The Prussian 5th Regiment of Hussars (von Prittwitz) had long worn the death's head Totenkopf badge by the time their country faced Napoleon at Jena in 1806. The crushing defeat of that year and the subsequent reorganisation of the army saw the regiment split into two - the 1st and 2nd Life (Leib) Hussars - in 1808. Both continued to wear the Totenkopf through to 1815 (although neither participated in the Battle of Waterloo), so it is these two regiments that are represented in this set.
These figures are typical of hussars of the day, and in the main they reflect their subject well. They wear the classic dolman and pelisse, although the latter was usually worn on the body when on campaign rather than slung around the neck as sculpted here. However these men seem ill-prepared for campaign in other ways too. None wear overalls over their breeches, and none wear covers on their shakos, although they have removed their plumes. This gives us the chance to see the carefully sculpted death’s head badge, which is all well and good but authorities agree that this badge was painted onto the cover when in the field. We suspect this lack of cover is to help distinguish these figures from their 'sister' figures in the Prussian Hussars set, but if so then this is at the cost of authenticity. Other problems include small ones like the thin and straight cuffs on the dolman and large ones like the complete absence of carbines.
The horses are the same as those appearing in the aforementioned hussars set, which is fine except that it means they share the same problems. These are some unrealistic stances and a poorly shaped sheepskin cover that lacks the jagged 'wolf's teeth' edging and any sign of the pistols under it. The one standing pose is nice to see, however, amongst all the full-on charging animals.
The poses are fine, with lots of sabre-waving and apparent close-quarter combat. We particularly liked the first figure in the top row, who is leaning out of his saddle to better reach his intended target. However throughout this period no hussar regiment was allowed to carry a flag on campaign, so the man holding this should be converted into something useful or put aside completely.
If you like the best sculpting of Italeri then you will love these figures. They are beautifully done, with masses of crisp, clear detail very much in the style of the best Italeri or the older Esci output. The highly ornate hussar costume is a real challenge at this scale, but while the sculptor has squeezed in as many lines of braid as possible (which is many fewer than actually appeared) the effect is still really nice. Faces are great, and the flying sleeves of the pelisse (another tricky job) are about as well done as can be achieved. The flag is engraved with a design (a pet hate of ours), but since the flag has no place being here this is no loss. Almost no flash to report, and the men fit the horses without difficulty. An excellent sculpting job.
Perhaps the majority of figure sets are guilty of showing their subject too neat and perfect, and often with regulation or parade uniform when the reality was much less attractive. This set certainly shows the hussars at their pristine best, so if you are looking for some great-looking Napoleonic hussars then you won’t go far wrong with these. For those with more of an eye for accuracy though these figures stray too far from the actual appearance of Prussia’s hussars in the field. Great figures certainly, but more useful to those seeking spectacle on the tabletop battlefield than those seeking a genuine historical recreation.