As with any army of the 17th century, that of the Ottoman Empire was largely run and lead by the aristocracy, although some of common origin could still achieve high rank on merit. When the sultan lead his army in person, the headquarters naturally centred on him, but even in the absence of the commander in chief, the senior officers would delight in displaying their wealth and power in their clothing. Indeed the Kanun-I Teshrifat, the 'Law of Ceremonies', laid down very strict rules about what clothing could be worn by anyone in a particular position or social class, defining not just the cut, but also the fabric, colour and ornamentation. Such regulation was not unique to Ottoman society of course, but anyone visiting an Ottoman headquarters on campaign must have witnessed a dazzling spectacle of colour and finery.
Many command sets of recent years have included not only officers but also flags, musicians, support services and so on, but this set from Mars is less comprehensive. On the top row we find a selection of Janissaries, the Sultan’s elite Household troops, which have been modelled before, but here they are in parade or court dress, resplendent with enormous plumes on their headdress. This would not be how they went into battle, and none of these poses look particularly combative, although we found some of them a little difficult to understand such as the man holding a large axe horizontally. We assume they are for the general security of the headquarters, and have been properly done here.
The second row is harder to interpret. Each man is dressed in a very different style, so they seem to be representatives of various bodies within the Army. The first man, holding the Hungarian shield and looking very much like he is in a fight, does not seem to belong to any obvious headquarters unit. He wears mail and a cuirass, and a helmet, and while waving a sword he is also armed with a bow and arrows. The second man is also armed with sword, and bow, and we assume he is part of an imperial bodyguard unit. The third by his headgear looks to be part of some imperial unit such as the Ic-oglan, who were pages to the Sultan and staffed by young officers. The fourth may well simply be a senior officer with his long gown and extravagant headpiece. Mars makes no attempt to identify these or anything in this set, but nothing here looks out of place for the period.
The final row is where we have put the core of the headquarters; the senior officers. Again the mark of such a man was in the finery and expanse of his clothing, and in the ornamentation he could display, although there may have been rules restricting even this high level of society. The first is wearing some armour, but certainly looks rather too portly to do any fighting, and is much too well dressed to be an ordinary soldier. Equally the man next to him has a very large turban and more elaborate clothes, both sure signs of great seniority. The mounted man is the same, and could even pass for the sultan himself. He holds a very unconvincing mace but is otherwise an impressive image.
The presence of the last figure is helped by the fact that he is mounted. The Ottomans were famous for the richly decorated horses and trappings, and this one is no exception. His pose is very odd, since he is presumably either standing or walking, but just as bad is that the figure with his robes is about twice the length of the saddle on the animal, so stands no hope of ever being placed on it. If fact as his legs are too close together he hovers a good distance above the saddle, so could not have reached it even if he had been small enough to fit it.
That is pretty typical of the quality of the sculpting here, which is about as dreadful as Mars usually attain. Detail is basic and the figures are dumpy, poorly proportioned and just plain ugly. The poses are all quite flat, though on some this is not a problem, but there is a very considerable amount of flash in some places, particularly around the horse, which is no fine specimen of the breed itself. The usual problem areas such as hands and faces are really bad, but nowhere could be described as fair. The rider and horse represent the only assembly, yet is about as poor as it can be, so no quality on show here.
It would have been nice to see some of the other aspects of command such as standards and music, but everything here more or less qualifies for a headquarters set like this. The poses are static, which is appropriate, and flat, with is sometimes reasonable and sometimes poor. However the Mars sculpting seriously detracts from any appeal this set might have had, and basic errors like the saddle and rider are hard to understand from a manufacturer who has had more than one hundred products to practice on so far. The net effect then is that a set that could have been spectacular and very attractive is very far from either.