The Mamelukes were a powerful political class that had ruled Egypt since the mid 13th century, and although by the time Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 they were nominally at least subjects of the Ottoman Empire, they still constituted an elite in that country's army. As the French invasion got into greater difficulties many Mamelukes were drafted to fight for them, and when French armies were finally expelled in 1801 a small number were taken to France and in time incorporated into Napoleon’s Consular Guard. From then until the end of the Empire the Mamelukes were the most colourful and exotic of Napoleon’s troops, and while always small in number they fought in many campaigns from Lisbon to Moscow.
Although certain elements were common there was always some variety and personal affectation in the uniforms of these men. Still these figures have what might be considered the 'classic' look. This begins with the tarbouche cap (the trumpeter has a cahouk) around which is wound a turban. Over the shirt many wear a waistcoat and of course there are the baggy trousers. On these figures the sleeves of the beniche shirt are cut quite tightly at the wrist, and in most cases this garment has a standing collar, both of which were fashionable from around 1807 onwards. Some wear the regulation crossbelt and pouch, which also became more common later in the period, but no one is wearing spurs, implying that they are true Orientals rather then the Europeans that began to enter the ranks in 1809.
It is perhaps not surprising that most of the men are waving their deeply curved scimitars as these are most readily associated with these troops. All also have numbers of knives and pistols tucked into their sash, and one man is in the process of using a pistol. However none have the carbine which was often issued.
The poses are all pretty good, with the best being the man leaning well forward in his saddle (second figure in the first row), although the first in that row is very flat. The man using his pistol is not looking where he is aiming, or at least pointing, his weapon, but the swordsmen are fine. The last figure in the top row could be used as an officer on account of his long plume, which was a common mark of rank.
The horses are a reasonable bunch, but as usual are not much use unless you want to depict a full charge. Their high saddles and long light cavalry shabraques are very appropriate for these men, although the animals are largely devoid of decoration apart from a device on the rump, which we felt was an opportunity missed.
On the standard of sculpting we can have no complaints. Crisply done with great detail and fine proportions, the poses are realistic and there is not the slightest hint at any excess plastic or flash. Perhaps the trousers could have been rather fuller and baggier than they are, but this is another top class sculpting effort.
With so much good news it is painful to report a fly in the ointment. No, not a fly, more of a whale actually. The box for this set clearly states the figures are 1:72 in scale, yet you will notice that the average height of these figures is 27mm, which equates to 1.94 metres or over 6 feet 4 inches. No one at Italeri could possibly imagine that the average height of a man in the Middle East at the start of the 19th century was anything like this. Given their background and race we would suggest these men should have a height of 23mm, so something has gone badly wrong in the transition from master figure to mould. It means these figures not only fail to match the Mamelukes already produced by HaT, they do not match virtually every Napoleonic figure ever made, including most made by Italeri themselves. It has been suggested that this may be a deliberate policy, but we find it impossible to assign such stupidity to a major manufacturer such as Italeri. All manufacturers know that their popularity is based on the ability to mix products from any of them, more or less, and producing ridiculously over or undersized figures like these will substantially reduce sales where customers know of this characteristic in advance. If Italeri are to continue to claim they are making 1/72 scale figures then they need to urgently improve their production processes, or else all their fine efforts will go to waste, much like this set.