Leib-Kurassiere Garde (Nappy Cavalry Project Regiment #26)

I can now just about sign off my box of Zvezda’s Saxon Cuirassiers. I say ‘just about’ because there are some holes requiring filling in. These holes appear on the horse furniture and are to attach the carbines. Sadly, I found the carbines to be a pain in the ass to fix to the figure and so abandoned all but five of them. Even then I didn’t get the pegs into the holes!

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Fiddly firearms aside, the rest of the kit is very impressive and is yet another set that Zvezda can be very proud of. My only quibble might be that some of the detail is just too subtle, all of which makes bringing the detail to life so much harder! Hopefully, I’ve not done them a disservice.

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You may notice all of the figures are looking to the side, something which aided the production of the figures within the mould, no doubt. I could have perhaps given the heads a twist for variety but actually I like the poses well enough.

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Painting figures which are almost entirely white and black, like the Leib Cuirassiers, means limited opportunities for shading and highlighting nice, bright colours. Monochrome figures can also look pretty plain on photos as shading detail largely disappears under my budget camera lens.

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Nonetheless, it’s hard not to like this regiment’s uniform which stands out nicely in contrast to other cavalry regiments in my project. The black cuirass, which was looking far too shiny in my last post, has been dulled nicely with a lick of matt varnish.

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You may notice that I’ve added some purple/blue flowers (Lavender? Forget-me-nots?) to the ground across which they’re charging. There’s a nice touch of springtime about them – which is precisely what seems to be sadly absent from the UK so far this year (as I look out of the window it continues to be cold, grey and wet).

The command figures in the set are as follows:

The Officer:

He wears a more ornate cuirass (I shared a picture of a real example in my previous post) with lots of yellow braid and a black crossbelt. He also has a white plume which came separate on the sprue and required attaching on – amazingly I did this without any trouble! I realise now that I still need to paint his pistols which are attached to the horse furniture.

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The Flag Bearer:

The regimental standard features a white background with white and red fringes. In the centre is a wreath of leaves surrounding a yellow and green striped shield with a green diagonal stripe underneath a crown. On the reverse is the King’s cypher.

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The Trumpeter:

The Leib trumpeter is mounted on a grey, as is usual for cavalry regiments, and unlike the rest of his regiment does not wear a cuirass. The helmet crest is red, as is his jacket with a white collar – in reverse colours to the regiment. The trumpet is brass and has a white/blue/yellow cord attached.

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To end with, some more images and the usual regimental biography!


Biography: Leib-Kurassiere Garde [Saxony]

The regiment had its origins in 1680 as the Count von Promnitz Regiment. As such, it was one of the oldest cavalry regiments to be raised across Germany.

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After combining with the Crown Prince regiment 20 years later, it was to change it’s name a number of times. In 1735, it was known as the Kürassier-Leib-Regiment with the Elector of Saxony Friedrich August II as its colonel. Respective Saxon sovereigns continued this tradition until the final dissolution of the regiment in the 20th century. In 1764, it became the Kurfürst-Kürassier-Regiment and then was known by a number of minor variations upon that name thereafter. On 23 July 1734, the Saxon cuirassiers lost their previous red coats and received a white field coat instead, a change in colour which reflected the political alignment of Saxony with Austria. This new colour was to remain with them for some time.

The regiment rode principally black, dark bays and greys. As a rule, the darker-coloured horses were placed in the front rank, while the lighter-coloured horses were posted in the second rank. The cuirassiers had armour but it was often left it in the depots during wartime.

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Saxon Leib Cuirassier (7 Years War)

In the course of its history, the regiment participated in many battles and campaigns. It’s first real combat came as part of a force relieving the siege of Vienna, in 1683, which was being besieged by the Turks. In 1688, it took part in the Palatinate War of Succession and then in the 1701 Spanish War of Succession. It also fought in the Silesian wars of the 1740s, notably taking part in the battles of Hohenfriedberg and Kesselsdorf. In the following Seven Years War, it was briefly forced into Prussian service resulting in large-scale desertion by its troops who refused to serve the Prussians.

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Saxon Leib Curassiers c.1791

By the time of the 1806 Jena Campaign , the regiment was still known as the “Kurfürst” (or prince-elector’s) regiment and fought in the great defeat at Jena. After that disastrous campaign, the “Kurfürst” became known as the Regiment König-Kürassiere, (König = king) as a consequence of Saxony being elevated to the status of a Kingdom within Napoleon’s creation of the Confederation of the Rhine.

On 24th June 1807, the Regiment König-Kürassiere changed its name once again, achieving prestigious ‘Guard’ status to be known as the Leib-Kurassiere Garde. This was a reward for its most distinguished performance for Napoleon at the battles of Heilsberg and Friedland in 1807.

Napoleon and French Cuirassiers at Friedland, 1807.

Despite the losing many of its finest horses to the French army following the Jena defeat, Saxon heavy cavalry was considered excellently trained, exhibiting a professionalism long admired by other nations.

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pre-1810 Saxon Leib Cuirassier

On 22 Feb 1809, the Saxon army was mobilized again and the missing horses were replaced in time for war with Austria. The regiment subsequently impressed Napoleon at Wagram where the Leib Cuirassiers drove its Austrian Cuirassier counterparts from the field, inspiring Marshal Bernadotte to say “I have always counted on you but today you have surpassed my expectations!“.

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The Battle of Wagram

After 1810, the uniforms of the Saxon heavy cavalry changed significantly. The former Bicorne hat became a brass helmet featuring a brass comb with black woollen crest and white plume. A black fur turban wrapped around the helmet with officers wearing an additional gold oak leaf pattern overlaid. The regiment wore a black half-cuirass (only the front plates) lined red to match their facings.

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The Leib-Kurassiere Garde remained at home in Dresden during the 1812 invasion of Russia, acting as a royal escort to their king. Only the Von Zastrow and Garde du Corps guard heavy cavalry went into Russia. After this terrible campaign, it was the only Saxon heavy cavalry regiment which remained intact.

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The losses experienced during the war of 1812 forced the Saxon army to consolidate its heavy cavalry. In February 1813, a provisional cuirassier regiment was formed of men from the Von Zastrow and Leib-Kurassiere Garde regiments. As the 1813 Leipzig campaign developed, this regiment fought alongside the French at the battles of Bel Hautzen, Reichenbach, Dresden, Bautzen, Ostrand and Leipzig against the Prussians, Austrians and Russians.

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Saxon Cuirassiers and Russian Guard Cossacks

During the Battle of the Nations (Leipzig), 4 squadrons of the provisional regiment took part in an attack where they captured a Russian battery of 12 cannons and engaged the Russian dragoons that came to its aid. French service ended with Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig. In 1814/15, now liberated from French control, the Leib-Kürassier-Guard took part in Field Marshal Blücher’s campaign against France leading to Napoleon’s eventual abdication.

The provisional regiment, which had absorbed the Leib-Kurassiere Garde, was to eventually become known as the 1st Royal Saxon Guards Heavy Cavalry (Garde-Reiter-Regiment) until finally disbanded on 31st March 1919, after the First World War.

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Saxon Garde-Reiter Regiment c.1907

Notable battles: Hohenfriedberg, Jena, Heilsberg, Friedland, Wagram, Dresden, Leipzig.

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Leib and Kicking

Thanks to the woeful bank holiday weather here in the UK, I’ve had plenty of indoor time in which to progress my Saxon Leib Cuirassiers. These are now, I’m happy to say, very well advanced. The riders are about finished, less the stirrups and spurs.

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The excellent, not-to-say generous, old-style Zvezda kit comes with a flag bearer, an officer and trumpeter. The officer has a white plume and a wonderfully ornate cuirass to distinguish him from the hoi-poloi of the rest of the regiment.

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I’ve given him a black crossbelt as 1) I believe that it was worn by Saxon cuirassier officers, and 2) quite frankly I preferred it to other possibilities. The officer also has gold wreath of leaves around the front of his helmet, not really visible on this photo. His cuirass has a brass royal cypher and studs around the edge. I found an example of one on the internet:

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As with the rest of the regiment, he has only a half-cuirass, the back being left unprotected to reveal his white coat.

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The Trumpeter wears reverse facings (i.e. a red coat and white collar instead of the exact opposite for the rest of the regiment). He does not wear a cuirass and has a distinctive red crest on his helmet. He has brass trumpet with ornately woven cord attached.

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The flag bearer has a flag which is, I believe, supposed to represent the Von Zostrow Cuirassiers. However, I understand from my research that the Leib regiment’s flag was very similar, all but identical but for colour differences and so must have looked much like my ‘attempt’ below. On one side of the flag in the centre, surrounded by a garland of leaves, is the Saxon coat of arms – a yellow and green striped shield with a green diagonal stripe under a crown:

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A closer view of the arms of Saxony

On the other side is the royal cypher surrounded by leaves under a crown. I admit that I wasn’t sure about the crossbelt for the flag bearer and so elected for black with gold trim.

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The rest of the men wear a plainer uniform with black crests, white crossbelts and the black half-cuirass. They lack the brass shoulder straps seen on the officer which I believe is simply a rare oversight by Zvezda.

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The collars and turnbacks are red with yellow trim and the cuirass is lined with red.

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I have to say that when I spend far, far too long than is sensible shading and highlighting all that white clothing and black crests to my satisfaction – it’s disappointing to find that virtually none of it shows up under the camera! You’ll just have to believe me when I say they look a little better to the eye…

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One other thing that I’ve noticed is that under the camera my cuirasses look more of steel gunmetal colouring than black. My approach is to mix black with gunmetal paint to get the required shade. This worked well but is at the cost of losing some of the metallic shiny surface. I’ve tried to restore the metallic sheen with a little gloss varnish but I now find that it reflects the light under the lens and now looks too metallic! I may add a little thin matt black paint to reduce the reflection a tad.

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Next on the painting table will be their horses. These are sturdy and well-sought-after Holstein horses – perfect for carrying their heavy cuirassier riders. Although Napoleon plundered the regiment for these Holsteins for his own cavalry in 1806-07 campaign, we can assume that they have since arranged remounts. I believe that the regiment would have had dark bay and black horses. I’ll make an exception for the trumpeter who will ride the usual grey.

Well, I’m loving being ‘back in the saddle’ painting Napoleonic cavalry, I have to admit!

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Steel-plated Saxons

Taking a break from the First World War, I thought it about time to dip back into the old Nappy Cavalry Project (the last regiment in the series – the Mamelukes – being painted in July of last year). The set I’ve chosen to paint is a box I’ve had lying around for a couple of years or so but never got around to painting them. Finally, the time is right to tackle Zvezda’s Saxon Cuirassiers.

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Thank you, young assistant. Presenting the latest in the Nappy Cavalry Project!

The figures are of Zvezda’s usual exceptional standard. These cuirassiers bear an uncanny resemblance to my Russian Cuirassiers of the same era which I painted over a year ago (see below example).

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Both Russian and Saxon cuirassiers wore white coats with headgear of brass helmets and a black comb. Both also were protected by a black cuirass. By chance, both nation’s cuirassiers found themselves on opposite sides in the Russian campaign of 1812, including the great battle of Borodino. The Saxons, as a part of the Napoleon-sponsored “Confederation of the Rhine”, accompanied the 1812 campaign and fought alongside the French until their defeat at Leipzig in 1813.

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Saxon heavy cavalry after 1800 numbered three Guard regiments, two of which – the Leib and the Von Zastrow regiments – were issued with front cuirass plates coloured black (there was no back plate worn).

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Saxon Cuirassiers – Leib Regt (left) and Von Zostrow (right)

So my choice is between these two; the Leib Regiment with red facings and the Von Zastrow with yellow (as illustrated above). As my previous Russian Cuirassier figures of the Astrakhan Regiment also wore yellow facings, to better differentiate I’ve chosen the Leib Curassiers as the 26th regiment in the project.

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In the Nappy Cavalry Project, I like to see as much variety as possible. This latest kit is certainly the first regiment from Saxony – which is good – but visually they will look similar to Zvezda’s Russians, even with facings coloured red. One area that I can differentiate them further, however, is in the riding overalls. My Russians wear campaign grey overalls on their legs whilst the Saxons are shown in buff on the cover of the box. This was their original colour prior to 1810, but the trouble is that most contemporary illustrations I’ve found show them wearing either grey overalls again or parade-ground white breeches.

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So, in keeping with the central figure shown in the wonderful old Richard Knotel illustration of the Leib Cuirassiers above, I’m opting for white breeches. I’ll simply paint over the row of buttons on the side of the legs. Not being a war-gamer, I’m happy that they look more ready for the parade ground than the battlefield. The red-jacketed trumpeter and shabraques should add a further dash of colour too.

Painting has begun already, so expect an update when they’re more progressed.

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Von Beeren Cuirassiers [Nr. 2] (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #24)

Prussian Cuirassiers are a set that I’ve had in my possession for a few years now, a purchase from a closing down sale. Having painted them I can declare that they’re a fine set – although perhaps they’re bodies, and heads in particular, are a little bit on the large side. Plenty of nice crisp detail by Italeri makes for a pleasurable painting experience.

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Italeri Prussian Cuirassier

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It’s been good to return to Italeri figures once again, and Prussians ones at that. I’ve particularly enjoyed painting something a little different from the other regiments; those bicorne hats and yellow jackets add real variety to my collection.

My ‘head-swap’ officer seems to look okay, although I originally intended to give his arm a twist downwards so that he’s not strangely holding out a piece of paper to his right. I like to think I can get away with it as his arm makes it look like he’s gesturing instead.

The trumpeter meanwhile wears a bicorne with a red crest and a white plume with a red tip, in addition to red shoulder markings:

So after that rather enjoyable kit, I’m wondering which cavalry regiment to tackle next in the project and I confess to being somewhat undecided. Furthermore, I fancy taking a brief break from Napoleonic cavalry; a change being as good as a rest, as they say. There’s plenty of figures of all types lying around and waiting for attention here at Suburban Militarism, so watch this space for developments on that.

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So, as is traditional for the Nappy Cavalry Project, here’s a few more photos and a regimental biography of my finished Von Beeren Cuirassiers below!

 


Biography: Von Beeren Cuirassiers (nr.2) [Prussia]

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The 2nd Cuirassier regiment in the Prussian army had its origins in 1666 at a time when early Prussian cavalry was simply designated as being Regiments of Horse (Regiment zu Pferde). Raised variously in accounts by either Colonel Count von Russow or Major-General von Pfuel, it immediately went on to serve in a variety of European theatres: against the French in Alsace; the Swedes in Pomerania; and against the Turks in Hungary.

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Trooper from the Cuirassier Regiment No. 2, circa 1757.

Garrisoned in Brandenburg, it consisted of 10 companies in 5 squadrons. During the War of the Spanish Succession, it fought in the great battles of Oudenarde in 1708 and Malplaquet in 1709. In the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), it fought at the battle of Chotusitz, breaking through and routing two lines of Hungarian infantry regiments. In 1745, it took part in the battle of Hohenfriedberg where it destroyed a Saxon regiment. Later that year, it also broke through enemy lines at the battle of Soor with other cuirassiers and captured the Graner Koppe heights and 22 guns.

By the time of the Seven Years War, the regiment was wearing a tunic of ‘lemon yellow’ underneath its black cuirass, in contrast to the off-white of other cuirassier regiments. It took heavy casualties in the battle of Lobositz but recovered to also take part in the Battle of Kolin where it led the charge of a brigade, scattering several enemy infantry regiments. Later, it was involved in the disastrous Battle of Kunersdorf, losing over 200 men and being routed from the field.

In 1790 came the order that all cuirassier regiments were to abandon the cuirass. However, Von Beeren’s regiment were granted the distinction of retaining their yellow tunics which they had been wearing since at least the time of Frederick the Great. That yellow tunic had earned them the nickname “The Yellow Riders” (‘gelbe Reiter’).

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No.2 Regiment’s uniform at the time of the 7 Years War, prior to the abandonment of the cuirass.

Up until 1806, cuirassier units bore the name of their colonels, also called the Proprietor (Inhaber). In October 1805, Karl Friedrich Hermann von Beeren (1749-1817) became the regimental Colonel in Chief, succeeding his predecessor Generalmajor Schleinitz. As was the custom therefore, the regiment took the new commander’s name and became Cuirassier Regiment Von Beeren (Nr 2).

Armed with the pallash (a straight-bladed sword), Prussian cuirassiers enjoyed greater prestige than other cavalry such as the dragoons, uhlans and hussars. Being heavy cavalry, the men and horses were larger, stronger and were expected to charge en-masse to crush the enemy with their sheer momentum and force.

In 1806, as political tensions with Napoleon’s France were at their height, Prussian Cuirassier officers from the elite Garde du Corps famously inflamed the situation further by ostentatiously sharpening their swords on the steps of the French embassy in Berlin.

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Cuirassier officers sharpening their swords on the French embassy steps, Berlin, 1806.

However, the woeful state of both staff and tactical organisation in the Prussian army was to be brutally exposed by Napoleon’s army during its subsequent invasion of Prussia. The Prussian cuirassier regiments were distributed throughout the entire Prussian field army – making it very difficult to co-ordinate large-scale, en-masse cavalry charges on the battlefield and greatly nullifying their effectiveness.

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During the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806, Von Beeren’s Cuirassier regiment fought at the disastrous battle of Auerstadt as part of its colonel-in-chief’s brigade (Kuhnheim’s division). After the battle, the regiment withdrew with Blücher’s Corps whereby the majority of the regiment surrendered at Erfurt and Ratekau on November 7. As the regiment was not subsequently re-raised, it effectively marked the end of the regiment. However, seventy men and horses escaped to East Prussia where they went into forming the nucleus of the new 4th Cuirassier regiment.

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Defeated Prussian forces retreating after the disastrous battles of Jena-Auerstadt, 1806.

After the enforced Prussian military reorganization in 1806, cuirassier units were given numbers instead of colonel’s names. In 1808, Regiment Von Beeren had been incorporated into the Brandenburg Cuirassiers. Apparently, their famous yellow tunics were it seems retained and worn for some time thereafter.

No cuirassier regiments were present to see Napoleon’s demise at Waterloo. However, in 1815, Johann Carl Hackenberg watched Prussian cavalry ride through his home town of Elberfeld. This man had particular interest in seeing them as he was an artist who painted in colour all troops from 1813 – 1816. On the 2 February 1815, he observed the Von Beeren successors, the Brandenburg Cuirassiers, ride through the town wearing distinct ‘yellow cuirasses’. So it seems that even 10 years after the regiment’s destruction at Auerstadt, there continued, at least in some way, to be ‘yellow riders’ in the Prussian cuirassiers.

Notable Battles: Oudenarde, Malplaquet, Chotusitz, Hohenfriedberg, Soor, Lobositz, Kunersdorf, Kolin, Auerstadt.

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Yellow Fellows

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I’m about 80-90% finished on the 16 riders for Italeri’s Prussian Cuirassiers kit. They are certainly nice figures and look splendid in yellow. On the debit side however, the heads are a trifle oversized and the hats always seem to face the front of the body regardless as to whichever way the head is facing – which is a bit weird! To bypass this, I’ve chosen exclusively those figures whose hats are worn on the head at roughly the same angle.

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However, I resorted to a drastic head-swap operation for the officer figure. I cut off a trooper’s head and used a tiny section of pin to hold it all in place. I got a bit carried away with a hot pin resulting in – ahem – some slight melting! But I think he looks okay, nonetheless.

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Painting my chosen regiment, Von Beeren’s 2nd Cuirassiers, has been an unexpected challenge so far. Firstly, getting the yellow to look bright yet still vaguely akin to a natural fabric colour has been a learning curve. Secondly, some depictions of the regiment show a white crossbelt with red edges; my reproduction of this feature tested my painting skills considerably!

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The trumpeter had some variation in details requiring a red crest on his bicorne, a red tip to his plume and some shoulder detailing.

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I’ll be turning my attention to the horses soon. Curiously, I’ve painted these Prussian Cuirassier horses before in this project, having used them as modified replacements for the lamentable horses which came with Italeri’s Prussian Dragoons set (5th Prussian (Brandenburg) Dragoons (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #6)).

In addition to working on these figures, I confess I’ve been musing on other diversions and topics to explore. Heaven knows, I’ve got enough kits to turn my attention to, should I want to take a short breather from Napoleonic cavalry. More on this perhaps in a future post as my ideas start to take shape…

Bye for now,

Marvin

Yellow Fever

When I started the Napoleonic Cavalry Project back in the spring of 2015, eight of that year’s fifteen regiments were figures made by Italeri. Since then, some nine regiments and over 16 months later, Italeri have been entirely absent. Until now…

I’ve decided to return to Italeri after being tempted by their Prussian Cuirassier set. These cuirassiers depict the cavalry as they might appeared at the time of the destruction of the Prussian army at Jena-Auerstedt in 1806. This set is also the first Prussian regiment I’ve painted I’ve tackled in a while, since regiment #9 in fact, back in 2015.

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My ever-helpful assistant presents the latest box of figures. A cheap purchase courtesy of a model shop closure…

They are unique in the project so far in being the only regiment wearing a bicorne hat. British heavy cavalry would have also worn something similar around this time.

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Almost all the eleven Prussian Cuirassier regiments wore white uniforms in 1806, with the exception of only one – the 2nd regiment, known in 1806 as Von Beeren’s – and this is precisely the one I wish to paint simply because it wore very striking yellow coats (known as Kollets).

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I’ve never painted a yellow-coated soldier before, and have little idea how to go about shading a yellow. I’ve had a few dry runs with some spare figures and finally decided to paint over my usual black primer with some beige paint to make it easier to cover with the yellow. Then, after the application of some Vallejo Sun Yellow, I’ve shaded with a little Vallejo Desert Yellow (a light brown-yellow colour). The result is subtle, but I like it and think this has achieved about the best result I’ve managed so far, so I’m going to stick with it and press on.

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The main reason I had steered clear of this set until now was that I was unhappy with the way the sculptor had left the bicorne facing the same way regardless of whichever way the rider was looking, leaving the hat acting like some kind of compass needle! The understandable explanation was to accommodate the hat into the narrow mold, however it all looks quite absurd to have everybody’s hat always facing the same way and so I’ve simply used the figures whose heads (and hats) more or less face in the same direction.

One last thing; you may notice that these cavalrymen are missing something which might be considered an essential item for cuirassiers : namely a cuirass! This is because Prussian Cuirassiers abandoned the armour in 1790. The adoption or abandonment of the cuirass by cavalry was often subject to conflicting opinions. Some felt that cuirasses;

  • were too cumbersome in a melee;
  • or were so heavy for the horse and rider to wear that it slowed them down and made unhorsed men very vulnerable (Wellington described the sight of fallen French cuirassiers as looking like helpless turtles flipped on to their backs);
  • or placed a premium on finding enough large, strong horses to carry the extra weight;
  • or were not worth the extra expense;
  • or ultimately were useless as they didn’t stop musket balls. They most certainly didn’t stop cannonballs, either…
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A cuirass of the 2nd Carabiniers worn by the desperately unfortunate 23-year-old François-Antoine Fauveau.

Others felt however that;

  • the cuirass provided an enormous advantage against enemy cavalry sabres;
  • they made for an intimidating sight, creating the heaviest of heavy cavalry;
  • they reduced casualties and made the wearer feel safer, thereby boosting morale.

There were, perhaps inevitably, those who preferred to adopt a compromise solution of wearing only half of the full cuirass. In such cases, only the front half was worn as it was often felt that having protection on the back might encourage the practice of cowardly retreats!

Now to get back to my ‘yellow jackets’. I’ll be posting updates in due course.

Marvin

Astrakhan Cuirassiers (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #21)

The 21st regiment in my ongoing series of Napoleonic cavalry are a very fine set from the excellent Russian manufacturer, Zvezda. I’ve praised these figures in previous posts and, now that they are finished, that praise has proved entirely appropriate, I think. The sculpting is first class and the poses are good. The final result is an excellent addition to the project’s ranks.

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I needed a little extra preparation to ensure that the paint stayed on the figures, but it was worth the attention as all seems to have stayed on without any problems. The riders fitted the horses without any trouble as well, which is always a bonus. Painting 16 figures, rather than 10, in one go has certainly added to the time taken to finish them, but it was worth doing and never felt onerous.

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Having confirmed what I already knew about Zvezda supplying excellent figures, I am minded to tackle the remaining Napoleonic cavalry regiments in their catalogue. These include the somewhat similar looking Saxon Cuirassiers and the Russian Hussars, the latter being my next intended regiment in the project. This may have to be relegated to the back burner for now however, as my next paint job will be my RedBox 18th century British infantry figures intended for the Benno’s Figures Forum Great Miniature Figures Parade!

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In addition to the other ranks, you’ll see that I’ve painted the regiment’s trumpeter with his red plume and ornate uniform (sans cuirass); their officer and also their guidon bearer holding the black and yellow regimental flag. The sculpting on the flag appeared to show details that appear only on the flags of two other Russian cuirassier regiments; the Emperor’s and Empress’ Cuirassiers. The Astrakhan Regiment had a slightly different design which I’ve tried my best to approximate! Anyway, here’s plenty of images of the figures comprising my latest regiment in the project – the Russian Astrakhan Cuirassiers!


Biography: Borodino and the Astrakhan Cuirassiers [Russia]

The Astrakhan Cuirassier Regiment was formed in 1811. Russian Cuirassier regiments wore similar uniforms with a black cuirass and white coats, differing only in the colour of their collars, cuffs and turnbacks. For example, the Glukhov Cuirassiers  wore blue, the Novogorod wore pink, the Emperor’s cuirassiers wore red and the Empress’ sported a light blue. The Astrakhan Cuirassiers, named after the city in southern Russia on the Volga, wore a distinctive yellow. Together with the Emperor’s Life Guard and Empress’ Life Guard regiments, it comprised the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cuirassier Division of the Russian Army under Major General Nikolay Depreradovich.

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Contemporary print of an Astrakhan Cuirassier

During Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, the Astrakhan Cuirassiers greatly distinguished themselves, most particularly in the great battle of Borodino. During the fight for the Semenovsky ravine, the French cavalry corps under La Tour-Maubourg engaged the remnants of hard-pressed Russian troops who were defending the Bagration fleches (defensive earthworks). The French cuirassier division broke into the rear of the Russian Guards regiment’s squares. To assist the guards at this critical moment, the Astrakhan Cuirassiers arrived along with other Russian cuirassier regiments.

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The Astrakhan Cuirassiers (right) engage the Saxon Garde du Corps at the battle of Borodino.

Barclay de Tolly, the Russian Field Marshal, praised their bravery during this engagement, reporting later that “the great loss of men and horses killed or wounded [did not] disrupt their ranks, each interlocking each time in order.”

The bloody battle ended in the complete reverse of the French cavalry – thrown back over Semenovsky stream. However, the Astrakhan regiment had suffered very heavy losses: after the battle of Borodino, only 95 of them remained ready for duty out of a previous total of around 400.

In August 1813, the entire regiment was awarded the prestigious Order of St George with the inscription “For distinction in the defeat and expulsion of the enemy from Russian territory in 1812“.

Notable Battle: Borodino.

Courses for Horses IV – Final part of my horse painting tutorial

Continuing my “tutorial” on painting 1/72 scale horses…

For Part 1: Preparation – click here

For Part 2: Base-coating, shading and highlighting – click here

For Part 3: Snips, spots, stars and stripes! – click here


Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 4

Tack, tails, manes and hooves!

  1. With the horse hide and markings done, there are still a few final touches to apply to the animals; the tails, manes and hooves. Tails and manes are fairly easy to do. Mostly, I simply paint the black and dry brush with a neutral grey. The grey is a useful and important highlight, bringing texture and detail to the flowing hair. There are some different colour manes to try; I sometimes dry brush red leather on to black for chestnut horses. For greys, I add a pale grey wash, wait for it to dry and dry-brush off-white for highlights. Sometimes, I may experiment with beige for a more cream-coloured mane for a grey horse.
  2. Hooves are straight-forward too. A dark grey seems to be a good hoof colour. The only important thing to remember is that where a leg ends if a white marking (a sock, stocking, etc), then the hoof must be a lighter colour instead. I think that a cream or beige colour does the trick. I maintain an almost-dry brush to apply the paint for a little more texture. I know, I know…I need to get out more…
  3. Now for the tedious and onerous part. The tack (the reins, bridles, breastplates, bits, etc) is the equipment required to control the horse and mount the rider. At this stage the tack on your figures are probably covered in lots of colour from all the dry-brushing. Care and a fine brush tip are needed to pick out the leather lines. It’s worth spending the extra time making sure it’s picked out neatly against the horse skin you’ve taken so much time to look good. Add in the small metal parts of the tack with a metal colour, I use silver to make it stand out clearly. It’s all a little bit tedious, yes, but necessary.
  4. But the good news is that your horse painting is now virtually done! Just the horse furniture to do, some basing (if you want that), and not forgetting gluing your riders on.

Spend as much, or as little, time as you want in painting your horses – it’s your hobby to enjoy in your way. However, I like to think that a carefully painted horse can transform the look of your cavalry. I don’t claim to be an expert (far from it!), but this has been the technique that I use which achieves a result that I’m happy with, and hopefully it will prove useful to you too.

Yours, Marvin.


Check out the Nappy Cavalry Project page  in a week or two to see how these horse figures turned out by clicking on the Russian Cuirassiers link, regiment #21. 

Courses for Horses III – More Equine painting

Continuing my “tutorial” on painting 1/72 scale horses…

For Part 1: Preparation – click here

For Part 2: Base-coating, shading and highlighting – click here


Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 3

Snips, spots, stars and stripes!

  1. Now the highlighting and shading of the horse flesh is done, we need to turn our attention to some more horse details. Aside from the colour of their coats, horses can be distinguished by white markings on their faces and white or dark shading on their legs. I tend to add the dark markings to the legs using a very dark black wash. I could paint them black but I find a dark wash just retains definition on the legs.
  2. Then it’s quickly back to dry brushing the base coat colour into the top of the tide mark of those leg black washes. This just blends the dark markings into the coat more naturally rather than leaving a sharp black line. No need to be fussy, just a very quick dry-brush around the top of the black legs.
  3. Once the legs are dry, I add my white leg markings. These are described (depending how much of the lower leg is covered in white) as being fetlocks, pasterns, socks or stockings (see here for an illustration). Anything from none to all four legs can feature some white. Again, my old friend dry-brushing comes in to play here. I retain a little more white paint on my brush for this – it’s somewhere between painting and dry-brushing – and wipe the brush wherever I feel a leg marking should be. No need to be too precise – be creative! Give the leg a stocking, a fetlock, or nothing at all; whatever takes your fancy.
  4. Next, I add some white markings to the faces. For this I add a little paint with a small brush – no wash or dry-brushing – imagine that! The key thing here, I find, is to be delicate but not too regular. Marks and stripes can be any shape. Above all, be creative and make your horses into unique individuals. See this good description of face markings for more info. The markings I generally use are:
    • Blazes – a broad stripe down the middle of the face from forehead to mouth.
    • Snips – a small white marking between the horses’ nose.
    • Stars – a white marking on the forehead.
    • Stripes – a thin stripe down the middle of the face.
    • A mixture of the above; e.g. a snip and a star.

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      A horse with a blaze marking and a single sock…
  5. Now for the eyes. Horses eyes are generally just black. The problem is that I find that painting the eyes simply black isn’t very effective. Instead, I add a tiny white spot or line to the back of the eye. And I mean very tiny. This adds a little definition to the eyes, perhaps even a bit of life or character to the face. Furthermore, being horses in battle, I think a little white of the eyeball showing suggests something of the fear and effort experienced by a horse in a mass charge. See what you think, but I believe this tiny bit of white makes all the difference.
  6. Muzzles. These things can vary in colour but generally they tend to be a mixture of patches of very dark grey with white and/or pink for the snip or the very end of a blaze. I add a very thick German Camouflage Grey (a dark grey) wash around the muzzle, occasionally adding a little light grey dry-brushing highlight for definition. I like to sometimes add a that very light pink too. These are small details admittedly, but again I say that like to think it makes a significant effect, creating a little more realism and character in the horse.
  7. Still following his tutorial? Great! It shows the kind of patience that will serve you well in figure painting! In the next part of this tutorial, we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel, tackling the final parts of the horse (tails, manes and hooves) and all that ‘tack’ (reins, bridle, etc).

Coming soon: Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 4

Courses for Horses II – Equine painting

Continuing my “tutorial” on painting 1/72 scale horses…

For Part 1: Preparation – click here


Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 2

Step 2: Base-coating, shading and highlighting.

  1. Base-coats for horses will reflect the type of horses particular to your cavalry regiment. I use Vallejo Acrylic paints, which are invariably of excellent quality. Base-coat colours I use are:
    • For Dark Bays I tend to use their German Camouflage Black-Brown,
    • Sky Grey for Greys,
    • Desert Yellow for Duns,
    • Red Leather for Chestnuts,
    • A 40%-60% mix of Dark Prussian Blue and Black for black horses. This very dark blue seems to look more natural somehow for horse hide than does pure black. It also assists in creating some subtle light and shade later.
    • I also paint Lighter-shaded browns for a variety of other brown-coloured horses. Once these base-coats are on, it’s time to shade!
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      Base-coated horses.

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      Left: Painted Blue-black / Right: Just Black
  2. Shading involves creating a black wash. An exception is for greys, where I use Vallejo’s pre-mixed Pale Grey Wash. Essentially, washes are created by adding a little bit of water to black paint, but the trick is in getting the right consistency. Too much water and the shading will be non-existent; too little water and the base-coat colour will be lost beneath all the blackness. So, getting it right involves some experimentation, but the aim is to drag the brush across the folds of horse-flesh so that the dark wash falls off the peaks and settles into the troughs. I tend to add the wash to one side of the horse and leave it to dry lying on its side with the wash-side facing up. That way, the wash will stay and dry in the parts which we need to look shaded. Once dry, I then do the other side as well.
  3. Highlighting can begin as soon as all the black wash has dried. At this stage ,the horses will look horrible, smothered in this dark wash – but stick with it, they will look a bit better soon! Highlighting involves dry-brushing the base colour on to the figures. For those not in-the-know, dry-brushing involves adding your paint to the brush as normal and then wiping it off repeatedly (on a piece of paper) until the bristles are virtually dry and no longer ‘paints’ the paper, but maybe still thinly shades it. The dry paint remaining on the bristles will be enough to still impart some colour but only slightly on to the parts it brushes across. Drag or stroke your dry brush repeatedly across the ‘peaks’ in the sculpting until the colour reappears. Again; experimentation is the key. Repeated stroking over the figure, avoiding getting the bristles into the troughs, should gradually reveal those highlights. Be cautious; the effects of a too-dry brush can be corrected more easily than by a too-wet one.
  4. Even more highlighting can be done next, if you wish. See how you feel the horse is looking. I may choose a lighter brown for example or create a slightly lighter version of the base colour by adding a tiny dash of white to it and mixing together. This slightly lighter shade can be then dry-brushed on to the figure. The key is to be more discriminating in applying it. Don’t go mad; just aim to do the highest tips of the creases this time – it will make the highlights look more distinct against the black-wash shaded areas. It will also create a blended transition of colour from top lightest bits – to middle base-coat colour – to lowest shaded bits nicely.
  5. Now take a short break and admire your horses coats! It will still look a mess but we’ll tidy all the details up next. All this shading and highlighting might sound exhausting, but with confidence the process can be done easily, and relatively quickly too. It’s a chance to be artistic, maybe even become the George Stubbs of the figure painting world! The next stage may require a little bit more patience, however. It’s time to tackle some of those details

Coming soon: Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 3