Friday, 1 September 2017

French cavalry part 1

Over the last 6 weeks I have focused my efforts on doubling the cavalry in my French Army, an ambitious target (for me) of 20 figures was set and this was to be my summer project.

You can view my existing French cavalry here

I've had a number of opportunities and natural pauses with which to present my progress but I decided to push on while the impetus was there. I'm not sure if I'm alone in this but I often get a dip in enthusiasm after presenting my efforts but at the moment I'm so close to the end I think I'm safe !

I wanted to add a complete lance to my existing cavalry so 2 bases of Gendarmes / Men at arms, 2 bases of Ordonnance Archers with demilances / Coustillers and 2 bases of Ordonnance Archers with bows.

I arrived upon this composition after reading up on the subject and drawing a collective conclusion from the sources available to me, you can read my thoughts on this here

I began with the lance armed Ordonnance Archers as I quite fancied the challenge of creating a convincing look both in terms of their equipment and appearance. As ever my prime source for this was the David & Bethsabee series of tapestries which depict mixed formations of Heavy to Light cavalry, snapshots of the medium cavalry are at the top of the post.

Essentially the medium Archer cavalry were either poorer horsemen or young nobles starting out to become Gendarmes. As such they wore older and/or lighter armour whilst the Coustillers within their ranks were lighter still and armed with javelins / light lance.

Here's my interpretation

To achieve this appearance I used the Perry WOTR metal cavalry along with their plastic Men at Arms and Light Cavalry sets as a start. I then added further parts to them to add a Renaissance flair in the case of the armoured figures and for the Coustillers I converted them completely.

Here they are alongside my first interpretation (central 2 bases) from 2 years ago;

As the first effort was almost entirely command I was keen to have these as rank and file. In some ways I prefer this second batch but I think that's just the advance in my painting and converting over the intervening period.

In their composition I wanted these to form the outer ranks so that this appearance in line could be achieved to represent the French preference for charging en haye in a single line.

I did consider giving each new base a banner but I wasn't sure if the whole unit would then be a bit flag heavy. I teeter between this notion and 'you can never have too many flags !'

Here they are mustering for a charge;

So that they could blend well with my existing figures I used metal horses rather than the Perry plastics as these are noticeably larger. In this case I used the Perry metal horses as they have a bit more character and life to them than the Foundry ones.

Out of the two new bases this is my favourite as I'm really pleased with the conversion work on the Coustiller and the central figure. For the latter I added a Plume from the Steel Fist Renaissance Knights and sculpted a bevor and visor on to the kettle helm which is apparent in the source below. I also quite like the Kettle helm generally as a French thing, I'm not sure if there was a preference for that but it works well to help to underpin the unit identity.

Also apparent in the source below was my primary inspiration for the Coustiller.

This called for a rather ambitious conversion for which this was the second attempt. I began with one of the bodies from the light cavalry set and filed away about 1-2mm from below the waist down to just above the knee before gluing the figure to the horse. I then sculpted a rough base which established the basic proportion of the skirt as shown in this (different) figure;

This base needs to be as thin as possible as it's merely a surface to sculpt the main skirt onto (the base needs to dry before the skirt is sculpted on top). If you don't do this the folds and spread of the skirt can't be achieved. If the base is too thick the skirt will look rather voluminous as I've found in some attempts. If it doesn't work just let it dry then peel it off to start again.

The folds were then added, left and right with drying between each, you could try both but there's a risk in damaging one side while you sculpt the other.

Next came the arms and body, the right arm was a bit tricky as you're not really pushing against anything and particularly on the body side it's hard to get to.

As ever the head is a converted head from the Ansar set, basically hair and a cap is added, some are easier than others to do.

On to the next base, these had less work with the exception of the Coustiller. I'm not particularly happy with the pose but I think that might be down to the choice of horse.

Another point of note for these is that I've changed the way I do armour. I used to start with a black undercoat then dry brush in the base colour then highlight in the mid tone and highlight but I found this to be a bit hit and miss.

I now use a black undercoat with the shade colour and a wash of black ink. I then highlight in the mid and highlight colour then apply a wash of 2 parts deep blue and 1 part grey after which I re-highlight the highlight colour. This gives a brilliance and slight bluing to the armour. It takes a bit longer than previously but I'm pleased with the results. The starting point for this was again the tapestries which use blue grey as a shade.

Here's all of the medium cavalry supporting some Gendarmes;

Finally, here's an advance preview of how the latest lance will look, Gendarmes supported by Ordonnance archers with lance and bow;

Depending upon which is finished first and whether I get painting fatigue the next instalment will be a new unit of either Gendarmes or Mounted Archers, hopefully not too long.

Also making their debut in these pictures are some rather lovely twisted wire trees from The Model Tree Shop, I love them and can't seem to spend my pocket money fast enough on new instalments.

Bye for now



  1. Superb cavalry, Stuart. Love the bevor and kettle helm you sculpted.

  2. Always a joy to see your work and read your background research. Very tasty indeed.

  3. Lovely figures, Particularly like that bevor and visored kettlehelm.

  4. Brilliant sculpting and painting, Stuart! Your posts always have much to offer for one wanting to field Renaissance armies. I need to investigate adding Perry cavalry to my collection.

  5. They look fantastic. I think thats the first time I've seen a group done like that before and it really looks convincing with the supporting coustillers and archers.
    Like the steel armour tones too, will try that wash.
    Onward with the next ones. A deadline approaches!

  6. Lovely painting, great sculpting and really interesting research!
    Best Iain

  7. A beautiful page of history, great looking cavalry!

  8. These are excellent Stuart, straight out of the Tapestries! I really like the write up with the ideas behind them as well. The men-at-arms have worked well as they are armoured but not quite Gendarmes.

    They will not have to wait long before seeing some action!