Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Napoleon 200 2021: vingt-et-un Napoleons (1) La Mort de Napoleon

For some time I have had in mind to produce a range of representations of Napoleon, some as command bases and others as vignettes. Since we are in 2021, the very last of the Napoleonic bicentennial years, I have the impetus to make it happen.

Each of my representations will be based on or inspired by a famous painting.

On this two hundredth anniversary of the death of the Great Man, I have begun at the end with La Mort de Napoleon. This is inspired by the painting by Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse of Napoleon on his death-bed, one hour before his burial.

Napoleon sur son lit de mort une heure avant son ensevelissement, by Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse

My version of same.

I am not much of a modeller, but enjoy 'having a go' with the materials that I have to hand. In this case Napoleon's upper body, head and arms are from a Strelets figure (nominally of Joseph, but which, naturally, can easily be either he or Napoleon) while his legs I made from Das modelling clay. Marchand was created using one of the figures from the Imex Stagecoach set and the priest using the body of the lady from the same set (Das clay making up the rest of both of them). The bed was a matchstick and cardboard frame with liberal addition of Das clay.

I am happy enough with how it turned out—although my version of Marchand looks like he belongs on the set of Saturday Night Fever! I considered adding a frame and canopy to the bed, but was not sure how I would do it (and was worried how it might look), plus it meant extra effort for not much benefit and likely detraction. In the end I was swayed by a simpler version which better matched the painting.

So, that's one down and twenty to go.

The next twenty will be in a chronological order, beginning with 1796. Some years will get multiple representations while others won't have any. I want to get them all done this year and with 34 weeks remaining, I can't muck around.

I am pretty confident that I'll get them done as the next three are well underway and four of the later ones are completed or very nearly so.

The next three Napoleons 3/4 done

Once completed these representations will be invaluable for my long-term focus on the quasquibicentennial / vigbicentennial (225th and 220th anniversaries) of campaigns from 1796 to 1815, which began this year.

Sites of interest

1. The wonderful website of the Foundation Napoleon ( has a page entitled La Mort de Napoleon that is packed with links to articles and images (including the painting above).

They also have numerous events and articles for 2021 Année Napoléon.

2. Shannon Selin's blog on her website 'Imaging the bounds of history' is packed with thoughtfully produced articles about the Napoleonic era. I cannot recommend it too highly.

Her 'back catalogue' features several posts related to Napoleon's death including:

What were Napoleon’s last words?

How was Napoleon’s death reported?

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Missing the tree in the forest

I am so focussed on my structured activities1 for the quasquibicentennial of the battles of 1796–1800 (to be followed by the vigbicentennial of 1805–15), as well as other anniversaries in 'les autres periodes', that I completely missed one this year; the bicentennial of Napoleon's death (5/5/212)!

Mort de Napoleon, Steuben (Wikimedia Commons)

Thanks to 'Marius' over at Un Marius sinon rien! for bringing it to my (our) attention and for this marvellous post seeking to introduce the period and the wargaming of it to others.

Bravo 'Marius'!

1Good old serendipity strikes again, having chosen this year to begin the focus of my activities on the anniversaries.

2That date works whether you are reading it my way of the US style.

Sunday, 7 March 2021

A new Napoleonic podcast: The Napoleonic Quarterly

Thank you to Phil at Lair of the Green Tiger for making me aware of this excellent 'new' podcast.

I put 'new' in quotes as the first episode was released in January of this year. There have been seven to date, each one exploring key events in a quarter of a particular year, commencing with the first quarter of 1792.

The podcast has been produced by Alexander Stevenson, an English journalist who is unknown to me, but whom I gather has the day job of following contemporary politics and is a fellow 'history buff' in his spare time. The podcast is summarised thus;

Taking the epic conflicts of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars three months at a time. Each episode features interviews with leading historians of the period, covering the campaigns, diplomacy and political dramas of an extraordinary 24 years.

Here is a link to the introduction, should you wish to listen to it. You'll hear that he plans 12 seasons covering two years each. Each episode is planned to comprise an introduction, in-depth interviews and a panel discussion summarising the content.

My assessment of 'excellent' is based on the first episode in which guests including Alexander Mikaberidze, Charles Esdaile, David Andress, Paul Dernet, Jacqueline Reiter discussed Europe on the brink of war, a pocket history up to January 1792, political aims of the various states, machinations and what the 'real' war aims may have been. They pack a lot into an hour such that I could likely listen to it again—except that I am keen to proceed to episode 2!

Check it out for yourself on your favourite podcasting service.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

The joy of randomness

I generally get a buzz from serendipitous events or opportunities.

The plastic figure manufacturer Hät from time to time run a 'random sprue' sale. These are to clear out sprues that they have 'lying around', presumably because they are insufficient for a set, have a figure or more missing, some breakage or perhaps were test versions. If one is interested, all that is needed is to nominate the weight of sprues desired (they sell them by the US pound) and any preference for scale and/or period(s). The former can be guaranteed, while the latter they will fulfil as far as possible.

I eagerly jumped at the latest offering, asking for a pound each of 1/72 and 1/32 and "Napoleonic if possible". The box arrived today and they are a perfect mix for me.

Random sprues: a useful pile of assorted goodies 

All but five of them are Napoleonic. Those five (ancient, First World War) are all immediately of interest to me. I was particularly pleased to get a full sprue from set no. 8111 WWI Canadian Infantry (or so I thought). This is a set of figures that I have been wanting to get hold of, but that is currently out of production. I was even more pleased when I realised that it was actually not a sprue from the set, per se, but a test sprue and so had a lot of heavy weapons in addition to the infantry. They are gonna be great for my journey into the First World War + 105.

The Napoleonic specimens, in both scales will be really, really useful. There are French, late Prussians, Russians, mid-late Austrians, Brunswickers, Dutch-Belgians and British amongst the 1/72 and French, Prussians and Württembergers in the 1/32.

They will all be perfect to swell the numbers for certain units and/or to provide extra figures to use as markers or on bases that have taken casualties (i.e. with fewer figures on them). I like to do this as I then simply swap a full base with a part base to represent casualties, rather than remove figures—cutting them off the base always seems so brutal and results in a heap of repair and repainting.

All in all, a box full of random joy and future utility.

Monday, 22 February 2021

A wood full of trees

My tendency to have several things on the go at once works for me, but at times it can bear additional fruit. Perhaps that should be 'foliage', in this case.

I use a homemade basing material comprising a mix of sand, paint and PVA glue, with a bit of dried coffee grounds and tea leaves for added texture. Since my last post, my plan had been to apply some of this basing material to a few figures that have been 3/4 finished for many months. I would then add the finishing touches/highlights to those figures and also apply more base coat colours to my early French. This all changed at step one.

I had some green basing material that I made up late last year. Trouble is that, with several warm to hot summer days, it had, literally, taken on a life of its own. One of those metaphorical 'science experiments'. So, I scraped off the mould, ignored the smell that was akin to the 'bog of eternal stench' and decided that it would be best applied quickly, and in bulk to get it out of the container, exposed to the air and drying—as soon as possible.

I had just thing. A heap of trees that had been on my table for... perhaps a year, maybe more, waiting for me to have the time and inclination to attach them to bases, add the basing material as well as a bit of fixing up (in some cases).

These now moved to the front of the queue!

Seeing the wood full of trees

Amongst the trees were some that were trunks and branches only—to which I added various bits of lichen and other green materials. There were also some well-worn trees which had lost most, perhaps all of their former foliage. I wasn't planning to renovate these, thinking that I'd leave them as autumn trees, but a post on Matt's Storm and Conquest blog—part two of seven as it has turned out—inspired me to extract the digit.

Above and below: some of the well-worn trees with basing added.

Some of the finished trees with added foliage (back and left)

Renovated trees
Small ones ex-orchard trees, originally purchased when Dad & I first began wargaming.

More renovated trees

Some more modern, speccy trees that I purchased around the turn of the century

Most of these were from a mixed bag of scenery
that I picked up second-hand in the 90s from a railway shop

More from that 'mixed-bag', plus some more recent purchases of Dad's at the rear, some former Christmas tree 'leaves' at left—and even a couple of cacti from my friend Mark N.

While it delayed getting any figures painted, it was great to finally make the time to sort out these trees and to have them now based, foliage added and even some renovated. They are finally off the table and ready to use.

The Frankfort am Main regiment and artillery markers ready for the final touch-ups.

Similarly for these four battalions of the Vistula Legion.

Now it is back to the original plan: finish the Frankfort am Main regiment, Vistula legion and artillery markers, while getting the white, red and a few other key colours on the early French. That is, of course, unless something else jumps the queue!

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Men want to be him, women want to be with him

No, not James Bond, but Antoine-Charles-Louis Lasalle!


Second-hand delights, newly arrived from Librarie Le Vieux Livre: biography of Lasalle, Tranie's first and second Italian campaigns and two, bonus, issues of Soldats Napoléoniens.

Since late 2019, my purchases have been directed (in the main) at 'resource gathering' for a structured approach to my self-paced reading-wargaming 'study' of the Napoleonic wars (and some other, specific conflicts). My planning moves to implementation this year with the quasquibicentennial—a made-up, latin-derived word for the 225th anniversary—of the 1796 Italian campaign. The long-term plan being to move through 1797–1815 over the next 14 years, switching to the 'vigbicentennial' (220th) from 1805. (So, a clear gamble on longevity!).

I have quite a few books and e-books (pdf files) about Napoleon's first Italian campaign. I was made aware of a book about the campaign by Tranie and Carmigniani by a marvellous write-up of the Battle of Voltri by Michael, aka Wargamerabbit, circa 2012 (along with the resultant game, one of many that he did of battles from the early stages of the Italian campaign). I already have Tranie and Carmigniani's books of the 1805/07 and 1809 campaigns, so was keen to try to find a copy. After a few searches I 'unearthed' a copy at Librarie Le Vieux Livre and got in contact with the proprietor (whom I now know as Luc). In the process I also found that he had Tranie's book about the second Italian campaign. Then I noticed Hourtoulle's biography of Lasalle in his on-line catalogue.

I have been keeping my eye out for a copy of this biography, ever since I saw it mentioned in Hourtoulle, Girbal and Courcelle's "Soldiers and Uniforms of Napoleonic Wars". If you do not have a copy of their book, published by Histoire et Collections and available in English 'from a good book store near you', do yourself a favour! Amongst the glorious illustrations are several of Lasalle (and troops) in Italy, Egypt, Germany, Poland, Spain and, finally, at Wagram. I realise now that these were taken from Hourtoulle and Girbal's biography of the beau sabreur.

I am in a long line of admirers of Lasalle, the 'hussar's hussar'. Famous for his dering-do, bravado, bravery and supposed casual attitude to death. He was, by all accounts a fine, upstanding family man, if one discounts the mistresses. Of course, by the standards of the day, having mistresses did not affect one's association with such an epithet, especially for a military man and extra-especially a light cavalryman.

Hourtoulle begins the book with the famous quote attributed to Lasalle:

Tout hussard qui n'est pas mort à trent ans et un jean-foutre 
Which can be translated as:
"Any hussar who is not dead by the age of 30 is a good-for-nothing"

I have seen the 'jean foutre' in this quote translated as 'malingerer' or 'blackguard', but I am sure that one of our French bloggers will be able to provide a more colourful translation!

This book only arrived today, but on first impressions I am not going to be disappointed. Along with Girbal's beautiful colour plates, there are several black and white drawings, photos of letters, many clear maps and some general orders of battle. The first chapter 'Les origines' is followed by a chapter for each of the campaigns in which Lasalle was involved. I look forward to reading it and to thumbing through it often.

Change in weather brings more opportunities for painting and basing

We had a big change in the weather last week, after many 35ºC+ days in November, December and January, plenty of them 40ºC plus. A cyclone that began off the coast of Broome, threatened but never made land-fall, instead turning into a tropical low. So, while, unfortunately, a large fire was the order of the day just west-north-west of us (which headed close to the north eastern outskirts of Perth, destroying bush, houses and buildings in its wake), the Pilbara coastal areas have been flooded. The low continued down the coast, drawing air from the south which has headed our way, so it has turned freezing. I am talking sub-30ºC, some days barely over 20ºC and minima as low as 11ºC. I threatened to light the fire. This is, of course, all a bit cheeky for northerners in the depths of winter. You can get me back in July. Besides, I thought that the sight of a blue sky in the photo below would cheer you all up.

Pelican's at the permanent pool a little way from us. At this time of year we often walk our dogs along the river bed to this spot. After the rain, the water is looking particularly lovely, not the 'bog of eternal stench' that it can be after hot days. The photo is a bit blurry as I did not want to get any closer and scare them off.

Anyway, while I have done some painting over early summer, the cooler conditions have made it easier to do so. It is especially good not to have to struggle with moths and Rutherglen bugs being attracted by the light! We are forecast to return to mid to high 30s from the weekend, which I love, but it may slow down progress with painting and related activities.

List of books mentioned above

Burgaleta, P (Ed.) (2008) Soldats Napoleoniens: Les troupes françaises, alliées et coalisées: L’Espagne en 1808 (1er partie) Numero 18 - Juin 2008. 'Soldats Napoleoniens' Series (Ed. R Pawly). Éditions de la Revue Napéon, Chaparon, France. 80 pp.

Burgaleta, P (Ed.) (2008) Soldats Napoleoniens: Les troupes françaises, alliées et coalisées: L’Espagne en 1808 (2e partie) Numero 20 - Décembre 2008. 'Soldats Napoleoniens' Series (Ed. R Pawly). Éditions de la Revue Napéon, Chaparon, France. 80 pp.

Hourtoulle, F-G and Girbal, J (1979) Le Général Comte Charles Lasalle, 1775-1809. Copernic, Paris, France. 260 pp.

Hourtoulle, F-G, Girbal, J and Courcelle, P (2004) Soldiers and Uniforms of Napoleonic Wars. Translated by A McKay. Histoire & Collections, Paris, France. 208 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1990) Napoléon Bonaparte, 1ère Campagne d'Italie. Éditions Pygmalion, Paris. 265 pp.

Tranie, J and Carmigniani, JC (1991) Napoléon Bonaparte : la deuxième campagne d'Italie, 1800. Éditions Pygmalion, Paris. 266 pp.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

It would be rude not to

Just when I am gearing back my wargaming spending, along comes a temptation like this one!

I was alerted by an email from VaeVictis magazine about this coming publication from Éditions Soixante with its pre-publication, discount price. It does not take much for me to buy a good looking book about a Napoleonic campaign, especially one that promises:

- authorship by Gilles Boué with assistance from Natalia Griffon de Pleineville and Jean-Marie Mongin,

- coverage of every battle between February and April 1814,

- illustrated by period paintings and uniforms plates,

- maps of the battles,

- orders of battle,

in a hard cover publication of 176 pages.

The preview pages, some of which are reproduced below, show examples.

 Do I buy it? To quote Blitzen in Robbie the Reindeer (out of context), "It would be rude not to"!

It will be on its way following its expected publication on 11th March. No doubt it will feature in a review on this blog not long afterwards.