An armored and an unarmored cavalryman lean against the frame of an empty cartouche that pliantly melts into grotesque strapwork. A witty arrangement of equestrian accouterments decorates the top and bottom, including a saddle laden with weapons, flags, stirrups, a curry comb, and other brushes. A laurel-crowned skull and smoking trumpets below symbolize death and fame. The guns and blades that extend up and down from the cartouche evoke the battle charge and give a three-dimensional depth to the scene.
Jacques de Gheyn drew this elaborate frame as a model in reverse for the title page of The Exercise of Arms, published in 1607. Conceived as a military handbook for the cavalry regiments of the Dutch army, The Exercise of Arms contained twenty-two designs. Count Johann II of Nassau-Siegen commissioned the text to give the Dutch horse guards a set of clear and systematic military procedures for training soldiers.