Many people today like to imagine Napoleonic battles as an epic canvas filled with thousands of men dressed in colourful and smart uniforms, and artists then and now like to oblige that perception. The reality was often a good deal more down to earth, with mismatched uniforms, clear signs of dirt and wear, and very often a much more practical garb being worn, namely weather-proof covers and the greatcoat. The greatcoat was particularly associated with the Russian infantry, where the voluminous garment was popular with the men because it was comfortable and warm, as was the forage cap. The appearance of these troops may not have been smart or impressive, but that would not worry them as they did their Tsar’s bidding all over Europe.
All the other ranks here are wearing the greatcoat, which has been correctly done in the most typical design and so looks good. The lower legs show the men to be wearing gaiters over shoes, which just leaves the headgear to talk about. Four of the poses wear the forage cap, of a design that was introduced from 1811 and would last little changed for decades to come. The rest of the men wear a shako, which on three of the poses has had the plume removed and a cover placed over it. The remaining three poses have no cover, so that we can see the badge and cords around it, and the long thin plume assigned to grenadiers from 1811 also. The men’s kit begins with a rectangular knapsack held by two shoulder straps connected by a third across the chest, attached to which is a water flask. Each man also has a cartridge pouch on the right hip and a haversack on the left; the latter not being issued but widely worn nonetheless. The pouch has a triple-flamed grenade badge on it, as do the uncovered shakos, which confirm the identification of these men as grenadiers rather than musketeers. Lastly each man seems to have a sabre partly covered by the haversack, but there is no sign of a bayonet scabbard anywhere.
The five command figures in our bottom row have all the usual variations of uniform and kit that you would expect. The fifer has no equipment apart from a sabre and his fife case, and the drummer has his knapsack hung from a single strap low on his back to allow the carrying of the drum on the upper back. The man with the flag is dressed like the privates, with a haversack, sabre and the same knapsack as the drummer. The first officer is comfortably attired with a frock coat and the officer’s version of the forage cap, which had a peak. He wears his gorget at his throat, and this plus the sash at his waist are the most visible signs of his authority. The last officer wears a similar frock coat, but this is largely obscured by a long cloak which has a cape around the shoulders. He also wears a bicorn hat, which was less common by 1812 as many officers wore the shako, but still to be seen.
Of the poses all we can say is you get exactly what you might expect. There is basically one pose here, standing order arms, and it has been successfully done. One or two of the poses have their left arm somewhere other than down by their side, but mostly the variety is in the clothing. The fifer is holding his instrument against his chest, in a pose we could not understand. He is not at attention, yet clearly not playing his instrument, so not quite sure what is going on there. The two officers are not at attention, but would seem to be in charge of the parade so are appropriate, and indeed are our two favourite poses in this set.
The sculpting is pretty good, and if the detail is not quite as sharp as the very best output achieved today, it is still good enough and nicely done. Faces are nice and smaller details like the badges are also a good effort, but we must pause a moment in front of the fifer once more. This poor lad (he is noticeably shorter than the rest) has a massively thick fife, which is also much too long to fit in the case he has been given (which may explain why he is holding it). However we were pleased to see a much better effort than some recent sets in sculpting the drum, which is reasonably well shaped and has something close to the necessary ropes around the side. The cased (or is it bagged) flag was also nice to see, and generally the figure proportions are very good. In fact everything here looks good (apart from the poor fifer), and on our sample at least you will struggle in vain to find any flash or unwanted plastic.
It may seem strange to have modelled grenadiers rather than the ordinary musketeers, but it is easy enough to convert them by removing two of the flames from the badges and making the plume into a pompon, so this works well as either. Very nice sculpting and poses that do exactly what the title promises, with a good variety of cold-weather clothing, make this a very attractive set. No accuracy problems always adds a gloss to a set of well-sculpted figures, as does the complete lack of flash, so this simple set for the most part delivers all you could ask for.