London, England, United Kingdom
The British Museum
Hegira late 9th–early 10th century / AD late 15th–early 16th century
Gold and blue, red, white and green cloisonné enamel.
Length 38 cm, width 21 cm
A part of a bridle or halter that would have been placed around a horse’s head; made of gold and enamel sections through which leather straps pass. These small oblong-shaped sections are decorated with gold filigree alternating with blue, red, white and green cloisonné enamel. The enamel compartments are filled with arabesques in opaque red and white against a background of translucent green and blue. The style and decorative techniques belong to a long tradition in Islamic Spain. However, the design of this bridle relates to Nasrid architecture, in particular certain stucco panels in the Alhambra Palace in Granada. Therefore this piece was certainly made in Granada but not necessarily for a Muslim patron.
The decoration on this bridle can be connected to that seen on a hilt and scabbard (in the Museo del Ejercito), and a scabbard and mounts of a dagger (in the Real Armería). Previously in the collection of the Vieana Family, it has been suggested that after the battle of Lucana in AH 887/ AD 1483, one of the ancestors of this family took these pieces of armoury, which had belonged to Abu Abd Allah Muhammad XI (or Boabdil) the last sultan of the Nasrid dynasty of Granada (r. AH 886–96 / AD 1482–92).
It is uncertain exactly where and when this luxury horse bridle was made. Gold and enamel decoration belonged to a long tradition known in many parts of Islamic Spain, however, it was probably made for the Nasrid court as the design recalls certain stucco panels in the Alhambra Palace in Granada.
This bridle is close in design to a group of objects associated with Abu Abd Allah Muhammad XI (or Boabdil), the last sultan of the Nasrid dynasty of Granada (r. 886–96 / 1482–92).
Although it is not certain that it was made for this ruler, the technique and design fit with other gold and enamel work produced in the late 9th / 15th century.
Bequeathed by Augustus Wollaston Franks in 1890.
The enamel and gold filigree on this bridle recall stucco designs in the Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain.
Dodds, J., Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain, New York, 1992, p.298, cat. no. 68.
Levenson, J. A., (ed.), Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration, Washington D.C., 1991, pp.172–5, cat. no. 55.
Emily Shovelton "Horse bridle" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus01;45;en
Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton
Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: UK1 63