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Uniform Accuracy

Discussion in '"Today in History", Literature & Media Review' started by mahross, Jul 7, 2005.

  1. mahross New Member

    Pete, brought up an interesting point about that 'Lawerence of Arabia' figure from the St Petersburg stable and how accurate it was for the period. IMHO it isn't, it may look lovely but for such a figure based upon contemporary acoounts and photos of what he wore it just seems out of place. Having looked at some of their medieval figure. Some of them appear in 'western' style armour but are very eleaboratly painted. Now I will admit it is not my area of expertise but to me it just does not seem right. To me, an academically trained historian, it detracts from the figure. What are your guys opinion on this?

    Ross :)
  2. captnenglish Well-Known Member

    As a fellow academically trained historian, I have agree fully. Don't get me wrong there are figures out there that have caught my eye just because they DON'T have to be painted historically accurate (i.e a fantasy piece that is on my workbench as I type this), but even ancients have certain rules.
  3. Guy A Fixture

    Even though I am not a trained historian, I would also have to agree. The figure we are talking about is beautifully done.......for a hollywood version of TE Lawrence............but in fact not accurate from a historical point of view. None the less.......I like the Hollywood version from the art-work point of view. Hope this makes sense.
  4. mahross New Member

    Guy, I agree with you point it is beautifully painted but I don't know to me it just seems to detratct from it. Maybe knowing ruins it for me sometimes. If I was a complete novice I may not look at these things with such scutiny. Suppose i'm the figure version of a rivet counter!! Don't get me wrong we can't know everthing but there is stuff we do know so figures like this are just too far out.

  5. Ernest A Fixture

    My point of view is that you can paint your figures whatever that you want, if is good for you and you like it dosen't matter the rest, you paint for you and not for everybody...but as I metioned this is my point of view, if you like to paint with historical accuracy thats ok of course...
  6. Calvin Member

    Quang is surely right when pointing out the wrong choice about the Lawrence clothing, even if more in general arabian clothing does not mean only bedouin clothing (see here).

    The same for all of you exposing the historical argument, but im my opinion if such figures seems too far is only because they are just on another level and cannot be evaluated only under the historical focus.

    It's just another form to express an artistic feeling, not sure if I'm expressing it clearly, but in my opinion they are only an interpretation of the original subject, not a representation of it.

    Take a look at the kiss of Giuda by Caravaggio.

    The armours of the soldiers, from an historical point of view, are absolutely wrong. But, when seeing such painting, are you looking for historical accuracy or for what the painter would like to express ? This reduction to an absolute historical accuracy will kill every known form of art. This way there is no need for colours, brushes, chisels, brain..., a polaroid will be enough.

    It's really so hard and wrong to see a figure just like a form to express some art, without caring of historical accuracy ? It's clear enough that such painters are not caring about historical accuracy, so why don't trying to see those figures just under another point of view ?
  7. bonehead A Fixture

    The object for these Russaian painters is to show off their handywork. What they are good at is doing these kind of repetitive patterns on fabric. History has nothing to do with it. It is simply an impressive paintjob applied to a figure for commercial purposes. These patterns are their forte, and they sell figures.

    Indeed, I would like to point out that good shading and highlighting basics have nothing to do with it either. You will notice that the face does not really show good rendering of the facial planes, but rather a "rote" exercise in putting a little shading here and a little highlight there. This is simply formula painting.

    They are good at it for sure. Their pattern work is insanely refined and shows a very high degree of craftsmanship. I would not even want to attempt this kind of thing. My hat is off to them for the kind of hard work it takes to achieve this kind of competence.

    But at the end of the day, what really distinguishes this from any other kind of "formula" produced art? Not much I am afraid. This is the miniature equivalent of a Thomas Kincaid painting. Lots of flash and dazzle, but in the end as soul satisfyling as a plain piece of rice cake........
  8. Luis R. Active Member

    I think Caravaggio intended to represent soldiers in that picture. If he had painted roman soldiers, nobody would have understood what those guys wearing mini skirts were doing in the picture, 'cause at the time the picture was painted very few people, if any, knew how a 1st century roman soldier should have looked, so he painted contemporary soldiers.

    Nowadays, most people know or can easily get to know how Lawrence dressed for his Arabian adventures. And it is not the way that figure has been painted.
  9. mahross New Member

    Both Mike and Luca make a perfectly valid point. These Russian 'artists' are working on a different level, and on some of their subject I can appreciate it. My issue with this figure, and what inspired this thread, is that Lawerence's attire is fairly well know. If i'm not mistaken the figure is based upon a contemporary photo. Also much of his attire from his service witht the Arabs has survived and is on display at the Tank Museum at Bovington. So to me it completly flies in the face of history. Whereas, their medieval figures are harder to ascertain their accuracy. Simply because we face an issue between archeaology and history. Much of what we know from the 15th centruy backward comes from archeaological dicoveries and because of a distinct lack of written evidence much of what we know can be questioned. However, as we reahc modernity the increasing bureaucratic nature of the state has led to a vast depository of knowledge upon which we can base our research. So for me such a modern subject should, IMHO, be dealt with a degree of accuracy for the subject.

  10. Calvin Member

    Hello Mike,
    it's true, but the same applies to Caravaggio, Michelangelo, all the Reinessance and so on. They are just working for money, considering it art or not just depend on the opinion of who is seeing the work. I just like it, as well as other are absolutey bored of it.

    Luis, the target of Caravaggio was not the common people. Generally a Mecenate was able to understand such difference about clothing. Soldiers are represented as contemporary to show a metaphor between the current and that times, with all the symbology behind.
    And about Lawrence I make it clear, in my opinion it's just an interpretation of that figure, not an historical reproduction.

    Anyway, I really don't understand why is so hard trying to speak about art instead of a slavish repoduction based on some Osprey table.
  11. btavis Active Member

    I think I have a love/hate feeling about the Russian stuff. True to Russian style they are the military miniature manifestation of Faberge eggs. Very roccoco stylistically. No one could take away from the exquisite craftsmanship of the painting and I am sure that is compelling reason for their popularity. I think I hate them because they are boring. It becomes like listening to the drone of an obscure seventeenth century minuet - pyrotechnically exucuted yet totally predictatble ornate flourishes that become monotonous wallpaper.

    It reminds me of when a classically trained musician tries to play jazz. All the notes are there but there is no SOUL!
  12. mahross New Member

    Bob - That is a great term for the Russian work, a Faberge Egg!!

  13. dario966 New Member

    In my humble opinion you are doing the greatest disservice to the Russian art of figure painting by labelling this working painting style a 'Faberge Egg.' Perhaps it is out of ignorance of the Russian art as a whole, which is nothing new and generally very typical when the Eastern European(Slavic) subjects come to be discussed by the Westerners (North Americans and Western Europeans).
    But the Russian current figure paining style is most likely firmly based in the Russian art and folk tradition, as it has much to do with the Russian medieval icon painting and the folk art of the 17-18th centuries or even earlier. Especially the great Russian lacquer box painting art (begining in 18th century) is almost the direct predecessor of this style seen on the today's Russian figures. Back then Russian folk miniaturist created beautiful miniature receations of their folk legends and tales with a style not dissimilar to the Vityaz figures et al.
    The miniature Russian painting style is neither Roccoco nor boring, but then the boring aspect is just a matter of an opinion :)

    On the other hand we could, without much hesitation, call most of the current Western figure painting style an 'Osprey style.' :)

    on the Lacquer box art http://russianamericancompany.com/info/russianlacquerbox.htm

    on the Faberge Egg
  14. mahross New Member

    Dariusz - I meant no disservice to Russian art. I meant it in jest. I agree some of the western work could be described as 'Osprey style.'

  15. dario966 New Member

    hey Ross,
    I thought it was but a jest but then you know here some things are taken seriously and we could have our Russian friends charging the Planetfigure.com headquarters, it would have been another 'Grozny' battlefield...figures flying, posts mixed up, paint splashed ...horror and dispair :)
  16. Fantomas A Fixture

    Hi guys,

    I must say that you should think about a reson why we paint miniatures and why Russian painters working for Vityaz do so. For us it is a hobby, a passion. We can spend two months on searching info about uniforms, weapons, battles, etc.

    For Russians it is a job. From 9h to 17h. They are payed for each painted miniature, do I, do you? As a result, they cannot spend a lot of time trying to make their miniatures historicly accurate. Their goal is not to creat a perfet miniature but perfectly painted. Their goal is to sell their miniatures. This is why all they need is an outstanding painting technique. This is why their banners and cloths are incredibly painted and faces are ... let's say, so-so.

    Off top: Dariusz, was nice to meet you at WE. I did not forget about your request for the info about Russian XV c. army uniforms, but I am about to move to a new house and all magazines are packed already.

    For now: Viskovatov - armor/weapons/uniforms from 800 to 1700

  17. PJ Deluhery Active Member

    Historical accuracy be damned; I love the Russian works. If they bend history a bit to show off, so what? The works are masterfully done and should be recognized as such. A balance of history and art is what makes a great piece, IMHO.

    I think Bob's Faberge Egg analogy is pretty accurate... as they both create a sense of wonder and amazement when viewed in person.

    Frankly, if I could do that level of work, I would look for every opportunity to show it off. This is not to say that other styles are not worthy of praise, but let's not let what is ultimately a matter of taste become a vehicle to diminish the obviously extraordinary work done in this style. There's room for all in this artform.
  18. garyjd Well-Known Member

    I do not think that a diservice is done to the painters of these pieces that are masterfully done, are more than likely in most instances inacurrate from a historical standpoint. If a lot of the subjects were painted in the manner that reflected their rank in civilian/miliary service most would not be clothed in such dazzling uniforms or clothing to begin with. These pieces are meant to captivate the viewer enough to make them want to own them. Maybe some just look at these as works of art, just like a Fabrege. ~Gary("ignorant Westerner")
  19. captnenglish Well-Known Member

    They are certainly art. I only wish I could paint like that, hell I can't paint a stock figure with half a dozen color references in front of me, but I find artistic license to that degree a distraction.
  20. renarts Active Member

    We can only speculate as to what drives or inspires the Russian figure painters. Until we hear from one directly and can ask simple questions like "why did you paint it this way?" the only disservice we offer them is speculating as to their inspiration, be it artistic, nostalgic or monetary. Other than that, I think it comes down to a case of either you like it and buy it or don't and admire it.

    Technicaly,I think they are the best when it comes to portraying brocades and finely detailed fabric. As has been said before, their facial stuff is quite common. Good, but not on the same level of their fabric portrayal. But I must add the caveat of art is subjective and subject to each individuals aesthetic. In short and in a more earthy tone...one man's art is anothers graffitti.

    Caravaggio and medieval, renaissance etc painters painted for their patrons. The more color and lavish detail they put into their work the more they were paid. Also it is a common practice to put identifiable clothing and armor on figures in paintings to make a closer assoicative reference. i.e. soldiers are more easily recognized as soldiers if they are wearing contemporary armor. If you look at alot of the 15thc. Lombardic manuscripts dealing with classical mythology they put them in fanciful classical (roman and greek) costume and armor. albeit sightly styleized but still in a refernce and conotation that is easily recognized as ancient by those having access to these manuscrpts and codexes. Conversely artists from these periods would put characters in antique clothing, out of style, or fanciful to illustrate a juxtaposition and create a sense of "wrongness" or tension. Reference Jan Joest's painting of The Arrest of Christ c. 1500, his soldiers hold contemproary weapons but wear Levintine turbans, an Eastern European jacket and german particolored hose, the idea is to contrast between the secular and the profane.

    Histrocism in art is not consistent. Uccelo was content to paint SPQR on the shield of contemporary 15thc. soldiers in a martyrdom scene. Contracts with artists did not specify the period scenes should be set, it was up to them and based upon the histrocist bias of the culture they were working in. The direction of Michael Pacher, in an alterpiece comission of a depiction of St George, explained only that the "saints should be armed befiting knights, gilded anfd silvered as needed, and that the "paynims"be given fanciful and mismatched fittings or ensembled with antiquated or fetures long since superceded." Artists would then use what ever reference available to do so. Including extant roman, greek, or previous periods present in artwork, sculpture or other means. (ref Hale, artists and warfare in the renaissance)

    They did what may very well be attributed to the current russian fgure painters. By these depictions, they bring the imagination to a new level and away from the sterotypical depictions that were bland and or so detail oriented as to be mind dulling.

    I am a little confused though by dariusz statement that this style of painting can be attributed to 18thc styles and takes its inspriation from there. How does this relate to TE Lawrence and his arabic costume? Or periods earlier than then or outisde of Russia. Much of the medieval subject matter they paint can be somewhat overdone as 13thc. english and french medieval soldiers as well as knights wore few brocades as jupons, surcoats and undertunics. A quick refernce of manuscrpts such as the Grande Chronique of france, the Macejowski Bible (actually a mid 13thc french illuminated manuscrpt of the olde testament). the Bedford Book of hours and other compilations of Dutch, french, english, german and spanish codexes and manuscripts show clearly that the clothing was rather plain. Now later periods are a different thing and the russian figure style of painting lavish brocades are well suited for later 14th and 15thc jupons. I don't think you can compare eastern european and western european clothing. its apples and oranges. Although there are some similarities, and crossovers, I think there are distinct differences that cannot be compared.

    as for an Osprey style... well Angus Mcbride, George Embleton and others have gotten a pretty good grasp of western european medieval clothing. Since much of their same source is extant examples of this clothing. Reference HMSO MoL Medieval textiles, HMSO, MoL Dress Accessories and you will find much of their artistic interpretation supported. I don't see an equal comparison nor is it fair to denounce either style as better or worse than the other.

    What it may come down to is simply a means of what is appealing. To you, or in a mercenary sense, a broader market that is wowed by these figures. It may not be right, nor is it wholly wrong in some cases. The difference is if you are willing to buy the figure for its artistic value or its historical value. Its not often I see figures judged on their historical accuracy. If that were the case, there are alot of "Templars" out there wearing Hospitaler, Santiago, and Teutonic livery and carrying heraldry that is 300 years out of date. Or not appropriate at all.

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