Friday, 13 January 2012

When the legend becomes fact print the legend: Bavarian Blue.

It has always struck me as a bit odd that people who are very knowledgeable about the uniforms of their period will admit that of course Bavarian Blue in the Seven Years War/ Napoleonic Wars/ Franco Prussian War was much darker during that particular period. Yet somehow the implication is that this was something of a temporary departure from the usual light blue that they wore through the rest of history.

Last year I was commissioned to paint the Spencer Smith 30mm Bavarians for their 1870 range. Wanting to get it right I started looking at some references which provided a surprisingly wide range of hues.

Inevitably the search started with the Osprey volume German Armies 1870-71 vol2, and very good it was too. I have cropped the picture above as I want to use the image for the purpose of fair review not just rip off the illustrators work. Nevertheless I am sure you can see that this comes in at the lighter end of blue shades and is not far removed from the classic idea that we have of traditional Kornflower blue.

Next I had the idea of looking at botanical illustrations of the Kornflower itself but this proved a dead end as they varied just as widely in the shade used.

So next up to the uniform bible itself, the works of Knotel. Surely he would be accurate especially on a German subject.

Now then, this looks pretty good, darker certainly but nevertheless light enough to clearly be a long way from Prussian Blue. I would have been quite happy with that but by that time I had started looking at the work of German war artists and it struck me that they were choosing a colour even darker.

Carl Rochling depicts the colour well here.

Then a bombshell; I had put out some feelers in Europe and out of the blue came this picture from the Bavarian Army museum.

I think you will agree Mr Rochling has it pretty well depicted. And yet this nagging doubt how could Knotel have got it wrong?

Well there is this one small thought. During the victory parade at the end of the war commentators noticed that the dye on the Bavarian uniforms had faded to a dark purplish colour. What if the uniform in the case has also changed over time? And Rochlings picture was painted in 1894, what if it was based on an actual uniform but a faded one? I regard the argument as still unproven though I do personally lean toward the darkest shade of blue.

And finally after all that what did I paint my own Bavarians?
Bavarian Blue of course. Who in their right mind would pass up the chance to have such colourful figures on their table. In any case I could not face a lifetime of having to justify the colour used every time I put them on the Table.

And as John Ford said : "When the legend becomes the truth, paint the legend".


Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Fascinating! And I've been doing a bit of research myself but have yet to arrive at a conclusive answer. It seems like Citadel's Regal Blue, toned down with a bit of black, might be just the thing to resemble most of the pictures you provide with your post. Of course, I want to do it with oils, which might be a bit more complicated. But the light blue looks awfully good too. Isn't their some discussion somewhere that, at least during the latter part of the SYW,the Bavarian infantry switched to darker,, Prussian-style coats due to the coast of replacing their lighter coats?

Best Regards,


Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts but I went with the cornflower blue as well! Top paint job on those figures.

Unknown said...

Lovely figures and a corker pint job. It would stand to reason (?) a desaturated darker blue would fade to a desaturated lighter blue so a bit of black in the blue you choose wold give a reasonable shade.
Having said and digested all that my SYW Bavarians, however, were a lovely bright cornflower blue, using the argument always go a couple of shades brighter for your figures because of the smaller reflective area.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Makes sense!

Best Regards,


johnpreece said...

Interesting and useful comments.

I wonder if toning down the Regal Blue with Elf Flesh or even a bit pinker flesh tone might give an interesting result?


Conrad Kinch said...

An interesting approach. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the matter, though I'm rather more of the "paint 'em whatever colour I feel like and be damn'd to you Sir." School.

Uwe said...

As a Bavarian I can say that Bavarian blue is really a middle-blue tone. in the museum in Ingolstadt are other uniforms from the later period as well as an 1809 uniform. All of them show a darker blue tone.

Then in the memoires of a Bavarian officer from the SYW he wrote that he was with the Austrian staff at the battle of Leuthen. His comrades asked him to change his uniform to an Austrian one, so that nobody thinks he is a Prussian! So guess the colour of Bavarian blue then....


Henry said...

The legend painting the legend. perfection. To do anything else would, indeed, be picayune.

Bloggerator said...

My "real" Bavarians wear a dark blue. My fake ones (the Alzheimers) wear a dishy shade of light blue. Goes a treat with the pink facings. Mwah!