'French Light Cavalry' is pretty vague really. Napoleon’s light cavalry was made up of hussars, chasseurs, lancers and others at various times, so we need to be a bit more specific. What we have here is chasseurs à cheval, of which there were a great many regiments during the Napoleonic Wars. One feature of these troops is that their appearance changed several times during this period, so we need to begin with a closer examination of the uniform in this set.
The role of the chasseurs was much the same as hussars, and prior to the founding of the empire their uniform was very hussar in style too, with a dolman being the main garment, but none of these figures wear one. Starting in 1805 the dolman was replaced by a coatee similar to that of other branches of the army, and this is the garment we find depicted here. With long tails and pointed lapels revealing the waistcoat it is of standard cut and has been properly shown on these figures. Beginning in 1808 a short-tailed coat known as the Kinski was introduced (see the HaT Napoleonic French Line Chasseurs for this uniform), and from 1813 the similar habit-veste became regulation, but all these garments took several years to become standard, so at any moment more than one might be seen worn at the same time within a unit. Nonetheless this uniform dates the figures to between 1805 and around 1810, although exceptionally they could be used for a later date.
As with the coat so the rest of the uniform has been correctly done on these figures. All the troopers wear overalls on their legs, and most wear a tall shako with pompon which was normal campaign dress, although it would have been nice if they had also been given a plume, which was sometimes worn in the field, particularly earlier in the period. Some of the waistcoats seem to have lace, which was also common. In this set the trumpeter has been given a surtout rather than the coatee, which is reasonable. The officer (first figure on top row) has correctly been given a colpack (busby) and a single fringed epaulette to denote his rank. Like many officers he probably has much rich decoration on his shoulder belt, and so has elected to protect it with a leather cover, which was common practice. In imitation of the elite grenadiers of the infantry some squadrons of the chasseurs were labelled as elites and the second figure on the top row is the sole representative of this group. In an army where prestige was everything these men were easily recognised by their colpacks and fringed epaulettes as well as devices too small to concern us here. In short, all the uniforms are fine.
The chasseurs carried a curved light cavalry sabre and a musketoon suspended from a belt over the left shoulder. All these figures have the correct sabre although two troopers are missing their musketoon. All have the crossbelt with ammunition pouch - even the trumpeter, which is correct. Most also have a bayonet scabbard next to their sword scabbard, which was correct by 1813 but sources are less clear about the earlier years.
The horses include some fairly poor poses but they have one more obvious failing. Throughout the period the chasseurs wore a white sheepskin edged with wolves-teeth over the saddle, and the officers wore a full cloth shabraque. However in this set only three of the horses have the correct troopers arrangement, while all the rest have that of the officer - the exact reverse of the correct numbers.
The poses of the figures are anything but varied. In fact amongst the troopers there are really only two - one with the sword over the head and one with it to the side. To make matters worse neither are the correct pose for the charge, which both the horses and the box artwork suggest, so it must be said the poses, while OK in themselves, and a very poor crop which severely limit their accurate use.
The sculpting is pretty nice, with nice sharp detail and clean lines. However it would seem the same sculptor has done Italeri’s Napoleonic French Infantry, which means the bizarre feature of all the men having no chin is repeated here. The guidon is engraved on both sides and has been done correctly, although it seems light cavalry rarely took their eagle into battle for fear of losing it. One problem is with the sword scabbards, which are hoisted up beside the waist as if they were being carried while dismounted. When mounted they should be much lower than this, and this may have been no more than a convenience for the sculptor. Also the long tails of the coatee have been sculpted sticking straight out over the valise, but the valise is very low on all the horses so the effect, which looks rather stiff and unnatural anyway, is that the tails are clear of the valise and apparently project into thin air. Finally the men have a very odd straight-legged gait which both looks unnatural and means they do not match the saddle, therefore requiring gluing to stay put. That apart however the sculpting is OK and there is no problem with flash.
The height of these figures is between 23mm and 24mm, making them a shade too tall but nothing serious. With Italeri’s recent problems in this department it is nice to see they can still get the scale right when they make the effort. In general this is a very usable set, and one that fills a gap as this uniform has not been modelled before, although we would have liked a good deal more variety in the poses and some of the more outlandish horse poses need to be scrapped. If it were not for the wrong horse furniture this would be a pretty fair set, but as it is some horse swapping with other sets will be required.