The client for this one is pretty keen on light blue uniforms and particularly Lauzun's Legion in the French contingent in the American War of Independence (aka Revolution, for American readers!). Originally he wanted a Hussarette of the First Legion Etrangere de la Marine to go with his existing painting, Lucille, who represents Lauzun's (Second) Legion, but when I showed him a selection of photos of my model, Ella, he wanted two, one from each Legion, and he made up a background scenario in which to set them.
The Hussarettes project, of course, is more Fantasy Art than History and we can take it anywhere we choose, but the historical military theme is compelling for gentlemen like some of my supporters who love the concept of combining gorgeous uniforms with pretty women. And for me also who likes those two elements but with the added challenge of coming up with decorative art in a plausible setting.
So Francine of the First, and Francoise of the Second, are twin daughters of a French Noble family, who have joined a prestigious organisation for foreign adventures. They are from rich families and natural officer material, and sibling rivalry such as it is, have decided to ply their military trade with different, but related, regiments. Besides which, Francine's favourite colour is yellow, and her twin sister's red! So my client, wondering how to get them in the same place at the same time, wrote:
"I’m thinking that the two have visited a painter to have a studio portrait painted while taking a break from occupation duties in a town that is unscarred by the ongoing war. They have met up in a tavern while their respective sections are detached from their parent Legions for an escort duty or some such. Perhaps the artist met them in the tavern and suggested the idea?"
Can't imagine where he got the idea of an artist persuading random women to pose :-).....but at least it gave me the basis for the composition. Two wine goblets stand drained on the bar of the tavern.....it's so hot in America that naturally the ladies don't wear full hussar uniform of shirt, waistcoat, dolman, and pelisse, but their own comfortable, yet flamboyant, combinations. Inhibitions lessened by the wine, and naturally confident in their status, they loosen their clothing and are determined to give our artist the benefit of their best assets for his art.
Sadly the photographic medium just can't do justice to Francine and Francoise, and only the owner of their painting, and his guests, will get the full lustre of the oil paint rendering the gold and silver officers' lace. But for you, dear blog follower, here are some close ups which might give a better idea.
Now a bit more information about the painting itself. It is on stretched, gessoed canvas, 20 inches x 16 inches and I used a limited palette of 9 Winsor and Newton Artisan water-based oil colours plus Titanium White, they were:
Paynes Grey (my "secret" ingredient for sympathetic shading)
Naples yellow Hue (a basis for skin tones and gold lace)
Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue
Cadmium Yellow Deep Hue
Cadmium Red Hue
After the underpainting is done with thin paint I use an awful lot of Artisan Quick Drying medium which is very rich and glossy and allows juicy effects with good detail. The background was done in a sketchy style though with very little medium and is deliberately muted in tone and detail in order not to fight with the gorgeous uniforms. When it's properly dry it will receive several coats of varnish which will unify the surface sheen.
And that question I always get asked - "How long did it take?" The answer is about 6 hours in the planning and computer mock up stages and another 30 hours in the execution, over about 10 days. And because I'm cheap (at the moment!!) it cost my patron less than half the price of one of Phil Olley's 28mm 18th Century infantry battalions. So it's not just a rich man's obsession to commission your own Hussarette painting. Just email me for a quote without obligation Chris Gregg