I’ve spent far too much of today contemplating a spur.
I’ve no idea of its provenance, I bought it at auction with a load of silver plated dinnerware.
eagle headed spur

Eagles aren’t uncommon in military spurs, there’s a thriving trade in reproduction eagle headed confederate officers’ spurs, but unsurprisingly no crowns there. Eagle headed spur

There is a reference to brass spurs with crowned eagle decoration for the pageant in Godfrey Bosvile’s 1908 book on Horses, Horsemen & Stable Management – but this refers to a 16th century spur & I believe that mine is later.

So how does my spur differ from its republican cousin? Well, the crown is a pretty good place to start. There have been many eagles used in military contexts over time. I recently visited Budapest, where I bought some Austro-Hungarian dress spurs that feature an eagle.

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poster

 

I travelled to Budapest on business last week.
Imagine my delight at seeing a huge image of a saddle decorated with gold and jewels on a banner on the roof of a building as we drove from the airport into the city.

The roof in question was pretty special too – decorated in green and gold ceramic tiles. This made it pretty easy to identify as the Museum of Applied Arts

So, I spent my first free afternoon at the museum. The whole building is magnificent & the permanent collection includes some fantastic pieces. However the primary purpose of my visit was to see the Esterházy textile collection.

The Esterházy family is first recorded in 12th Century Galánta in what is now Slovakia. Nikolaus Esterházy (1582-1645) gained the title of Count (as well as land and treasure, including some of the saddles in this exhibition) after fighting the Ottomans. The Turks or Ottomans occupied large areas of Hungary from the middle of the 16th century to the end of the 17th. The Esterházys were loyal to the Habsburg rulers of Austria & Hungary and to the Catholic church. They became great landowners, acquiring land from the defeated Turks, from dispossessed protestants during the counter Reformation and by some fairly convoluted marriage arrangements. Again, some of the treasures in the exhibition are thought to be marriage gifts.

gold covered saddle

This is the saddle shown on the poster. It is Hungarian, dating from the mid 17th Century. The plates at the front and back of the saddle are covered with gold and set with turquoises. The cloth is red silk velvet with gold embroidery.

The museum’s website shows a fabulous jewelled saddlecloth or cafrag here. (Do click on their small image to see it in all its glory)

There were other saddles in the exhibition, and a pair of 17th Century Ottoman gilded silver stirrups – I couldn’t photograph these but made some quick sketches – I’ll add them once I’ve tidied them up a little. The exhibition runs until September 2011.

There were more exhibits of equestrian interest in the National Museum & the Ethnographic Museum, I’ll write about those in another blog. Or maybe after another visit…. for research of course, and I might just find time to go to the odd spa…. and the coffee-houses…

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