Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Rowel Spur

ca. 1400
French or Spanish, Catalonia
Copper alloy, enamel, gold
L. 7 1/4 in. (18.42 cm); L. of neck, 3 in. (7.62 cm); Diam. of rowel, 2 7/8 in. (7.03 cm); Wt. 7 oz. (198.45 g)
Equestrian Equipment-Spurs
Credit Line:
Gift of William H. Riggs, 1913
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 373
This luxurious spur made of gilded copper alloy, holding a large rowel shaped as a sunburst, is engraved all over with a chequy pattern and some trefoils. The tabs with hooks holding the straps are enameled in black and white or light blue. The chequy may refer to the heraldry of its original owner, in this case possibly a member of the French Dreux or the Catalan Urgell family. However, the variety of colors of the enameled tabs also suggests that this pattern may be only ornamental.

As a knight’s status was closely related to his horse, spurs became one of the symbols of chivalry, and one of the tokens given to him during his knighting. The wealthy knights and princes would sometimes commission rich examples, gilded, engraved, enameled, or even inlaid with pearls and precious stones.

The first rowel spurs, featured with a revolving disc or star at the end of the neck, appeared in western Europe around the mid-13th century. They cohabitated with the earlier form, the prick spur, for about a century, before replacing it almost completely in Europe by the mid-14th century. The advantage of the rowel spur over the prick was it allowed the rider to reach the flanks of its horse with one of the points whatever the angle of its foot, which was very convenient regarding the riding position of the time, with long stirrups-leathers and extended legs. The fact that the rowel rolled against the horse instead of hitting it directly reduced also the probability of injuring it.
William H. Riggs, Paris (until 1913; his gift to MMA).
Paris. Palais du Trocadéro. "Exposition Universelle de 1878: L'Exposition Historique du Trocadéro," May 1–October 31, 1878.

Paris. Exposition universelle internationale de 1889. "Exposition Universelle," May 6–October 31, 1889, no. 520.

New York. Brooklyn Museum. "Loan Exhibition of European Arms and Armor," June 12–October 31, 1933, no. 121.

Louisville, Ky. J. B. Speed Art Museum. "A Loan Exhibition of Equestrian Equipment from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 4–July 3, 1955.

Hôtel Drouot. Objets D'art Et De Curiosité. Paris: Hôtel Drouot, 1864. p. 13, no. 77.

Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène-Emmanuel. Dictionnaire Raisonné Du Mobilier Français De L'époque Carlovingienne À La Renaissance. Vol. 5. Paris: Ve. A. Morel et cie, 1874. pp. 408–09, fig. 7.

Bréban, Philibert. Livret-guide du Visiteur à l'Exposition Historique du Trocadéro. Exposition universelle de 1878. Paris: E. Dentu, 1878. p. 74.

Bréban, Philibert. Livret-guide du Visiteur à l'Exposition Historique du Trocadéro. Exposition universelle de 1878. Paris: E. Dentu, 1878. p. 74.

Exposition universelle de 1889. Catalogue Général Officiel: Exposition Rétrospective du Travail et des Sciences Anthorpologiques. Vol. 5. Arts Militaires. Lille: L. Danel, 1889. p. 77, no. 520 (the mate to this spur, lent by Orville).

Thoumas, Charles-Antoine. Exposition Rétrospective Militaire du Ministère de la Guerre en 1889. Vol. I. Paris: H. Launette et Cie., G. Boudet successeur, 1890. pl. opp. p. 14.

Marcy, L. "Histoire d'un Éperon." Le Connaisseur 5 (May–June, 1911). p. 150.

Gaignières, François-Roger de, and Joseph Guilbert. Les Dessins D'archéologie De R. De Gaignières. Vol. 3. Paris, 1913. no. 587–92, ill.

Christie, Manson & Woods. Catalogue of The Collection of Arms and Armour and Objects of Art Formed by Sir Guy Francis Laking, Bart.. London: Christie, Manson & Woods, April 19–22, 1920. pp. 22, no. 136 (the mate to this spur).

Laking, Guy Francis, Sir, Charles Alexander Cosson, and Francis Henry Cripps-Day. A Record of European Armour and Arms Through Seven Centuries. Vol. III. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1920. pp. 164–67, 206–8, fig. 971a.

Grancsay, Stephen V. Loan Exhibition of European Arms and Armor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, August 3 to September 27, 1931. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1931. p. 36 (compared to no. 121).

Grancsay, Stephen V. A Loan Exhibition of Equestrian Equipment from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Catalogue. Louisville, Ky.: Speed Art Museum, 1955. no. 79, ill.

Byrne, Blanche. "The Spurs of King Casimir III and Some Other Fourteenth Century Spurs." The Journal of the Arms & Armour Society 3, no. 4 (December 1959). p. 110.

Nickel, Helmut. "Arms and Armor from the Permanent Collection." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 49, no. 1 (Summer, 1991). pp. 12, 64, ill.

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