Inspiration for the Marie-Louises
Posted by Martin on April 19, 2011
The other day I mentioned the Rousselot plates as a source for illustrations of 1813 French line infantry in greatcoats. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity tonight to share with you the two specific plates I had in mind (plus it buys me a bit mroe time to gather my thoughts for my Salute report). So here’s the first of the two plates:
All six figures show here are of interest, of course, but the two wearing greatcoats (i.e. figures 4 and 6) are the ones I’m particularly going to focus on now. Figure 4 shows a voltigeur and it’s an interesting example of partial following of the Bardin regulations in that he no longer sports the sabre-briquet that elite companies carried prior to 1812. Many elite company soldiers persisted with these items of equipment after 1812 but clearly not this chap. However, he does disregard Bardin by opting for epaulettes on his greacoat. Notice also the “shaving brush” style pompom on the shako and the button holes in the bottom corners at the front of his greatcoat.
These button holes lead us nicely into consideration of Figure 6, which gives us a rear view of a fusilier. You can see the vertical strip of grey cloth with buttons at the top and bottom. The illustration clearly shows the purpose of the top button to hold the cartridge case in place. The bottom button is where those button holes from Figure 4 are intended to be fastened when the lower parts of the greatcoat are buttoned back. The fusilier wears an oilskin shako cover and his shako is adorned with a lentille style pompom in aurore (orange/pink) which is the colour used to denote the third fusilier company of the battalion (more about pompoms in a moment). Notice that both these figures wear white full-length trousers over their gaiters.
Now let’s consider the second plate:
From the greatcoat wearing point of view, four out of five of these figures are relevant. Starting with Figure 18, we have another fusilier for which Rousselot has followed an earlier Sauerweid illustration. The buttons on this double-breasted greatcoat look more like toggles to me and, on this occasion, the figure wears blue trousers that are more usually associated with light infantry (this gives me the excuse to do the same when I paint up some of my figures). Again, the shako is protected with an oilskin cover and topped off with a lentille style pompom. This time it’s blue to denote the second fusilier company of the battalion (though it seems a little darker than the regulation sky blue) but notice the white centre bearing a number (it’s a figure 2). It’s likely that only the first battalion of each regiment had pompoms that were of solid colour while other battalions in the regiment had white discs in the centre bearing numbers. My speculation is that the number denoted the battalion (I don’t have a source in my collection of material to confirm this).
Figure 19 is similar but offers us two points of interest: the neck flap of the oilskin shako cover is folded down to protect the figure’s neck and the trouser legs are rolled up above the bottom of the gaiters, presumably in an effort to avoid getting them covered in mud. Rousselt credits an earlier Peter von Hesse illustration as the inspiration for this figure.
Figure 21 is another one that Rousselot based on Sauerweid as source material. It shows a rear view of a grenadier. Again blue trousers and an oilskin shako cover are in evidence. As with the voltigeur in the previous plate, a “shaving brush” style pompom is depicted. This elite company soldier still carries the sabre briquet in breach of the Bardin regulations. Notice the plume strapped to it and the cloth cover on the cartridge case.
Lastly, we come to Figure 22 for which Rousselot followed a Beyer illustration. This figure demonstrates yet more interesting variations: a traditional spherical pompom, a single-breasted greacoat, little red tabs on the collar of the greatcoat (NB: he’s a fusilier, so the red doesn’t signify grenadier company status in this instance) and the common practise of tying cord round the bottom of the trouser legs as a counter-meaure against the elements.
You can see that there’s a wealth of ideas and variation across these two plates (and the Knötel plate I posted the other day) that match well with the forthcoming Calpe French. I’ll be distilling these ideas into my paintwork over the next couple of weeks as I paint up some sample figures.