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“Laugh, My Love, Laugh:” Mottos, Proverbs and Love Inscriptions on Late Medieval Bone Saddles
By Virág Somogyvári
Annual of Medieval Studies at CEU, Vol. 24 (2018)
Introduction: Fifteenth-century bone saddles form a particularly unique and special object group in medieval Central European history. There are thirty-three bone saddles dispersed in museums of all over the world from Budapest to New York. Most of the saddles were preserved in collections of aristocratic families before they were taken to their current homes, the museums. Despite their particularity and uniqueness, these bone saddles have a marginal position in scholarship. There are several issues regarding their places and times of origin, their original purposes, and their use for which there are no convincing answers due to the lack of written sources.
In the twentieth century, a theory emerged that all of the saddles were made for Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund’s Order of the Dragon. However, recently a new idea has arisen regarding the original purpose and function of the saddles. Benedetta Chiesi suggests that these saddles were used in tournaments and parades as well as in marriage ceremonies, more precisely during the procession of domumductio, in which the bride was led from the parental house to her new husband’s house. This procession symbolized the change of the bride’s status and it was also a chance to display the family’s wealth by showing off the dowry. The main goal of my recent MA thesis was to examine this new marriage theory and find an answer to the question of whether the fifteenth-century bone saddles were made for wedding purposes.
Top Image: Tratzberg Saddle – The Metropolitan Museum of Art