“All is vanity, nothing is fair.” ― William Makepeace Thackeray,
Very much enjoyed seeing some Napoleonic uniforms on prime time TV of late. So also, it seems, did my two latest figures who were transfixed throughout the whole thing.
Thackeray’s Vanity Fair is being serialised on ITV and that means the appearance of lots of smart soldiers in period uniforms. Suburban Militarism says “hurrah” to all that.
These two chaps here are a work in progress, as can be seen by their being currently hopelessly stuck in some Blu-Tack. Their camp hand gestures will make much more sense once their 1796 Pattern Light Cavalry sabre comes in to play.
There’s still lots more to do to these figures, including work on the helmet, the addition of said sabres and mounting them on a base. As to who these two smart Georgian gentlemen actually are, and how I came to have more than one of them, more shall be revealed when I’ve eventually finished and based them. As I first need to go and buy some essential tools to do it, this may take some time…
I’ve very recently become the proud owner of some large antique prints purchased at what was an absurdly low budget price (aka ‘my price range’). On coming through the post, they emitted that strong musty smell suggestive of great age and antiques.
The four prints depict the following yeomanry cavalry regiments from the 1840s:
The Yorkshire Hussars
The Buckinghamshire Hussars
The Suffolk Yeomanry, Long Melford Troop
The 2nd West York Yeomanry
They are in excellent condition considering their great age. Coming with their own generously sized mounts, they are 45cm x 55cm in dimensions, so they are really quite large for a suburban domestic property. My wife has generously agreed to their being displayed in the spare upstairs room as soon as I source some appropriate frames.
So what’s the story behind these prints?
They are from a series of prints titled “Fores’s Yeomanry Costumes“. Each print is dated to a specific day of issue, between 1844 and 1846, and state that they are published in London by “…Messrs Fores, at their sporting and fine print repository & frame manufactory, 41 Piccadilly, corner of Sackville Street.”
‘Messrs Fores’ were the sons of Samuel William Fores. He was an illustrator and publisher based in London. Fores Senior was the son of a cloth merchant and established his business as a print seller in 1783, specialising in popular satirical caricatures. Yeomanry had featured in Fores publications prior to the 1840s. the most infamous of which was by George Cruickshank who created a biting satire on the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. The sarcastically titled “Manchester Heroes” are the men of the ‘Manchester and Salford Yeomanry’ who are sabreing defenceless men, women and children, to the anguished cries of “Shame!”
After S.W. Fores’s death in 1838, his sons took over the business and moved their output from satire to sporting scenes and fine art. This series of yeomanry costumes, begun a few years after their father’s death, was probably a part of that intentional move away from the satirical publications that had made his fortune.
The prints are plates numbered 1, 3, 4 and 6 from a series of eight, so far as I can tell, in total. The drawings are by Henry Martens, a military artist whom I’ve mentioned before on Suburban Militarism after seeing copies of some of his paintings displayed at the Royal Norfolk Regiment Collection, The 2017 Anglo-Sikh Wars exhibition and also at the Staffordshire Yeomanry Museum last year. I also saw a print from this very series when I visited the Shropshire Yeomanry Museum earlier this year. The print (plate 5 in the series) featured the South Salopian Yeomanry and was reproduced on my report on the Shropshire Yeomanry earlier this year.
Martens painted a great deal of military scenes in the early 19th century, notably on the Sikh and Xhosa wars. He was, however, apparently also well known for his depiction of British army uniforms released between 1839 and 1843 under a different publisher (Ackermann). The Yeomanry Costumes drawings appears to have been a natural continuation of his successful uniforms series with Ackermann.
Martens’ works were often engraved and hand-coloured by a lithographer called John Harris, and this is indeed the case with my own prints. The ridges of carefully applied paint on the prints can still be felt on the fingertips!
I’m well used to seeing the beautiful and prodigious work by Richard Simkin in his depictions of the yeomanry during the 1880s and 1890s. Henry Martens, it seems, can be placed in a tradition of faithfully recording the exotic dress of Britain’s yeomanry regiments, a tradition which was carried on by Simkin.
As I’ve indicated, I believe, at least four more paintings were produced in this series. These depicted the West Essex Yeomanry, the Buckinghamshire Artillery Corps, another scene of the Long Melford Troop from Suffolk and, as previously mentioned, the South Salopian Yeomanry. It’s interesting that two were produced for the Long Melford Troop and two for troops from Buckinghamshire and Yorkshire. Some of the prints (notably not the Long Melford Troop) includes a dedication to a local dignitary and the ‘Gentlemen of the Corps’. It’s possible that sponsorship was received by the publisher for this series from those willing and able to pay for the privilege.
There may be more than 8 prints in the series. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for any other bargains, though wall space for any more will be limited! I doubt another in a similar and affordable price range will turn up any time soon, however!
Some weeks ago now, I posted on a 54mm figure which had been lost many years ago – then found – lost again – and then found again! The figure was of a trumpeter belonging to the 3rd County of London yeomanry, also known as the Sharpshooters. This figure was a direct copy of Robert Marrion’s illustration on the cover of the Sharpshooters book from the Smith and Harris’ “Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force” series.
The largest scale that I’ve painted hitherto is 28mm, 20mm being my usual scale, and so 54mm is a big step up. I’ve enjoyed the new challenge of painting it. It’s nice to focus on one figure rather than a whole kit of them.
I don’t think my painting technique is perfectly suited to these bigger scales, but I admit to being reasonably pleased with the result.
And that’s not all.
I’ve discovered a seller on eBay who has been selling off her late father’s old stock of figures. Clearly, the chap was a fellow of good taste, his collection includes lots of 54mm figures, most splendidly painted with some soldiers still untouched. These have included yet more Dorset Model Soldier Company figures taken from the illustrations on the covers of Smith and Harris’ series. Namely;
Officer, Undress, c.1903-1905 – 3rd County of London (Sharpshooters):
Another figure (or rather 2 figures – they came as a pair) also from the cover of the 3rd County of London (Sharpshooters) book, this time being modelled on the officer in the all-green undress. Unfortunately, both figures are without the sword that the officer is supposed to be resting his hands on. He could nevertheless be taken for simply clasping his hand together.
Sergeant, Sussex Imperial Yeomanry, Service Dress, c.1905:
Another Dorset figure that I’ve come into is based on the very 1st book in the series on the Sussex Yeomanry Cavalry. It is the figure of the Sergeant on the far left wearing the bandoleer, Stohwasser gaiters and slouch hat. It’s a very impressive figure, I think, though some preparation will be needed as his riding crop remains attached to his right arm and there’s quite a bit of flash to remove.
There is one other figure I’m expecting which will be similar to the Sergeant-Major second from left on the cover (wearing a khaki lancer-pattern uniform and red forage cap). Still currently on its way through the post, this figures has a slouch hat instead of the red cap and photographs of the Sussex Yeomanry in this manner of Full Dress uniform can be seen in the Barlow and Smith book. So, it’s not strictly a Robert Marrion figure, but should, I imagine look similar to the one he illustrated 2nd left.
I’m intrigued to know how many of these 54mm model figures and of which regiments were made from the Yeomanry Force series. Having discovered three from the 1st and 5th books alone, I must assume that there are more from some of the remaining 13 other books.
Meanwhile, I’ve sourced a base for the trumpeter of the Sharpshooters that I’ve painted, which will hopefully come through the post in the coming week. Once properly mounted and presented, I will share in a future post. It seems that my humble tribute to R.J. Marrion is emerging as a long term ongoing project…
Using time off over the Bank Holiday period, I was emptying out some old magazines when I made a wonderful discovery. Let me explain…
About two years ago, my parents handed me a small metal figure in a little plastic bag which they had discovered deep in their loft. Knowing that it was probably one of my old model figures from my childhood, and furthermore well aware that I’m always painting soldiers nowadays, they brought it over.
It was a 54mm figure from Dorset (Metal Model) Soldiers Ltd, which I presume is the same company still going today but under the name The Dorset Model Soldier Company. I guess I must have purchased it from a Victorian Military Society fair in the mid 1980s. The bag also contained a square wooden plinth and a little green baize to mount it on. The figure was from a series called “Armies of the World” and represented a Trumpeter in Drill Order from the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) during the period 1902-1907.
I was particularly pleased to rediscover this figure as Yeomanry is a great interest of mine. Having (naturally…) the entire fifteen books from the terrific Ogilby Trust series; “The Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force 1794-1914″, I pulled out my copy of the 5th book in the series on said regiment to do some research.
There on the cover was the very figure I was researching – and, what’s more, in exactly the same pose! I guessed that the sculptor must have used the excellent Robert J. Marrion image on the far right of the cover as a guide, such is the similarity. Furthermore, the illustration in kind must have been based upon the trumpeter seen in the above photograph.
Finally, the figure came with a hand-written painting guide which, confirming the inspiration behind it, indeed recommended that for further details and colours I should see “No.5 in the series “The Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force 1794-1914”.
And then it was lost.
Gone. Disappeared. Vanished. The figure was last seen in a generic plastic bag. I threw the bag out but took care to remove the figure first. I’m sure I did. Didn’t I? All that remained was the little wooden plinth that the figure would have been mounted on. I searched everywhere for the figure, fruitlessly turning the house upside down for days. Appalled, I finally became convinced that I must have thrown it out by accident. Two years passed by…
…Until I discovered it yesterday! It turned up secreted at the bottom of a magazine rack. Heaven knows how or why it got there, and how it evaded my searches for so long. Now it has returned, I’m tempted to finally have a go at painting it. Heaven knows, I’ve got enough on at the moment, so it may be a little while yet before I make a start.
Trouble is, not only have I already clumsily broken the plume off (hastily re-glued), but I am now unable to locate the wooden plinth which ironically has possibly been thrown out after the figure was given up as lost. Never mind; I’ll fashion a replacement!
I now want to end by saying some words about R.J. Marrion, the artist who inspired the Trumpeter figure and illustrated for the entire British Yeomanry Force series. Bob Marrion was a former police officer, firstly a dog handler and then latterly, after injury, a police draftsman. He illustrated dozens of books and articles on the subject of military uniforms including the entire Ogilby Trust series on the British Yeomanry Force.
Sadly Bob Marrion passed away in 2015 to the great regret of many with an interest in and appreciation for military history, uniforms and artworks.
Tantalisingly, from this forum it is suggested that in the 1970s Bob Marrion even sculpted, or at least designed, his own Victorian-era figures under the name Olive Figures. Something to look out for, perhaps?
So painting this figure becomes, perhaps, a kind of belated personal tribute to the late Bob Marrion and his essential contribution to the hobby. What more appropriate way for me to do this than bringing to life a sculpted manifestation of one of his illustrations? Having not painted anything greater than 28mm, 54mm scale is something very different and so should be an interesting challenge.
Currently, I’m still finishing off the Zvezda Saxon Cuirassiers, which should be definitely finished some time this week, I reckon. After that, following what has been over 3 decades of being lost and found, I’d say it’s about time this lost sharpshooter – one of Bob Marrion’s artistic visions – was finally brought to life!
I’m pleased to say that it appears that my previous post on the heroic female soldiers of Serbia has been particularly well-timed. Not only does it coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first piece of legislation extending voting rights to women in the UK, but it also coincides with #FEMbruary.
It was my friend from the Imperial Rebel Orc blog who drew my attention to FEMbruary – a painting challenge for this month intended to “celebrate females and highlight the dismal fact that our hobby is so male dominated“. The idea for the FEMbruary painting challenge has apparently originated with Lead Balloony.com. Well done, sir! A fine suggestion. https://leadballoony.com/2018/01/29/more-eru-kin-and-the-fembruary-challenge
Suburban Militarism occasionally posts on topics related to women’s often overlooked role in conflict, military art and military history. Furthermore, this blog loves a communal challenge, and so I’ve ‘signed up’ to FEMbruary – a time for painting some female miniatures that celebrate, not demean, women. There was just a small matter of finding an appropriate female figure to paint, though. Not only are there not enough females in the hobby, there’s not enough female figures which are realistically proportioned and non-sexualised. Step forward, Bad Squiddo and the Dice Bag Lady!
Guided by the ever-knowledgeable Mark from Man of Tin blog, I checked out Bad Squiddo – a site dedicated to believable female miniatures! Quickly through the post came a perfectly sculpted figure together with a rather lovely Darjeeling tea bag to boot. My chosen FEMbruary figure from Bad Squiddo is one of the most powerful rulers of the 18th century; Catherine the Great of Russia!
Born as Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, this German lady came to power after her ineffectual husband, Peter III, was assassinated. She proved to be an astonishingly successful ruler for Russia, reigning from 1762 to 1796. Catherine combined intelligence, shrewdness, an appreciation for the arts, knowledge of Enlightenment principles, and an autocratic ruthlessness whenever required. Like many other powerful autocrats, Catherine fed both her ego and her libido; she didn’t stint on palatial opulence and also enjoyed a long list of lovers.
She was also keenly aware of the need to dress to impress, or should that be Empress? Her magnificent dresses brought western fashions to the Russian court. In a subtle demonstration of her power, and to cement her relationship with army, some of these were military uniform inspired dresses and explicitly mimicked military fashions and colours of the day.
For the Bad Squiddo figure, Catherine the Great eschews the fine dresses of court and appears in full military uniform, on a white charger with sword drawn.
Catherine is wearing the full uniform of the Russian Life Guards. The Bad Squiddo figure (above) cleverly takes the Vigilius Eriksen portrait (below) as its inspiration.
The Eriksen portrait of her formed part of an enormous collection of paintings which Catherine acquired with the stupendous wealth that she enjoyed;
Among many portraits of the empress is Vigilius Eriksen’s Equestrian Portrait of Catherine II. She is on her horse Brilliant (Russian for “Diamond”) on the summer’s day in 1762 when she set out from St Petersburg to demand the abdication of her weak, stupid and unpopular husband, Peter III. Her backers included her lover, Count Grigory Orlov, and one of his successors, Prince Grigory Potemkin. Her sword is drawn, and she would clearly be happy to use it on her husband. Peter caved in, but within days had been murdered by his wife’s supporters. She claimed he had died of one of “his habitual haemorrhoidal attacks, together with a violent colic”. The Guardian
The lady who wore that uniform, sword drawn and “happy to use it on her husband”, intended it to indicate to all of Russia that a more dynamic and stronger sort of ruler was about to take power. Catherine the Great was a supremely successful leader, subject to the same trappings of power as male leaders (opulence, sex, etc.). Autocrats and despots are hardly loveable. But this ruthless lady was very charismatic, with personal qualities and achievements that were extremely impressive. What’s more, she looks splendid in a Guards uniform to boot!
And with that grey horse, Brilliante, it’s time for me to get painting horses again.
My 13th Regiment of Polish infantry are slowly approaching completion. With an all white uniform and light blue facings, the challenge is to avoid them looking a little too luminous and bright, yet still pleasingly colourful.
I’ve used ‘turquoise’ rather than light blue for their facings simply because I preferred the shade (so there!).
I started to paint the drummer in reverse colours until I found a print showing the 13th drummer in white, reversing the blue lapel colour with the red cord colour. So, I’ve gone back to the start with that figure. I’m a little apprehensive about painting a heraldic double-headed eagle onto an uneven surface (i.e. on to the draped flag). The results could be comical!
I think my ultimate aim with these figures is to place them as if taking part in an advance across a battlefield. Hence, unlike with the previous regiment, I’ve left the bayonets in place. In the meantime, the equipment and muskets are still to do, not forgetting the regimental flag and the drummer too. Updates to follow once these are done…
I’ve now finally completed my 20 figures of Strelets’ Polish Napoleonic Infantry! I decided that it would be fun to place them in a mini diorama, marching wearily along some muddy country lane, mud on their boots and trousers.
They are the 12th Infantry Regiment, which wore the usual dark blue coat (called a kurtka) but were distinguished in the Polish army by their unique yellow collars.
I think they look rather impressive and a clear improvement on many of their figures from the past.
I’m already working on the rest of the box; 24 figures which include the four command figures (flag bearer, officer, NCO and drummer). This will be the 13th Regiment. Being a chap that always likes to paint something a little different to keep me interested, I’ve selected this regiment because (unique amongst Napoleonic Polish infantry) they wore white uniforms. These were in fact captured Austrian infantry uniforms which sported a fetching light blue colour for the lapels, collars and cuffs.
With 24 figures to paint, it will take me a fair while to get them finished. I’m enjoying my painting however, so it’s not a chore. The white uniforms are already done and I will be adding some light blue for the facings next. I’ll post an update once I’ve got something decent to share!
I like my military music, so I’ll sign off with a video of Polish Army Band marching through London in 2015 wearing dark blue uniforms and Czapka helmets similar to their Napoleonic ancestors that I’m painting.
As for 2018, in my previous post I alluded to receiving a generous number of new model soldier kits as Christmas (and birthday) presents. With these kits, there’s a definite East European theme taking shape for 2018 and – dare I say it – a distinct focus on the First World War too (in a departure from my more usual 18th/19th centuries). But it’s familiar Napoleonic territory to start the year as I launch straight into the first of these new kits; the newly released Strelets Polish Infantry on the March.
These Napoleonic figures represent men of the Polish Legions, a force formed by Polish patriots who saw in the rise of Revolutionary France and Napoleon an opportunity to re-establish their nation which was dissolved and partitioned amongst its powerful neighbours in 1795. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been in existence since 1569. Once one of the largest nations in Europe by both size and population, by the time of its eventual demise Russia, Prussia and Austria had all taken a share of the territory.
In 1797, two years after partition, a passionate nationalist desire for re-establishing a Polish nation saw a sizeable volunteer “Polish legion” created within Napoleon’s French revolutionary army. At this time, a popular piece of music was written to inspire this new legion which would later become the Polish national anthem; “Poland is Not Lost”.
The Polish Legion fought in many theatres of war with the French including Italy, Haiti, Prussia, Russia and in the Peninsular. Whilst Napoleon was more than keen to use the 20-30,000 highly regarded Polish troops for his military campaigns, he showed less passion for their cause – establishing Poland as a nation. Eventually, a diminished Duchy of Warsaw (under the sway of France) was created, but it was dissolved once more following Napoleon’s eventual defeat.
Napoleonic Polish troops wore predominantly blue uniforms closely following that of their French sponsors, although a distinct addition was their iconic Czapka helmet. Indeed, the Czapka which was worn by Polish lancers would go on to become a standard feature of most European lancer regiments later in the 19th century.
My Strelets Polish regiment is the 12th Infantry Regiment. They wear the usual all blue coat and trousers (in summer, they wore white trousers), white lapels, red cuffs and (uniquely) yellow collars. I’m minded to create an alternative Polish regiment with the remainder of the box (which also includes command figures). Possible alternatives could include the 13th Regiment (below left) which wore captured Austrian army uniforms and were therefore predominantly white. Alternatively, I could also produce one of the three “Vistula Legions” (below right), which in addition to the usual blue uniforms featured distinctive yellow lapels, cuffs and collars.
These slender Strelets figures are a significant departure from much of their early creations, such as the marching French infantry that I’ve just recently finished off. The detail isn’t always as crisp and clear as with some manufacturers making it tricky to paint, but it is sufficient to produce most details adequately. The poses are really effective and there is a nice cohesion to this marching force that was absent in the old French infantry set I’ve just finished with. As with that French set, I’ve cut off their bayonets which would have been unlikely to be fixed when on the march.
I’ve made real progress already thanks to all the free holiday time, and here’s a couple of quick snaps taken in the home and garden of some of the 20 figures I’m working on so far. I’ll update once they’re completed, which hopefully could be by the end of the week.
After a very satisfactory Christmas Day with my family, I’ve enjoyed a bracing Boxing Day walk in the hills. Sitting back with a glass of iced single malt, I’ve been surveying the embarrassingly high number of model soldier kits which have been bought for me as Christmas presents. More details on these will no doubt feature in forthcoming posts…
The holiday has allowed me time to do plenty of figure painting already and I’ve (somewhat astonishingly) completed my large group of Strelets’ French Infantry on the March.
It has been an interesting process, returning to paint Strelets figures again. Being nearly two years since my last serious Strelets painting, I had forgotten how different an experience it is when compared to figures from other manufacturers. Furthermore, my painting style has developed and consequently I’ve had to rethink how to approach these figures.
Being less ‘pretty’ and refined than other figures, it’s a different aesthetic. Strelets figures look their best in larger groups rather than showcased individuals. This marching cohort is perfect for showing off Strelets. Their chunkier figures make for clearer details when seen from a distance, ‘en masse’. Incidentally, newly released Strelets figures appear to be sculpted to an increasingly refined standard than with these early French infantrymen.
Although, it’s been a challenge at times and involved some repainting, I’ve been really enjoying the process. As a result, I intend to paint some more Strelets figures which have just come through as Christmas presents!
Now, I wonder if I get even more figures for my birthday, tomorrow…?