Throughout much of the 19th century there was a steadily rising tide of enthusiasm for a united Italy, but various revolts in the different Italian states had failed to achieve anything of note. The momentous year of 1848 saw many revolutions in Europe, and in Italy it was the people of Venice and Milan that rose and expelled their Austrian occupiers. The Kingdom of Sardinia (comprising Piedmont and the island of Sardinia) supported these rebellions and declared war on Austria, but after several defeats was forced to sign a peace treaty the following year and pay damages. This set is the first to depict the troops of Piedmont in this, the first Italian War of Independence (although the box omits to say so), and it also includes some Bersaglieri, a unit that saw its first combat in 1848 having been created only 12 years earlier.
The fashion in military uniforms at this time was all things French, so like many nations that of Piedmont closely followed the French model. The troops wore a double-breasted tunic and shortish shako while the legs were covered by comfortable trousers with short gaiters over their boots. This is the uniform we find on these figures, although as the set title suggests there are two distinct units here. The Bersaglieri are those with the round hats - three on the top row plus the bugler and one officer. All the rest are regular infantry, and for some reason these all wear the single breasted greatcoat. Not that this is incorrect, but it seems to be a device for helping to differentiate the regular and Bersaglieri infantry as the latter have no coat. In any event all the regulars look fine in terms of uniform.
The five Bersaglieri poses show the uniform better as they have no coat, but the only real difference between them and the others is the distinctive low-crowned, wide-brimmed round hat with the mass of feathers plume on the right side, which is still worn with pride today. Once again these uniforms are correctly done apart from the vaira hat, which has a squared crown when a domed crown is correct.
Information is hard to find on Italian equipment of the time but we found no problem with what these models are carrying. The rifles too look reasonable although are hard to identify precisely. As light infantry the Bersaglieri carried a shorter rifle - the 'La Marmora' carbine, and like other rifle units they were issued a sword bayonet to compensate for the lack of reach of their firearms. However all these Bersaglieri seem to have standard rifles with ordinary socket bayonets, which is not correct. Also as an aside all the bayonets are fixed to protrude above the barrel, which would have greatly impeded the aim of these men, particularly as their very name implies a high degree of accuracy!
Taken as a whole all the poses here are pretty good. All the usual favourites are present apart from a marching figure, and the poses are very nicely animated. The man bayoneting on the top row is particularly effective. The bugler in the third row is in an unusual pose for this hobby yet the pose is great since buglers spent much more time running than they did playing when in battle. Beside him is a very unusual piece - a man about to hurl a barrel down. The figure is full of life and very well done, and there is only one copy of this figure in each box, so something a bit different, which makes a welcome change. The two officers are the most lively of the lot and again great poses. The man with the flag is yet another unusual pose, and will probably stimulate a mixed reaction from customers. The pose is interesting and different, and quite believable, yet of course the flag is not really visible like this, which is what the flag is there for. Also some customers will want to have an upright flag for their troops, so may have to convert either the last figure on the top row or the first in the second. We liked this bearer pose, but some probably will not.
For the most part the sculpting is very sound, with good detail and fine proportions. Lucky Toys have published pictures of the masters, which confirms their quality, but some problems have occurred in transferring them to the mould. As a result there are several areas of excess plastic or where detail disappears, such as the bugler, who has a triangular left arm (and also has a left foot which has failed to fill completely). The most obvious problem area is the feathers on the Bersaglieri, which must be a nightmare to sculpt but even so, they are not done particularly well here. Flash is also a bit of a problem, although not too bad. Several of the figures require assembly, which usually means separate arms (or forearms) and weapons. These are a bit tricky sometimes but fit well enough although everything will have to be glued. This also allows some options, so for example the last figure in the top row could have his separate rifle reversed so he is using the butt instead. The manufacturer has made this more complex than it need to be. The last figure in the second row has a separate right forearm and rifle when these could easily have been one just piece.
As we have said the detail is good and clear. The flag is engraved with the arms of the House of Savoy, so depicts the tricolour flag shown on the box. This flag was adopted by Piedmont-Sardinia in 1848, and correctly has the arms with a crown, making it a battle flag.
Although there is a bit of work these are mostly very good figures. The process of making the mould has introduced some problems which cause these figures to suffer. Another example is the fallen soldier. He looks great in our picture but naturally the mould cannot get behind him so the whole body blends into the earth, which looks ugly. Why we ask was this man given a base? If he had been done with no base like most such figures there would have been no problem. Finally we should highlight that these are rather too tall for mid-19th century Italians, but if you can live with that then this set has many good points as well as some problems.