Wednesday 24 February 2021

At the Sign of the Hetman

This blog post covers the first command bases for my Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army of the 1620s. 

This 19th century romantic image, of the Muscovites leaders from the town of Pskov doing homage to the Polish King Stefan Batory, gives an inspiring image of Eastern European nobility in this period.

When building previous armies I have often fallen in to the trap of getting all of the troops ready and then finding I have no generals to command them when I come to play the first game with the army.  To prevent this I decided to jump in early this time with some command bases. There are plenty of images available to provide ideas and inspiration for Polish-Lithuanian leaders, and I’ve included some in this post.

A contemporary picture showing Polish-Lithuanian nobles at the wedding parade of Sigismund III Vasa. An excerpt from the Stockholm Roll (see main text for details]

To provide figures for my command bases both Foundry and The Assault Group (TAG) have some nice Polish command packs. I have used some of these figures in my hussar units, but have also kept one or two for the generals and their followers.  I typically build my command bases with a small vignette of figures on a round base; three figures on a larger base for the overall general, and two figures on a smaller base for subordinate commanders.  I’m following this approach again for my Polish-Lithuanian army, that is recreating the army that fought in the battle of Dirschau in 1627.  The following describes the first two command bases I’ve constructed. 

Marcin Kazanowski

The first base is for one of the subordinate commanders at Dirschau, Marcin Kazanowski.  He was a very experienced soldier and leader, and was in his mid sixties by the time of the battle of Dirschau in 1627. In a long military career he had fought against all of the Commonwealth’s enemies; Ottomans, Cossacks, Tartars, Muscovites and of course the Swedes. I thought that the old Hussar commander that I converted slightly to match the WRG cover (see my first Hussar post) would be ideal to represent him. I also found a picture of a hussar officer that looks like he may have been the inspiration for the WRG cover.

The WRG Renaissance Army List cover illustration.

Perhaps the inspiration for the WRG illustration?

The illustration above is taken from a very useful source for dress and equipment in this period.  It is from a 16 metre long picture which shows the parade that took place to celebrate the marriage of King Sigismund III Vasa in 1605.  (Link.) This contemporary picture (painted sometime in the early 1600s) is very useful as it shows Polish hussar and foot units marching in the parade, as well as all sorts of nobles, therefore giving some ideas for military attire, and what my generals might look like. A degree of caution is needed as the picture shows a parade and might not 100% represent what was worn on a battlefield, but it is a starting point.

Next I needed a second figure for Kazanowski‘s base. Figure manufacturers seem to be very keen on producing mounted kettle-drummers for the Poles, and these do often feature on contemporary paintings, including the Stockholm Roll. I thought these would look a bit odd in the front rank of my charging hussar units, but would be a nice bit of ‘character’ to add to a command base.

Kettledrummer on the Stockholm Roll. 

My Foundry Kettledrummer, despite not having the drum banners (perhaps taken off prior to battle?),  would fit perfectly for the this command base.  To finish off the command base I had a rummage in my bits box for some ‘battlefield debris’. I think the challenge with this is to be subtle without any detail becoming totally lost. I’m never sure if I’ve got this right or not.  

A selection of debris from my bits box to add to the command bases.

Roughly placing the debris items to see how they’ll fit with the figures on the base.

Here is the finished command base for Kazanowski.

Marcin Kazanowski with his faithful kettle-drummer!

Stanisław Koniecpolski

The second base is for the commander in chief at Dirschau, Stanisław Koniecpolski. At this time the Commonwealth had two overall army commanders, appointed by the Sejm (the Commomnwealth parliament of nobles). The most senior was the Crown Grand Hetman, and the junior post was the Field Hetman.  In 1627 the Crown Grand Hetman position was vacant, and Stanisław Koniecpolski was the Field Hetman (he was promoted to Crown Grand Hetman in 1632).  He had risen quickly to this exalted rank and was also a very experienced general. 

TAG produce a great looking Hetman figure, holding a ceremonial mace or ‘bulawa’, that was a symbol of a Hetman’s position.  I used this figure to represent Koniecpolski.  I painted him to mainly match the outfit in this portrait, although I jazzed up his zupan (long, top coat) a bit.

Portrait of Hetman Stanisław Koniecpolski, painted around 1640.

To accompany Stanisław Koniecpolski I thought of including a standard bearer on the command base.  I have done this on other command bases before, especially when the historical general I’m representing has a known personal standard.  I hadn’t seen this mentioned for Polish generals but was lucky enough to get a question answered by the super helpful, Michał Paradowski, the author of the recently released Despite Destruction, Misery and Privations.  Michał explained that Polish generals in this period did not use flags, but the Hetman in command of the army would have a ‘Hetman’s Sign’ or ‘znak hetmański’ (see Wikipedia description here link.) This was only used by the overall, senior Hetman commanding in a campaign.

Above are a a couple of exerts from 19th century paintings that suggest what the Hetman’s sign might have looked like. These are the best I had to go on as I haven’t been able to find any more details of what exactly made up the Hetman’s sign.  The sign is shown as a long spear or lance, featuring a small ‘wing’ of feathers, and a small disc below this. There may be streamers attached to the disc. Some pictures show a small sphere on the lance point, similar to what is used for some flags’ staves.  (It seems that later on in this period the feathered wing was replaced with a horse-hair tail.)

I’ve not seen a Hetman’s Sign produced by a figure manufacturer yet. Based on the limited information the sign seemed fairly straightforward to scratch build.  I decided to use a hussar lance as the basis for my Hetman’s sign.  To make the disc I used a small piece of green stuff and moulded this on to the lance.  For the feathers I used an off-cut from a hussar wing that seemed to match the illustrations above. This was filed to fit, and then super glued to the lance between the disc and the point.  I then used some paper to make the streamers and glued these on to the lance just above the disc.  Finally I glued a small bead to the lance point. I then painted up the model sign, with plenty of gold adornments.

Raw materials and tools to make a Hetman’s Sign.

My interpretation of a Hetman’s Sign. 

The finished Hetman’s Sign will make a nice distinctive addition to Koniecpolski’s base.

The finished sign with added paper streamers.

To accompany Koniecpolski, and a mounted figure carrying his Hetman’s sign, I have included another mounted kettle-drummer,  this time from TAG.  I went for very dark coats for Koniecpolski’s followers to match his cloak colour, and this hopefully helps the great man stand out more in his bright red zupan.  With items of debris to add to this base in a similar way to the previous base I was done.

Field Hetman Stanisław Koniecpolski, carrying his buława, accompanied by his Hetman’s Sign and kettle-drummer, ready to lead the Polish-Lithuanian forces to battle. 

With these command bases done I can be sure that I’ll have generals ready to lead my Polish-Lithuanian forces to battle.  I’ll need at least one more command base, so I will need to think of some more ideas  for suitable figures.

The next items on the painting table for the Poles are a step down in the hierarchy from the mighty Husaria and noble commanders.  Next up is some Foreign Infantry, and I’ll be using figures from a manufacturer that is completely new to me.

Until next time!

Andy @ FOGH

Sunday 7 February 2021

More Husaria!

This blog post covers the second unit of Hussars for my 1620s Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army.

The second unit of hussars charges in to action!

In two previous posts I went through the research and building of the first unit of hussars - you can see them here and here.

This latest unit is made up of a mixture of The Assault Group (TAG) and Foundry riders, as before, but this time on TAG horses.  The TAG horses are nice clean sculpts and most have some fancy feathers etc. which are very suitable for the noble Hussars, who liked an ostentatious display. They also have a single pistol holstered on the right side of the saddle.  This is a nice touch as firearms were becoming popular with the Hussars in this period.  I’m not so sure about carrying only one pistol, but I expect someone out there knows if this is right?

Riderless horses ready for varnishing

I’ve added wings in twos, or singles, to most of the figures, but left some without.  In this unit the wings are attached directly to the horse, rather to the equivalent position on the rider figure.  As covered in the previous posts, I have decided to have wings ‘saddle mounted’ (rather than fixed on the rider’ backs) in ones or twos as limited to the richer / more showy individuals in the unit. The wings are a mixture of the TAG wings and the Foundry wings modified to be the straighter, earlier type.  The TAG horses have a slot modelled at the back of the saddle to take wings.  The Foundry riders needed some chipping and filing to make them fit in the TAG saddles and I had to keep riders and horses matched during the painting process so I could be sure of them fitting together at the end.

Although not always strictly historical, I like to have a colour theme for my units.  For this unit I had chosen a blue and yellow flag, with matched pennons, from Battle Flag.  I therefore decided to carry on this blue and yellow theme to the horse trappings, and also the Hussars’ cloaks and helmet feathers.  I chose to use a few different hues of blue to add some variety while keeping within the overall theme.  I used Vallejo’s Prussian Blue, Ultramarine, and Pale Dark Blue, and then shaded / highlighted each of these.  I also wanted to include red on the hussars as this was a popular colour with wealthy Polish nobles in this period.  

Riders ready for varnishing

I’ve not really found a yellow, to use over a black undercoat, that I’m super happy with in the Vallejo or Army Painter ranges.  I’ve tried using Vallejo Ochre Brown, as a base for yellow, and built up from that. This is ok, but I wondered if I should look at some other ranges.  I have been slowly getting more into the GW Citadel range of paints.  I already really like the various shades such as Agrax Earthshade, and have been really pleased with some of the red base + layer combinations.  They is a handy app called ‘Citadel Colour’ which helps translate from actual colours to sets of base, layers and shades from the (strangely named!) Citadel range.  From the app I found Averland Sunset as a base, with Cassandra Yellow as a shade, and then Yriel Yellow as a layer.  I bought this set of paints and I have found they work really well.  I also tried some of the Citadel metallics.  I must say that, despite the bottle’s pot design (rather than being in dropper bottles), the paints that I’ve tried so far have been really nice to use and I’ve become a bit of a convert!

Flags and lance pennons for the unit from Battle Flag

After painting the figures I brushed on a gloss varnish as a protective layer for the riders, horses, and the lances.  As mentioned the lances were getting a set of Battle Flag pennons.  The main unit standard is blue and yellow, split horizontally, with a white eagle in the centre.  I decided to repeat this on the trumpeter’s trumpet banner, that is cast on the figure.  The two colours was fairly straightforward, but the white eagle would be tricky.  A Google search threw up some potential transfers that looked like they could work from Vene Vidi Veci.  VVV do sets of 15mm and 28mm ‘medieval’ heraldry symbols that can be ordered in a variety of colours. I ordered sets of 15mm and 28mm from Magister Militum (link) in white, black and red. I ordered both sizes as I wasn’t sure how big they would be and wanted to make sure that they would fit on the trumpet banner.

Trumpeter varnished and ready for transfers.

Once I had the transfers I decided that the 15mm size transfer would work best on the trumpet banner. I haven’t used transfers for a long time and decided to give this fancy Micro SEL and Micro SOL stuff, made by Microscale, a try.  The figure was already gloss varnished, which is apparently the best base to start transfers from.  I cut out a small, white, single-headed eagle transfer from the VVV set and, using a pair of tweezers, dipped it in water for a few seconds. While the water was soaking in to the transfer, I painted a small amount of Micro SEL (from the blue bottle) on to the trumpet flag where I wanted the transfer.  The transfer was now loose after its short soaking and so I slid the transfer off its backing and positioned it on the banner with the same brush I used for the Micro SEL. The Micro SEL allowed me to move adjust the position of the transfer with the brush tip. When it was in the right spot I smoothed it down with a small amount more of Micro SEL.  After repeating this for the back of the trumpet banner, I set the the figure aside to dry.

Equipment for applying the transfers to the trumpet banner.

Once the transfer was dry I painted a small amount of Micro SOL on top.  As the banner was a fairly flat surface this last stage, meant to mould the transfer on to curved / uneven surfaces, was perhaps not necessary, but I wanted to try out the full process.  I left the figure to dry once again.  The flag design that I was copying for the trumpet banner has a small red shield over the eagle’s breast, and a yellow crown on the eagle.  At this scale, two blobs of colour, were good enough approximation of this design for me!  I‘m sure many people would have managed with some white paint to approximate the eagle, but the transfer was a neat way of getting a consistent result on both sides.

Trumpet transfer applied and dots of paint added.

With this last little job done, it was then time to glue riders on to the horses and finish the basing.  Once again, I used 50mm wide by 60mm deep and 2mm thick MDF bases from Warbases.  (Each base takes two horses.)  The basing technique was the same as on the previous unit here. So, here is the second unit finished.  (The eagle eyed will have spotted that there is a base of two figures missing due to a miscalculation in figure purchases. This has been rectified!)

With two units done I have had to restock my lead mountain with more hussars.  Next on the painting bench will be some command bases (and the missing base of two for this unit).  

Until next time!
Andy @ FoGH