Saturday 8 January 2022

Reviews of another of Helion's latest releases.

Napoleonic French Military Uniforms 1798-1814, one of the latest from Helion’s ‘From Reason to Revolution’ series, reproduces the works of Horace and Carl Vernet and Eugene Lami which were first published in book form in 1822 in what represented a milestone in the history of uniformology.

The book begins with a brief history of the Collection des Uniformes which serves as a helpful introduction. Translated and edited by Guy Dempsey, we are presented with a book full of 101 richly coloured images depicting a wide range of uniforms across all arms of the French army, ranging from Generals and the Staff, Infantry, Auxiliary troops, Foreign troops, Line Cavalry, Artillery, Engineers, the imperial Guard, Naval forces and Military Schools. There is also a section on the Army of Orient. Of particular interest to me are the plates depicting uniforms of what are broadly termed Auxiliary troops, but include among others the Garde de Paris, Gendarmerie, Veterans and Invalids. My favourite section is the one depicting the vast array of foreign troops under arms in the French army; Swiss, Irish, Portuguese, Polish, Hanoverians to name but a few. My overall favourite plate is the one depicting an infantryman of the Portuguese Legion, as it’s clear from his face that he really does not want to be there! It is worth remembering that the three artists would all have been personally very familiar with the uniforms they were depicting, and this first-hand knowledge can be seen in the level of detail included in the illustrations.

Many of these images will have been seen before, but probably not all between the covers of a single book, however a significant number are from often underrepresented troop types. The images in the book are all contemporary watercolour copies of the original prints and are reproduced with permission of the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at Brown University, Rhode Island, so it is quite a coup to be able to select 101 for this book. Each image is accompanied by a useful description and the single appendix serves as an index for each of the colour plates.


1 comment:

  1. A really useful review Colin, thanks.
    Such compilations are marvellous, especially if the prints are reproduced well. I have his earlier book of the Martinet prints; similarly great to have them in one place and the tangible nature of a book is more desirable than images on the screen.
    Regards, James