Royal Armouries

X-radiography and the Carved Wooden Horses, Heads and Hands

Images

x-ray of the neck of a wooden horse showing metal nails

X-ray of the neck of a carved wooden horse (XVII.8)

  • x-ray of the neck of a wooden horse showing metal nails

    X-ray of the neck of a carved wooden horse (XVII.8)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse against a stone wall

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. (XVII.10)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.11)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.12)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.14)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.16)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1865-90 (XVII.17)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.18)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse against a stone wall

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. British, 19th century (XVII.20)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.30)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. (XVII.7)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.8)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

  • Photo of strips of different colours annotated to explain different paint layers

    Paint analysis of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings.( XVII.7)

X-radiography and the Carved Wooden Horses, Heads and Hands

Description

As part of the research project carried out before the re-display of the Line of Kings in 2013 two phases of x-radiography were carried out. In 2012 two horses were chosen to be fully X-rayed in order to reveal information about both their original construction and their present condition.

THE HORSES

Horses XVII.8 and 14 were X-rayed onsite to discover information that other methods of analysis could not reveal, as well as being a means of independently verifying ideas put forward as a result of other methods. The X-rays showed a considerable amount of metalwork in these two horses, most of it added over the centuries rather than there from the start. Some of the nails, screws and brackets are evidence of various attempts to strengthen areas of weakness or to repair parts that have been damaged. The X-rays are reminder that despite their size and externally sturdy appearance, the horses are fragile in many respects. The presence of nails and screws of a wide range of types and sizes suggests that they have been used over a long period to mend or make modifications to the horses. Some of the metal items do not seem to relate to repairs or to efforts to reinforce areas of weakness and they may be evidence of the way that in former times the horses were dressed with decorative saddlecloths and other hangings, as survives in part from the figure of William III.

Other noteworthy features shown in the X-rays include differences in construction methods between the two horses examined, of which we were previously unaware. For example, from its X-rays Horse XVII.14 seems typical of the way we had believed that the horses’ manes were decorated – carved from the blocks of wood forming the neck and head. However, Horse XVII.8 revealed when X-rayed that although this is probably true of some of the extant horses it is not the always case. In XVII.8 there are a number of metal nails indicating that additional pieces of carved wood have been attached to the main blocks to produce an enhanced mane. Such features could be of assistance in helping to clarify sub-groups of horses which share particular features in their construction that may suggest that they were made in the same workshop. As with the insight into the fragility of some of the horses, the research potential of the X-rays strongly suggests that the remaining horses at the Tower should be X-rayed as it will increase our understanding of the objects’ history.

A study of every plate taken of these two horses reveals details of the individuality of the carving to be found in areas from the hooves and fetlocks to the heads and the tails, regardless of the many coats of painting now covering the wood. The X-rays also complement the results from the endoscope examinations and provide a useful insight into which areas were hollowed out and which blocks of timber have been left solid. The joints between the separate pieces which make up each leg, torso and head are also shown with clarity, indicating that some joints are now quite weak and contain filler where they have undergone restoration in the past, as well as the nails and brackets added. What also is very clear is the way in which the metal supports that were added at unknown dates in the horses’ histories have been fixed into the original wood of the hooves and bodies.

THE HEADS AND HANDS

Heads XVII.58 and 62 were also X-rayed as a test to see if the technique might reveal anything about their construction or decoration. The plates showed the presence of a metal tack or two, which had not been identified by a physical examination, but in general seemed less useful than in the investigation of the horses. Similarly, a representative example from the collection of wooden hands was X-rayed to find out what might be seen. Other than showing how the metal fixtures are attached inside the carved hands it appears that the results may not be particularly useful. It is possible that the specimens used for these test X-rays were not objects that had as much to reveal as some of the others, but in general the conclusion would seem to be that the more complex structures of the horses make them much more worthwhile as subjects for X-radiography.

Further X-radiography of several other horses’ legs has been undertaken in 2013 to determine the amount of damage and repairs that they had undergone over the centuries. The findings will be reported later in the year.

Related Objects

Wooden Horse - Yellow stallion - XVII.7 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.7

Paint Analysis and the Wooden Horses and Heads of the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

Wooden Horse - Black stallion - XVII.8 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.8

Wooden Horse - Orangey-brown stallion - XVII.11 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.11

Wooden Horse - Black stallion - XVII.12 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1685 | Object number: XVII.12

Wooden Horse - Dark brown stallion - XVII.14 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.14

Wooden Horse - Light brown stallion - XVII.16 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.16

Wooden Horse - Grey stallion - XVII.17 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.17

Wooden Horse - Buff stallion with brown mane - XVII.18 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.18

Wooden Horse - Black stallion-XVII.20 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.20

Wooden Horse - Black stallion-XVII.30 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: XVII.30

Wooden Horses: an Introduction Click on the title link above to find out more.

Wooden Horse - Dark brown stallion - XVII.9 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1685 | Object number: XVII.9

Wooden Horse - Dark grey stallion - XVII.10 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1685 | Object number: XVII.10

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Line of Kings