Sunday 23 June 2013

Hussarettes celebrate 25,000

Well you did it, and in record time! Six days on from my celebrating over 24,000 page visits and you've made it 25,100 . Thanks to everyone who has supported me since the beginning and to all those who have joined since. Whether you come back regularly or just find my blog by chance I hope you find something here of  use, interest , or to just brighten your day. The posts about the Hussarette paintings are consistently featuring in the top five favourites so I promised you some more after the 25,000 mark, and here is the latest work.

This was commissioned as a companion piece to "The Twins", which for those who can't remember it, is here
This one is called "Hussarettes d'Oriente: Suzanne et Suzette,  of the 22nd Chasseurs a Cheval and the 7th Hussars bis, in Egypt, 1798"

This is their story:

Suzette was born in 1775 and Suzanne in 1777  and, as they grew up, they were inspired by the role models of their twin aunts, Francoise and Francine, who started a trend for ladies of standing to take up military careers and joined the French Legion Etrangere. This admiration was embodied in the "Twins" painting of 1780 that took pride of place in the family Chateau in Gascony, and Suzanne and Suzette later leaned towards military interests themselves. 

Then came the Revolution of 1789.  However , although some Royalists fell foul of the guillotine this family was good to their servants and farm workers and were able cleverly to espouse the Revolutionary cause and rise up the new hierarchy. Thus these girls joined the army when they were old enough as young officers. Now aged 23 and 21 respectively they find themselves on Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. They are off duty and doing what tourists in Egypt do. They have hired camels to see the pyramids.  They've brought their swords playfully to scratch their names in the sand and pose as victors, and Suzanne, who is the more audacious,  steals the show while her slightly older, more reserved, sister Suzette looks on, trying to smile sweetly but not quite succeeding. 

In the background the bored camel driver awaits their pleasure in the shade of his camel while another tourist party is assembling in the distance.

This is another oil painting on gessoed canvas, size 20 inches x 16 inches, and the technical details of its creation are much the same as in the Twins painting referenced above.  The decisions on uniform details though did initially pose some vexing emails between me and the client.
- Did the 22nd Chasseurs wear fur lined pelisses at this time?....but wouldn't they be too hot in the desert anyway? The client loved my model "Ella" in her pelisse so it had to stay, but we discarded the dolman as both together would  definitely be too hot. 

- What colour green was the 22nd's uniform? We settled on  mid green for the pelisse and bright green for the breeches. 
- 7th Hussars bis did not seem to be the same regiment in 1798 as the later 7th of Empire fame and uniform guides varied between dark blue, dark green (maybe black?) or a more normal French Imperial green. I argued that, artistically, the mid to dark green shown would compliment the greens of the 22nd as well as maybe relate to the later 7th Hussars more faithfully.

The design of the gold lace on the breeches came from a source dated 1800 but it was just so gorgeous, and challenging to paint, I couldn't resist. Besides, the client had asked for ringlets in her hair and the lace followed that motif wonderfully.

My 1803 style three-bar sabre hilt was too late for this date so I've given them the single bar style of the 18th century.

 Subsequent research into Egyptian swords led me to discover French sabres "a la Mamelouk" and  I realised that some of the later exotic sabres beloved of rich officers were influenced by the original swords of Napoleon's Arab enemies in Egypt. I've acquired a lovely reproduction version which I intend to feature soon in the possession of a "Chasseurette" of the Imperial Guard.

And, Legatus, if you are reading this, don't worry, that pyramid background is not ripped off from your personal profile picture! 

Now my client's idea for these two further French military ladies and our joint venture to connect them in a historical family context got my imagination racing as to where things might lead if Hussarette (or Chasseurette) paintings began to connect in a series. Here's an illustration to get the creative juices flowing.

It is a detail from a painting by Jack Girbal showing Lasalle, as a Squadron commander of the 22nd Chasseurs in Egypt about to save General Davout's life by cutting off the hand of a mameluke who is attacking him.  I got to thinking that maybe my audacious Suzanne could became a female Lasalle in my parallel empowered women Napoleonic history - Colonel Suzanne at the head of her Regiment; later General Suzanne leading a fine Brigade, then Division, of Light Cavalry,....;being decorated by the Emperor for ever more daring exploits.........I've had other ideas too, some of which will see our Hussarettes shedding their uniforms, which is how it all started really!  So I'd be interested to hear any views of readers on what they think might make good paintings with female alternatives in the place of our hero regiments and characters. You can comment here or if you wish a more personal discussion please contact me by email  Chris Gregg 

And that's also the way to follow up this next point. Anyone fancy commissioning more from my model Ella?. She is coming back to the UK  for a few weeks in July and may be willing to do another photoshoot. Here is a  reminder where can read more about her in a previous post. So email me soon for a chance to customise your painting - Hussarette or any other theme, absolute discretion guaranteed .

Sunday 16 June 2013

Samurai celebrate 24,000 views

A couple of months ago the amount of page visits to my blog exceeded 20,000. For just over 40 postings in 19 months I thought that was pretty good. I pondered  for  quite a long time on what to write about to celebrate, now I have over 24,000 and better get on with it. Since this is supposed to be primarily a wargaming blog I thought "better put something in with model soldiers or buildings". We'd just had a Samurai wargame here at the local group with a battlefield graced by many buildings that Paul had commissioned me to make. I had put it off as I wanted to describe the game too, yet it seemed like rather a commercial plug for my model buildings. However, as  time passed I realised a full battle report would be too complicated and thought better of it, but just to keep within that spirit here are some photos and brief example of play.
This is Gochim Tajima, who turned out to be a Samurai of nearly superhuman powers. He is defending a bridge against all comers.

And a few more of some of the buildings

In essence Paul has devised a large skirmish style game for many players with him as player-umpire. An average capability force has about 18 warriors and half a dozen special characters; more specialist forces have fewer figures. It's a bit like a role playing game with Paul setting individual objectives and laying "clues" and you can win by a combination of luck, skill and imaginative play "within period".  I'm pleased to say I was the winner of both previous games mainly by role play than brute force but this one proved very different...nothing went right.

It was just before dawn and first I sent my learned priest, accompanied by a skilled executioner and a sergeant, to parley with a Monastery guard on a ridge top.  As I understood the game the Monastery was the home of a wayward Abbot who had turned Christian (controlled by Paul) and we players had to bring him into line. My idea was to pretend two of my specialists were also renegades and wanted to join him; the plan was they would be taken by the guard into the Monastery where the executioner could help him meet his maker. But although initial dice rolls showed the guard was receptive to my advances I had to get up the slope to persuade him. The priest had deductions as he had a "frail" trait and  I rolled a "1" - so he broke his ankle in the dark and rolled back down the slope! My plan was scuppered, thus I decided to avoid the slope and go round the long way via the arch and bridge to fight my way through.

I wasn't alone and other players were already suffering from Tajima and his supporters defending the bridge. I laid into him with three expert swordsmen including my own personality figure and was lucky to escape alive.
The large numbers indicate the order of player initiative per move determined by skills and dice scores
 But here it's worth saying a bit about Paul's (unique?) dice system. Practically everything is governed by dice of different colours and types from D2 up to about D30 or more. All the relevant factors are taken into account by going up or down the scale of dice types. Consequently, I'm assured by our group's maths brains, the relative chances are catered for by relative probabilities, but as in all good wargames it's not totally predictable. So, for example if my main man had a D12 by including his skills and supporters it turned out Tajima was so good he was on a D30, so he had something like a 60% chance of bettering my score (I think - hopefully you see what I mean).  Wounds were not automatic but by more dice, weapons versus armour, hence I got away and judged I couldn't bear such odds since characters only sustain a couple of wounds. After that I stood back with my whole force, as there was no way round the very difficult undergrowth and gorge, and tried to use the archers to bring Tajima down. But it transpired that Tajima could take many wounds (number unknown to us) and the only way he was defeated was by me and others creeping archers round to shoot him from behind until he was finished.

Once the bridge was open it was a bit late for me to get any glory as other players had been very busy elsewhere on the table and game time was closing in! Everyone else seemed to enjoy it immensely but it was not my finest hour!
Paul calls his rules and game system "When the Cherry Blossom Falls". A neat feature is that players have a few "cherry blossoms" they can trade in for a chance to re-roll a critical die.  He also has a few special cards which give players the chance to influence specific events. If you try to think yourself into a period rich in honour but also subtle double-cross it's a very invigorating game.

For those of you who wish to see plenty more of the game in progress including Paul's lovely figures , please have a look at them on Google Picasa via this link Samurai game photos. And if you have questions please either comment here or I'm sure Paul would be happy to answer them by  email

I will also celebrate when the counter passes 25,000, by giving you readers more of what seems to be the most popular of my subjects - Hussarettes. So get clicking!