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Nap uniform blue and pack

Discussion in 'Napoleonic War' started by NeilW, Jul 28, 2019.

  1. NeilW A Fixture

    Anybody got a clear idea of how dark the standard French Nap blue really was?

    Most models seem to use a dark but visibly blue shade whereas surviving uniforms (and those of some re-enactors) suggest a dark, almost black, shade.

    I understand that the available blue dies (indigo) fade easily (as do modern blue jeans), so would the uniforms start off dark but on campaign gradually fade into lighter, perhaps patchy shades (in the same way that jeans fade more on the thighs/knees and raised portions of creases)?

    Ref to 1812 Regs here (but colour not specified, but re-enactors show a dark blue):

    Other refs, inc Les Invalides (where photography is notoriously difficile):

    Similarly, I see many painted versions of the calfskin back packs, some in a single, solid, colour (usually mid-brown), others mottled to a greater or larger extent (as per Zulu shields). Was there any standardisation , or at least a preference for solid colour (perhaps higher status units having standard colour?) and/or some variation from pack to pack within the same unit?

    Useful refs on 1812 Regs (but nothing specific ref colours) here:
  2. NeilW A Fixture

  3. Tecumsea PlanetFigure Supporter

    The packs were covered in cow hide hence the various colours and interpretations. For good reference look up the colours used by Bruno liebovich or Ivo preda. Bruno has a good painting reference guide on his metal models website
    Nap likes this.
  4. NeilW A Fixture

    Thanks for that:

    Yes, I realise that cows vary from solid colours to various patchworks, but my question is whether there was any standardisation within/across units (as, eg there was with horse colours in the cavalry or with Zulu shields across impi/ibutho).

    When you say reference guide do you just mean the painted figures?

    As far as I can see Bruno tends towards a lighter blue and Ivo a darker tone so there's clearly a degree of artistic interpretation.
  5. Tecumsea PlanetFigure Supporter

    To the best of my knowledge there is no standard for the back pack-I can't see how you could regulate that.

    It is a matter of personal choice as an oil painter I lean towards the mix Bruno suggests in his Technical introduction. I don't think you can be too far out using that and to be honest different cloths and dyes would have been used throughout the Napoleonic Wars before you even begin to take into account the effects of weather and battle on campaign.

    You could drop Ivo a PM on the subject he is always very helpful or look up some of his SBS on the forum.

  6. NeilW A Fixture

    Thanks Keith,

    What you say rather confirms my suspicions.

    I've read more around the colour topic and the consensus appears to be that it should be a very dark, almost black, blue but that it often was not. As you say, cloths and dyes varied and I understand from Elting (Swords Around a Throne) that indigo, extracted from woad, was the preferred dye but the British blockade shut off supplies so they tried others, often with little success. Also, as I noted, indigo isn't very fast and, as blue jeans illustrate, it fades a lot (sun, wear and weather).

    Problems seem to have particularly arisen in the early, Revolutionary, years (cash strapped and blockaded) and whenever they had to buy locally (when any colour and/or sub standard would do). According to Elting clothing supply was never really solved and quality, colours, patterns etc rarely matched the Regulations before, during or after campaigns.

    You mention Bruno's 'technical introduction' before. I didn't see it last time but I have now... looks useful and, yes, he goes for the darker indigo blue.

    Cheers, Neil
  7. ivopreda A Fixture

    there were a wide range of imperial blue...

    it was really dark for the better uniform but when you move to line infantry quality of the tissue and of the furnitures fall down quickly.

    you can paint any dark blue you prefer remaining into the Prussia to indigo range.
    The uniforms inside the museum and from the reenactors have always deep blue


    oldtrousers, Nap and Tecumsea like this.
  8. NeilW A Fixture

    Thanks all, I think my question has been answered, not that there's a simple one.
    Tecumsea likes this.
  9. Tony Barton Active Member

    It's a tricky area to get dogmatic about, since undoubtedly dye batches would have varied, but there was a standard of colour that suppliers were supposed to achieve.Can't find the reference this instant, but I gather cloth samples exist in Musee de L'Armee showing the desired standards for the various blues used by the French Army such as Bleu Imperial( the usual one for Infantry) and Bleu celeste, used for the uniforms of Hussars and trumpeters and so on. Incidentally that " Sky Blue" is much more of a mid-blue than we might expect today.

    The Imperial Blue was like all indigo-dyed uniforms at the time, very dark, almost blue-black, as the photos of original uniforms above show.

    Indigo is funny stuff : I've been peripherally involved in experiments with recreating dyed cloth, and indigo is the one that really works instantly, the moment the fabric hits the dye vat. Apparently it's a chemical reaction, and the colour , if enough dye is used, is remarkably colour-fast. Of course all uniforms get dirty and worn, but unlike the madder used for red,which fades all manner of pinks or oranges, or the colour of old bricks, indigo doesn't fade much.
    So I should be very careful not to paint figures a vivid mid-blue, which one sees rather a lot. It just isn't right. One trick I've found when painting my figures is to add red to the darkest blue acrylic : it then deepens nicely into a better indigo colour.
    Incidentally if you buy real indigo watercolour paint in a tube, it comes out effectively black, which just goes to show that dyes and pigments are different creatures...
    NeilW, Nap and Tecumsea like this.
  10. Nap A Fixture

    A very interesting question and great responses

    Thanks one and all

  11. Jimmy S Well-Known Member

    Here is the link to the painting references?
  12. Nap A Fixture


    No link ?

  13. ivopreda A Fixture

    there was some technical tips on the Metal Modeles web site. Today is closed and converted into Atelier Maket that get the businnes.

    only a small historical point... Napoleon decide to move to white uniform for the infantry because the continental block and consequently difficulties to purchase the indigo that was the base to tint the uniform
  14. NeilW A Fixture

    Yes, they sporadically moved from the old Ancien Regime white to Revolutionary blue, then in 1806 Nap tried an unsuccessful move back to white. It seems some would have appeared in the Prussia and Poland campaigns but they were quickly discontinued.

    Interesting 1977 MM article on it here: https://greatest-battles.webs.com/GB/Jena/FrenchWhiteUniforms1806-7.htm

    ... and partway down here, where it says that only 18 of the 112 regiments were issued with them: http://www.napolun.com/mirror/napol...oleonic_uniforms.html#napoleonicuniformscoats

    Strange choice as Austria also wore white so the potential for confusion must have existed.
  15. ivopreda A Fixture


    not a strange choice, all the royal infantry wore white uniform... only the revolution introduce the blue. Don't forget that behind any decision there are always also economic discussion.
    White was more ecru than white


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