Ceremonial Saddle

Northern Italy (Fifteenth century)


Wood and bone, 45 x 58 x 44cm

This saddle belonged to Duke Ercole I d’Este, his coat of arms displayed on the outer face of the pommel. The amorous, chivalrous theme running through the scenes carved into the front-facing plaques is characteristic of this type of object, of which merely twenty examples remain worldwide. The depictions of Hercules and Saint George on the rear plaques, however, are a clear reference to the patron whose motto is also included: ‘Deus fortitudo mea’. To this day, it remains unclear whether the saddle was produced in Tyrol or Friuli. Even by the 1470s, motifs characteristic of the courtly culture on the International Gothic style were still in use in both places, undoubtedly due to the availability of older models in artisanal workshops.