Box art picture of the sprues

Art Girona "The Duellists"

Project start 2017-10-22

The host for our clubs New Year's meetings specified "colourful" as the theme for 2018, and after half a year of minimal activity, I'd better get cracking..

The interpretation of "colourful" was left up to the participants, so I figured I'd go completely over the top and hit as many possible interpretations as possible.

Around the turn of the 19th century, two French officers took an intense dislike to each other, fighting more than thirty duels over a period of nineteen years. Say what you will about Napoleons generals, but they bore grudges with the best of them :twisted:

Joseph Conrad picked up the story as the basis for his 1908 story "The Duel: A Military Story", changeing a few minor details and generally dramatising the whole affair. Very helpfully, one of the things he changed was turning the gents in question to officers in two different hussar regiments, the 4th and the 7th. Few uniforms were ever flashier than those of the hussars at that time..

In 1977, Ridley Scott picked this story for his debut as a director, labeling it "The Duellists". For reasons unknown to me, he swapped the 4th regiment for the 3rd for one of the main characters, an odd choice, in my opinion, since the uniform of the officers of that regiment were grey with silver lacing, about as close to boring as one can get with hussars.

Last year, Art Girona brought out a set of 70mm figures, clearly based on the film, but oddly, they again changed the same character's regiment to the 5th, as seen in the picture. This is better than the 3rd, but in my not even remotely humble opinion, still not as good as the 4th, which uses very dark blue instead of the light blue of the 5th, providing much nicer contrast with the gold lacing, which is why I'll stick to Conrad's version.

The figures are beautifully scuplted and cast, with the minor niggle below. I'm not so happy with the base plate; it's messy, and will be hard to mount the figures on correctly. It's also quite cramped, especially if you want to include the chair with all the put aside kit on it. I'll be replacing that with a simple pavement base. The decision whether to include the chair and the kit has yet to be made; on the one hand, the shako and pelise are spectacular items in their own right, on the other, I'm not sure if they'll look good just sitting there next to the wild action of the swordfight.

knots and bastions

No instructions, of course, figure builders are above such wimpy accessoiries.. I've done a fair share of Napoleonic figures, so I'll manage, but it can be a bit of a puzzle like this.

Now, about that niggle. Hussars carried ornaments on their upper legs. Depending on the regiment, this would be either a simple bastion, or a complex affair known as a Hungarian knot. The picture of a Historex set shows this better than words.

The 5th, 7th and 10th regiments had bastions, the rest had the knot. I suspect this might be the reason for the transfer to the 5th. None of that really matters though, because these chaps are officers. For officers, rank was in part indicated by adding additional bastions surrounding the basic one, even in regiments that normally had the knot. Both figures have the single bastions for enlisted men and NCOs.
I could correct this, but just to be vile, I won't. The ever widening array of bastions of the officers becomes, in my opinion, tastlessly garish. The figures will therefore retain the lower ranks decorations on their breeches, just plain wrong, but it looks better. That doesn't help me with the chap from the 4th though, since logically, with this modification, he should have knots. I've filed off the bastions, and made a start at drawing the knots, which will be printed as decals and applied much later. Decals will probably look better than heavy relief anyway...

I've taken off the locator lugs under the boots, and drilled holes in the soles for later pinning to the base.

I had hoped to attach just the heads before painting the faces and hands (inextricably linked, since both require the same ad-hoc mix of paint for skin), but that won't work; the hands are attached to the swords, instead of to the arms. There's very little doubt about how the sword arms will be attached to the bodies, but there's considerable leeway in the relative position of the hands and swords, in fact, I'm not entirely sure which hand belongs to which fighter yet. Only test positioning with the entire hand-arm-body chain on both figures will reveal the correct way to do this. That's six parts to juggle, two of them quite heavy, and the other two very small, and I'm no acrobatic octopus...
I see no alternative to at least attaching the arms to the bodies before proceeding with this puzzle, and then the hands will have to be attached before I can even start painting. This is bad, since the arms and swords will get in the way, and the risk of damage during further work seems considerable.
Oh well, it was silly to expect these two not to put up a fight..

2017-10-24
I've got the sword arms attached to their owners, but I'm still a few hands short of being able to juggle things into alignment. There were always going to be pins in the feet for attachment to the base, so I've brought that forward. I'll make temporary bases for them, which will keep the bodies upright while I fiddle hands and swords. These bases will also help keep everthing intact while I work; with the fragility of the swords and the weight of the figures, I won't be able to put them down once the weapons are on, so they need to stay standing throughout the process.
I'm pretty sure I figured out which hand belongs to which fighter, which should help..

knots and bastions

2017-10-24
I got them mounted on their temporary bases. I managed to decapitate one of them in the process, but hey, I can fix that; the remains of the glue came off cleanly, so it's actually for the best, since this will allow me to work the shoulder seams all the easier. Given that they have now become rather unwieldy anyway, I think I'll stick on the other arms as well before starting work on the skin.

The shoulders are making me work for it. This may be due to the fact that working on a metal base is a tad different from working on plastic or resin. Filler doesn't stick quite as well, and filing, let alone sanding, takes forever; even a soft metal is rather tougher than plastics.
Oh well, I'll get it hacked eventually. Better to spend a lot of time now and get it completely right before painting, than spending even more time fixing fit issues on a half painted figure.

I think I've got the arms just about good enough. Took more filing and fiddling than I'd hoped, but that's life. Now I just have to attach the hands and a head without ripping any arms off..
I'm beginning to form a devious plan for the chair full of kit; I'll probably spin it off to a separate project, and put just the duellists on the base.

2017-10-27
The shoulders are making me work for it. This may be due to the fact that working on a metal base is a tad different from working on plastic or resin. Filler doesn't stick quite as well, and filing, let alone sanding, takes forever; even a soft metal is rather tougher than plastics.
Oh well, I'll get it hacked eventually. Better to spend a lot of time now and get it completely right before painting, than spending even more time fixing fit issues on a half painted figure.

2017-11-05
I think I've got the arms just about good enough. Took more filing and fiddling than I'd hoped, but that's life.
Now I just have to attach the hands and a head without ripping any arms off..
I'm beginning to form a devious plan for the chair full of kit; I'll probably spin it off to a separate project, and put just the duellists on the base.

relative positioning of figures

2017-11-12
Looks like I managed to get them posed correctly.
The plan is to copy the outlines of the wooden blocks onto the intended permanent base. Then, once the figures are complete, grind off the brass rods clamping them to the wood, place the blocks in the outlines on the permanent base, mark the holes for the rods on the permanent base and drill them out. Theoretically, that should put the holes in the correct location to mount the figures, and keep the relative positioning in tact. Theoretically..
There's some work with filler to do on the collar of the lunging hussar, and then I can get to work on the faces. After that, there's another four parts to each figure: two spurs, and two braids each. The braids especially are going to be finicky, so I don't want those on before I deal with the hair, which I intend to postpone as far as it will go for that very reason.

face of Mr Dupont

2017-11-19
The defending hussar has been given a face. The real thing looks a bit angrier still, which is good.
His hair will have to wait until a lot later, but so far I'm happy.
The brown smudges on his tunic are an all but inevitable result of the process used for creating the face; wiping most of the initial coat of oils off with a make-up sponge gives great results, but it is not a high-precision operation..
Meanwhile, his opponent now has white breeches; they're supposed to be red, put putting red directly over mid-grey primer didn't seem prudent. Painting faces (to me at least) is a job that requires a level of concentration I can't keep up for long, and using oils it's a process that takes about 5 hours from start to finish (mercifully, most of that time is curing time, not work time), so I don't even try to do more than one per day; the attacker will have to wait for next week before he gets a face.

2017-11-26
I've painted Mr Fournier's face, and airbrushed the sashes the gents are wearing; the base colour is yellow, and I don't have a hope of getting that to look good with a brush. Downside of this is that I'll have to be very careful while painting the dolmans later.

2017-27-11
Hidden but very useful advantage of using oils: you've got enormous amounts of time to fiddle with them. I took another peek at Fournier this morning, and found that the real thing was looking just a bit too garish. I also realised there actually was some upper lip showing. No problem, the paint (both on the figure and on the palette) was still fresh enough to pick up where I left off yesterday and fix things. You pay for it with insane drying times, but you will never, ever have to race the clock when using oils.

2017-11-28
Try as I might, I just couldn't convince myself I liked where Fournier had ended up, so I took a drastic step and stripped all the paint of the skin. Full reset, try again this weekend..

status 2017-12-03

2017-12-03
Some colours are beginning to show at last.
Mr Fournier has received his new face, and looks furious as ever. Work on him is now on hold until next weekend, while the oils cure. Depending on what the protective coat of varnish then reveals, I may give his breaches another coat of red before doing some very restrained highlighting and shadowing on them. Mr Dupont's clothes will definitely need another helping of blue paint, he looks absolutely shabby right now. Except for the boots, everything else will be zero margin detail work from here on in, and the same holds for his opponent once I've got his dolman painted. This is going to take considerable time, patience, and occasional steadying of nerves

2017-12-08
Basic colours are now of for both gents. Mr Dupont no longer looks shabby, so once I've dealt with his boots, detail painting with (mainly) gold can start. Mr Fournier may need some more green paint on his dolman, but other than that, they're now in sync.

Finishing materials 4th:

Motip primer overall
Lifecolor white sash
Hu24 sash
Hu104 breeches and dolman

Finishing materials 7th:

Motip primer overall
Lifecolor white breaches and sash
Hu24 sash
Hu153 breaches
Hu76 dolman

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