25 February 2010

Who Are You? -- Part Four

Antoine de Pluvinel (1552 - 1620)

Here’s another great master that I have yet to read.  Despite my ignorance though, a little research shows Antoine de Pluvinel to be a pivotal figure in the history of dressage.

Pluvinel studied under a protégé of Grisone, so one might expect him to have continued the practices of his masters, but he didn’t. In rejecting the theory of harsh punishments and returning to and expanding upon the principles of Xenophon, Pluvinel was in the first wave of the humanism that would soon sweep across Europe.

I’m not alone in this opinion. In a 1985 journal article, Hilda Nelson argues that the revival of classical horsemanship should not be credited to the Renaissance humanism of Grisone but to the classical humanism of the 17th Century. Following the ideas of Paul Benichou, Nelson presents a good argument for the 17th Century as the first wave of humanism leading to the era we know as the Enlightenment. This modern humanism emphasized rational thought and refinement of manner.

Here article is available here:  http://www.jstor.org/pss/392816

Since many good Web resources exist on Pluvinel, I’ll resort to copy and paste for much of this.

Margarethe de Clermont also has an excellent page. There, she says this: 
Pluvinel is most well-known for his kind, humane training methods, contrary to Pignatelli, who often used harsh methods to gain obedience from the horse, Pluvinel used praise, careful use of the aids, and softer bits (simple curb bits) to get the horse to work with him. He claimed that the use of the spur or the whip was a confession of failure. Pluvinel introduced a form of equestrian ballet known as a "carousel" in which groups of horses and riders perform intricate patterns to music. In one such instance, over a thousand horses and riders performed together.
Suite 101 has another good page . There, Elaine Walker says this:

While Grisone’s manual of 1550 accepts and even advocates extreme brutality for overcoming any resistance from the horse, Pluvinel chooses instead a courtly refinement. His return to the gentler methods favoured by Xenophon also completes the movement from the battlefield to the riding house. Pluvinel uses the exercises purely as a recreation through which the nobleman may develop physical skills alongside judgement, grace and self-control. This was seen to show the natural moral superiority of human over animal nature without any descent into violence or anger.
Here’s also a nice bit from a sporting art gallery, which, not coincidentally offers some fine prints:

Antoine de Pluvinel was born in France and taken to Italy to study horsemanship from the age of 10 to about 16, when he was taken in by M. de Sourdis, the premier ecuyer (first equerry) of King Charles IX. In his early 20s, Pluvinel was appointed first equerry to the king’s brother, who soon succeeded to the throne as Henri III. His reputation grew, and when Henri IV took the throne in 1589, Pluvinel remained as a member of the court. In 1594, Pluvinel realized his dream of founding a riding school. He was at work on his book Le Manege Royal when he died. A first, incomplete edition appeared in 1623, illustrated by Crispijn de Passe. A second version, illustrated by the same artist, with improved text was issued about two years later under the title L'Instruction du Roy, en L'Exercice de Monter a Cheval and this version was translated and reissued many times. The book shows the instruction of the young Louis XIII (1601-43) who was crowned in 1610 under the regency of his mother and reigned from 1617 onward. The text and illustrations explain Pluvinel’s principles of training horses in the form of a dialogue with the king, interspersed with commentaries by M. le Grand and other distinguished authorities. Pluvinel’s book was groundbreaking in its advocacy of humane training methods, a departure from the harsher practices commonplace at the time.
Drawing from these sources, it’s easy to state that, as a member of the court, riding teacher, and author, Pluvinel exerted considerable influence on the aristocracy in France.  For example, the controversial Richelieu, who would become Prime Minister for King Louis XIII, studied at Pluvinel’s Academie.

Pluvinel’s influence also came to England in the form of his student, William, Duke of Cavendish, the next master I’ll examine.

For now, mere snippets from the writings of Pluvinel are all I have to offer directly. But they reveal a marked shift, going well beyond the scope of Xenophon in attributing riding as the meeting of two minds. The recognition of an animal as having a mind is in itself remarkable for this era.

ArtisticDressage.com offers quotations with commentary from current dressage master Dr. Thomas Ritter.


Another set of Pluvinel’s words appears here: 


It never fails that someone who does not work with consideration either destroys his horse's gentleness or teaches him incorrigible vices.

I concentrate mainly on exercising his mind and his memory, in such a way that I achieve what I want: so that it is the horse's mind which I work the most: the mind of the rider must work perpetually as well, in order to detect all kinds of opportunities to arrive at his goal, without letting any movement pass unnoticed, nor any opportunity unused.

But in so far as the perfection of an art lies in the knowledge of where to begin, I am very well advised in this regard, to teach the horse his first lessons, since he finds them the most difficult, in searching for a way in which to work his mind, rather than his thighs and shanks, while being careful not to annoy him, if possible, and not to rob him of his spirit: since it is to the horse as the blossom is to the fruit, which, once withered, never returns.

Next time, on to the Duke of Newcastle.

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