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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Peter Laing question

Just as the 'West Lothian question' isn't just about West Lothian, in fact, isn't about the West Lothians in any direct sense at all, so this, the 'Peter Laing question', isn't really about M. Laing (sorry, went French there - it's this Chasse du Pape wine), Mr Laing. Since my last post, and the kind comments made about it (thanks, chaps!), I've been wondering what we/I think of when I think of a 'good' figure. So, I opened my cupboard and took out a random handful of the figures therein. Being a random selection, it contained three figures with the same pose (officers with walking sticks), and, given my prediliction for light troops, three of those, and, you will be unsurprised to learn, a fellow with a clay! The selection is biased however, as they are all in 20mm or 28mm, as these sizes reflect my more recent collections, with older figures tending to 15mm. So, assuming I liked these figures enough in the first place to spend my Maria Theresas on them, what have I got:

The three chaps with walking sticks - Spencer Smith, Copplestone, and Revell. As can be seen from the paint finish, two are in the 'traditional' style, one in a more contemporary fashion (leaving on one side the satin varnish). For me, the Revell figure stands out - the officer's deportment is the thing. Nonchalant, poised, self-aware, despite the enemy's efforts to unsettle him with counter-battery fire. The Copplestone figure - the key here is that he has an individuality worthy of a first rate graphic novel. And the Spencer Smith, here tradition carries it off - he appeals to my conservatism (note, please, the lower case 'c'). Now, the light bobs:

Perry, Spencer Smith, Perry. Enough has been said about the Perrys, and I forbear to provoke, but these are two fine figures - it is their pose that does it, I think. There are strong echoes of Chappell, pere and fils, here, those two excellent illustrators who have brought so much of the Eighteenth Century alive in our Ospreys. The Spencer Smith, however, catches the eye for his animation - here is a determined fellow, debouching from the woodlands in a surprise advance on the enemy outpost.

Finally, the fellow with the clay:

Wonderful. I often pose him with one of his comrades on my star fort walls, wondering what they are doing in British North America. But, at the least, the tobacco is not in short supply.

I'm not sure what all that adds up to. There is poise, character, animation. Are these the secrets? Perhaps an analogy might be between the paintings of Charles Spencleyah and, say, Gaugin. I wouldn't mind a work by either hanging on my wall, but they are two quite different things. Horses for courses, I suppose.


  1. Interesting post and comparisons- splendid chaps all in their own way.
    Afraid I can't recall if I sold the Legion or gave it away but it has gone .
    Horses for courses re figures says it all. I must say I am enjoying the gleanings from your cabinet of curiosoties- what else is lurking there? I can't wait!

    1. Gleanings is the word - odd fellows who have drifted in, plus larger armies still being built. And I will have to return to the loft where the older fellows languish. Watch this space.

  2. Spencer Smith the 30mm of the Peter Laing world !

    1. Indeed! And I love the brave fellows as the swagger off, rank and file.