My Horse is Irregular…

I’m patiently waiting for a little something to arrive through the post which I hope will enhance my slowly progressing FEMbruary submission of Empress Catherine and the Russian Court.

In the meantime, as the shocking Storm Dennis rages outside it is at least an opportunity to add some paint to those War of the Spanish Succession horses which arrived from Irregular Miniatures some weeks ago.

These are first metal 20mm figures I’ve ever had the pleasure to paint, so I’ll have to see how the riders go. It’s also a toe in the water for some other classic metal 20mm figures which I’ve received.

Right – I’d better nip outside now and check for any storm damage…!

FEMbruary: The Other 'Empress Catherine'

I’ve been making swift progress with my FEMbruary submission. In the first FEMbruary challenge back in 2018, I chose Bad Squiddo’s 28mm figure of Catherine the Great. One of the most remarkable rulers in history, most people are familiar with her name, the monarch being the subject of recent TV miniseries in the UK (2019) and Russia (2014-19). While Catherine II of Russia is famous, less familiar is Catherine I, mostly because she only reigned for three years after Peter I’s (her husband’s) death.

Catherine I, Empress of Russia by Augustine Fauchery, hand-coloured lithograph, 1830s NPG D34625 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Born of very humble beginnings as Marta Helena Skowrońska, she was nonetheless to become a remarkable and very capable empress. In a happy marriage, the “energetic, compassionate, charming, and always cheerful” Catherine proved to be the perfect partner to support and manage the tempestuous emperor Peter. With no successor named by the dying Peter, popular Catherine took power with the support of Peter’s best friend, Prince Menshikov, and the Guards Regiments.

I was interested to discover there was an equestrian portrait of Catherine I in a Guards uniform riding a grey charger, closely resembling (perhaps not coincidentally) the later painting of Catherine II by Eriksen which had inspired my 2018 figure. So, it seems that the Bad Squiddo figure could stand for either Empress Catherine?

I am very unfamiliar ground painting 18th dresses but thankfully the fashion of the early 18th century was for plainer designs:

“In the beginning of the (18th) century…a plain style was preferred, without too many ornaments. This style was strongly influenced by Françoise d’Aubigné, the wife of King Louis XIV.” How did women dress in the 18th century?

This seems to be born out in contemporary portraits and it made things much easier for me. My Strelets 1/72 scale figure wears a dress which I’ve painted in a similar shade to her portrait by Jean-Marc Nattier. A red sash and an ermine-lined velvet cloak is all that’s missing. I may brush on a little satin varnish to imitate silk.

The above painting most probably was the inspiration for Strelets’ sculptor too. The dress design being remarkably similar and there’s even a tiara on her head closely resembling the one she wore (making some allowance for the complications of sculpting such a thing in 20mm scale)!

Catherine’s opulent tiara; an abundance of large pearls, gold, possibly diamonds, together with some pretty hefty rubies in there too!

The other two FEMbruary ladies at court are also nearly completed. This charming figure is using her richly decorated fan and gazing into the distance:

The other lady has a small dog at her feet which she is reaching down to pet. I thought that it looked a little like a King Charles Spaniel (a breed, incidentally, particularly popular with the 1st Duke of Marlborough), so I painted it in that fashion. This is the figure for whom I had to resort to some serious flash removal. To conceal her disfigurement, half of her face I’ve hidden under the locks of her hair.

So, these three courtly women are nearly completed but not quite! There’s more to come – the Empress Catherine is reaching her hand out in front of her and I’m also painting something which will make sense of this gesture and complete the scene more fully. So, ‘stay tuned’!

Court Appearances: FEMbruary 2020

FEMbruary has been declared! For the 3rd year, I’m formally throwing my hat into the ring for FEMbruary 2020. Begun in 2018, this cracking idea by Alex at Leadballoony blog invited modellers to share their work on female miniatures or otherwise join in as “part of an ongoing conversation about how women are presented within our hobby”. In previous years, Suburban Militarism has submitted:

Catherine the Great by Bad Squiddo Games

This year, I’m turning to my preferred 1/72 scale. The figures I’ve chosen are from Strelets’ “Court and Army of Peter the 1st” ‘big box’ set which I’ve had for a little while now in my far-too-large pile of unpainted items. It features soldiers and guards from Tsar Peter I’s newly formed professional Russian army, and also contains a number of unusual and entertaining court figures, including Peter the Great himself.

For FEMbruary, I’ve taken from this set three aristocratic ladies in fine dresses, one of whom is the Empress, Peter’s wife. I’ve already glued them on pennies and PSR’s description of each is below:


“Empress Catherine I (1684-1727) – Peter’s second wife, whom he married in 1707 and was named Empress but only really had power after his death. The marriage was a very happy one.”


“Court lady – In ‘German’ or western dress, with a large wig as required by Peter.”


“Court lady – As above, but this one pets a small dog at her skirts.”


Much of the court personalities from this set will of course fit the era for my new War of the Spanish Succession project. As such, they could as Plastic Soldier Review state; “work equally well at the court of Louis XIV or any other monarch, so the potential is quite considerable. However a top quality paint job is about the only hope for these otherwise rather unsatisfying figures.” Gulp! The pressure is on to meet that challenge, and I hardly need confess that I’ve not painted 18th Century ladies dresses before, never mind a dog…

The figures seem to show those early Strelets characteristics of imagination and fun, with a distinctive sculpting style which divides opinion. In the main, I haven’t found flash to be a particular issue with Strelets figures but these courtly ladies underwent some serious plastic surgery with my scalpel. In the case of the lady and dog, her face quite literally went ‘under the knife’!

Always up for a challenge, I’ll share my progress, good or bad, in due course. In the mean time, do pop over to Leadballoony’s blog for more on other FEMbruary figures and participants!

Lace Wars: Sankey's Soldiers

The War of the Spanish Succession, indeed much the 18th century’s so-called ‘lace wars’, have been significantly overlooked in plastic at 1/72 scale until Strelets began to put things right towards the end of last year. At time of writing, Strelets have four sets slated for release:

  • British Infantry in Advance (1701-1714)
  • British Infantry in Attack (1701-1714)
  • British Infantry Firing Line (1701-1714)
  • French Fusiliers (Early War)

The first two have been released and the first set has already found its way to Suburban Militarism. This “in Advance” set includes around 20 marching figures and a similar number again advancing with the point of the bayonet – I’ve started with the marching boys.

I’ve been struggling to find Marlburian uniform information on specific regiments on the net, so I may have to turn to actual ye olde books for more info. Eventually, I turned to one of my postcards which was part of a set bought from The Keep Museum in Dorchester about the Devonshire and Dorsetshire Regiments.

The postcard shows an illustration by Rob Chapman of a soldier from Sankey’s Regiment in 1718 (regiments being named at the time after their colonel). Depicted just after the end of the War of the Spanish Succession on ‘sea service’, they would later be numbered as the 39th Regiment of Foot.

I was attracted to painting this regiment by the green facings, yet my copy of W.Y. Carman’s “Richard Simkin’s Uniforms of the British Infantry Regiments” tells me that for this regiment “no distinctive facings may be quoted before 1742” but does have this to say on their subsequent green facings when :

“…pale green was used for the facings and waistcoat. The green was later named as ‘willow green’, ‘popinjay’, ‘light green’ and other variations, no doubt because a fixed shade of green was hard to find in those days when dyes changed under battle conditions.”

In the end, I’ve been happy to go with the illustration and (in the spirit of those endless shades of green that they enjoyed) have given them some lime green facings, to match Rob Chapman’s illustration.

My marching figures are now about 90% finished, but you will note that some work does still remain to be done. This grenadier company above, for example, are still awaiting some attention to their grenadier caps. No idea what the actual caps looked like but I’m thinking some more of that lime green and some other detailing might do the trick.

Also on the march are some sergeants carrying halberds and a couple of officers too wearing their gorgets. The ensign has a black flag which needs painting in some manner too:


Sankey’s Regiment: A brief history

This regiment was orignally named “Colonel Coote’s Regiment” when it was raised in 1702. The said Colonel Richard Coote however was soon to die in a duel to be succeeded by Colonel Sankey, whose name the Regiment then took. Though missing out on all of Marlborough’s great battles of the war, they still campaigned in the Low Countries, France, Germany, Spain and North America. At the battle of Almanza, the regiment mounted mules to earn the ironic nickname “Sankey’s Horse”. After the war, having been raised as infantry and later serving as psuedo-cavalry when mounted on mules, the men found then found themselves acting as marines when on ‘sea-service’!


The remainder of the box I intend to paint up as a different British regiment, though I’ve yet to decide upon which one. Another aspect on my mind is for me a somewhat novel approach to basing, but more on that in another post.

Diamond Geezer

Just a quick update on my progress with my FEMbruary challenge – Bad Squiddo’s Catherine the Great and her horse “Brilliant”. The latter’s name refers to the Russian word for diamond. Well, the sculpting is a real gem, for sure (groan…).

DSCF4490 (2)
Brilliant – Catherine II’s grey

I’m not used to painting greys at 28mm, or in metal for that matter, so I’ve had to go back and re-adjust my paint job a couple of times. There is supposed to be a very slight dapple effect on the coat, but it’s got lost a little with those readjustments. Hopefully, the end result is satisfactory.

DSCF4484 (2)

Still a couple of things I’d like to do get Brilliant’s face looking slightly better. Unlike in Eriksen’s painting of Catherine the Great on Brilliant, I painted them in a light colour instead of black. This is correct for a grey – and what’s more, I am rather sad and very fussy about these things!

DSCF4489 (2)

I must confess that reproducing freehand all that rich, ornate embroidery seen on the saddle cloth isn’t something I’m a natural at. And it probably shows too, but it’ll do!

DSCF4487 (2)

Catherine herself is, I’d say, half to 2/3rd’s done. Her face and hair are up next, with plenty of other details still to do. All will be revealed when she’s finally finished and glued on to the back of Brilliant!

DSCF4491 (2)

The Men that Fought at Minden

simkin-minden
The men that fought at Minden, they ‘ad buttons up an’ down,
Two-an’-twenty dozen of ’em told;
But they didn’t grouse an’ shirk at an hour’s extry work,
They kept ’em bright as gold.
Rudyard Kipling, Barrack Room Ballads, 1895

Now my Russian Cuirassiers have joined their mounted colleagues in the Nappy Cavalry Project, I can now at last turn my attention to my figures intended for the BFFGMFP.

bffgmfp-3
RedBox British infantry. Note the drummer wearing light grey at the front.

These marching figures are from RedBox’s British Infantry of the 1745 Culloden campaign. The box information suggests that these figures are suitable for campaigns stretching from the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion right through to the 7 Years War (1756-63). A fellow figure painter on Benno’s Figures Forum indicated he was interested in the battle of Minden in particular and it got me thinking of the Kipling poem at the top of this post. (No chart hits for me going through my mind of a morning as I take the bus to work – it’s Rudyard Kipling!)

But this post isn’t about Minden, or even Rudyard Kipling either. It’s not even about Richard Simkin, late-19th century military artist and painter of the Battle of Minden depicted at the top of this post. Instead it’s about David Morier, an Anglo-Swiss painter of the 18th century. My painting guide below for the BFFGMFP comes from Morier’s own illustration of the 17th Regiment of Foot, circa 1750:

soldier_of_17th_regiment_1742
Private, 17th Regt. by David Morier c.1750s.

The regiment that I’m painting will be based on this contemporary image of the 17th Regiment of Foot. In 1751, the British army regiments became numbered in order of seniority. Prior to that date, it was the custom for regiments to be simply named after its colonel. At the time of the 1751 change, the 17th was known as ‘Wynyard’s Regiment of Foot’. The 17th Foot later became known as The Leicestershire Regiment (after my home county).

william_augustus_duke_of_cumberland_by_david_morier-2
Morier’s portrait of his patron, the Duke of Cumberland

Morier’s paintings were made under the patronage of the then Commander-in-Chief of the British army; The Duke of Cumberland (aka ‘Butcher’ to his opponents). David Morier carefully depicted many regiments in Cumberland’s army at the time, as well as some landscape paintings including perhaps his most well-known work; “An Incident in the Rebellion of 1745” (presumably catchy titles weren’t his strong point). This painting happens to be the box art used on the cover of the RedBox figures I’m painting for BFFGMFP!

512px-The_Battle_of_Culloden.jpg
The Battle of Culloden, oil on canvas, David Morier, 1746.

The Duke of Cumberland was the son of King George II. Despite his victory at Culloden, he rarely showed any great skill at generalship and his general incompetence in the 7 Years War led to his removal from command, notwithstanding his regal position. With Cumberland’s demise, David Morier had lost his patron. He nonetheless exhibited equestrian portraits throughout the 1760s. Like myself, it seems that Morier was a prolific painter of cavalry! Here are some examples of his regimental cavalry paintings:

Tragically, he later fared rather badly – possibly as a consequence of the decline in royal patronage, ending up in London’s notoriously foul Fleet prison for debtors where he died in 1770, aged 65.

By 1760, the year of the Battle of Minden, the Duke of Cumberland had already been removed from command and David Morier was embarking on his (presumably unprofitable) equestrian exhibitions for the Society of Artists. However, ‘the men that fought at Minden’ would have still looked much as Morier had carefully depicted them some years before.

Hopefully, I can do his paintings some justice with my own figures. With all that scary detail on the figures though, I’m feeling none too confident at the moment!

The BFFGMFP…

It’s that time of year when a German gentleman named Jan from Benno’s Figures Forum announces the theme for this year’s ‘Group Build’; a collaboration in which Forum contributors from across Europe, nay – the world, collate their figures for display at the FIGZ convention in Arnhem. It is officially known as (take a deep breath) the Bennos Figures Forum Great Miniature Figures Parade (BFFGMFP)!!!

Last year, I sent some WWII Dutch cyclists and Napoleonic Dutch Infantry to join the many entertaining scenes of historical figures travelling “on the road to Arnhem”. In 2015, I sent four figures (including a Scots Grey, a Hanoverian Hussar, a Prussian Jager and a Nassau Grenadier) to join a large diorama commemorating the 200th anniversary of Waterloo. Importantly, two of these figures were Napoleonic cavalry, which kick-started my ongoing Nappy Cavalry Project…

For this year, the idea is to assemble a huge column of marching figures. The figures involved can be from any historical period and the intention is to build up a parade which travels through all the ages. We’ve been encouraged to paint a unit from our own countries or regions and with this in mind, I’ve come up with the following idea:

This year, my contribution will be –

The 17th Regiment of Foot, circa 1740!

soldier_of_17th_regiment_1742
Soldier of the 17th Regiment, 1742 (contemporary print)

The “17th Regiment of Foot” became the “17th (Leicestershire) Regiment of Foot” in 1782, and then simply “The Leicestershire Regiment” following the Childers Reforms of 1881. Being a Leicestershire man myself, this certainly fulfils the brief to send figures representing my own country or region.

The figures I’m going to use have been lying around unpainted for a couple of years now. The figures are from Ukrainian manufacturer RedBox, specifically their British Infantry (Jacobite Rebellion 1745) set. It contains lots of marching figures, perfect for the BFFGMFP! Not having painted any RedBox figures before, I’m keen to try them out. At first glance, without being worthy of the description ‘sublime’, I’d say their figures look promising.

red-box-british-infantry-2
RedBox British Infantry (c.1745)

red-box-british-infantry-1
On the march: Leicestershire joins the “BFFGMFP”

I have until May to produce my contribution of what I hope will be around 15-20 figures, so there’s plenty of time. I have other things demanding my attention in the meantime. I’m still putting together the next post in my equine painting tutorial as I develop my Russian Cuirassier horses, hopefully this should be posted in the coming week, work duties allowing.

Bye for now!

Marvin.