“An Audience with Empress Catherine” #FEMbruary 2020

I have now completed my submission for the 3rd Annual FEMbruary Challenge! I posted on my FEMbruary figures recently and promised that I’d share something which ‘would complete the scene more fully’. Well, I went a little further than planned…

Entirely coincidentally, Catherine the first is the 2nd Russian empress called Catherine that I’ve painted for a FEMbruary challenge, Catherine the second (the Great) being painted back in 2018:

I had some real trouble with basing. At first, I just glued the figures to pennies with modelling clay as usual without thinking of what Catherine and the ladies of court might be standing on. Then I spent time, filing down the clay and adding some PVA glue to smooth the surface. Next I painted a tiled floor which looked great apart from being hopelessly uneven!

So I scrapped that and went back to the drawing board. I found some cheap HO scale mosaic card floors which I though might look the business in some kind of a stately garden.

Adding some hedges and flowers, the palace garden idea took shape. My Capability Brown talents in full flow, I made a gravel path alongside a hedge. Helpfully, my Strelets Roman Senate set also came with a roman statue which I added to my design. I wasn’t sure how to paint a marble statue but a little cream colouring with satin varnish seems to have worked well enough?

Aside from the statuary, there are the two court ladies I presented previously; one a lady glancing with a fan and the other patting her lap dog.

A woman of the nobility observes the general’s greeting.
“There’s a good boy!” – said Catherine to General Repnin…

The other characters that I was planning to introduce are also from Strelets’ “Court and Army of Peter I” set. The Russian general is bending to kiss the hand of Empress Catherine, a fact correctly identified by a commentator on my last post.

There’s also some guards from the same set, veterans of the Great Northern War, which I’ve painted up to watch over her imperial highness. I know the early Strelets figures aren’t to everyone’s taste, but I do love the expressions on these guys.

Finally, you may have noticed the large house in the background. This is courtesy of Paperboys on Campaign 18th Century buildings book, which I had purchased recently anyway with a view to placing some of them on the wargaming table, their scale apparently being far more suitable to my 20mm figures than the 28mm they’re originally designed for.

The building is unfinished but I only needed the rear facing the garden. It’s far too small for any of the grand St. Petersburg palaces of course, but perhaps it will stand for a wing or even a little ‘out-building’ in the grounds of one?

And with that, like a genuflecting general, I bow graciously out of FEMbruary. Don’t forget to check out the other varied and fabulous work being created across the blogosphere for Alex at Leadballoony’s FEMbruary by checking out his original post here –

A sample of these glorious creations include;

My young daughter shows she’s a FEMbruary supporter by helpfully adding a sky effect in the background of my photo!

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!

Russian Personalities of the Crimean War

I have been reviewing my collection of Strelets Crimean War figures of late. These are 1/72 scale and are some of the figures I painted during the years before this current WordPress incarnation of Suburban Militarism came into being. I may blog a little more about these at some point, but in the meantime I’ve been tidying up my old Strelets Crimean War page and adding more images of them.

In the process of this, I’ve rediscovered some of the unpainted figures of the Strelets Large Boxes issued on the conflict. These were basically collections grouped together by theme and which included figures available in individual boxes as well as additional special edition figures. These large sets were titled; “Into the Valley of Death“, “Heavy Brigade“, “Last Assault on Sevastopol” and “Russian General Staff and Hospital“. It’s some of the special figures from the latter that I’ve been working on.

The box cover artwork (above) is more clever than many perhaps realise. I can find no reference to it, but it appears that the artist has based the illustrations on known portraits of Russian General Staff. Foreground on the box artwork from centre-left, I can clearly identify – Admiral Nakhimov; Rear-Admiral Istomin; Lieut-Col. Totleben; and Vice-Admiral Kornilov.

Admiral Nakhimov (Strelets version right)
Admiral Kornilov (Strelets version right)

Seems to me that Nakhimov even makes a reappearance on the cover of Strelets’ Russian Naval Artillery box below?

So, here’s my painting efforts on a small group of these Strelets Russian Crimean War personalities from the “Russian General Staff and Hospital” set, (I’ve included a brief explanation of who’s who):


1. Archbishop Innocenti (Borisov)

Archbishop Innocenti. He wears religious symbols around his neck and holds a rosary in his left hand. I’ve given him a grey beard as he was nearing 60 at the time of the war.

The Holy Hierarch Innocenti or Innokenty (secular name – Ivan Alexeevitch Borisov), was the Archbishop of Kherson and Tauride, governates which included the Crimean peninsula. He was born in 1800, in Orel Province, in the town of Eltz.

In 1819, his father also being a priest, the then Ivan Borisov studied at the Kiev Theological Academy where he apparently “devoted himself to his studies with such fervour that he sometimes spent his nights immersed in his books“.


Holy Hierarch Innokenty, Archbishop of Kherson and Tauride.

During the Crimean War, the Archbishop “played an extremely active archpastoral role” providing essential spiritual succour and care for the Russian troops. A Russian Orthodox cathedral website describes his work:

“Holy Hierarch Innokenty’s greatness of soul was evident as well in his visits to wounded soldiers in field hospitals, where typhus was rampant and where one could be an eyewitness to all of the great sorrows, all of the sufferings inflicted by war. During battles, he would go about the army ranks, encouraging the heroic soldiers. Here as well the courageous father and pastor, he was also an angel and comforter to the suffering.”

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, “Holy Hierarch Innokenty of Kherson”.

It seems that the harsh and insanitary conditions of the siege, coupled with the effort required of his great exertions, eventually took its toll on him. During an allied assault on Sebastapol, the Holy Hierarch Innocenti suddenly became unwell and he died on 25th May 1857 while travelling to the port of Odessa. In 1997 he was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as a saint.


2. Admiral Pavel Nakhimov

Admiral Nakhimov

Admiral Pavel Nakhimov became a hero to Russian nation for leading the defence of Sevastopol with great inspiration and courage. Entering the Naval Academy in St Petersburg, outstanding gunnery performance in his first major action won him his first captaincy, achieved ironically while fighting alongside the British and French fleets that would become his foe decades later.

Destroying the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Sinope won him great acclaim but did much to bring his former allies into conflict with the Russians in what would become known as the Crimean War.

During the siege of Sevastopol, he and Admiral Kornilov hurriedly organised a very effective defence of the port city, which was also the home to the Black Sea Fleet. Nakhimov was the effective head of Sevastopol’s naval and land forces when on the 10th July 1855, while inspecting the Russian defences along the Malakhov-Kurgan ridge, the Admiral was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper, succumbing to his injuries two days later.


3. Vice-Admiral Vladimir Alexseyevich Kornilov

Vice-Admiral Kornilov appears to be holding a brass compass or watch of some kind.

Like Nakhimov, Vladimir Kornilov was also present in the battle of Navarino, Kornilov as a midshipman. He acquired great acclaim for his ship engaging and eventually capturing an Ottoman-Egyptian steamer called the Pervaz-i Bahri in 1853 – being the first action in history between steam ships. 

Vice-Admiral Kornilov

The defence of Sevastopol was led by Admiral Pavel Nakhimov with assistance from Vice Admiral Kornilov, the duo ably assisted by C-in-C Menshikov’s chief engineer, Lieutenant Colonel Eduard Totleben.

On 5 October 1854, an artillery dual began between the allies and the Russian guns. British artillery fire found its mark in the Malakoff redoubt’s magazine, with the resulting explosion killing Kornilov,


4. General Prince Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov

I’ve painted General Gorchakov in a naval officer’s uniform, but in reality Gorchakov was a general of artillery. The sculpted uniform looks indistinguishable from the other naval officers I’ve painted, so it may be Strelets (and myself) are mistaken. With his balding scalp and spectacles, the sculptor has certainly captured something of Gorchakov’s physical appearance.

Mikhail Gorchakov, by Jan Ksawery Kaniewski (1805-1867) – Public Domain.

Gorchakov entered the Russian artillery as a cadet in 1807. Thereafter, he took part in campaigns against Persia and France (he was present at the great Battle of Borodino, 1812). Further experience was gained in wars against Turkey and then Poland and he rose to the rank of Lt-General.

After first commanding Russian troops in the crossing of the Danube at the start of the Crimean War, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Russian forces in the Crimea, replacing the sacked Prince Menshikov. His defence of Sevastopol, and withdrawal from the southern half of the town were characterised by competence and skill.

He died in Poland in 1861 and, as with other a number of other senior Russian staff I’ve painted, was buried at Sevastopol.


5. Rear Admiral Vladimir Ivanovich Istomin

Rear Admiral Istomin with telescope in hand.

Vladimir Istomin was another veteran of the Battle of Navarino, having only just graduated from Naval College. His career led him to participate in the Battle of Sinope, commanding the battleship Paris.

Rear Admiral Istomin was in charge of the defense of the renowned Malakov redoubt, setting an example of bravery and tenacity. He was killed by a cannonball on the Kamchatka redoubt on March 7, 1855.

He was later buried inside the Admiral’s Burial Vault in Sevastopol, alongside Admirals Kornilov and Nakhimov.


6. A Deacon.

I’ve also painted a few unnamed characters. The first is a what is described by Plastic Soldier Review as a Deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church. From his open mouth, it appears that he might be intoning some hymn or prayer. He carries an ornately engraved book of the gospels in his left hand with a metal thurible (incense burner) in the other. A little cotton wool threads make for the wisps of incense escaping the chamber.

I must say, I love this figure, Strelets doing a great job of sculpting.

All my Crimean War Strelets figures are mounted on pennies.

7. A Lay Acolyte or Soldier parading a Religious Icon on a Banner.

Religion was hugely important to the Russian soldier, a key part of his motivation and consolation. The display of religious banners was used to inspire the troops before battle.

Strelets supply two banner carriers in this set with Plastic Soldier Review describing them as “acolytes (altar boys) carrying banners”. I chose one of them to paint but on close inspection, this ‘altar boy’ is clearly dressed as a Russian infantryman. He wears a military coat and even has the infantryman’s sword. Is this a case of a soldier filling in for the lack of church staff and acting as a lay acolyte? Perhaps this was common practice in war? Answers on a postcard – or in the comments section.

8. A Wounded Naval Officer in the Hospital

And finally, a figure from the hospital. He appeared from his coat to possibly be another naval officer, so I’ve painted him as such. He has received some medical attention with a bandage around his head and his arm in a sling. At the last moment, I added a little extra blood, head wounds being known to make a mess. Sitting on a crate, the man appears calmly resigned to waiting a long time for further treatment (well, they’re not called ‘patients’ for nothing…).

I confess I’ve really enjoyed painting these figures, so I intend to plough on with another batch soon.

FEMbruary 2019: Soviet Sniper Sisters in the Snow

For my final submission for FEMbruary, I’ve been tackling Bad Squiddo Games’ WWII female snipers. Bad Squiddo do an amazing range of soviet soldier women including all-women infantry squads with rifles or SMGs, scouts, medics, tank riders, heavy machine gun teams, mortar teams and even flame throwers.

My second FEMbruary 2019 submission – a female soviet sniper squad!

Bad Squiddo also do sniper teams like mine, including other non-winter duos. Coincidentally, Mark at Man of Tin blog has been tackling Bad Squiddo’s female soviet command set for FEMbruary too, whilst also setting himself a FEMbruary challenge read that resonates perfectly with my sniper women figures – The Unwomanly Face of War, an oral history of Russian women in WW2.

The two figures fit well together, with one lady calling out and pointing, while her comrade stands poised ready to act on her advice.

Svetlana the Spotter:

Individually, I like this figure’s face with her hair falling out from under her fur hat. She holds a pair of binoculars by which she has clearly identified a target. I painted the eyeglass parts for these in silver, in a rare use of bright colour.

Over her shoulder is a sub-machine gun, which I’ll tentatively identify as a PPSh-41 (aka “pepesha”) with a drum magazine.

Lyudmila the Sniper:

Lyudmila is depicted holding her weapon as if in readiness to select a target. The rifle could be anything under that wrapping so I’ll randomly call it a Tokarev SVT-40 (aka the “Sveta”), which I know the female soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko once used.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the most successful female sniper in history. Her memoirs entitled “Lady Death” have been very recently published in English for the first time by Greenhill Books. A well-educated lady who later became an historian, Pavlichenko was eventually withdrawn from combat because of her growing status. She was subsequently fêted by the allies (touring both the US and Great Britain) as well as being honoured by her mother country.

Lyudmila’s SVT-40 rifle appears to be smothered by some covering which may have acted as some sort of sound suppressor, or at the very least I would have thought, camouflage.

These two sculpts are so good that even a guy not at all used to painting WWII figures, never mind female snipers in 28mm metal, finds himself terribly tempted to build up my collection of these soviet women even more. As I’ve already got a huge army of unpainted figures – I don’t need more temptation, dammit!

And with those completed figures, I bow out out of FEMbruary 2019. I must say that I’m very pleased with my submission of figures; the locally made M.J. Mode 54mm Wrens and these fabulously sculpted Bad Squiddo snipers. Imperial Rebel Ork and Man of Tin have been busy also and I urge you to keep an eye out for more updates on Alex at Leadballoony blog for his and other submissions!

#FEMbruary Challenge Complete: Catherine the Great!

My contribution to the FEMbruary challenge, a 28mm metal figure of Catherine the II of Russia is now finished! Here is the great lady herself astride her grey; Brilliant.

catherine-the-great-10.jpg

In a previous post, I observed how this Bad Squiddo figure was cleverly based upon an original portrait of the empress painted by a Swede named Vigilius Eriksen. You can observe below just how my figure compares with it’s original inspiration:

I’ve based her on a kind of rough track, complete with grasses and flowers, on her way to suggest to her husband Peter III that he should maybe consider abdicating in favour of her. Something about the sharpness of her glittering sword lends further weight to her suggestion…

Catherine the Great (11)

I used a shade of blue for her sash appropriately called “Royal Blue”, which I think looks the business.

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Getting her face ‘satisfactory’ was an interesting challenge what with me not being used to painting female faces. It’s always easier to create an acceptable looking face when it’s covered over with a luxuriant moustache or bushy beard! That’s one terrific thing about FEMbruary – guiding me into neglected territory. I’m pleased to say that – no doubt thanks more to the sculptor than the painter – I think the face looks suitably feminine.

catherine-the-great-15.jpg

Catherine the Great (12)

Catherine’s long hair can be seen to cascade down her back, tied with a black bow.

Catherine the Great (8)

Catherine the Great (7)

And after that admittedly modest submission, and with the end of February fast approaching, I bow out of #FEMbruary. If FEMbruary in some way encourages more women into the hobby; encourages more appropriate female miniatures to be manufactured; or just enables us bloke modellers to reconsider female figures and their portrayal more carefully, then all to the good.

I urge visitors to check out the realistic female miniatures on Annie Norman’s splendid Bad Squiddo Games site and also check out some of the other participants terrific work:

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…).

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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The #FEMbruary Challenge!

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!

Catherine (2)

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.

catherine-iis-uniform-dress-modelled-after-the-uniform-of-the-life-guards-cavalry-regiment-st-petersburg-russia-1789-silk-gold-galloon-and-metal
Catherine the Great’s Uniform dress modeled after the uniform of the Life Guards Cavalry Regiment, St. Petersburg, Russia. 1789..

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Officer’s dress of Catherine the Great

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 bad squiddo
28mm Catherine the Great figure by Bad Squiddo Games

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.

Catherine_II_of_Russia_by_Vigilius_Eriksen_-_Конный_портрет_Екатерины_Великой._-_1762
Equestrian portrait of Catherine II of Russia (1729-1796) – Catherine II of Russia in Life Guard Uniform on the Horse Brillante, by Vigilius Eriksen

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

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Detail of Eriksen’s portrait of Catherine II of Russia.

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.



For more info on #FEMbruary, visit:

Also, for some good female gamers and hobby blogs check out:

Lifeguard Dragoons (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #23)

The Russian Lifeguard Dragoons are now finished and they can join their sister regiment the Lifeguard Cossacks which I completed back in 2015. These Zvezda figures are very elegantly sculpted and beautifully proportioned. The sculpting is so subtle, however, that painting them effectively has been a real challenge. I will admit to liking a little bit more crispness in my sculpting than I’ve found in this set. But with some effort, the end result is satisfying and the Lifeguard Dragoons can proudly take its place as the 23rd regiment in the project.

Let me state – I am not a fan of pegs and holes when it comes to assembling plastic 1/72 scale figures. Maybe I’m just ham-fisted when it comes to putting these things together, but I’m not feeling confident that they would survive any careless handling. To get the riders on the horses, I found it far simpler to cut off the pegs and just rely on glue instead. After coping with some traumas, I used glue and a little modelling clay on the base of the horses to better secure them to the stands which comes with the set.

Some horses (possibly down to my assembly mistakes) look like they are in the process stumbling head first into the ground!

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Woah! Do we have a faller, here?

Another horse pose I managed to get to stay in place solely thanks to glue alone, the two pegs proving insufficient to keep it upright.

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Glue defies gravity!

Aside from three boxes of standard troopers, I also bought a “Command” set of figures which supplied an officer, a flag bearer and a trumpeter.

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Officer, Lifeguard Dragoons.

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Trumpeter, Lifeguard Dragoons

I foolishly misplaced the sword, sabretache and scabbard for the flag bearer. Instead there’s a hole ready on his thigh to attach the scabbard should I a) locate it, or b) replace it with another substitute. Additionally, I should confess that I wasn’t able to source the correct flag for this regiment and so simply resorted to choosing my own design!

Much as I admire this set I’m pleased I’ve finally got this one under my belt.

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With this set now completed, I’ve painted three Russian regiments in a row; the Astrakhan Cuirassiers, Sumy Hussars and now the Lifeguard Dragoons, all of which were manufactured by Zvezda. As wonderful as Zvezda’s figures are, it is perhaps time for a change of country and manufacturer?

I’m hoping to attempt a set next with some really crisp details but I’m still prevaricating over the next regiment, so expect an announcement soon. Until then; it’s time for the usual pictures and regimental biography…

 


Biography: Lifeguard Dragoons [Russia]

Russian Lifeguard Dragoons (3)

The Lifeguard Dragoons were established in 1809 from squadrons previously belonging to the Grand Duke Constantine’s Uhlans. Taking their inspiration from Napoleon’s Dragoons of the Imperial Guard, it took its place in the Tsar’s Lifeguard Cavalry Corps alongside regiments of hussars, cossacks, cuirassiers or ‘Lifeguard Horse’.

Whilst they might have lacked some of the prestige or dramatic uniforms of the Hussars or Cuirassiers, they were were undoubtedly well trained, disciplined and considered superior to other Dragoon regiments of the line.

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Present at the battle of Borodino, the Lifeguard Dragoons were under Uvarov’s 1st cavalry corps, together with other Lifeguard regiments (the Lifeguard Cossacks, Lifeguard Uhlans and Lifeguard Hussars). During this 1812 campaign, they would get the chance to meet their inspiration, Napoleon’s Dragoons of the Guard. In one incident, the Lifeguard Dragoons ambushed and destroyed two squadrons of French Guard Dragoons. A force under General Ivan Dorohov, which included Cossacks and two squadrons of Lifeguard Dragoons, attacked French convoys and transports capturing 1,500 prisoners. The French countered with a small force which included 150-250 French Old Guard Dragoons which were then subsequently ambushed and destroyed at Bezovka by two squadrons of the Lifeguard Dragoons. To French General Caulaincourt, this annihilation of 150 dragoons was greeted in Napoleon’s headquarters with more dismay than “the loss of 50 generals.”

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After Napoleon’s ejection from Russia, the long campaign began which would ultimately push the Napoleon all the way back to Paris. In Kulm in 1813 the Lifeguard Dragoons spearheaded the massive cavalry charge against Vandamne’s infantry. The dragoons attacked the front and ran down one regiment whilst other regiments concentrated on the enemy’s flanks. In April 1813 the dragoons were awarded with St. George standards.

Russian Lifeguard Dragoons (4)

In the great battle of Leipzig in 1813, the French cuirassiers routed them in the cavalry battle fought near Gulden-Gossa’s ponds. The following year, the Lifeguard Dragoons fought in the massed cavalry battle of Fère Champenoise for which they achieved the Russian military awards of 22 St. George trumpets.

Notable Battles: Borodino, Bezovka, Kulm, Leipzig, Fere Champenoise.

 

Russian Lifeguard Dragoons (2)

Lifeguards on Duty

Tackling painting Zvezda’s Russian Dragoons has certainly been a challenge. In some ways it’s been a simpler task; the uniforms are far less complex than the Hussars I’ve just finished and there’s less of them to paint too (12 rather than 18).

Russian Dragoon progress (43)

Russian Dragoon progress (44)

 

However, painting them has been more difficult in other respects. The figures are beautifully sculpted but the detail is so very subtle (occasionally almost non-existent on the chest) that applying paint effectively to the right places to pick out the features proves tricky.

Russian Dragoon progress (47)

But we like a challenge here at Suburban Militarism, and after some work I think these figures are rather impressive.

Russian Dragoon progress (50)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve chosen to paint the prestigious Lifeguard Dragoons, rather than one of the many other regiments of the line.

Russian Dragoon progress (45)
This figure’s guidon and right arm are still to be glued into place.

There were as many as 36 different Russian dragoon regiments of the line, some having such exotic (to this Englishman at any rate) names as the Starodub, the Taganrog, the Arzamass, the Kazan and the Zhitomir Dragoons. They looked very similar to each other with their plain dark-green jackets but were distinguished by a wide array of different colour facings.

So far as I can tell, the Lifeguard Dragoons, being a part of the Tsar’s elite Guards cavalry, were the only Dragoon regiment to display a red plastron across the front of their jacket. I decided to paint this regiment so that I could make use of this little extra colour.

Russian Dragoon progress (52)
Lifeguard Dragoons Officer

Russian Dragoon progress (51)
Officer; rear view

The riders are nearly completed (being a much quicker task than those Soum Hussars!). Now for the horses which I have to report come with their own difficulties unique to this particular set; but more of that in my next update!