Monday, 5 December 2016

German / Swiss Light Cavalry part 1

I've been getting quite involved with sculpting conversions lately and was keen to keep going while the inspiration was there. Following on from my latest rounds of infantry conversions I thought I'd make up some cavalry and as a somewhat flamboyant change what better subject to represent than some mounted German / Swiss crossbowmen.

These have tested my ability in the extreme but it's all a learning curve and I've definitely picked up a couple of techniques along the way.

I had no particular sources of inspiration other than a few woodcuts similar to that above. In the main these were upper body conversions using the Perry light horse figures as dollies. In trying out uncovered ground each figure has had a number of incarnations as I attempted then scrapped things along the way. There's still a little bit more to do with these but I'm fairly happy with them and they'll be a good universal addition to my Tudor & French collection.

Both of these were fairly straightforward builds though they each had to be tweaked / re-done along the way. I had a German influence in mind for the chap in the burgonet and a Swiss for his companion.

I wasn't sure initially about leaving the brigandine and plackart on the German as I don't think I've seen a source showing a Landsknecht armed in this fashion but it worked out well and looked convincing once the arms were on - plus brigandines were in use in Western Europe right through to the 1580's so why not.

The head was a press mould of a Wargames Foundry Landsknecht, it wasn't easy to do and this was the fourth attempt but well worth it. The arms were a real leap for me though I had partially tried the technique previously on a French arquebusier. Basically this involved sculpting the general shape of the arm then lightly scoring the horizontal slash with the side of a pin and the vertical slash very lightly using a scalpel. After that I then teased each vertical slash out with a sculpting tool.

As for the Swiss looking chap I wanted the arms to be of voluminous material which just meant getting the shape and folds right though I did have to file the arms rather closely to get the desired under-shape to push green stuff onto. For the body I sculpted additions to make it look like a leather doublet for which this particular torso then didn't need any heavy cutting or filing preparation.
The head was from a box of Empire archers, it's slightly larger than 28mm but seems to work OK here.

These builds followed a similar format to the above though the figure with the Landsknecht head was rather more complicated to get right. I had a press moulded breast plate that I was keen to use so I cut away the torso to accommodate it and then found I had to cut it a lot more to enable the rider to sit in the saddle - quite a bit of swearing was involved.

Under that I went for a leather doublet covering the chest and thighs. The arms were difficult to appear similar, this was attempt 4 so I'm just going with it but not too bad all round.

Looking at the Swiss trumpeter I think I may re-do the arms or possibly the whole thing. I was particularly inspired by the image below as it required no alteration to the torso though the arms just don't look right so I think I shall return my efforts to this.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this latest tangent, I've been slowly painting figures in the interim periods so hopefully there should be a completed in the not too distant future.

All the best


Monday, 21 November 2016

Work In Progress; Tudor Pike

Whilst painting some French & Landsknechts I have been working upon the next batch of sculpting. I was keen to return my focus to the Tudors and decided to begin work upon a unit of English pikemen.

As far as I am aware this campaign saw the first mustering and armament of home recruited English Pike. The use of pike however was not unfamiliar to the early Tudors; Henry VII was served very well at Bosworth by mercenary pike 'well trained and drilled in the Swiss fashion' and indeed went on to face these adversaries at Stoke Field.

Henry VIII sent a contingent of Landsknecht pike as part of Dorset's 1512 Spanish expedition and in the preparation for the 1513 campaign he was at pains to present a fully equipped modern army. Within the preparations for war the total ratio of pikes to bills for the campaign was proposed at 50:40;

'4500 bills and marispikes English and Welsh and 5000 pykes of the Almaynes [Landsknechts]'

Whilst this included mercenary pike the composition was an unprecedented major effort at modernity of the army. Add the proposed 10'000 archers and the 50:50 missile to staff ratio reasonably mirrors that of the Wars of the Roses though the subtle differences are notable.

For the French campaign 1000 English pike were recorded as being part of the Kings ward within the contingents of the wealthy elite of the court;

'30 June 1513, the King's ward passing out of Calais [toward Therouanne] pikes of the Lord Lisle [Charles Brandon], 900; pikes of the Duke of Buckingham, 100; pikes of the Lord Burgany [Bergavenny], 100. "All along the baggage meddled (mixed) with the ordnance.'

1000 men is reasonable enough to depict and no small affair, it's also interesting to note that there were less Landsknecht Pike within the King's ward at that time (800). Also when it appeared that the ward may have been attacked by French cavalry on the approaches to Therouanne Henry dismounted and stood within the ranks of the Landsknechts for protection, nothing like hedging your bets !

I intend to have a 24 figure square of English Pike with an outer shell of armoured soldiers, later comment on this was that they should;

'have white corselets whiche must be always clene kepte for it is a bewtifull sight in the battaile and a gret terror to the enemyes' and also that these men 'so armed and placed be in more jeperdie than other men be.'

The armour was no doubt some of the latest munition 'almayn rivett' specifically ordered for this campaign as mentioned in a document noting payments for war, November 1512;

'For harness. To Lewez de Fava for 800 harness at 8s. each, August, 1st year. To Will. Gurre, "bregandymaker," for making clean and workmanship of certain harness. To Leonard Friscobald for 577 pairs of harness called Almayn ryvetts, at 11s. a pair.'

Each set or pair of Almayn rivet armour consisted of breastplate, possibly backplate, tassets (thigh defences) and movable arm splints to fit the wearer.

On to the figures.

I have started by putting together the armoured figures for the unit, I began by working on some fairly straightforward builds from the Perry plastics ranges but really wanted to depict the Almain Rivett armour. I wasn't quite ready to sculpt it, largely as the task was somewhat daunting for the number of figures that I want so I turned to seeing if I could make some press moulds of armour from existing figures which after several attempts yielded some good results.

This group represents what I hope to achieve with the unit, left to right;

1.) Figure with quilted jack, arm splints and press moulded breast plate and thigh defences (separate moulds). The mould came out quite well with these after quite a few attempts. I've yet to clean it up a bit as well as adding belts and probably a back plate.
2.) As with 1 though the mould isn't as good, I'll see if I can make it better with some sculpted additions I'm hoping it will look OK when painted. The head and visor are also (annoyingly difficult) press moulds with sculpted fittings.
3.) As with 1 and 2 though using a different breast plate.
4.) Straight assembly to represent older armour with sculpted cap and hair over an Ansar head.
5.) Unarmoured pikeman not quite finished but there for comparison, I'll have quite a few of these.

If I were ever to turn my attention to the Scots this would be how I'd represent the more well off professional soldiers among the front ranks no doubt with the following addition for Flodden;

I'm hoping to get this unit done in the New Year so lets hope they take well to painting.

Bye for now.


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

WIP; French infantry conversions

I have been steadily working upon these over the last couple of months, it's only six figures so far but worthy of a post I thought, these and hopefully a few more will be the next in the painting queue.

Sources for French infantry and indeed French dress in general for the lower classes are, in my experience, rather scarce. Since becoming somewhat addicted to Pinterest I have built up a board dedicated to the French of this period for inspiration and catalogue, you can view this here;

To summarise it in brief the French fashion of the early 16c is derived of various Western European Influence but the particular elements that can be attributed are Italian and Swiss in my opinion, add to that coats and jackets not dissimilar to those of Tudor fashion and you have - I hope, a reasonable representation of a Valois French soldier, one in which would be marginally different from the Northern region in comparison to the Italian theatre.

The sources of inspiration for these conversions are the following images of mostly French origin;

Siege of Dijon tapestry (1513) detail

'La Chausse au Faucon' tapestry, date unknown

A tapestry on the meeting of Henry & Francis at the Field of Cloth of Gold c.1520

I can't remember where I found this, sorry!

Beraud Stuart 'Traite sur l'Art de la Guerre' (Treatise on the Art of War) approx. 1508

In my interpretation I have polarised these sources into two distinctions; figures in jackets / coats and those without in doublet and hose. Some slashing but relatively understated and puffed shoulders are fairly predominant. 

The figures took me a while to sculpt as I re-visited them a number of times in attempts to get particular aspects right or at least to my satisfaction. It's a learning curve really but I can definitely see my ability developing with this batch of sculpting conversions. Here are some more angles;

For the Arquebusiers I seem to have unintentionally put them all in jackets / coats ! - I'll have to balance that with the next few conversions.

These figures were the easier to convert as I've had a bit of experience in sculpting coats and there's a lot less preparatory filing to do on the plastics.

From left to right;

1. This soldier wears a knee length jacket fastening in the middle with puffed sleeves at the shoulder. Jackets were both outer and inner garments; wealthier individuals would wear them underneath a gown or not for warmer weather, they were made of a variety of materials, for military issue they could be in livery or of a base colour though predominantly the former for military issue. From what I can ascertain these were typical of both Tudor and Valois fashion. He also wears a cloth cap with feathers (a stipulation of a 1521 ordonnance). The head is from the Perry Ansar set.

2. This soldier wears a base coat, an outer garment. Again this would be issued in the livery of the issuing Captain / Town / Crown. Also knee length, I've done this for all to make a distinction from the slightly longer coats of the Tudor sculpts that I have done. He also wears a cloth cap with feathers (lifted from the Perry Swiss heads) and puffed and slashed doublet underneath. I've taken the additional distinction that arquebusiers and/or their employers may be a bit more well off than their crossbow wielding counterparts. On that note these would have been issued to the Franc Archers of the period. Another Ansar head also - it's a must have set for parts.

3. Finally for the arquebusiers this chap wears a sleeveless hoqueton (a stipulation of a 1522 levy for Franc Archers raised in Picardy) with the puffed and slashed sleeves of his doublet showing underneath, he has opted for a sallet in place of his cap, I toyed with the idea of adding a feather but I haven't seen it in great number other than on Louis' Archer guards. Really pleased with the slashed sleeves on this one.

On to the crossbowmen, All are unintentionally in doublet and hose so I shall add a jacket / hoqueton for balance in the next sculpts.

These were rather challenging as a lot had to be filed away from the plastics in preparation which meant that the groin and rear had to be re-sculpted - lots of odd looking rears in number of failed attempts leading up to these.

From left to right;

1. This soldier wears doublet and hose, the former with puffed sleeves the latter fairly simple with a cod-piece (slightly obscured by the crossbow). He wears a simple cloth cap. The head was from the Perry Ansar set.

2. As above only more elaborate sleeves, taken from the example in the 'Chausse au Faucon' tapestry example above, again his (painstakingly sculpted) cod-piece is obscured by the crossbow.

3. An un-obscured cod-piece ! this chap wears what I have taken to be shorts for want of the proper word (answers gratefully received), quite a few of the sources above depict this and it's prevalent in Landsknecht / Swiss dress also. His doublet is puffed and slashed at the shoulder and he wears a simple cloth cap over his converted Ansar head.

I'm really pleased with this batch and it's good to see progression from my efforts 3 years ago;

I'm confident from the research I have made and the few visual sources above that I have achieved a suitably French appearance for these and a formula going forward. As ever I am interested for your feedback and critique so let me know what you think.

All the best, Au Revoir !


Saturday, 8 October 2016

Landsknechts in French Service I

Over the past month or so I have been working upon some Landsknechts or rather Lansquenets in French service, this is part 1 of 2, the finished unit will be a square of 28 figures on two bases.

The Landsknechts of the Therouanne garrison performed rather well by all accounts in various skirmishing actions throughout the siege -  a frequent tactic recorded by the English was that they would sally out and make attempts to entice their foe into the range of the arquebusiers and crossbowmen on the walls, the favoured approach being to try and take a standard .

At around 1300 in number they comprised just under a third of the garrison. They were led by a Swiss Captain Brandhec (who went on to command Landsknechts throughout the 1520's) and my guess is that they were recruited in Guelders as per the 6000 in the relief army.

Each time I work upon a unit of Landsknechts I learn something new or apply a different approach and this is no exception. Last time I got to grips with Pinterest which really helped for colour combinations both from contemporary sources and re-enactors which you can see on these two boards that I have put together;

In tackling this unit the challenge was to make the figures to be clearly in French service and in some way subtly different from their Imperial counterparts. I approached this with white cross and fleur de lys field signs and the banners of course, in addition I also had a loose theme of the French blue, red and yellow livery running through the unit to emphasise a sense of unit identity.

I paint all of the standing Landsknechts in my collection with field signs and appropriate banners and leave those in advancing poses and arquebusiers neutral so that they can be easily interchanged.

With Landsknechts colour is key but this is by no means a straightforward task if you want to achieve convincing results, I've written a detailed painting guide which should help anyone new or returning to the subject;

On to the figures, first up are the standard bearers or Fahnriche

This Landsknecht carries a simple banner of the cross of St Denis on a striped yellow and red background to reflect Louis XII's livery. He wears a Wappenrock (war coat) for which I was keen to apply some inspiration found in a series of coloured paintings that heavily feature the garment. Here's some examples and there are more on the Pinterest link above from which you can also view the original source;

This half plain / striped design is also apparent in the French / Italian cavalry in lower right of this depiction of the Battle of Marignano, I'll repeat this when I next work upon some cavalry.

The second banner bearer is a heavily armed infantryman in yellow clothing to match the banner and a cross of St. Denis painted on his breastplate. When painting I use a dull brown wash after the base colour to achieve a slightly earthy tone, I vary this for some colours in an attempt to really bring them out; for yellow I use a 50/50 dark leather / dull brown wash which I find works as a good base for ochre. For Red I add tan and dark red to the wash and for blue I wash with a mix of dark blue, black and dark brown. On the first standard bearer I waited for the blue wash to dry before doing the brown wash for the rest of the figure to avoid the washes bleeding.

I took inspiration from the Pavia Tapestry for the banners which itself is well worth a close study. The tapestry or rather series of tapestries were completed by Bernard van Orley in Brussels during 1528-31, from the series a number of French banners within the infantry can be easily identified and follow a theme of either a plain cross of St Denis on a yellow, blue or red background or upon a striped background as can be seen here;

This theme with some variation is typical of the first quarter of the sixteenth century as you can see between the Marignano (1515) & Pavia (1525) images above. In saying that I would like to create a bespoke banner for those Captained by Richard de la Pole when I get round to it.

The banners were created as black and white drawings using Photoshop and printed onto self adhesive paper. I painted them in the usual 3 stage method then cut out and carefully folded with highlights painted onto the creases thereafter.

The pennons were a great find from the Front Rank 18th Century equipment range, a Fleur de lys with tassels and cravat really help to emphasise unit identity and seemed suitably date neutral to use for this period;

The remainder of the command group are the lieutenant and two doppelsoldners with zweihander and halberd;

The lieutenant wears a parti-colour coat as described above with a fine red hat and shoes, I also painted a small cross brooch on the underside of his hat.

Aside him his guards are a well armoured halberdier and a rather impregnable looking chap in half armour wielding a formidable two handed sword. The latter figure features in Steel Fist Miniatures range of 16th century dismounted knights, they're very clean casts and the sculptor has been at considerable pains to ensure the accuracy of source material. They also blend rather well with this range of Foundry Miniatures.

On to the men in the ranks;

Most of these were inspired by the aforementioned Pinterest galleries with a couple of my own combinations thrown in. I've explored the subject of painting Landsknechts in detail on the other blog linked above. In creating this unit, as it's one of two units I got to 18 figures then picked 14 to ensure a good selection and variety of palette. You can batch paint and mix if you're doing a lot but I've always done them as individuals and checked what colours I've used before embarking on a new figure.

In addition it's good to have a couple in fairly basic colours then a mid range and then a couple in a riot of colour, remember that some may be obscured by the flag so have a few trial runs at how you want to base the unit.

On that subject as I've based these on a single 120x60mm base it's quite tricky to apply the basing process, particularly the filler when you start. You can either apply the figures to the base in stages or just be patient with the filler, I use both a standard and very narrow palette knife to help with this. I also blend filler with acrylic paint mixed to the same colour as the basing paint, that way if the base gets chipped it doesn't stand out as much as plain white filler.

There's no such thing as too many Landsknechts !

Bye for now


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Tudor Organ Guns

Henry invested a lot in the ordonnance for the 1513 campaign, in part as a display of wealth and his interest in the very latest artillery but also out of necessity to found a burgeoning arsenal. In the period of relative peace that preceded 1513 there had been little call to allocate funds to expensive guns. Henry VII had not been particularly interested in artillery as he was committed to peace rather than war and economy over extravagance.

Henry VIII however thought differently and thanks to the economic shrewdness of his father he inherited a healthy treasury which enabled him to afford to amass the best and most modern pieces available and furthermore, where possible he wanted to manufacture them in England.

This realisation came relatively early in his reign and the government in 1513 appear to have operated on the assumption that new guns would have to be provided for the entire army. One can get the sense of the urgency to be in a state of readiness for the campaign in the testament of the Venetian Ambassador when commenting upon preparations at the newly established foundries, January 1513;

'by day and night and on all the festivals the cannon founders are at work'

From what I have gathered the following ordonnance was amassed;

  • 120 organ guns, 40 for each ward and each with its own cart
  • 180 other artillery pieces comprising;
  • 6 bombards 'Nuremberg Pieces' presumably bought or hired from the continent, two in each ward, each pulled by a team of 24 Flanders mares
  • the 12 'apostles' specifically commissioned by Henry for this campaign which were 6 bronze cast siege guns of 'unusual magnitude each cast in the image of an apostle' and 6 pieces of the field.
  • the remainder was made up of demi culverins, serpentines and falconets of unknown composition and allocation.
Quite a lot of preparation - to think these all had to then travel by sea I take my hat off to Tudor logistics & organisation.

To address the lack of artillery in my Tudor army I have started at the top of the list, the organ guns.

Organ gun and Hackbutts 1496 from Phillip Monch Kriegsbuch

Lighter field organ gun from Maximilian's 1502 book of armaments

An organ gun was a multi-barrelled anti personnel field piece which fired either diced shot for the larger calibre examples or standard shot in single or multiple rows. They could be wheeled to aid an assault (or indeed defence) of a breach in a wall or used to bolster the infantry in the field. It could be argued that the organs were of much greater use when approached by enemy troops than the larger field pieces. Henry's order of what appears to be an unusually large number may have been to compensate for the relative lack of shot in his army at that point or perhaps just sheer extravagance.

There's an interesting short film and demonstration of an organ gun of the later 16c here.

The guns I used are former Hinchcliffe miniatures, now available from Hinds figures, each gun comes with 3 possibilities for the calibre of gun and size and type of wheel for the carriage, they're very detailed and easy to assemble. For the crew I used plastic Perry Miniatures bodies and arms from their WOTR, Mahdist Ansar & Confederate Artillery ranges with sculpted additions, here's how I put each piece together;

This is my favourite option which I believe is based in part upon the Phillip Monch design above, there are three rows of 12 arquebus sized barrels on a rotating central stock. I painted the carriage in a dark natural wood with blackened iron fixings and added some additions from my bits box of which the green monogrammed and liveried wooden powder box is a particularly nice result.

For the master gunner I followed what is now for me a fairly standard base coat and cap sculpting process - you can view this in more detail in the previous Dorset's Retinue post.

As a challenge I wanted to try and have an open coat which I think has worked out fairly well, the belt has been loosened at the waist and the chest flap has been undone. Also I made an effort at a hair crop typical of the period gathered in slightly at the neck. I then tried sculpting a St.George cross on the back of the figure which though it is the right size and proportion still feels to be in too much relief so I may try a slightly flatter example later or simply return to painting them on.

To complete the look of the figure I painted a gold St.George cross livery badge on the cap and some weathering on the coat to represent the dirty work of loading and firing an artillery piece.

The gunner's assistant proved to be an unexpected challenge principally as the touch-hole for the gun is relatively high, the whole assembly, sculpting and painting process made for an awkward looking figure until it was met with the gun. Also, the hand is perhaps in an unnatural position of being twisted under rather than over at the wrist, I can't decide, it looks OK in the finished piece.

The second gun is of a slightly larger calibre barrel arranged in a single linear battery. I painted this in a lighter wood tone with blackened iron fixings and bronze barrels. The additional pieces were from various artillery bits with the addition of a sculpted coat and cap which the assistant gunner has taken off.

The sculpting process was as above for the Master Gunner and a little bit different for the assistant.

The Master Gunner was washed / painted in the slightly dirtier tone as described above

I wanted his assistant to look a bit different, in the first instance I wanted to have a figure holding a halberd on the notion that as these were fairly short ranged pieces the gun was at a greater risk of being rushed. In addition, I wanted to show a figure who had removed his base coat for the hot work of servicing the gun.

The main initial effort was filing away the right amount of plastic from the figure to begin. I used a Stanley knife blade for this as it enabled quite a bit to be taken off but in a controlled fashion, previous efforts with a scalpel and needle files took a long time. You essentially have to remove the plastic around the waist, to then re-build with green stuff, you need to take away down to the intended depth of GS that you'll use so that there is as little visible join as possible if that makes sense.

After that the midriff has to be re-built by sculpting the rear, codpiece, doublet and all of the points with fastenings. A particularly good source with illustrations for this is The King's Servants book by the Tudor Tailor which features line drawings and contemporary photographs of the clothing.

I was fairly pleased with the result but then I thought;

if he's taken his coat off it must be nearby, it's too expensive to lose _!

So I set about trying to represent a coat laid over the basket and barrel of equipment, unpainted it looked like a Dali painting of a melting coat but I think it's turned out OK.

Quite an enjoyable project and my Tudor Army now has some home grown fire-power to assist it in the field.

Right, it's about time I returned my attentions to the French......

Bye for now