Tournament Scene
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Jörg Breu the Elder
German, about 1510 - 1515
Pen and black ink over black chalk
Diam.: 10 in.

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Knights and peasants alike enjoyed tournaments, contests between armed horsemen that simulated real warfare and flourished as entertainment from the 1200s to the 1500s. So popular were these mock battles that they frequently appeared as the subject of stained-glass windows in cathedrals.

Jörg Breu took this popular topic and created this lively scene for a round window. At the back, a trio of heralds on horseback announce the participants with their trumpets, while the referee raises his arm to signal the start of the action. A warrior clad in armor makes his entrance, holding a long lance astride a richly decorated horse. A jester jumps in front of him to entertain the gathered crowd. Earlier window designs of tournament scenes divided the jouster, heralds, and jester into separate quatrefoils. Breu abandoned this Gothic format to create a unified scene embellished with architectural and genre details. He worked quickly and spontaneously to create this drawing; in many instances his pen departed from the chalk underdrawing to create new lines. Particularly beautiful in this respect is the flowing drapery of the horse's blanket, which sweeps out as the knight gallops off.