Thursday, 18 August 2016

Hannibal Marchese Sommariva - painting by Francois Xavier Fabre

The wonderful painting of Hannibal Marchese Sommariva was on view in a temporary exhibition at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna Milano when we visited. I felt exceptionally lucky to visit the museum and find this piece of art - I have been visiting northern Italy on holiday for a few years now and always keep an eye out for Napoleonic era paintings, so to find a painting of an Austrian general from this period was very exciting.


Biographical Essay (by Digby Smith)
Hannibal Marchese Sommariva was born on 10 March 1755 in Lodi, Lombardy and entered Austrian military service in 1771 as an Unterleutnant in the Dragoon Regiment "Bettoni" N°28. In 1773 he was promoted 2nd Rittmeister and he distinguished himself both in the War of the Bavarian Succession in 1778 and in the wars against the Turks in 1788/89. Promoted to 1st Rittmeister in 1778, Major in 1780 and to Oberstleutnant in 1793 when he was posted to the Netherlands. He was distinguished in the 1st battle of Fleurus on 16 June 1794, and in 1796 was promoted Oberst and made CO of his regiment. He was again distinguished in the clash at Amberg on 24 August of that year.

In the 1799 campaign Sommariva's regiment served in Italy where, on 26 March, they took 14 guns from the French at the clash of Legnano. Four days later, his regiment again contributed greatly to the French defeat at Perona. At the battle of Magnano on 5 April 1799, his regiment saved the day at one critical point and this led to the Austrian victory over French General Scherer. For this, Sommariva was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Military Maria Theresian Order. His conduct in the subsequent campaign led to his promotion to Generalmajor on 2 October of that year.

In 1800 GM Sommariva took over command of the Tuscan army and was appointed GOC the state. The French invasion brought his rule to an end and he was forced to flee his headquarters at midnight 14/15 October. He rejoined the Austrian army's main body on 6 January 1801 and was given command of a brigade in the rearguard. He fought minor actions at Montebello and other points.

In 1805 he again served in Italy as brigade commander in FML Vukassovich's division of General Bellegarde's right wing. In 1806 he was appointed Proprietor of Cuirassier Regiment N°5 and on 1 January 1807 Sommariva received his promotion to Feldmarschalleutnant and appointed Military Commander in Silesia (Troppau). 

During the beginning of the campaign of 1809 Sommariva commanded a division in Orsini-Rosenberg's IV Corps, and on 19 April, at Dünzling, he charged and overthrew Pajol's brigade. He fought again at Eggmühl on 22 April, where he commanded the rearguard of the right wing. He was then transferred to FZM Kolowrat's III Corps and fought at Linz-Urfahr on 17 May, but did not serve in the later actions of this campaign or in 1812.
In 1813 he commanded a division in the Army of Innerösterreich. On 21 January 1817 he was promoted General der Kavallerie. He died on 10 July 1829 in Vienna.

There are many interesting details on this painting, from the buttons down to the sash, that would never need to be considered for a 15mm figure, but these details are of interest to the uniform enthusiast, so I made sure I got some close up images...

I also liked the detail on the map, which although is upside down, the artist has the names of the countries upright. Once you get your head around which way is north or south the map is very interesting...

Friday, 12 August 2016

French Uniforms from "The Age of Napoleon"

I found a pdf file yesterday of a book called "The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire 1789-1815". Mostly it features civilian dress and costumes; everything from ladies ball gowns to workers shoes. There is also a chapter focusing on uniforms. I've not read this chapter yet but here are the images of early uniforms that were included...


Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Appiani's Napoleon at Lodi's Bridge, c1800

I was greatly interested in a few paintings during a recent visit to the Galleria d'Arte Moderna Milano (Milan Gallery of Modern Art), especially this painting, which also featured on the cover of the flyer for the museum.

It was Andrea Appiani's Napoleon at Lodi's Bridge, c1800 that was so interesting. There are several of Appiani's works throughout the museum, including the magnificent fresco painted in 1811.

The painting itself is very stylised, painted in grey tones. Given that, there is not a lot you can get regarding uniform colours, but what really interested me was that this painting, which was painted in 1800 only four years after the battle, showed French infantry wearing helmets!

Given the style of the painting I'm not sure if this can be used as a reference to the wearing of helmets at this time, but Napoleons uniform certainly looks correct.


Monday, 8 August 2016

Marengo Museum Part 2 - The Austrians

As the Austrian army was my favourite and the focus of this blog I was really looking forward to seeing a lot of new resource material or learning something I didn't know already when I visited the museum at Marengo. Anything at all that I hadn't seen before would be wonderful.

What I noticed though, was that the main focus of the exhibition was on the French, especially Napoleon.

Throughout the museum there were plenty of large panel artworks on display, most of which I had previously seen in Osprey publications. These included artwork by Christa Hook and Keith Rocco, and what appeared to be the originals by Richard Hook. All very cool to see, but nothing new.

There was also a very nice reproduction flag. I was especially pleased at seeing this as I have been producing my own flags for my miniatures, all except the Austrians. I now have a good image to base my own artwork on so I can make my own flags. Not really a priority as these are easily available anyway.
On to the uniforms on display. There are several life size figures throughout the museum, wearing replica uniforms that were created in 2010 (according to the signage). Some of these are more than a little creepy looking and look like Madame Tussuade waxwork failures - the Austrian soldier's moustache looked really bad.
The first model was of an Austrian General officer. I didn't get many pictures of this guy, and most were blurry. My son had decided to run on ahead and I had to keep an eye on him. I don't think there was too much missed though.
The next was an Austrian Line Infantry in German uniform, possibly IR47 Kinsky. This was the guy with the creepy moustache and "dead" eyes. The uniform looked correct to my eyes, though there were a few details that I found myself questioning at second look. Is that casquet correct? What's going on with his trousers? I would have expected gaiters, or the trousers to be Hungarian if there were no gaiters.
And that was it for the Austrians. There was a lot of text on the walls, but as it was in Italian I have no idea if I missed anything important. So, slightly disappointed, but only because I was expecting a lot. Next I'll look at some French.

Marengo Museum - a holiday visit!

I'm going to start by kicking off with an overview of the museum at Marengo before starting to look at the various exhibits in more detail.

I was lucky enough to be staying within a 20 minutes drive of Marengo so we took a drive over to have a look. The museum isn't always open so you need to check before going. There's not much else to see in the area so you don't want to get there and find it's closed.

The road into the museum isn't the easiest to find - we thought were lost until I spotted the tower, turned a corner and then found ourselves in the car park. When you arrive the first thing you see is the pyramid. This was built in recognition of Napoleons plan to have a pyramid built to celebrate his Egyptian campaigns.

As you enter the pyramid you are greeted with a large, open and very modern exhibition space. There is a large reception desk and very friendly staff. Please note that you will need to have cash to hand as they weren't able to accept card payments.

Once you've paid you get a short talk about the battle. Our guide quickly realised that I knew as much about the battle as I did, so he discussed a few things that weren't as widely known - including the fact that neither the French or the Austrians were welcomed by the Italian locals and that after the French victory France only ever ruled the towns and roads. The countryside was always ruled by the Italians.

The large model gives a really good idea of the scale of the area that Marengo was fought over.

This model was especially appreciated by my young son, who thought it still needed some soldiers on it. I think he wanted my to build my own when I got home, but and 15mm scale it would be massive.

You then enter the main building where there are two floors of exhibits. These included what looked like the original paintings from several of Osprey's publications, several replica uniform exhibits, many maps, prints and paintings, and interactive exhibits that will keep the kids happy. The only problem was that most of the text is in Italian, so the kids didn't learn as much as they wanted. They did get to try on some headwear and feel the weight of muskets.

The rear of the building, or maybe the original front, is also worth seeing. The "blank" façade was painted to look a lot more decorative than the architect and builder could afford - something you will spot throughout Italian architecture, sometimes so cleverly done as to be impossible to tell until you are very close.

It must have been a boy thing, as it was myself and my son who enjoyed the museum most.

Once we had walked round everyone was tired and hot so it was decided to head off home, and get some ice cream on the way. I did manage to get some more photos of Marengo before I left, including a good picture of the tower. I'll need to build a new model that actually looks like the real building now that I've seen it first hand... and to think that I was doubtful that it was there!

Back to the blog - First post in months after visits to Marengo and Milan!!!

Well, it has been a busy few months. A promotion in one job and the other job getting busy as well, on top of some ongoing health issues, has meant that my hobby time has been limited. Adding on the fact that I'm so easily distracted (15mm Punic Wars Roman and Numidian armies almost finished, plus a 15mm Thirty Year's War project started - A Spanish Tercio of 52 figures presently completed) has meant that this blog has been severely neglected.

But the summer holidays have helped get me back on track. A family holiday to a little town in Italy called Carbonara Scrivona put me within a 20 minute drive of Marengo. I managed to convince the family the Marengo Museum was worth a visit. The youngest kids liked it, the teenage daughter was bored before we left the house, and my wife tried her best to look uninterested, but her interest in art, history and architecture won her over.

I took quite a few photos at the museum. There's not much else to see, unless you are willing to wander the local fields, and the weather was extremely hot - not what we're used to in Scotland. In the museum there were lots of exhibits of interest, from models, paintings, replica uniforms and flags. I'll be posting a few over the few days and look at each thing in a bit more detail.

After that holiday we had a few weeks back home until this weekend where myself and my wife had a couple of days in Milan to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We did the usual holiday of walking all day and visiting as many galleries and museums as possible. On our last day we visited the Galleria d'Arte Moderna Milano, situated in the Villa Reale which was built in 1790-96 and was used as a residence by Napoleon on his visits to Milan.

I had expected mostly modern art but was pleasantly surprised to find many paintings of interest to the Napoleonic enthusiast. These included "Ritratto del maresciallo austraco marchese Annibale Sommariva" painted in 1800 and "Napoleone Bonoparte alla battaglia del ponte di Lodi" from 1800-01.

I still need to download all the photos, run them through photoshop to crop and resize them, then get them all onto photobucket. I have about 80-90 pictures to sort through, but will post them over the next week or so.

Monday, 8 February 2016

15/18mm French Revolutionary Infantry Comparison - Part 2

I posted a few comparisons on my blog in the past and they have all been very popular, so after doing one of Revolutionary and early Napoleonic era French, I thought I'd give you an other quick side-by-side comparison of some command bases.

This image consists of, from left to right...

1. AB French Line in greatcoats with Blue Moon also in greatcoats. These mix reasonably well. I would have used Blue Moon command figures but they came with an eagle whereas the AB had a standard flag pole. Blue Moon are nice models but the have very short bayonets compared to other brands.

2. French Legere in Egypt from Fighting 15s, previously Black Hat.

3. Demi-brigade using Warmodelling, previously Fantassin and now Capitan or Battle Models. Its hard to keep up with what this range is called. These are nice and mix really well with AB, but they are suffering from some poor casting. This is supposed to be getting sorted but I'd check before ordering.

4. These are the newest entry for this period and are from Campaign Games Miniatures in Spain. These are lovely figures and paint up really nice. There is a choice of two command sets and you can have the grenadiers in bicorne or bearskin. The standard bearer comes with separate flag pole or eagle, so you can use these as later as well.

Hopefully this will be as useful as the previous comparison posts.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

French Uniforms of the Egyptian Campaign

While having a look online to see if I could source some more information on the Coptic Legion in Egypt I found these rather nice flats from a company called Glorious Empires ( They supply a good selection of 54mm unpainted miniature flats for the Egyptian campaign and there are some interesting uniforms within the set...

Left to right: Foot Guides, Coptic Legion, Dromadary Corps
Left to right: Grenadier, Line Drummer, Greek Legion
Left to right: Marine Infantry, Maltese Legion, Line Infantry
Left to right: Officer of Demi-brigade, Marine Infantry

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Coptic Legion, Egypt 1798-1801

When I posted my pictures of the 21e Legere in Egypt someone was asking about a battalion of local Christian Coptics that fought for the French. This, as usual, sent me off on a tangent when I should be researching troops for Marengo.

I found this...

The Coptic Legion (Légion Copte / Légion Cophte) was part of the French infantry, and their uniform was indistinguishable from the uniform of French infantry except in colour.

The Coptic troops wore a bicorne made from sheep’s hide leather, and dyed black, with a red horse-hair plume falling from it; and possibly the tricolour cockade fixed to its left side, as all troops in the French Armee d’Orient were required to wear.

They wore yellow trousers made of unbleached linen, and short (calf-length) gaiters of either black or white colour, along with black boots.

They wore a white waistcoat, and over this a green (Dartmouth green) coat that was to buttoned straight down the front. The coat’s collar was either red or yellow; while its cuffs were yellow. The epaulets were red.

They each had a cow-hide knapsack with black straps to contrast with the habit-veste.

I also sourced a few images of these troops, along with one showing the Greek Legion as well. One of the images shows contradictory white straps.