Model Soldiers by Henry Harris.

Posted by: GunnerJim in Member Blogs

The Editor wrote:

Among the most exquisite minor works of art are models of soldiers, sailors and airmen, which have been made by craftsmen for monarchs, private collectors and military museums.  These models are quite distinct from the toy soldiers produced for children, for they are made with infinitely greater care for detail and often achieve a delicacy and vitality, which place them among true works of art.

Major Harris is one of the leading experts on the subject and many of the 138 illustrations are taken from his own collection.  These include not only single figures but several panoramic displays of whole armies, depicting scenes of warfare and ceremonial.  In addition there are models of artillery weapons and other forms of transport and armaments, drawn from the armies of many nations and several centuries and reproduced in accurate detail from the originals.

Having read this book some  years ago, I have decided to revisit the written information contained within the sturdy covers of Model Soldiers and share some of the contents with you in  a short essay on the subject of model soldiers.

The contents contained in the Chapters, reveals model soldiers have been around well before BC and early AD and Major Harries discusses these in detail combining commentary by J J Garratt master modeller and historian depicting some of his artwork as well.   Although these residual models from the past,  may have been meant as religious icons, tomb furniture of a votive nature or play things for children, past and presentwith the introduction of plastics.  What we do know, is they have become collectible and they show creative techniques skills from lost civilisations and societies, for us to see and feel as they would have once did if one is ever allowed in the many museum.

Like the doll is for girls, the soldiers were for boys to play with and the word Toy derives from the meaning within the Crafted Guilds from the past as being any small art models.   

Below is a Roman soldier flat moulded in lead using a two part slate or single mould from the 3rd century AD which was often used in those days for casting small objects.

Those past model soldiers contained many  compositions and material used to make these soldiery images  including rich metals like gold and silver,  jade and green jasper, Ivory and bone,  bronze rounds and lead flats, pure tin and pewter mix, wooden and plaster representations. Baked clay from antiquity and renaissance ceramics,  gum bragacanth edible figures  (sugar, flour mix hardened in the mould and later painted)  paper-mache' are just some of the materials used.

These hand made figures came to life long before Christ and marched on into the 1900's until demand increased for revolutionary thinking in mass production.  Industrialisation  improved the quality and quantity of production of model soldiers around the world.  From the lead flats made in Germany to Britains revolutionary hollow round casts model soldiers are as popular now as they were then.

Below an equestrian warrior model from Greece BC made in bronze  42 cm (14 inch) high hollow casted.  Does this mean that in the Bronze Age Alchemy knew something well before William Britain jnr.

Other information about cardboard flats came into being by the mechanisation of the printing press.  Seyfried from Strasbourg started issuing card sheets of soldiers celebrating the visit of Louis XV in 1744. The book "Toy Soldiers has some of these card sheets depicted if the reader wants to know more about them.

When looking at the artistic side the model soldier in minute form there, are some beautiful works of art created.  For each modellers representation to detail can only be expressed in the above picture of a wounded Prussian Hussar falling to his death as the horse rears up in fright from the battle storm. Made by Norman Newton Ltd 1914.

Above is a diorama from Waterloo depicting the Royal Artillery coming into action with their nine pounder smooth bore gun and limber. The figures are made of kaolin and lead having separate head, arms and equipment and I presume they are made by Russel Gammage in 1981. 

Spiking the guns diorama at the French Fort of Santo Domingo 11 May 1800. The American Marines and models are made of bees wax, wood and metal compositions. This is on display in America somewhere.

Models made by Heyde of Dresdon Germany, these soldiers and equipment depicting  American War of Independence production circular of about 1870 that was available in box sets.

Some of these vehicles look familiar while some are conversions or Code 3 types from model kits.

More modern times the above picture models are made from wood and painted, thus enhancing period dioramas.

Above is the Viceroy of India, Vicereine complete with servants 1908 circular made by Major Harris converted from Britains figures and horses.

Battle scene and at first glance it could be any of the millions of black and white photographs taken during wartime. This diorama based on Red Beach Tarawa Atoll 13th November 1943, depicting the landing of the US Second Marine Division. Models are made of duron with some wood scenery.

The above diorama housed at the Imperial War Museum London showing the inspection by King George V and the Prince of Wales far left of a twelve inch howitzer on rail mountings in operation mode by the gun crew during the first world war in France.

HG Wells was also a collector of soldiers and wrote many subjects on the subject.  Floor Games for soldiers and was written in 1911.

And the Drummer played on into the night by the firelight. The above picture is of porcelain, made by Meissen about 1750-60 give and take a couple of years. Also Worcester and Dresden  produced soldiers just to name a few who made a number of these  figurine's into the 1900's.

The number of manufactures from the past to the present are mentioned within the pages of this book like Seyfried, Meherheine,, Kiel, Beck Kebbel and Staar, Scholtse, Britains, Crescent, J, Marx, Model Toys, Merten, Elastolin, Ericksson & Winkler to name a few.  Dioramas by Fred Winkler, A Ping and Roger Berdou as just a few of the master modellers and soldier enthrusiasts that are mentioned between the covers of this 38 year old book.

There are a number of publishers of this book and the first addition was published in 1972 by Octopus Books Limited England. Universal Books distribution Australia and printed by Mandarin Publishers Limited Hong Kong.

Tags: Figures and Toy Soldiers

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