Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The very confusing Piedmontese Generallieutenant Count Aspremont

When I paint an army I like to try to put its commander in as close to the correct uniform as I can. But the 18th century poses some problems in this regard as many countries, indeed the majority, had no dress code for senior officers it being the custom for them to wear the uniform of whatever regiment they personally commanded or owned, with sometimes extra embellishments to distinguish them from the hoi polloi.

So began the hunt to find the appropriate figure and uniform to serve as the Piedmontese commander in the WAS. The overall commander will be an Austrian, Traun, as he was the commander of the Allied army at Compo Santo but Aspremont commanded the Piedmontese. The Austrians had regulations for their generals, but the Piedmontese did not.

My first mistaken idea was that he was Piedmontese as he was, in fact, Inhaber of Piedmontese Infantry Regiment ‘Nice’. Fine - white coat with blue facings, no problems. Wrong of course. He was a Belgian and therefore Austrian as he hailed from the Austrian Netherlands. Concepts of ‘nationality’ and passports as we understand them today did not exist at this time. Officers (so long as they came from the nobility) could switch service at the drop of a hat. Russia, for example, was a fertile recruiter of European nobility to fill the ranks of its officer corps and nobody batted an eye if, after a few year, the officer in question returned to his country of birth with promotions under his belt and a decent pension.

Back to Aspremont. He was a Belgian-Austrian in Piedmontese service with an Austrian rank of general and so he wore that uniform. So a hasty figure switch was required. (An interesting aside is that if you zoom forward fifty years another Austrian, General Colli, commanded the Piedmontese against Napoleon in his first Italian campaign).

Looking at the new figure (Front Rank SYAP1) another issue arose. This gentleman has a very pronounced sash over his shoulder but under his coat. As an Austrian he would have worn the red and white sash of the order of Marie Theresa but the only problem with that is that this order was not introduced until 1757 post the battle of Kolin. But an apple green sash for the order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus will work well as this was the Piedmontese order of chivalry that existed at this time, although I cannot say if our hero was ever given this award or not.

The last issue to resolve is cockade colour but I have decided on black as this was the Austrian colour for this period. Piedmont had blue and Kronoskaf suggests that some Austrians wore a green/white cockade but in the end he remains an Austrian through and through – with the sole exception of his dapper green sash.

The second figure on the base is the original figure I was going to use for Aspremont. He now serves as an ADC from his regiment ‘Nice’ with the addition of non-regulation lapels.


1 comment:

  1. Interesting story around this personality - thank you for that anecdote! I really adore this two marvelous figures and your painting - the similarity of the General to his portrait is stupefying!! Bravo!