Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Pair of Rowel Spurs

ca. 1500 and 19th century
South German or Austrian
Iron alloy, copper alloy
L. 9 5/8 in. (24.43 cm); W. 2 3/4 in. (6.99 cm); L. of neck, 5 in. (12.7 cm); Diam. of rowel, 1 3/4 in. (4.45 cm); Wt. 9 1/2 oz. (269.32 g)
Equestrian Equipment-Spurs
Credit Line:
Gift of William H. Riggs, 1913
Accession Number:
14.25.1701a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 373
This pair is composed of a genuine iron spur plated covered with brass foil, and a 19th-century reproduction covered with red copper plated with a brass-like patina. The authentic one bears the stamp of its maker, a letter R. Its original mate which the copy is replacing is preserved in the Kunsthistorisches museum in Vienna (A131).

Around 1400, the length of the rowel spurs’ necks started to increase in western Europe, some examples extending even as long as the rider’s foot in the 15th century. At this period, the elevated war saddles and the very specific riding style, with long stirrup leathers and legs extended forward, had the consequence of taking away the rider’s feet from the horse’s flank. Thus, these long necks gave them easier access without having to disturb the rider’s position too much. As the riding position changed at war in the first decades of the 16th century, such long necks were not needed anymore. However, they were kept in use for jousting, for which the medieval riding style survived a bit longer.
Marking: Marked, on the genuine spur: R within a shield.
William H. Riggs, Paris (until 1913; his gift to MMA).
Louisville. J. B. Speed Art Museum. "A Loan Exhibition of Equestrian Equipment from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 4–July 3, 1955, no. 92.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Costume Institute. "Man and the Horse: an illustrated history of equestrian apparel," December 3, 1984–September 1, 1985.

Grancsay, Stephen V. A Loan Exhibition of Equestrian Equipment from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Catalogue. Louisville, Ky.: Speed Art Museum, 1955. no. 92, ill. (14.25.1701b).

Thomas, Bruno, and Ortwin Gamber. Katalog Der Leibrüstkammer, I. Teil, Der Zeitraum Von 500 Bis 1530. Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 1976.

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