Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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Bit

Date:
ca. 1575–1625
Culture:
possibly Italian
Medium:
Iron, gold, silver, copper alloy
Dimensions:
12 x 8 1/2 in. (30.5 x 21.6 cm)
Classification:
Equestrian Equipment-Bits
Credit Line:
Purchase, Kenneth and Vivian Lam Gift, 2006
Accession Number:
2006.44
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 373
Many fully functional bits of the time were enhanced with lavish decoration, such as this example with elaborately embossed roundels and intricate floral patterns in gold and silver. This is a curb bit of iron comprised of a mouth-piece (cannon), two cheeks, each with a circular boss, and a hook and chain to pass underneath the horse's jaw. The cannon is constructed of two arms connected by a large central piece of U-shape (port), from which issues a small pivoted pendant with three hanging, wedge-shaped beads.
Each cheek is made from a single piece of iron, of slight, angular S-shape, and decorated on both inside and outside with damascening, including floral panels of gold between bands of silver (outside) and floral scrollwork of gold (inside). On each cheek, secured by two rivets, a circular boss made of iron over a copper-alloy support covers the area where the cannon is hinged to the cheek. Each boss is decorated with gold and silver damascening, including a grotesque mask among foliage in the raised center, surrounded by a guilloche pattern. The short upper part of each cheek (the purchase) ends in an opening securing the hook (left) and chain (right) to be fastened underneath the horse's jaw. Issuing from the inside of the right cheek's purchase section, just above the hinge for the cannon, is a pair of wire links, the second of which retains a pair of beads, probably rollers. The lower part of the cheeks (shanks) are connected by two chains of two links each, while to the loop at the lower end of each shank is secured a ring for attachment of the reins.
ex-collections: Richard Zschille, Grossenhain,Saxony; Oliver H. P. Belmont, Newport, Rhode Island; Clarence H. Mackay, Harbor Hill, Roslyn, Long Island.
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