Sunday, March 5, 2017

Introduction to medieval & renaissance bridles

This small site provides an overview of the construction of medieval and renaissance bridles. It is only meant as an overview - the reader is encouraged to do more research to investigate specific time periods or locations that they might be interested in.

At this time, the site only covers the construction of medieval and renaissance bridles. Bits and reins will be added in the future as those are significant topics by themselves.

Overview of bridle parts 

Browbands 

  • Sometimes a single piece of leather that continued on to be the throatlatch; other times the browband is separate 
  • Often attached to a ring or decorative bridle boss, either with strap ends or doubled back and riveted. 
  • Sometimes it is shown sewn on (e.g. Pisanello) or doubled back over the throatlatch and riveted (e.g. Gozzoli). 
  •  Often highly decorated (fringe, charms, tassels, etc.) 
  • Sometimes has a decorative tassel, chape, or short bit of leather on the ends

Pisanello, 15th c.

Gozzoli, 15th c.
Cenni di Francesco di ser Cenni, 1410
Westminster Psalter, c. 1250
Gentile da Fabriano, 1423
Manessa Codex c. 1340

Throatlatches

  • Some bridles did not have a throatlatch
  • Often affixed to a ring or bridle boss; sometimes shown affixed using a chape end
  • Sometime the throatlatch is a continuation of the browband (i.e. one strip of leather), but it can also be a separate piece
  • Tied or buckled on either side (but usually the left), sometimes with a metal strap end on the tip of the loose end
  • Often narrows under the horse’s throat
Gozzoli, 15th c.


BnF Français 403 Apocalypse, 
c. 1240-1250

Pisanello, 15th c.

Capidolista Codex, 15th c.
Pisanello, 15th c.

Lorenzetti, 1339

Crownpiece/Headstall

  • A buckle for adjusting bridle can sometimes be seen on the top of the crownpiece (e.g. Pisanello), or even a tie at the top (e.g. Schilling) 
  • Other times the crownpiece is plain and not adjustable
  • Crownpiece may have additional strap between the ears that connects to the browband
  • Sometimes there isn't a crown piece at all - instead, ear loops are used

Pisanello, 15th c.


Schilling, late 15th c.
Cenni di Francesco di ser 
Cenni, 1410

BnF Français 403 Apocalypse, 
c. 1240-1250
Morgan Bible (“Crusader Bible), c. 1250

Aquamanile in the Form 
of a Mounted Knight, ca. 1250



Cheekpieces/Bit attachments

  • Often seen as one continuous strip that includes the crownpiece (unless there is a buckle on the crownpiece)
  • Usually attaches to the bit via a metal strap end fitting with a ring, or a bit hanger, but can also be attached directly to the bit by folding over the leather and riviting
  • 15th c paintings often show a  bridle boss just above where the bit is attached. Other images show where the leather is doubled over and attached with a small decorative rivet.



Pisanello, 15th c  

Gentile da Fabriano, 1423

Gozzoli, 15th c.
Bayeux Tapestry c. 1170
Roman de Giron le Coutois c. 1350


Manessa Codex c. 1340

Nosebands

  • Many bridles are seen without nosebands, or use V shaped straps instead of a noseband
  • Sometimes a very thin noseband, or even a "half-noseband," is seen in the 1400s

Uccello, 1340
Cenni di Francesco di ser Cenni, 1410
16th century miniature, Musée de Versailles
Bayeux Tapestry c. 1077

Lorenzetti, 1339
The Romance of Jean de Saint, 1470

Reins

  • 13th c. snaffle bits were sometimes seen with two reins
  • Curb bits could have one or two reins. If the bit used two reins, the fancier, wide rein was usually attached to the snaffle part of the bit, while the thinner rein used to control the horse was attached to the end of the curb shank (this arrangement may have been reversed when jousting
  • Reins were often attached via a strap end with a ring or with a hanger, or could be tied directly.
  • The section of rein attached to the bit was sometimes made of chain

Pisanello, 15th c.

Westminster Psalter, c. 1250
St. Martin of Tours, 15th c.

Capitolista Codex, 15th c.
Uccello, c. 1340
Donatello, 1543
Gozzoli, 15th c.

Manuscrito iluminado de la Biblioteca Marciana 14th c.
Roman de Giron le Coutois c. 1350

Curb straps

  • 15th c. versions are often shown as a curved metal bar (not a chain!)
  • Chains appear in the 16th c. and are referenced in several 16th c. riding treatises
  • Not all curb bits appear to have a curb strap

Pisanello, 15th c.

Pisanello, 15th c.


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