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



  1. Your painting continues to amaze me. The stuff you were doing a few years ago was brilliant, but now this is true art of a high order Stuart. Apart from great skill you must also have phenomenal patience.

    1. I couldn't have put it better myself... "awesome" as the young people so inadequately say... By the way, I also very much enjoy your research, it's a largely unknown period for me...

    2. Thanks both, you're too kind

  2. Absolutely great work! The research, the sculpting and the painting, just a work of art. Youe really make those - a bit dated by todays standards - foundry figures come alive. The pattern of the horse armours look very convincing to me. I am no expert on that issue but I recently purchased the booklet about the conservation of the painting "The Battle of Pavia" from the Ashmolean Museum and the style of the horse armour depicted therein looks just the same as yours here. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Noted, I must add that to my collection, watch out for future inspired pieces !

  3. I repeat myself when I say, "Exquisite!"

  4. Amazing work Stuart. Full of inspiration.

  5. This is definitely one to bookmark! Excellent work.

  6. Very inpressive indeed!!!

    Happy new year!!!

    Best regards Michael

  7. Magnificent brushwork as always, Stuart. Happy 2016!

  8. Hello,
    Superb paintjob !!!

  9. Supreme! What a joy these are to look at!

  10. Gorgeous gendarmes, breathtaking attention to detail, I can't believe the amount of work that has gone into these figures. I didn't think you could top your army of Henry VIII, I'm going to have to have a rethink!
    Best Iain

  11. feck they are wonderful mate


  12. Scoops jaw out of lap.

    Brilliant, enviable talent.

  13. Marvellous. Your work is real art. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Marvellous. Your work is real art. Thanks for sharing.