223 : Austrian Guns

I had painted a number of Austrian artillery crews (see Post 108) but they were left without their guns. Back in 2015 there was a pile of Austrian guns parked up, primed and ready for the painting that I’d never got round to doing.

I hadn’t been unaware of the controversy around the colour of Austrian guns. The main theme being that the Austrians painted or didn’t paint the bronze barrels of their guns black. David Hollins in his Austrian Napoleonic Artillery that was published by Osprey in 2003 states clearly on page 15 that they did paint the barrels – with the book’s illustrations giving the dark gun barrels a hint of a bronze sheen.

Pendraken Austrian guns.

It’s certainly true that regulations dictated that the iron parts of Austrian guns should be painted black. However, Austrian field guns, as I said, were cast in bronze. There was no real reason to paint bronze barrels as bronze is not prone to rust. That doesn’t mean to say that orders can’t be misinterpreted, however. Any painting was done by the troops themselves, the regiments and depots. They could get things wrong and there exist illustrations of black barrels being used in the field. But there are also illustrations of grey barrels similar to bronze, bronze that has been exposed to air.

In the end, it would appear that there were a number of options available for the Archduke Charles of this project and that none of them could be accused of being wrong. They were:

  • Shiny bronze gun barrels straight from the caster, or recently cleaned!
  • Bronze barrels with gunpowder stains.
  • Bronze barrels gone dull grey, having been exposed to air.
  • Gun barrels painted black, by mistake or on purpose.
  • Gun barrels painted black but the paint has blistered and peeled off in patches.

In the end, the choice I made was to paint the barrels of my first three guns black first, then a brush over with the darkest bronze I had, before finishing with a black wash.

Next up were the gun carriages. The Austrians painted these with a colour that was a mix of yellow ochre and black – as did the French. Not that they ended up with the same result. Perhaps the ochre pigments were different. The percentages certainly were. Somehow the French arrived at a colour often described as olive green, while the Austrians a light ochre colour referred to as Imperial yellow.

I actually had Foundry’s triad of paints specially designed for the job in hand – Austrian Gun Ochre (107). I must admit, though, that the Foundry’s basic triad of paint colours, Raw Linen, was, perhaps, equally usable. But these triads were very green in their deeper tones. Importantly, they didn’t match the illustrations in David Hollins’ book. Now, sometimes the size of a model can get a  painter out of a predicament and there is almost universal agreement (although I, perhaps perversely, don’t share this belief) that the smaller the model, the brighter and lighter the colours should be. So I gave the lightest and least green ochre a try. Using this paint – Austrian Gun Ochre Light 107C and (almost by chance) giving it a wash of Citadel contrast paint Skeleton Horde achieved a pretty satisfactory result.

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