The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Bit
  • Bit
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Spain, probably
  • c. 1630
  • Iron or steel
  • Width: 8.7 cm, at the port
    Weight: 0.905 kg
  • Incised mark: 'S'
  • A394
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • ‘Melon’ bit with a round port, of bright steel pierced and chiselled, the cheek-pieces decorated with trefoils and lobes containing a chevron above two circles; incised upon one side is the letter S. Heavy mouth-piece consisting of melon-shaped roller and bars with a four-lobed dangle or pendant at the centre and a roller for the roof of the mouth; deep round port. The chain is missing, but two hooks for securing this remain.

    This bit is quite narrow by modern standards. Christian Wechel's edition of Laurentius Rusius (Paris, 1532) illustrates a similar port and roller 'Pour ung cheval qui tire la langue dehors'. Rusius's was the earliest book to illustrate bits and the first edition was published about 1489. It was followed in the sixteenth century by a succession of illustrated books, of which Grisone's Ordini di Cavalcare, 1550, was the most popular and was translated into many languages. This was largely drawn upon by Thomas Blundeville for his Art of Ridinge, 1566, which was the first book on equitation to be printed in English. The sketch-book of Filippo Orsoni of Mantua (1554), in the Victoria and Albert Museum, contains drawings of 204 varieties of bits (Mann, R. Arch. Journal, XCV, pp. 264-73).

    Thomas Blundeville described a somewhat similar bit as 'A whole porte wyth olyues hauing a trench aboue', however, the rollers on either side of the port are more like melons than olives (The fower chiefyst offices belongyng to horsemanshippe, London about 1561, no. 5 of his 'Whole Portes').