While I was photographing the Imperial Guard cavalry last week, it occurred to me that I’d never properly photographed my Napoleon model. He’s a rather unusual and possibly unique figure, sculpted by Tony Barton, the supreme talent behind the original Battle Honours and then AB Figures.
I acquired my Napoleon in 1995, when I was organising a big demo game of the Battle of Bautzen. My old Battle Honours Napoleon and most of his Guard were getting very tired and battered by ten years of abuse, so I called up Mike Hickling, then the UK producer of AB Figures, to find out if he had any new models of that ilk.
Ah yes, those heady pre-internet days when you had to either meet them at a show, see an advert, order a catalogue or phone up and ask…
As it happened, Mike had just that very day put the brand-new Old Guard figures into production, so sent me the very first figures off that mould, along with the Chasseurs à Cheval and Grenadiers à Cheval of the Guard and a ton of other stuff. He also kindly threw in a dozen unreleased Empress Dragoon figures that Tony had sculpted for Battle Honours, but had never gone into production. Again, I’ve never seen those Empress’ Dragoon figures in anyone else’s army, so they might also be unique.
Mike also threw in a master figure for Napoleon that according to Mike, had previously been rejected by Battle Honours as being ‘too fat’! Tony at that time was fully intending to sculpt a new and improved Napoleon figure, which he later did and which now forms the core of the current AB Figures Napoleon and Staff set. He had therefore asked Mike not to put it into production and so the rejected Napoleon sat sad and forlorn at the back of a drawer until Mike took pity on me…
[Edited to add this response from Tony Barton himself on the Lead Adventure forum:
As far as I know, my Napoleon is therefore one of a kind, but I’d be very interested to know if anyone else has one. He is VERY similar to the final production AB Figures Napoleon, except that the production figure is very slightly slimmer, has a breast-star on his left lapel and has his head turned very slightly to the left, whereas mine is undecorated and is staring straight ahead. Mine also has a retracted telescope in his left hand, whereas the AB Napoleon’s hand is empty. [Edited to add that my Napoleon has the coat pulled back to reveal the sword-hilt, whereas the AB Napoleon’s coat is covering the sword]
I painted these fellas over half a lifetime ago, which is rather terrifying. 🙁 I also gloss-varnished them (as was my custom in those days). I did give everything a spray with matt varnish a few years ago, but these are still quite glossy, so I’ll have to do them again.
[Edited to add that my good mate Brendan Morrissey has this to say about my Napoleon… “Qui a mangé toutes les tartes, Qui a mangé toutes les tartes, Vous l’avez fait, Vous l’avez fait, Vous etes gros bâtard, Vous avez mangé toutes les tartes!”]
[Also edited to add a comparison photo of the AB Figures Napoleon set. My thanks to Darren Rees for this superbly-painted example]
That’s it for now! I’ll sign off with a little peek at what I’ve been painting this week…