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"Italian Wars colour schemes question" Topic

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Mr Medici Inactive Member18 Mar 2017 6:47 p.m. PST

Hullo folks,

New to this board and renaissance wargaming. For my first little project I'm working towards a couple of DBR armies in 6mm for solo play and have settled on the Italian Wars because of the glamour, basically.

In terms of painting stuff, I gather that there was rarely any uniform as such, and also that soldiers would wear parti-coloured outfits. As I understand it the different colours were sometimes connected to heraldry (of the man or the aristocrat who he might be fighting for) and sometimes in Italy showed membership of families, clans and other factions. Also the bold clashing colours were a sign of wealth?

I've got a few questions off the back of that though, and wondered if anyone could advise.

1) So clothing is very varied; but, within a big clump of pikemen, say, would we expect to see smaller sub-clumps of similarly coloured outfits, or would it vary literally from one soldier to the next?

2) Is any group particularly famous for one colour that I should know about? Is there a nice internet page that gathers this info together (you never know)

3) Did anyone just turn up wearing earth-tones or was it all brightly coloured?

4) I want to paint the plate armour on my gendarmes etc black because I think it shows up better than metallics at 6mm scale. How likely is black armour?

Personal logo herkybird Supporting Member of TMP18 Mar 2017 7:53 p.m. PST

This is my thought, from a long time ago when I was very keen on the Italian wars;
1) I don't think in most forces, there would have been identical units as such. Swiss armies had a tendency to dress in their cantonal colours, to some extent, so may be an exception. It is possible some heraldic style was used in household troops.
2) The only properly uniform unit I can think of in this period is the Romagnol pikemen used by the Venetians- who were in red slashed white.Some Landsknecht troops may have??
3) I guess some of the town militia troops might have been dressed in dull colours??? – but the majority would have dressed to impress, I think.
4) Black armour was very in vogue amongst many Gendarmes, though the Italians in particular may have retained 'white' armour.

Rich Bliss18 Mar 2017 10:46 p.m. PST

Most infantry were mercenaries and would dress in whatever the individual liked. So completely random colored dress would be the rule. An exception would potentially be officers and flag bearers. They might be in some kind of livery representing the sponsors coat of arms.

For armor, I limit the blackened armor to well off gendarmes and the like.

Personal logo Swampster Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2017 3:53 a.m. PST

There are various examples of French wearing livery of various sorts though I think I've only seen gendarmes and 'archers' shown.

Black armour would depend n the date. I think even as late as Pavia, white armour was normal. Sometimes, armour was gilded.
link has a lot of info.

rct7500119 Mar 2017 4:35 a.m. PST

Plenty of ideas and inspiration here


Puster Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2017 5:29 a.m. PST

Some companys were labeled with colors, with Black and White being the most typical. This usually has not much to do with their outfits, tough on occasion they got paid in cloth.

Where units came from a town or region they often were clad in the typical colors – (coming from a town, or a Kanton in the case of the Swiss) but that would rarely look like a uniform (eg. Cesare Borgias Romagnol troops were a much noted exception, with red and yellow quartered and "Cesare" in black upon breast and back).

Personal logo Swampster Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2017 6:09 a.m. PST

For Italians from a generation before the start of the Italian Wars, see TMP link

Fashions changed in the intervening years but the pictures give some idea of what might be used near the start of the wars – the use of quartering doesn't seem too different to Cesare's.

GurKhan19 Mar 2017 9:12 a.m. PST

Machiavelli's new Florentine militia (from 1506) were uniformed in red and white – according to Christopher Hibbert, "The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici", a white doublet and hose half red and half white.

For French Ordonnance men-at-arms and "archers" dressed in the colours of their captains, see pictures at link and link

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2017 10:12 a.m. PST

The Bande Nere generally gets painted up in black, which they might actually have worn. At the other end of the wars, I'd be surprised in the armor of Hawkwood's White Company was blackened--which suggests that armor mostly was, then and there.

As has been mentioned, city colors and heraldic colors--mostly in cheap dyes, but not necessarily for mercenaries, who aren't saving money for their old ages--or even paying for clothes, often enough.

But don't neglect the power of flags, especially in large numbers. I'm tending more and more to put smaller figures on larger stands and making sure there are lots of flags to go around.

So--as an example--a Papal army with a lot of dingy off-white and dull yellow among the rank and file, bright yellow and clean white among noblemen and the more expensive mercenaries, and crossed-keys flags everywhere? You see the idea.

And remember this is a game, not a historical reconstruction. If we didn't want them to look good,we'd play with cardboard counters.

Puster Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2017 4:32 a.m. PST

While being painted up in black, neither the Italian "Bande Nere" nor the "Black Legion", "Black Band" or "Black Guard" were ever noted for looking specifically black or dark (any reference to that would be most welcome). I found just one reference to the Great (or Black) Guard around 1498 that they got clothing in black. That said, it is possible that they did favour black as a color in honor to their unit name, so I would use that as the dominant color for the unit.

For the Italians the name afaik refers to their banners rather then clothes – though Giovanni allegedly blackened the armor of his Gensdarmes for less visibility (not sure how true that story is).

Don Sebastian22 Mar 2017 3:50 p.m. PST

Puster, were did you find references to the Black clothing of the Great (or Black) Guard?

Personal logo Swampster Supporting Member of TMP22 Mar 2017 4:20 p.m. PST

"Machiavelli's new Florentine militia (from 1506) were uniformed in red and white according to Christopher Hibbert, "The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici", a white doublet and hose half red and half white."

This painting
is from 1480s Florence so may be the kind of thing.

Puster Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2017 3:10 p.m. PST

I think it was somewhere in the 6 volume edition of Ubbo Emmius history of Frisia (written in the late 16th century – he was a remarkable historian for his time, using references and cross checking as one of the first historians). Its original in latin and there is, alas, only a German translation. I fear I am unable to remember the exact passage and would really only like to dig into the books if you really need it. From memory I believe it was in the campaigns of 98/99. Regarding this unit – or the general warfare in Frisia between 1475 and 1534 – it is a, perhaps the most valuable resource.

Mr Medici Inactive Member23 Mar 2017 7:00 p.m. PST

Thanks folks, all very useful.

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