I’ve recently been cataloging some of our Cecil Aldin books and I’ve been enjoying his work so I’m sharing it, and some of what I’ve learned about him, here with you.  Cecil Aldin (1870-1935) was a successful and prolific artist.  He is probably best known for his dog portraits and sporting scenes, but his illustrations filled books, magazines, and newspapers, and frequently appeared on posters.

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Full Cry, from The Fallowfield Hunt.  From The Sporting Art of Cecil Aldin (1990) by Roy Heron.

Aldin believed that it was critical to work from life.  In much the same way that writers are told to write what they know, he drew and painted things that he knew well.  He was a life long hunter and followed fox hounds, harriers, beagles, and bassets during his sporting career.  In fact he attained the office of Master twice.  First as Master of the Peppard Farmers’ Harriers, and later as Master of Foxhounds for the South Berks Hunt.

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Aldin, third from the left, as Master of the Peppard Farmers’ Harriers.  From The Sporting Art of Cecil Aldin (1990) by Roy Heron.

His long and intimate knowledge of hunt riding gives his hunt scenes authenticity.  He frequently sketched in the saddle and was able to capture the idiosyncrasies of individual riders to such a degree that people who knew them were able to identify them in paintings.

After his death his daughter published one of his sketchbooks and it provides interesting insight to his artistic process.  I love how the setting is so concrete while the riders, horses, and hounds drift through the scene like ghosts.

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The Aterstone.  From Hunting Scenes (1936) by Cecil Aldin.  The gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr.

Compare this sketch of the South Berks near Shinfield with a final painting of a similar scene.

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South Berks near Shinfield.  From Hunting Scenes (1936) by Cecil Aldin.  The gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr.
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The South Berks.  From The Sporting Art of Cecil Aldin (1990) by Roy Heron.

Aldin was surrounded by dogs and hounds of all sorts his entire life.  Here are a couple pictures of his “models” in the studio.

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From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
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From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

This photo and the following etching of Micky the wolfhound once again show Aldin working from life.

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Micky napping in the studio.  From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
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Micky the wolfhound.  From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Aldin’s favorite model was the bull terrier, Cracker.

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Cracker on Sentry Duty.  From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Cracker outlived his master by over two years.  He was so popular with the public that his own eventual death received coverage on the radio and in the newspapers.  Several papers printed obituaries.

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Cracker’s obituaries.  From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Aldin’s life story is full of interesting episodes and people.  One story that really caught my eye has to do with the remount station that he ran during World War I.  Despite the doubts of the war office, he staffed his remount station entirely with women.

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A group of women remount workers at Purley Remount Depot.  From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

From his hunting experiences he knew many  women who were skilled horse handlers.  In the end there were over 100 women, from all social classes and of all ages, working in the remount station.  It was so successful that by the end of the war, women were employed in remount stations across England.

If you would like to read more about Cecil Aldin’s life, or to see some of his illustrations and paintings, stop by the Library and see me.  I’d love to share some more stories from his interesting life.


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Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

Here in Virginia, we’re excited at the approach of a total solar eclipse which will occur in North America on August 21. While everybody is preparing to view this event, we were also reminded of another solar eclipse that left a major mark on the equestrian world.

On April 1, 1764, a solar eclipse occurred in Europe, with the maximum effect best seen in southeastern England and northern France. Viewing conditions were not ideal in London, leading observers to travel to Edinburgh to avoid cloud cover and get the best view. The eclipse began at 9:09 a.m., and continued until 11:53 a.m. Maximum obscuration was reported at 10:24 a.m. During the eclipse, the most valuable and influential horse in history was foaled.

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Daniel Quigley (Irish, 18th Century) The Godolphin Arabian, late 18th Century, oil on canvas, 38 x 48 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. This piece was view at NSLM as part of The Chronicle of the Horse in Art.

The horse, who was named Eclipse for his foaling day, was bred by Prince William, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765) and son of George II. Eclipse’s dam, Spilletta, was a granddaughter of the Godolphin Arabian, a foundational sire of the Thoroughbred breed.

Eclipse was headstrong and temperamental, and the chestnut stallion was renowned for his temper. We was worked constantly to tire him out, and the exercise made him easier to handle. Eclipse was large (sometimes criticized for having a big, unattractive head), and had great endurance for an era where horse racing was done in heats of two and four miles.

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Eclipse At New Market With Groom, by George Stubbs (1724-1806). Accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

The racing career of Eclipse is remarkable, as the horse went undefeated in 18 races over two years. His jockey, Jack Oakley, habitually let Eclipse run as he pleased, and made few attempts to hold him back. After Eclipse’s second victory, he was purchased by Dennis O’Kelly (1725-1787), an adroit horse breeder and bettor who was renowned for winning a bet that placed “Eclipse first, the rest nowhere,” meaning no other horse would finish within 240 yards of Eclipse.

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Illustration of geometric measurements of Eclipse by Charles Vial de Sanibel. From Essai sur les proportions Geometrales de l’Eclipse, 1791, National Sporting Library & Museum.

After two unbeaten campaigns, Eclipse was retired in large part because of a lack of challengers. It was impossible to find better odds against him than 20 to 1, and his value now resided at stud. His stud fee began at 50 guineas, and he went on to become the most successful sire in history, siring 344 winners of more than 158,000 pounds. It’s far easier to list Thoroughbreds that don’t count Eclipse in their background than those that do. It’s estimated that over 95% of Thoroughbreds can trace their pedigrees to Eclipse in the male line.

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Skeleton of Eclipse. Photo number L0000443, Wellcome Library. Accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

Eclipse died on February 27, 1789 of a violent colic. Dennis O’Kelly’s nephew Andrew contracted famous veterinary surgeon Charles Vial de Sanibel (1753-1793) to dissect the body. Sanibel wrote a book on Eclipse from his anatomical findings, measuring the horse in geometric relation to the size of his head in order to establish ideal proportions for representation in artwork and selection of animals for breeding. His skeleton is now housed at the Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

Two of the NSLM’s John H. Daniels Fellows have completed new book projects, and they’re both available for purchase now. These books are exciting projects and we’re thrilled to see them completed.

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In Search of the Kerry Beagle

By Stanislaus Lynch, edited by Noel Mullins, 2008 John H. Daniels Fellow

Stanislaus Lynch (1907-1983) was a huntsman, journalist, author, broadcaster, poet and producer of Irish Draught Horses and Connemara Ponies. His works have been translated into 10 languages in 16 countries.

The book was written by Lynch but went unpublished after his death in 1983. While working on a feature article on Lynch, Mullins agreed to edit and publish the work. The book tells the story of Lynch’s travels from Dublin through the Irish Midlands to the Hills of Kerry and Limerick in his quest to discover the origins of the Kerry Beagle. The book sifts through historical and legendary accounts, blending them with Lynch’s own memories and observations. The book features a foreword by Chris Ryan, Master of the Scarteen Hounds.

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Six Centuries of Foxhunting: An Annotated Bibliography
By M. L. Biscotti, 2015 John H. Daniels Fellow

Matthew L. “Duke” Biscotti has undertaken the mammoth task of compiling, listing, and annotating 600 years of foxhunting literature. His 2015 fellowship included extensive research in the NSLM’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room with special focus on the materials in the John H. and Martha Daniels book collections.

The end result is a publication as useful as it is impressive. The 500 pages of annotated listings could just as easily serve as an introduction to the leading lights of hunting literature, and expansive title and author indexes make this work an immediate go-to reference for anybody interested in country sport. The book’s foreword is penned by Norman Fine.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

I recently ran across the book Brian Wildsmith’s Fishes in the Library’s collection.  It’s a small book that pairs colorful illustrations with whimsical collective nouns for groups of various sorts of fish.

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A Hover of Trout.  Brian Wildsmith’s Fishes (1968).  NSLM Main Reading Room.  The gift of George Chapman.
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A Cluster of Porcupine Fish.  Brian Wildsmith’s Fishes (1968).  NSLM Main Reading Room.  The gift of George Chapman.

Many collective nouns, such as flock of birds, school of fish, class of students, or pack of hounds, are authorized or accepted terms in English.  However, there is a seemingly limitless variety of group nouns being created by everyday English language speakers.  The generation of these terms is a word game that allows speakers to customize their language on the fly, displaying their cleverness and imagination.  Collective terms tend to focus on a characteristic or behavior of the thing being named.

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A Paddling of Ducks.  Image by R. G. Daniel.

For example, a paddling of ducks, or a murmuration of starlings.  A quick google search for collective nouns provides many examples of this dynamic language generation.

The writer of this blog details how attendees at a mathematics conference came up with group nouns for mathematicians.  My favorite was “A distribution of probabilists.”

Here is a list of group nouns for Pokemon.

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A Mischief of Pikachus.  Image from Zam.com

The website All-sorts.org leverages the power of Twitter to collect group nouns.  They recently held a contest in which participants submitted images illustrating their favorite collective noun.  Here is “An Orchard of Macs” by Chris Dobson…

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An Orchard of Macs.  Illustration by Chris Dobson.

and “A Tangle of Octupuses” by Rachel Wilson.

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A Tangle of Octopuses.  Illustration by Rachel Wilson

Even Downton Abbey gets in on the fun in season four.  While watching several men who are contending for Lady Mary’s attention depart, Rose asks, “What’s a group noun for suitors?”  Cora replies, “What do you think? A desire?”  Rosamund responds, “A desire of suitors. Very good.”

While we are all familiar with these fun terms, I’ll bet you didn’t know that the tradition of generating clever or whimsical group nouns goes back at least to the late 1400’s.  The Boke of St. Albans (1486) is a manual on hunting, hawking, and heraldry for the education of gentlemen.  This education includes the correct terms for groups of animals.  Knowing the jargon is a critical indication of membership in any group and aristocrats are no exception.  The list, Companys of Beestys and Fowlys, provides the appropriate terminology for discussing groups of animals in a hunting setting.

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The Boke of St. Albans (1881) in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room at the NSLM.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Interestingly it also includes quite a few humorous terms for groups of people and professions.  Demonstrating that people at that time enjoyed clever or especially apt terms just as we do today.  And perhaps suggesting to gentleman that displaying their wit and humor by creating such a term is acceptable behavior.

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The Gentleman’s Recreation by Nicholas Cox (1674) in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room at the NSLM.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Later books of courtesy reprinted many of these terms and expanded on them.  The Gentleman’s Recreation (1674) and The Complete Sportsman (1775) are two other examples that the Library holds in addition to later editions of The Boke of St. Albans.

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The Complete Sportsman by Thomas Fairfax (1775) in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room at the NSLM.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

In his article, Proper Terms: An attempt at a rational explanation of the meanings of the Collection of Phrases in “The Book of St Albans,” 1486, entitled “The Compaynys of beestys and fowlys” and similar lists, for The Philological Society in 1914, John Hodgkin collects lists of these collective nouns found in early manuscripts and books and analyzes their generation and historical development.  The collection of lists is worth a look, not least for the ease of reading them compared to reading the historical fonts found in the original books.  Hodgkin argues that many of these words were never used in actual conversation and that some of them were not even meant as collective nouns at all.  He goes on to give the likely origins of each of these terms, many of which are confusing to modern readers, but reveal the same sense of humor and whimsy as our modern-made terms once they are explained.

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Tapster. Image from OpenClipArt.org

For example the collective term for tapsters or wine drawers is listed as, “A Promise of Tapsters.”  “Refers to the usual habit of tapsters or wine drawers, who say that they “are coming now, sir” when they have every intention of attending to about a dozen other thirsty souls first” (p. 163).

What are some of your favorite collective nouns?  Let me know in the comments section.


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Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

While our manuscript by Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) comes out for every tour of the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, there are some equally fascinating pieces about our nation’s 26th president at the National Sporting Library & Museum. An intimate glimpse into Roosevelt’s private life can be found in the book Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt, a 1946 publication of letters Roosevelt wrote to his son, Kermit Roosevelt (1889-1943), between 1902 and 1908.

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President and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt seated on lawn, surrounded by their family, 1903. From left to right: Quentin, Theodore Sr., Theodore Jr., Archie, Alice, Kermit, Edith, and Ethel. From Library of Congress’ Prints and Photographs division, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

Theodore Roosevelt is widely credited as a founder of the modern environmental conservation movement. He and Kermit had a close relationship, most notably in their 1913-14 adventure exploring the “River of Doubt,” today named Rio Roosevelt. Kermit, newly engaged, put off his marriage to accompany his father at the request of his mother. Both Kermit and Teddy nearly died on the expedition.

Kermit was away at boarding school during many of the years chronicled in the letters.

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“Father and Mr. Burroughs galloping up on some elk — bulls and cows. The elk are tired and have begun to open their mouths and pant. You can tell Mr. Burroughs by the beard. There are a great many rocks on the ground. The pine tree is small and Scraggly.” Letter of April 16, 1903, from Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt, 1946.

Letters chronicle family illnesses and general news, as well as Teddy’s adventures touring the United States as President. Teddy would note anything of interest in his letters, such as “To-day, by the way, as I rode along the beach I saw seals, cormorants, gulls and ducks, all astonishingly tame.” Roosevelt would almost always sign, “Your loving father, T. R.”

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Kermit Roosevelt and his dog, Jack, 1902. From Library of Congress’ Prints and Photographs division, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

Quite a few of the letters belie Teddy’s sense of humor:

Oyster Bay, N. Y.
September 23, 1903

Blessed Kermit:
The house seems very empty without you and Ted; although I cannot conscientiously say that it is quiet — Archie and Quentin attend to that. Archie, bare-footed, bareheaded, and with his usual faded blue overalls much torn and patched, has just returned from a morning with his beloved Nick. Quentin has passed the morning in sports and pastimes with the long-suffering secret service men. Allan has been associating closely with Mother and me. Yesterday, Ethel went off riding with Loraine. She rode Wyoming, who is really turning out a very good family horse. This evening, I expect Grant La Farge and Owen Wister, who are coming to spend the night. Mother is as busy as possible putting up the house; Ethel and I insist that she now eyes us both with a purely professional gaze, and secretly wishes that she could wrap us up in a neatly pinned sheet with camphor balls inside. Good by, blessed fellow!

Your loving father,
T. R.

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“Today I took Rusty jumping.” Letter of June 12, 1904, from Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt, 1946.

Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt shows the sweet, funny, and affectionate relationship between the president and his second son. It can be accessed in the Main Reading Room during NSLM’s open hours.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

We just finished a shift of materials in the Library this week. Why is that such a big deal? Well, it means that the first leg of our collections maintenance project is drawing to a close.

From a practical point of view, the way our collections used to be organized created challenges to Library users and staff alike. Since Erica joined the NSLM staff last year, we have made tremendous headway to implementing full cataloging for our collections. That means you can find all of the 12,000 titles in the Main Reading Room on the Library’s catalog.

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A new call numbering system has been put in place at NSLM. As new signage is designed, the public is adopting individual stacks to commemorate friends or family. New signs will be ordered soon, and each will display the new system to help researchers find materials.

As we rearranged our books and made more efficient use of space, it became apparent that juggling gaps in the collection and keeping things tidy would be a challenge. The project produced more space, meaning sizable gaps.

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Olivia, our Library intern, was instrumental in helping us shift books. The massive gap was the product of three years of work on the project.
In addition to ease of access and improved findability, we saved enough space to bring the Library’s fiction collections back to the Main Reading Room. These collections had been stored on the Library’s Lower Level, which is restricted access.

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We finally have room for favorite fiction titles by Dick Francis, R. S. Surtees, Marguerite Henry, Paul Brown, and more in the Main Reading Room.
Lastly, the project creates a much more orderly space, with a cleaner feel. It will be easier to keep track of which books are being used or in need of repair. It will also be easier to read the shelves and keep them in order.

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A place for everything and everything in its place!
So what’s next? We’re currently working on cataloging our ephemera, photograph, and vertical file collections. Our Library volunteers Diane and Gale have been tremendously helpful to make progress there. We’re also preparing to begin a similar reprocessing project for our Rare Book Room collections. And after that, we’ll tackle our periodical backfile, much of which is completely uncataloged.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

I recently spent some time in Berlin visiting several amazing museums. The collections in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (State Museums of Berlin) are incredible – from major examples of ancient art to fabulous modern and contemporary pieces. During my travels, I encountered quite a few works that reminded me of Middleburg and the NSLM. Here are just a few:

The Old National Gallery in Berlin primarily features German artists – some familiar and some lesser known.

Wilhelm Trubner (German, 1851-1917), Equestrian Portrait of Ida Gorz, 1900/1902, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Old National Gallery), Acquired 1921

My poor quality photo doesn’t do this painting justice – it is quite a striking portrait.

Adolph Menzel (German, 1815-1905), Horse study, 1848, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Old National Gallery), Acquired 1906

 

Carl Steffeck (German, 1818-1890), Fox in its Burrow, 1842, oil on canvas, mounted on cardboard, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Old National Gallery), Purchase of Ernst Zaeslein, Grunewald, 1911

With the upcoming show The Horse in Ancient Greek Art on my mind, mythological horses keep popping up everywhere.

Hippocamp (half-horse, half-sea serpent creatures) details on the Friedrichstrausse bridge, over the Spree River, Berlin.

 

Attic (Athens), Greece, Votive Relief for a Chariot Victory, 400–390 BCE, marble, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Altes Museum), Acquired 1884. Caption reads: “The nude warrior wearing a helmet next to the bearded charioteer is about to jump off the speeding chariot to continue the race on foot.”

 

The German History Museum has a massive collection of almost 1 million objects, spanning the history of Germany from the Middle Ages to the late-20th century.

Gothic Field Armour, c. 1470, iron, German History Museum

 

This 15th century set of battle armor is made of iron. The caption explained that it was so heavy – for both horse and rider – that the knights and their steeds could only fight for a very short amount of time before being overcome by exhaustion. (At least this rider has his heels down).

Sidesaddle, c. 1700, leather, silk, velvet, German History Museum

This early-18th century ladies sidesaddle with velvet cushioning looked like it would be very comfortable.

Hare Hunting und Bird Hunting, 2nd half of the 18th century, oil on canvas, German History Museum

This pair of 18th century sporting scenes show hare hunting and bird hunting with hounds. I thought it was interesting that the hunter in the second scene is mounted on a paint (it almost looks like an appaloosa) horse. Hunting was a large part of social life for royal and noble families of German speaking territories throughout the 16th to 19th centuries. Coursing was adopted by German princes (from the French) around the end of the 17th century.

On a day trip to Hamburg, I discovered the Museum of Arts and Crafts. This fabulous suit is an “Original/Interpretation” piece in the exhibition Sports/No Sports, which explores the correlation between fashion and sportswear.

Foxhunting Ensemble, Museum of Arts and Crafts, Hamburg

The Museum of Fine Arts in Hamburg also has an impressive collection, including this Renoir (with it’s very Renoir-esque figures).

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919), Riding in the Bois de Boulogne, 1873, oil on canvas, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Acquired 1913

 

This is just a tiny selection of all the wonderful art there is to see in Germany. It was fun to explore new museums and collections and discover pieces that remind me of the art here at home.