Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Massena At Wagram

A couple of summers back, while browsing for 15mm wagons and carts on eBay, I came across this set. The set appeared to have only two limber horses, the postillion and Massena with his arm in a sling. No coachman or other horses? I knew of the set's mythical existence and had inquired some time ago and discovered that the mould had been damaged beyond repair during the transition from one owner to another. These little vignette pieces are genuine treasures and I had only ever seen one other in existence.

It isn't as if the Danube Campaign is of any great interest of mine, it is just the collector side of me wanting to add it to my collection. After all, I've got pontoon wagons, wagons full of fodder and lumber, why not a nice carriage model? On the Blog of Phil from Association - Les Riflemen, an Essex brand carriage can be seen. It is nice, impractical - but nice. And impractical is why this has sat unpainted in a box for a couple of years.

Well impractical and what color is it supposed to be? There aren't many sources available and the images agree on basic design but not on color. Either something close to white or possibly black. An image search for this type of caleche carriage appears more often black than white, but these are modern images. Had it been some unusual color, it would seem someone would have noted this. So this leaves me with either a white or black decision.

I decided to order other figures to complete the set as to how it historically appeared. There is no way for me to know if the original Old Glory model had four horses and a coachman, but the real carriage did. There isn't a great deal of information written about Massena's carriage, but from what there is I will have to make do. My quest for a proper coachman lead me to consider either ordering some other carriage model and rob the figure from that set or convert something. Alternative Armies makes a 15mm range known as Brickdust. Oddly enough, they happen to have a package of 8 identical seated wagon drivers/coachmen. Who knows what the motivation was for such a casting by itself, but it fills a need. Did Massena's coachman wear a bicorn or a type of top hat? Again, no information available. Since he is a civilian, I'll settle for the top hat.

From the Napoleon Series:

There is anyhow fairly certain that the decisions were taken within the innermost circle (i.e. circle, a strict figurative meaning for party, group) of the subordinates, consequentially from the entourage militaire (i.e. accompanying military suite) of his Staff. The prevailing solution in place of consultation – both medical, and military – was therefore not to leave the line of duty, but to remain as an exampled devotion in the operative theatre, making himself available, utilizing different means of transport.

This sound decision excluded for Masséna the free mobility of walking on foot, as well as horseback-riding; it consequently led to an expedient way out of this situation – certainly significant, and quickly pondering the necessary and demanding military tasks. To take over all the adversities and Masséna’s psychological state of passivity, the selected vehicle of locomotion was a wooden carriage.[6]

"In the first instance artillery horses were to be harnessed to the carriage it was found that they were too long for the pole and not easy enough in their action, so four horses from the marshal’s stable were substituted.

Two soldiers from the transport were to drive, and they were just getting into the saddle on the evening of July 4, when the marshal’s own coachman and postilion declared that as he was using his own horses it was their business to drive. No representation of the danger into which they were running could deter them from their purpose; the coachman got on the box and the postilion mounted just as if they were going for a drive in the Bois de Boulogne".

The last issue was the horse team. I have the two standard limber horses, which I know was the original idea to pull the carriage but were swapped out for four white horses from Massena's stable. I have additional limber horses to spare, but they're not entirely correct as these animals were said to have been too long for the pole/shaft and thus why they were swapped out. Why cut a corner now? No one would likely know, but it shouldn't be hard to find suitable horses without the army harnesses and that are a little smaller. Blue Moon Manufacturing produces a package of wagon horses which are better suited than any other brand I could find. So size and harnessing appears to be a perfect fit for what I'm looking for.

The Napoleon Series also provided some details that I've considered:
Under this precise definition of wheeled transport the reader would be prone to understand that a carrosse (horse-drawn vehicle), a calèche (calash), but not a berline. The correct interpretation leads more properly to the calèche.

On this theme, Paulin, one French officer of the génie and aide-de-camp to Général Henri-Gatien comte Bertrand, presents exhaustive elucidations.

"A midi, rien ne paraissait se décider encore; de grands mouvements s’ opéraient de part et d’ autre. On voyait le maréchal Masséna, rappelant […] Maurice de Saxe à Fontenoy, parcourir les rangs de ses divisions et leur imprimer sa bouillante ardeur, porté dans une calèche que ses chevaux conduisaient partout où le danger réclamait la présence d’un chef".

Trslt.: Wagram - "At midday, nothing seemed yet to be decided; some great movements were carried out from one side and the other. One could see the Marshal Masséna, recalling […] Maurice de Saxe at Fontenoy, traversing the ranks of his divisions and leaving to them the imprint of his hot ardour, brought by a calash that his horses led everywhere where the danger asked for the presence of a leader".

My photography skills may be lacking, but hopefully it is clear enough. I went ahead and tried to imitate the painting with the dry summer grass and white carriage.

As mentioned above, there is little information in the way of dress for the postillon or coachman in Massena's service. For the postillion, I copied the appearance of the one in Napoleon's service. That may have been a bit presumptuous, but it is highly likely since the uniform is identical then the coloring of the uniform would be. The sculptor likely took some artistic license in the production of the piece also due to a lack of concrete information.

The painting earlier in this post showed some sort of coat of arms or seal upon the door to the carriage. Although I can imagine that is possible, I have no way to know if the painting is any more accurate than the sculpt. The image isn't clear enough to even discern what it is, let alone to recreate some approximation of the image. The sculpt did have what I first took to be a moulding line going down each side of the carriage.

Upon closer inspection, this appears to have a contour with the top and bottom shape of the carriage. Not knowing what to do with it and so badly wanting to add some dash of color or detail to an otherwise bland model, I painted a gold stripe atop this line. Such scrolling lines is not uncommon but it does make me wonder all the more just what image did the sculptor use for this piece?

Although I wish there were more detail and complexity to reflect a higher level of painting skill, this is the end result. Who knows if the coachman had red striped trousers and a beard or not, but mine does. The figure fits perfectly on the seat with his feet naturally being curved and positioned without any modification. I had the thought of making the seats in the coach a deep red to add color and contrast, but settled on a leather brown. Did Massena requisition this carriage or did it belong to him? In the end, there are more questions than answers, but at least it is finished.

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