Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Top of the Fops!

Marshal Murat

As the excitement and merriment of Salute 2012 begins to fade into recesses of time I find myself drawing parallels, between the ever increasing lead pile and the stratum that make up sedimentary rock formations of a long forgotten era. Just as in those layers one would occasionally come across anomalies that just looked out of place. One such nugget of substance was this ‘Bicorne Miniatures’ ‘Connoisseur’ creation representing the ‘oh so flamboyant’ Marshal Murat.



Now, I knew that I hadn’t purchased him and through a more vigorous interrogation process it transpired that, my good friend, the ‘Provost Marshal’ had decided that it was high time that I got around to painting something from his favoured Napoleonic era (a cunning little ruse indeed!) and had slipped this gift into my swag bag. So not wishing to seem ungrateful, Monsieur Murat has made and earlier than expected arrival at the head of the paint queue.



The first thing I need to point out is that this was a completely different standard of sculpting to those that I’m more familiar with, such as the likes of ‘Empress’ and ‘Mutineer Miniatures’. It harks back to a day when anatomy could be brushed aside in favour of aesthetic and was all the more charming for it. This was most notable in the case of the charger who appeared to have an almost serpent like quality, particularly around the neck!



Armed as I was with copious amounts of reference material from the ‘Provost Marshal’ (Mrs Awdry, looks suspiciously at any bags he now brings into ‘Awdry Towers’!) I set about the miniature with more enthusiasm that I thought possible; it would appear that a change really is as good as a rest! That said it wasn’t too long before I was bemoaning the intricacies of Napoleonic uniforms and wondering if I would have enough gold paint to finish the job; the man really liked to show off!
Finally done I have to admit that the experience wasn’t all bad and I might (I stress the might!) be persuaded to have another go at a General or command stand in the future; something I know will bring a smile to the ‘Provost Marshal’s’ face. In the interim it seemed only appropriate to invite the good man to give a potted history on this, his favourite, flamboyant fop!


The following information was generously provided by the 'Provost Marshal':

One of the most celebrated and flamboyant cavalry commanders in history, Joachim Murat is as much famed for his taste in uniforms as for his exploits in battle. Born the son of an innkeeper in 1767, he was destined for the Church, but an encounter with a cavalry regiment led his life to a kingdom and eventually to a firing squad.

An early supporter of General Bonaparte, he brought up the guns for the “whiff of grapeshot” which saved the Revolution in 1795. He became Bonaparte’s ADC in Italy – later becoming cavalry commander, and then followed him to Egypt – being one of the select few who returned to take part in the coup d’etat of 18 Brumaire.

In 1800, Murat hitched himself to First Consul Bonaparte’s star by marrying his youngest sister Carol ine. It was a happy marriage, but the brains of the couple was clearly Carol ine, who devoted the rest of their married life towards garnering further titles and riches.

In 1804, he was named second in the order of seniority of the Marshals of France, followed over the next few years by an increasingly grandiose set of titles – Grand Admiral (it is hard to think of a less suitable candidate than the ultimate cavalryman), Prince of the Empire, Grand Duke of Cleves and Berg and ultimately in 1808, King Joachim of the Two Sicilies (Naples and Sicily).

Throughout his many battles, Murat led from the front – often armed with a gold riding crop. He was present at Marengo, Austerlitz , and led the pursuit after Jena . His most spectacular charge was at Eylau in 1807, where he charged at the head of 10,500 horsemen in the middle of a blizzard. In Spain as the Emperor’s lieutenant, he savagely put down the Madrid uprising.

He took part in the 1812 campaign as cavalry commander, and when Napoleon left the Grande Armee, Murat was left at its head. He soon returned to his kingdom leaving the army to its frozen fate. Together with Carol ine, he started intriguing with the Allies to save their own positions, and after Liepzig - his last battle with Napoleon – took no part in the 1814 Campaign of France.

Following Napoleon’s fall in 1814, the Allies turned on Murat. He offered his services to the returned Emperor in 1815, but was rebuffed. He then marched against the Austrians, but was defeated at Tolentino. Fleeing to Corsica , he tried to emulate Napoleon by returning to his kingdom. He was captured in Calabria and ordered to face a firing squad on 13th October 1815. Waving away a blindfold, he kissed a cameo of Carol ine, and gave the troops a final order “I have braved death too often to fear it – Soldats, Faites votre devoir, droit au coeur mais epargnez le visage, Feu!” (Soldiers, do your duty, straight at the heart, but spare the face, Fire!).

Murat’s taste in uniforms was legendary. He designed many of them himself (often featuring his favourite colour - amaranthe). This is a relatively subdued one – a version of the standard Marshal’s tunic, but in white rather than blue, worn at the Battle of Heilsberg in 1807 . As the Empire continued (and Murat’s social position grew higher), the uniforms became more and more outlandish, this also coincided with a decline in his military prowess. In Russia in 1812, a number of his baggage wagons contained ostrich plumes for his many hats! Napoleon on more than one occasion had to reprimand him over his uniforms, once referring to him as a Franconi (a famous circus rider). At another time he dismissed Murat telling him to return to his presence dressed as a French Marshal.

Undoubtedly brave, and a soldier’s soldier, Murat cannot be described as a great strategist. General Savery wrote that “it would be better for us if he (Murat) was less brave and had a little more common sense." Perhaps the last thought should lie with Napoleon who on St Helena suggested that had Murat handled the French cavalry at Waterloo , the outcome might have been different.


27 comments:

  1. What a dandy! Great work, Michael. Are you succumbing to the siren call of Napoleonics?

    Does he come with an open hand? It looks like he's missing his riding crop he so famously waved as he rode into battle.

    I was going to say the horse looked a little reptilian, but you've noticed already!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not sure about the Siren call, but will probably be tempted into another go! Funnily enough we both thought about the riding crop too.

      Delete
  2. nicely done, cool base work too.
    The horse is very stylized... reminds me of some paintings of horses I've seen where the neck looks very thick and curved.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The sculpting: Aesthetic!
    The painting: Magnificent!
    Well done!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good work on a model full of character.....

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting read, and nice job on the horse, when ever I try and paint grey/white horses they always look off, but you have nailed it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Fantastic looking figure Michael and an interesting post.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Murat is so a greatful person to paint in miniature. A very colorfull person with so many outfits!

    Great work Michael!

    Greetings
    Peter
    http://peterscave.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great post, lovely painting and interesting history (although I must say the scupt reminds me of Bernie Clifton for some reason).

    Regards,
    Matt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, I'm still giigling at the Bernie Clifton line - spot on!

      Delete
  9. Lovely paintjob on a great looking sculpt.
    He certainly does look a Fop but I don´t think I would have called said so to his face..
    Cheers
    Paul

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nice paintjob, Loved the history as well

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great looking figure. White horses are tricky, but yours turned out very nice!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Fabulous paint job! And thanks for the bio of Murat as well, he certainly was a colourful character and you've brought that out in the model!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Enjoyed the bio and the nice painting of the figure and horse. IMO, however good, or better, a sculpt may be, it's the painter who makes the difference in the quality of visual affect of the mini...and this is a great job!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I don't know if it is the superb looking base or the way you have done the white on the horse and uniform but the whole thing catches your eye and certainly stands out.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Michael:

    Fantastic piece. The stunning uniform and rearing horse pose make a great combination. Murat - love him or hate him - he was a fearless cavalry commander. Dean

    ReplyDelete
  16. Lovely -- welcome to the world of Napoleonics!

    I always enjoy these older figures -, you can just paint them to look good and not worry about every bit of cast on detail.

    well done Michael

    ReplyDelete
  17. A lovely figure, he's probably the most enjoyable paint job you'll ever do! Great info on the chap himself too!!!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Michael, see, I told you that an "old school" Napoleonic would be well received. You may well have created a rod for your own back with regard to command stands (only joking - although the Foundry Murat & Bessieres would be fun to do).

    I'm glad it's the bags that the Saintly Mrs A looks askance at - I always thought it was actually me! I'm sure there's a pint of the freezing gassy stuff you drink waiting in our local with your name on it very soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mmmm! The jury may still be out with regards to my involvement in the Napoleonic era, but once again a huge thank you for supplying the fascinating historical back story.

      Delete
  19. Very nicely painted figure and the history biog was most welcome

    Ian

    ReplyDelete
  20. Certainly a dashing chap and no mistake!

    ReplyDelete
  21. He is a dashing and smashing fellow thats for sure and I think you have captured his details well,

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thank you all for your very kind words and encouragement, I really do appreciate the comments.

    ReplyDelete
  23. If you need your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (no matter why you broke up) you have to watch this video
    right away...

    (VIDEO) Get your ex CRAWLING back to you...?

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...