 
region he learned much of the final westward migration of the 
Mormon people resulting from the bitter hostility of the white peo- 
ple with whom the Mormons came in contact. 

He likewise witnessed the great rush westward of the money-mad 
to California after the reported discovery of gold there. His com- 
ments on these events are sometimes rather caustic, but they appear 
to be based on his own observations. Mr. Kurz is especially critical 
in his remarks on the causes and the conduct of the Mexican War, 
which had broken out just before he reached this country. 

Mr. Kurz lived at several of the great trading posts of the fur 
companies on the Missouri River, being occupied at times as a clerk, 
especially at Forts Berthold and Union, and so came into direct 
contact with the daily lives of the Indians, of the carefree traders, 
and of the officers of these trading posts. 

It was this intimacy with the private lives of these several classes 
of people which supplied him with the data he so interestingly in- 
corporated in his narrative, since he witnessed conditions which have 
long ago passed into oblivion along with the buffalo. 

At all times he evinced a deep sympathy for the Indians in their 
struggle against the destructive encroachments of the white man, 
and so he willingly excused the Indians for their foibles. 

Maestro Kurz wrote about himself:

[...]from my earliest youth primeval forest and Indians had an in-
describable charm for me. In spare hours I read only those books 
that included descriptions and adventures of the new world; even 
my own beautiful homeland pleased me best in its records of primi- 
tive times, when sturdy shepherds and huntsmen, with their noble 
forms unconcealed — like the "woodmen" in heraldry or the Germans 
of Tacitus — roamed freely in the virgin woods where dwelt the 
aurochs and the stag, the bison and the gazelle, the wild boar and the 
unicorn, the chamois and, what is more, the dragon. Now primeval 
forests exist only in inaccessible mountain fastnesses ; cultivation ex- 
tends even to the snow-capped peaks. Man's habitations spread over 
the whole earth; there are churches and schoolhoiises without num- 
ber; yet where are men found dwelling together in unity? "Where 
does sober living prevail? Or contentment? I longed for unknown 
lands, where no demands of citizenship would involve me in the 
vortex of political agitations. I longed for the quietude of imme- 
morial woods where no paupers mar one's delight in beauty, where 
neither climate, false modesty, nor fashion compels concealment of 
the noblest form in God's creation ; where there is neither overlord- 
ship of the bourgeois nor the selfishness of the rich who treasure 
their wealth in splendid idleness, while the fine arts languish. 

When I was allowed to devote myself to painting, those longings 
became all the more intense for the reason that, from the moment 
I determined to become an artist, my life purpose was fixed : I would 
devote my talents to the portrayal of the aboriginal forests, the wild 
animals that inhabited them, and to the Indians. From that mo- 
ment I had an ideal — a definite purpose in life to the attainment of 
which I might dedicate all my powers. To depict with my brush 
the romantic life of the American Indian seemed to me a subject 
worthy of the manifold studies I was to undertake. In fact, the 
comprehensiveness of the plan proved my greatest difficulty, because, 
in the study of art, landscape and animals require each a special 
training that is only little less important than that demanded for the 
representation of human beings. Many years would be required of 
me, if I was to attain to mastery in a single one of these subjects. 
Nevertheless, my enthusiasm for art, my perseverance and untiring 
patience — self-will, as this trait is often named — gave me fair hopes 
of realizing my aims. 

I spent 12 years in preparation for my professional tour. Dur- 
ing that time I had wavered between this country and that in trying 
to make up my mind which would be the best field for my work. 
It was not merely a question as to which zone afforded the most
luxuriant landscape and the greatest variety of wild animals, but, 
above all else, which country afforded, also, the most perfect type 
of primitive man; for, as my studies progressed, my ideals became 
more exacting, my aims more lofty : I aspired to attain to the excel- 
lence of antique art — yes, still more, to equal Raphael's master works. 
Accordingly, it was no longer my purpose to portray the Indian 
as an end in itself but to employ that type as a living model in the 
portrayal of the antique. Baron Alexander von Humboldt, whom 
I had the honor to meet in Paris in 1839, recommended Mexico as 
the country above all others that would serve my purpose best. 
The lofty Cordilleras, the luxuriant vegetation of the tropics, the 
Comanche Indians, the buffalo, etc., were all there together— un- 
surpassed in any other geographical zone. In Brazil and in Suri- 
nam, it is true, vegetation was much more abundant, but, on the 
other hand, the wild animals were less varied in kind and the In- 
dians not so finely formed. Furthermore, the North American In- 
dian, inasmuch as he has to exert himself to a greater degree for his 
livelihood, has far more intelligence and energy than his southern 

In 1839 I decided in favor of Mexico and, so eager was my desire 
for travel, I would have set out thither at once had not my friend 
Karl Bodmer restrained me with his good advice. He wisely urged 
me not to be in too great haste, but first to become so practiced in 
the drawing of natural objects and in the true representation of 
animals and of mankind that the matter of technique would no 
longer offer the least difficulty. Then I should be able to discern 
quickly the natural characteristics peculiar to the region in question 
and to portray the forms with facility and ease. It is an undoubted 
fact that, when one has to labor painfully with drawing, perspective, 
and the combining of colors while sketching or painting an object or 
scene, life and action suffer thereby. One must have a practiced 
hand and an experienced eye to be able to indicate with a few swift 
strokes the preeminent characteristics of an object, which he can 
keep in mind upon painting the same or else recover always with 
ease. The ability merely to make sketches would not avail me. I 
must devote myself to prolonged study in art. 

Regarding the so called scientific aspect of the journal Kurz said:

No scientific de-scriptions of natural life, as studies of mine, will be found 
therein. That work has been admirably done by recognized scientists such as
 Audubon, Prince Neu Wied, and others. My pictorial representations are more
 complete, more accurate in so far as the animals are portrayed together with
 the terrain that offers the best setting for them, and the Indians are 
represented not only in their ceremonial garb but also in the dress of 
everyday life. An artist depicts but one moment of an action, though there 
may be many more ideas as well as descriptions of habits and customs 
that, while not suitable to his purpose, are interesting and justify an 
account of the whole action. On the other hand, the pictorial delineation
is supposed to be a clearer, more complete picture than the most perfect
description in words. 

The task as he saw it:

My chief task in this work was to give from my own observation 
a sincere portrayal of the American Indian in his romantic mode of life,
true representation of the larger fur-bearing animals and of 
the native forests and prairies. The pictures are intended to be true 
to nature but chosen from the standpoint of the picturesque and de- 
picted in an aesthetic manner. They are intended to satisfy natural- 
ists as well as artists, to broaden the knowledge of the layman and 
serve at the same time to cultivate his taste. 

Armed with pencil and brushes and his enthusiasm messer Kurz set out from Bern, Switzerland and arrived in Louisiana in December 1846, and so his American adventure began...
In the coming weeks I hope to include here some of the Kurz's description of the Plains people and their horse culture, including the drawings. All the text and drawings come from the 1937 publication available on
the drawing above -  it perhaps shows the artist himself during his life on the Plains, with an 'Indian pony'

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Polish Winged hussar - a toy soldier

when I was a boy there were very few toy soldiers one could play with that were related to our Polish Commonwealth history (perhaps our Communist overlords did not envision too much glory to the noble cavalry).

 So there were several different winged hussars made from various plastic and rubber materials, but nothing really fancy and durable, and now these figures are a collector items in Poland (eg 1, 2, 3) .
For some years I have been buying for my son various quasi historical figurines  from Schleich, Papo and some others.
Now, my friend and great artist, Grzegorz 'ducz' Kupiec, has been sculpting figurine toys for the toy company from Poland named Tissotoys.

Some of these figurines are clear representation of our  Polish (and Czech, like the immortal Krecik- Krtek) most famous  children films or comics characters, and he always wanted to have some Polish knights and winged hussars.

but the figurine line also includes a growing number of historical toys also designed to be used as toys by children and ... adults alike  :) .  The historical figurines thus far  are: pan Zagloba, colonel of dragoons, Zaporozhian Cossak (based on the principal characters from Henryk Sienkiewicz's 'Trylogy') and a winged hussar.

My most favourite, obviously,  is this figurine of a winged hussar:

I hope the museum shops in the States, like  the MET, Chicago, or Philadelphia where Polish winged hussar armours and weaponry are held, will be selling them to children.
 The company plans to have 'ducz' sculpt more hussars and other Polish historical figurines from various periods - from the Medieval knights to World War II toys soldiers. I do hope so.  I am more than certain that 'duch' will deliver many more great figurines, to the utmost delight of children and collectors.

please note I do not own the rights to these photos and the Tissotoy company kindly allowed me to show them to you on my blog.

also, do note that I have no financial interest in this company nor I was approached to write this little entry. I am simply happy to see these fine figurines enter the children toy market, and additionally I am going to buy some for my own children (ok, and for myself as well).

Monday, October 6, 2014


Salve friends and fellow travellers,
back to blogging after a hiatus of sorts, in Septemebr I spent some time visiting quite a few late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches and other monuments in Mazowsze(Masovia) and old Ziemia Sieradzko-Łęczycka.
I photographed several funerary monuments, with some nice XVI century knightly armour depicted.

 I did some horse riding and just playing with a horse or two while in Poland, thanks to a fine horse woman Magda and ... my niece Pati.

I did not do much sketching or painting during (getting injured in a mountain biking marathon race did not help either), I admit, for being the parent of a little 5 months old baby and a  13 years old teenager your time is being all eaten up :)
 Per drawings some quick sketches:
after Gorelik-McBride (from 1 watercolour sketch on a light weight paper

 2 a ball pen with some digital color

 3 one with coloured BiC ball pens

 4 sketched with a ball pen and digital colour

.And a concept sketch of a Parthian after the rock carving from Tang-e-Sarvak

well, until the next time, perhaps tomorrow

Polish team of horse archers, Michał Sanczenko et  Anna Sokólska et al, went to
 Korea - good luck to all horse archers taking part in this competition as it is taking place right now!  Here a fantastic horse archer and horse breeder from Iran, Ali Goorchian, in a video  from Malaysia.