Wednesday, 30 December 2015

French Gendarmes, Part I

I am currently working upon a unit of French Gendarmes, it is still very much a work in progress as there's a fair amount of fine detail work, you may have seen a glimpse of these over the last month or so over on the Lead Adventure Forum and my Pinterest pages, If you have thanks for your comments they've kept me going.

There's so much fine detail that I have taken to sculpting of late to give myself a break ! Anyway, I shall walk you through the progress of the unit thus far and try and offer some tips to the daunting task of their intricate painting.

As you may expect it is important to have an array of source material at hand, you really need to get a feel for the period and moreover how clothing and armour fitted, the materials used and the patterns on the cloth. If you're a fan of the period you will no doubt be fairly familiar with what a gendarme looks like but you'll be surprised at what you can find with a more detailed look and indeed where that inspiration can take you.

With that in mind and as an ease into this unit I based the first gendarme on a tapestry from a series commissioned by Henry VIII; 'La Tenture de David et Bethsabee', I have made reference to this in past postings, you can find a book of the same name available at around £25 from the Musee national de la Renaissance which lavishly portrays the series of works in detail. The inspiration within that series for the first chap is this;

He wears a fine armour over which is a skirted coat of cloth of silver lined with cloth of gold - In English society only people of a high standing and / or with royal permission could wear this, I'm not sure if that is the same for French but it was certainly a display of wealth and status.

This wealth is further displayed in the horse caparison armour, in this instance a geometric design, note also that the coat of the knight is not in the same pattern, I've seen some images which do illustrate this but it is an interesting point which adds variety. In addition the lance is for war - no barber stripes here and also the plumes are not multi-coloured, which I have seen but I do think that a single colour helps the figure to appear more historical.  Here's my interpretation, it is by no means a facsimile rather I have taken the image as a starting point;

I quite enjoyed painting the geometric design and from here I took the star element of the horse armour pattern as inspiration for another gendarme;

I opted to have the Gendarme's coat in a different contrasting colour, a rich green with yellow border. Also the plumes are red as are the bows and armour strappings to tie the whole piece together. On that note I added very fine strokes of orange to give a bit more body to the plumes.

The method I used for the geometric design is as follows; Begin by painting the area in the base coat, in this instance I have added a brown wash and re-painted the base coat to get a good fill of clear colour to work upon. 

I then painted in dots of brown, taking care to try and ensure even spacing - it's easier this way than painting the design to completion then finding out it is out of line. Then paint each star in the base coat of whatever colour you're working with, there's a star example below. Also keep the dots in line and don't follow the contour of the armour otherwise you wont have the clear lines you require.

These take time, to keep the momentum up I then did a couple of less detailed chaps;

For this figure as the horse is not armoured I have painted a coat of rich red and yellow damask to display the rider's wealth. I took elements of the design from a wall hanging in the aforementioned book but you can find examples of damask patterns in most renaissance images - In addition, have a look at wallpaper designs, provided they're not too modern you can use them as a starting point, as the pattern is not crowded by anything else you'll find it easier to copy, here's a couple of examples from Farrow and Ball, both of which are based upon historic styles;


The next Gendarme has rejected any skirt or coat to show off his latest suit of gilt edged Maximilian armour upon which for recognition is painted a white cross of St. Denis.

The last member of the group is a converted piece; I sculpted a slashed coat on the rider and frontal armour on the horse - the Pavia Tapestry shows quite a few of the French and Imperial cavalry with half-armoured horses.

I gave the rider a yellow and red bordered coat (again from the above book) and used a sun motif for the horse armour, suns feature fairly regularly in most depictions, I opted for a sun with a face, each panel has a different expression.

The rider was fairly straightforward; I used an existing figure with a skirt and added the top with GS front and back. As for the horse, that took a little more time. I used the frontal Italian horse armour from the Perry MAA set as a base upon which to add GS. The armour is in three pieces, each was cut and filed to size and glued which then gave a base upon which to sculpt the additions, the raised boss on each side and added shape to the bottom as well as larger reins and fittings, here's a couple of progress photographs;

The horse has been prepared and filed with a pin added for stability, each piece is then individually worked upon with drying in between. 

Ready to paint. In hindsight I think the front piece could have a slight angle on it rather than sitting flat on the chest but it's not too much to worry about.

So there we have it, a crash course in Gendarme painting. Flags and more to follow.

That's all for now, more in the New Year.

All the best to you and yours


Monday, 23 November 2015

FOR SALE Louis XII Guard Archers

My wife would like a Faberge egg for Christmas so in a moment of madness I have decided to sell these chaps, I'm keen to create a mounted version and possibly some more dismounted some point in my life so these will be leaving my display cabinet for a new home.

The Ebay listing is here;

You can see their development in a previous blog post here;

Saturday, 24 October 2015

French Missile Foot II

Throughout this year I have been developing my skill at sculpting, this began with some humble additions to existing figures to more recently attempting to change the entire look of a miniature, the general impetus for which has been to bring the existing Perry figures into the early 1500's for my French and Tudor armies.

As a result I've created some rather unique figures. They take a while to do as essentially I will keep at something - an shoulder, arm or whatever - until I feel it's right, thus with each figure I further my abilities and learn some methods or tricks along the way, what works and what doesn't.

I'm in no rush either so they quietly develop at a slow pace in the background, I've found it's also a break from painting as well as in itself inspiring me to paint so it's win win.

This small offering of 3 figures has been worked upon over the last few months. These are additions to my existing missile foot which, if you compare you can see the development of the sculpting from start to now, you can see how I sculpted the previous missile foot figures here.

In this base I experimented with representing a Swiss and an Italian, or rather, those were my influences while sculpting. There's also a French chap there too. Here I began with the French chap, then Italian and then Swiss, just across those 3 you can see a modest progress in my ability.

It is all trial and error, anyone can do it, you've just got to start.

First up is a French inspired arquebusier;

I sculpted this one quite some time ago so he's fairly modest in comparison to the others. This sculpt involved cutting and filing the livery jacket off the plastic figure then re-sculpting the top of the hose and creating a cod piece. In addition I then added the points for fastening, shirt pulled through at the bottom and puffed up the shoulders. I'm fairly happy with it, I later mastered puffed shoulders with the Swiss figure below and perhaps a bare head with cloth cap may have worked better but he'll pass muster.

Next we have an Italian inspired sculpt;

In creating this figure I felt I crossed a threshold in my ability, as essentially I had to sculpt all of the clothing using a Perry Ansar as my starting point;

To begin I cut then filed away the loincloth, I then sculpted the shirt, using the existing necklace as the shirt collar, this worked quite well. Following that I added the base coat, shoes, arms (both also from the Ansar sprue) and finally the head. This was an Ansar head to which I added hair and a cloth cap. I cut an arquebus in half and glued to the arm. I'm not too sure about the position of the left arm but not bad overall, there's some good movement in this one and I was particularly pleased with the voluminous shirt sleeves.

Finally the Swiss inspired Crossbowman;

This is perhaps my favourite yet. As with the first I began by filing away then re-building the waist, I didn't quite file enough of the rear but not bad nonetheless. The torso began with the undershirt, then the doublet with eyelet fastening showing on the top right and finally the arms and beard.

One key advance here was a tremendous tip; use e45 for moisture rather than water. It helps to have some moisture as you go to keep the flow of the putty pushing and to help achieve the forms you are trying to create, whilst it is possible with water the use of e45 or petroleum jelly just makes it a whole lot easier, you need the tiniest amount, minuscule even but it will honestly revolutionise what you're doing and make it a lot easier.

So here's the complete base, a rag tag bunch just right for French adventuriers with mercenary tag alongs;

Here they are with the rest of their unit, the basing of each stand is on the notion of their engagement in fire and manoeuvre, I'm not sure if that is perhaps a modern tactical application but it looks good for skirmishers.

Apologies for the quality of these photographs, my digital SLR died last week, a very sad occasion, suggestions on a good mid range replacement are most welcome.

These chaps require a suitable command base for which I have made initial progress upon, here's a sneak preview;

I chose an at ease pose for this build, he will stand next to the standard bearer and either another crossbowman or possibly a halberd armed chap.

That's all for now, just 3 figures but progress nonetheless and some momentum with the green stuff, it gets easier with practice, Picasso says it better; 'Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working'.

All the best


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Last Apostle AAR

This weekend myself and Simon Chick were invited to put on a scenario at the British Lead Adventure gaming meeting, a social / gaming meeting of contributors to the Lead Adventure Forum.

If you're not aware of the forum have a look, I have used it for years now as a source of honest critique and as a forum to discuss wargaming, painting and history. They're a most welcoming bunch, very much an online gaming community. For a lone painter like myself this serves to give me the encouragement and discussion that I would otherwise get from a gaming club, it's a god send.

If you don't know Simon you may be familiar with his blogs on the Burgundian Wars & Hundred Years War, whether or not these are your period you will find inspiration in buckets.

We were tasked in putting on a relatively small game that could be played at least twice over a day. I had a particular small action in mind, one which has captivated my imagination since I began collecting my Tudor army, the events of 27-28 July 1513;

The (King's) middle ward once outside the English territory of the Pale were subject to repeated harassment on its way to join those already besieging Therouanne. On this day a force comprising troops from Bolougne and Montreuil under the command of Bayard and de Piennes engaged the English, apparently with a view to capture or kill Henry himself. 

The ward stood its ground and whilst Henry took safe haven among the ranks of his mercenary Landsknechts the ward engaged the attackers with artillery, with none of their own to reply the French left the field (not before a lone knight challenged Henry to single combat - he refused!). When the ward moved on again some of the guns began to fall behind, one of the heaviest pieces, cast with the image of St. John the Evangelist, came to grief and slipped from its limber into a stream. This was a brand new gun (more on this later) and had hitherto not fired a shot, she weighed 3 tons and it was clearly going to take some effort to recover her. 

George Buckemer, a master carpenter from Calais reckoned he could get the gun out, the ward pressed on and he and a hundred workmen and a skeleton guard set to work but a powerful French force had been waiting from a safe distance and fell upon the scene with lance, crossbow and arquebus. The party were mostly slaughtered or taken prisoner but the gun remained mired, the carpenter was later blamed for his over confidence as one 'who would work all of his own head without counsel'.

Henry was somewhat annoyed at the loss of his beloved Apostle, sending Henry Bourchier, the Earl of Essex and a noble commander of cavalry, Sir Reese(sic) ap Thomas back to see if they could rescue the stricken piece. Lord Berners, master gunner was able to secure the gun to a limber but before they could make off a large French force appeared attacking the rear of the party as it moved off. The English responded with great spirit and forced the French to retreat leaving St John to nobly return to Henry's arsenal.

In trying to find more about this I stumbled upon the exact scenario, practically gift wrapped, so to give credit where it is due thank you Jay of solo wargaming I hope you're pleased with our efforts.

On to the Game, the scenario is summarised in the solo wargaming link above, we used Lion Rampant rules with a couple of adaptions; 
  • Infantry units were represented by 2 of my 60x60mm bases, 12 figures in the case of Longbowmen and 6 in the case of French skirmishers.
  • Cavalry units were represented as 1 60x60mm base of 2 figures - we doubled this in the second game.
  • It was then a case of adapting renaissance troop types into the Lion Rampant roster sheets which was fairly easy.
Over to Richard aka Captain Blood for the report with a few additions from me in brackets - I was too busy attempting to umpire and play !

At our British Lead Adventure meeting last weekend, I played in a splendid game staged by two of our resident top medieval modellers and painters, Stuart and Painterman. 
It was a real treat to get to play with a small portion of their exquisitely modelled and painted figure collections.

A quick photo battle report follows.

Points to note:

1. All the figures are from Stuart and Simon's collections and the terrain is also Simon's.
2. The shine on some of the figures is purely down to the light in the room.

The rules used were Lion Rampant, which worked pretty well. There was a quite surprising amount of evading, falling back, running away, and rallying. Casualties were fairly brutal.

The scenario was as follows, based on a real historical event:

Henry VIII's invasion of France in 1513. 

Not far from Calais, one of his twelve large guns of great magnitude each named after an Apostle 'this particular beast being called 'St John The Evangelist' has become stuck crossing the shallows of a river...

Henry Lord Bourchier, the Earl of Essex, along with Sir Rhys ap Thomas have been despatched post-haste with a rescue mission (and a stout wagon) to retrieve the missing artillery piece before it falls into French hands. But the French are also en route with an eye on the prize...

It was largely a fast-moving cavalry action. The forces were well balanced - the English with units of demi-lances, scurrers or border horse, and of course two companies of longbowmen. 
The French with a whole variety of horsemen from heavily armoured gendarmes, through mounted ordonnance archers to mercenary Stradiot cavalry. Backed up by a company of arquebusiers.

[The game began with] the super-gun in question, stuck in the shallows on a bend in the river.

The English Relief force arrives;

At the same time the French make their presence known;

An advance party of mounted archers espie the English rescue wagon, trundling toward its objective;

The English Longbowmen take the field and prepare to see off the French in time-honoured fashion... Not terribly successfully to begin with, but they got better...

Whilst Essex heads straight to the river with the border horse, the demilancers led by Sir Rees ap Thomas, sweep nobly across the meadow to take the advancing French gendarmes head on...

But with the Stradiots almost upon the river, Essex himself plunges forward to confront the gendarmes and drive them back...

As the longbows begin to have a deleterious effect on the French, causing various withdrawals..

...a charge by the border horse forces the stradiots to evade, just as Essex breaks the gendarmes... Leaving the rather strange spectacle of one stand of gendarmes racing off the field as another surges forward into the fray!

Another view of this excitement. At this point, Essex, somewhat wounded, is behind the clump of trees, right. [here you can also see our use of Border Horse to screen the river bank, these chaps from the Percy estates really proved their form in several charge and evade actions]

As the English horse establish more of a secure defensive screen, the rescue wagon reaches the river...

But wait... The routing gendarmes have rallied, turned, and come roaring back in to have another go, leaving the gallant border horse no alternative but to throw themselves in harm's way..

The wagon spends three turns recovering St John The Evangelist, whilst the tide of battle washes around it... 

The Earl of Essex however, is mortally wounded (as can be seen by all those arrow casualty markers) and expires shortly afterwards, as the French arquebusiers finally catch up with their cavalry and start popping away...

In this engagement (we managed two during the day) St. John made it off the table however though with the loss of Essex, one of the objectives, the game was a draw.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, Simon's cart, mired crew limbering in the water and fully limbered gun really made for a visual spectacle, as did his gendarmes charging about the place. This really gave me the impetus to paint up these missing elements from my collections as well as to properly represent at least one of the most interesting 'guns of great magnitude,' the twelve apostles to which Henry had a great attachment as this scenario proves.

None of them are known to have survived though it has generally been accepted that each of the 12 pieces were of the same size, the main source in their regard is the payment for their founding in bronze in Flanders, a whopping £1344, 10s per gun as well as a bespoke carriage at £12 per gun.

Martin du Bellay when describing how St. John fell into the water stated that it was a 'double grand culverin 'of which the army had 12 of the same calibre. Furthermore lists of the wards state the Apostles as being the heaviest pieces after the siege bombards, these go on to state that the Apostles required 30 Flanders mares to pull the ammunition and ancillary equipment. Each Apostle was assigned a chief gunner, paid at 16d per day as well as 8 carters and other crew.

To give you an idea of their size here is a demi-cannon from the Mary Rose which I believe is slightly bigger than a double grand culverin but not too far off.

So, who knows we may see this scenario again with the French fully represented with their respective commanders but a good day had by all. Thanks again for your contributions chaps, I had a blast - see what I did there.......

Bye for now