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



  1. Stuart,
    You have surpassed yourself, if that is possible. These are the best you have painted, very well done.

    1. Thanks Robbie, it's the different colour washes, it takes longer but gets some good results.

  2. Very impressed with the work done and thorough approach. Thank you.

  3. You certainly never can have too many Landsknechts!

    Fantastic work and post. I really like the banners - I think they are spot on for what they would be carrying in 1513. The Steel Fist miniature is stunning as well.
    When you do a bespoke banner for the "White Rose", Richard de la Pole will it be a swallow tailed English style one - I have always wondered whether he would have carried one - I am guessing not if in French service?

    1. I'm in two minds, I'm not entirely sure on his heraldry and I've no idea what the standard would have looked like though I could easily create something appropriate. I think an effort may have been made to be suitably galling in the presence of Henry so there's scope for both perhaps. Also swallow tailed banners weren't exclusive to the English. Tremoille being an example. We'll have to see.

  4. I agree with others. Stunning brushwork and an excellent post.

  5. Gorgeous work - and I love love love the way you've staged the miniatures. Classic!

  6. Brilliant - great figures and interesting write up :)

  7. Really fantastic! And so inspiring...

  8. Your usual fantastic finish on these landsknechts, they look great.
    Best Iain