Privileged  Horses The Italian Renaissance Court Stable


In this pioneering study of equine culture at its most magnificent, Sarah Duncan vividly portrays the extraordinary world of the Italian Renaissance stable. Using contemporary accounts, illustrations and treatises her writing throws new light on man's pursuit of the perfect horse: its breeding, training and display and its value as a measure of status and vanity. She explores the lives of the great owners, the stables they built and the communities sustained by their immense wealth.

This was an age when the horse was considered second only to man in intelligence and magnificence, when perfection was power. For the condottiere, royal prince and prelate, a body of the finest horses, caparisoned and performing the courtly art of maneggio was an unforgettable display of authority.  A gift of such horses opened diplomatic channels and might secure royal favour. 

The condottiere, royal prince or prelate demanded dedication, perfection and beauty in every aspect of his stable. Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Bramante applied themselves to the task, designing or creating beautiful buildings; others, such as Leon Battista Alberti, and great horsemen including Claudio Corte and Carlo Ruini, produced a body of work in equine care and training.

A vast, quasi-religious community of grooms, trainers, saddlers, virtuosi in equine health and even astrologers were indentured to care for the horses. Here were specialists and light-fingered stable boys side-by-side, made real by the author's meticulous research and surviving accounts of transactions and duties.

Palaces and stables, ailments and obedience, politics, power and glory. Privileged Horses is a compelling story of wealth and the pursuit of perfection.





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Privileged Horses: The Italian Renaissance Court Stable

Sarah G Duncan


Published November 2020 

288 pages softback, superbly illustrated in colour 

ISBN 978-1-9160953-6-6    


Stephen Morris Publishing

To order your copy click here

A gorgeous and important book