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E1: Polish Cavalryman, c. 1640

The dress of a nobleman, and therefore 'undress'

Gostomnki's haiduk company, 1605. It numbers 100 men, organised in ten ranks of ten. The front rank is of dziesiętniks ('tenth-men'), armed with a darda (halberd or partisan) on which is a pennant; behind these are nine ranks of arquebusiers, all uniformly equipped and dressed. The flap is red with a white cross. Rather interestingly the mounted officer in dressed in a mail shirt and leopardskin. From the Constantia Roll. (Royal Castle, Warsaw) uniform of 'armoured cossacks' or hussars, or combat dress of unarmoured cossacks. He has many typically Polish features. Note the form of the fur cap. Colours here have been restored from general accounts of Polish dress: poorer noblemen often wore blue colours, and by the beginning of the 18th century this seems to have developed into the uniform colour lor light cavalry. (Based on the relief in Tarlów church.

The various types of war-hammers (czekan, nadziak and obuch) have been commonly identified as insignia of rank distinguishing lieutenants, though this appears to be going beyond the evidence: the war-hammer was carried by any nobleman who felt so inclined, and on occasion by entire units of cavalry during parades. Visitors to Poland mention that war-hammers were com¬monly used as walking sticks (as here) and to keep the arm in trim for using the sword. On several occasions laws were passed to prevent carrying of war-hammers in public, because of the terrible wounds they caused in brawls. This seems to have influenced the development of the obuch, a variant of the nadziak with the spike bent back. In combat, however, soldiers seem to have preferred the sword.

E2: Pancerni 'cossack', late 17th century

By the second half of the 17th century the pancerni were the all-purpose cavalry. This man wears a karabela sword of combat variety, an item which was just coming into fashion. He carries a bandolet (carbine) slung over his back, and an assortment of pistols in holsters or, as contemporaries frequently mention, tucked into waist belts. Note the twist of straw worn round the body; this was a field sign to distinguish the pancerni and light cavalry from Turkish sipahi-type cavalry and Tartars. He has many Kastern items: kalkan shield, bow case and karvash armguards.

In Lithuania the petyhorcy formations carried a 2.5m long rohatyna (lance). In 1654 suggestions were put forward to extend the use of the lance to the whole of the Crown army because of their high value against the Muscovites; this, apparently, was never carried out. However, before the Turkish war of 1672 there was considerable discussion among such worthies as military theorist Fredro and Hetman Sobieski about the introduction of the lance to all of the Crown cavalry and to the Levy of the Nobility. As a result, in 1673, some pancerni units were armed with a dzida (short lance) 1,8 to 2.0 metres long; and by 1676 most Crown pancerni units had received them.

F: Turkish Wars, 1672-83

F1: Hussar Comrade

The helmet and face mask is from a rather unusual example in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. It is dated to around 1640, though the mask may have been added several decades later. The body armour is of a type used from about the 1630s onwards. His swords are a hussar sabre with fully closed bow on the hilt; and the Hungarian style koncerz, a long piercing sword of triangular or square section. Many Western items were beginning to creep into hussar equipment during the second half of the 17th century. Note, for instance, the simple stirrups and spurs. The horse furniture is restored from an example in the Polish Army Museum.

Haiduk from the Wzorzec Ubiorów ('Pattern of Costume') oil painting by an unknown artist, showing the dress of civilians and soldiers around 1600-25. This picture is particularly interesting because it shows the full equipment carried by a haiduk. (Goluchów Castle)

Polish haiduks: a watercolour in a Danzig heraldic album by Michael Heidenrcich, dated 1601-12. Leading are two officers; behind these are men dressed entirely in blue (one red) with small black caps, and a boy, dressed in green, carrying an officer's two-hand sword. (PAN Library, Kórnik)

The pair of 'wings' consist of a wooden frame, fringed with red velvet, edged in brass, into which arc placed a single row of feathers. Current research suggests that wings of this type were not worn on the back until after the first quarter of the 17th century. Contemporary accounts are contradictory about the use of wings in pairs or singly; some state that 'comrades' wore wings while their retainers did not, other state that only retainers wore them. It is specifically mentioned in a commission of 1576 that wings and similar leathered ornaments should be worn as the rotamaster thought appropriate. This suggests that the use of wings varied from 'banner' to 'banner', though was largely uniform among men of equal rank within a unit.

The lance pennant is based on seven identical surviving examples in the Polish Army Museum. The lance decoration is restored from the haft of a Polish standard in the Swedish Trophy collection.

Our hussar is riding down a Turkish Janissary.

G: Moldavian, Wallachian and Hungarian Campaigns, 1685-91

The success of the Vienna campaign did little to improve the situation of Poland: 'As useful as fighting for Vienna' even became a metaphor for a fruitless venture. Sobieski sent several expeditions to what are now Rumania and Hungary, and each in its turn was less successful than the one before. The Turkish Wars did, however, have a major impact on fashion in Poland. Diarists mention the huge quantity of Turkish booty circulating in Poland after the Chocim and Vienna campaigns; and since the supply was obviously limited, and everyone in Poland wanted to give the impression that they, too, had fought in the campaigns, workshops were overloaded with production of imitation Oriental goods.

Also in this period 'Sarmatism' began to have a greater influence on fashion. The Poles, probably looking at armour influenced by the Scythians and Sarmatians, whom they regarded as their ancestors, began to copy patterns that had, in turn, been copied from the classical Greeks. (See, for example, Scythian Gorgon plaques in MAA 137, The Scythians.) The 'Gorgon's head' devices worn as ornamental brass plaques bear a striking re¬semblance to classical Greek emblems, while the scale armour points clearly to Scythian and Sarmatian models.

G1: Grand Hetman of the Grown (1682-1702), Stanislaw Jablonowski

As Grand Hetman of the Grown, Jablonowski commanded a wing of the Polish army at Vienna, though in Sobieski \s absence he was full commander-in-chief. After Vienna he began to show a much greater influence on the development of the army. His main claim to fame is that in 1688/9, an attempt to reform the ailing Polish army, he committed a crime which has unfairly scarred his name in the memories of generations of Poles: he took away the lance from the hussars in the field. This was, at the time, the only possible method of trying to reform the hussars who, though costing a substantial proportion of the ever-decreasing money available, were of little value in the burn-and-run warfare of the Wallachian and Hungarian campaigns after Vienna.

In Poland 'Sarmatian' scale armour is known as karacena, a word derived from the Italian corazzina, (a type of scale armour). Karacena was made of metal scales sewn onto elkskin or deerskin backing or riveted onto a metal base, and made up into suits of hussar-style armour. It was extremely expensive to produce, and was worn only by wealthy officers. Because of the poor protective qualities of the armour compared to normal plate, it was often worn over mail. It is still not entirely clear ii it was used in combat, though certain features - such as the Gorgon's head plaques - undoubtedly were. References to the appearance of karacena occur as early as 1637, though it does not seem to have made a major impact until after the Vienna campaign; it was still being worn in the 1760s. The superb karacena armours of the later period are regarded by many as the high point of Polish armour-making.

The armour (National Museum, Cracow), thumb-ring sabre (Czartoryski Collection, Cracow), and mace (Jasnogóra Treasure-House, Gzęstochowa) all once belonged to Jablonowski. Gorgon's head plaques, which are missing from the armour, have been restored from the armour of Field Hetman Sieniawski. The method of wearing the leopard skin has been restored from his portrait. The Turkish saddle was captured at Vienna by Hetman Sieniawski. Stirrups are of Turkish style, and all furniture is profusely decorated with turquoises, a favourite in the East, where turquoises were believed to act as talismans against wounds in battle.

G2: Buńzuk Bearer

The armour he wears is a fairly unusual example of mixed mail and scale in the collection at Kórnik in Poland. His sabre is an early example of the karabela, a classic Polish style (though originally based on Turkish models). It became the standard dress sword, worn in Poland well into the 19th century (Kórnik Collections, Nr.2102).

The standard he carries is a buńzuk; developed from Turkish horse-tail standards, tugs, they were carried mainly by hetmen, though the king also used them. In the presence of the king, the hetmen were supposed to lower their own buńczuks in respect. The bearer (who held the special rank of buńczuczny) is perhaps from a pancerni 'banner'; Sobieski, for example, had a 200-strong pancerni 'banner' to guard his own buńczuk. In Polish usage buńczuks varied considerably in style, but there would seem to have been a tendency towards using wing devices rather than horse-tails. It has also been suggested that a cap was placed on the gilded wooden ball on the top of the buńczuk. This is not certain, though these caps must have been attached by some means to the lance-heads of hetman's insignia. This particular example is based on a buńczuk tradi¬tionally belonging to a hetman of the Lubomirski family. Note in particular the use of painted feathers on the highly decorative hussar-style lance. Erratum: the standard should be c. 5m long, its ball c. 12cm across.

Field-obstacles: (1) 'iron stakes'; (2) and (3) mobile 'chevaux de frise'; (4) and (5) abattis; (5) bis, iron caltrops scattered in the anticipated line of an attack. From MS, copy of Budownictwo Woiennego ('Military Architecture') by Narońowicz-Naroński (1659). (Warsaw Univ. Libr.)

H1: Banner of the District of Grodno, Lithuania

Used on ceremonial occasions and by the General Levy of the Nobility when called out for war, this flag dates from the reign of Sigismund III, 1587-632. The cloth is single-sided, very ornately patterned damask silk, each colour being made from a different piece of cloth sewn in intarsia. The numerous repairs made to the original flag would suggest that it had a very long life, probably until the end of the Republic in 1795. Some of the repairs have left the flag badly disfigured; the illustration here is a reconstruction of the most probable original form, with a single pointed tail, made on the basis of a surviving flag of the same type, and of 19th-century drawings by Lesser. The rider in the badge in the hoist is the Vytis (rider), heraldic symbol of Lithuania, known in Poland as the Pogón ('pursuit'). In the fly is a rosette with the word 'GRODZIENSKA' (from Grodno). Other Lithuanian flags of this series from Sigismund's reign are known: the flag of the powiat (district ) of Slonim is in the Polish Army museum, while flags of the district of Wolkowysk and the palatinate of Troki (two-tailed) were in Polish collections in the 19th century. The flags of this series are all of similar design, but of differing colours. Dimensions: 196 × c. 300cm reconstructed fly. (MWP, 3058*.)

H2: Banner of the Court Army of King Sigismund III, 1621

The appearance of this flag was noted by a Swedish agent in Lublin in October 1621. It was being carried at the head of the Royal Hussar troop, which he reported was composed of about 500 volunteer noblemen in great splendour (Riksarkivet, Stockholm, M.1290). It bears the heraldic Polish eagle and white cross devices on a deep crimson field. The central badge is the wheatsheaf of the Vasa family; around the eagle is the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The inscription translates as 'With Thee and for Thee'. The silk flag is double-sided, with ornamentation in embroidery and applique. In 1655 it was captured in Warsaw by the Swedes and taken into their trophy collection. Dimensions: 282 × 288cm. (ST:28:4.)

Turkish tents, part of the booty taken at Vienna and used by the Polish army afterwards. Such quantities of these were taken that many were simply torn up for rags on the march back to Poland. From the Melk sketchbook of the Italian painter Martino Altomonte, court painter of Sobieski, commissioned from to produce pictures of his great battles. (Benediktincrstift, Melk, Austria)

H3: Standard of 'Cossack' troop commanded by Jan Slawinski, Sword-Bearer of Starodub, Lithuania Starodub was at the very edge of Polish dominions close to Muscovy at the date indicated on the flag: 1649. The Archangel Michael, in particular, hints at the Orthodox religion of the levying area. This and the other decorations are painted on both sides of the silk flag. The reverse differs slightly: instead of scales, the Archangel carries a small pennon, and there is no date. The flag has all the ingredients typical of Polish-Lithuanian flags of the period: Knight's Cross, picture of a religious patron, and the arms of the rotamaster surrounded by abbreviations of his name and titles: I(an) S(lawinski) M(iecznik) S(tarodubski). The double-headed arrow device is the badge called in Poland Kozieglowa, often used in Lithuania without a name (Niesiecki's Herbarz, t.I p. 562). Dimensions: 104 × 110cm. (MWP, 565*.)

H4: Personal Standard of Hetman or Grand-Marshal, first half of the 17th century

Made of patterned European silk damask with wing in intarsia, the flag was captured by the Swedes some time before 1660. The winged claw device has been identified as the 'Topacz' heraldic badge, though if this were the case the wing should be black and without the heart. There were several notable soldiers bearing the Topacz badge, the most distinguished being Szymon Kopyciński, who commanded a Royal hussar troop in the period 1611-30, It seems, however, that the winged claw is not just a heraldic badge, but a military symbol which came into Polish use from connections with Hungary, Rumania and Serbia. Similar flags were noted, for instance at Chocim in 1621 when the hussar troop of the Lithuanian Hetman Chodkiewicz lost a great white standard on which was a black eagle's wing, one he had reportedly had with him for at least ten years. In 1646 Queen Marie-Louise de Gonzague's entries into Gdansk and Warsaw were opened by a 'cossack' unit belonging to Grand-Marshal Opaliński, carrying a red standard with a black and yellow winged claw. Taking this into account, it seems that winged claw flags were used as personal standards, carried by bodyguards of commanding officers. I he possible connection here with later winged buńczuk stan¬dards is also interesting (see F2). Dimensions 148 × 240cm. (ST: 29:123.)

Royal Standard of King John Sobieski. It has a cream border and red central field fringed in gold and embroidered in silver. The silver Polish eagle has on its breast Sobieski's Jumna badge (a curved shield) in silver on a blue cartouche out lined in gold. (Astronomers may be interested to note that this is the shield referred to in the constellation 'Scutum Sobieskii'.) The reverse has instead of the eagle the silver outline of a Knight's Cross. The cloth has been dated by textile experts to the 17th century; and an account of Sobieski's coronation in 1676 (Ossolinski MS.337) describes an embroidered Hag with eagle and blue shield carried by the Crown Standard Bearer. Though this does not identify the flag with certainty, standards of very similar design are known to have been carried by the personal escorts of later Polish monarchs. (Wilanów 3790, Warsaw)

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If you enjoy the publications on this site, you can support us financially with:
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Thank you for your donation: Andrei Stanevich

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