The French army had included Zouaves since their formation in the 1830s in North Africa, and although by the time of the Crimean War the soldiers were all European they still wore a very African-looking costume which made them particularly conspicuous on the battlefield. Their many gallant actions during that war brought them worldwide fame, and they were widely imitated in many armies, including both sides in the American Civil War. As with the regular line infantry their uniform barely changed until World War I, when the demands of modern warfare finally doomed the flamboyant costume.
The poses in this set are quite a mixed bunch. Many are fine, and we particularly liked those in the top row, the man lying down and firing, and the first figure on the bottom row clubbing with his rifle. However there are several poses here with arms flailing all over the place, which just does not fit with a 19th century army. Certainly the Zouaves were proud of being different from the rest of the infantry, but they still fought according to the usual French manual, so situations where they might run forward waving rifle and sword/bayonet in the air in this way would have been few indeed. Since the plastic is easy to pose the idea may have been to provide several poses with arms that could be bent, but in reality they can only be bent at the elbow, so there is not much that can be done to improve these poses by bending. Also the two near-identical figures on the bottom row who are falling back wounded are not convincing.
The uniform of the French Zouaves was unmistakeable. A short open jacket (shama) with incredibly baggy trousers (serual) and a fez on the head. The lower legs were covered by gaiters when in the field, and while a turban was sometimes wrapped around the fez this was for full dress only. All the figures here are correctly attired, with the normal French infantry equipment, but are missing the short leather jambieres (we have painted these in on our examples) that should be visible on the upper part of the calf (the figures have full-length gaiters, as shown on the box, which only appear in the 1870s). Most of the poses have some examples with a backpack and some without, and all the packs, which are of the correct style for the Zouaves, are separate. As with their French Infantry Emhar have claimed suitability to both the Crimean and Franco-Prussian wars, and while this is OK for the uniform half the figures have been given the model 1842 rifle (suitable for the Crimea) and half the 1870-era Chassepot, although the differences are obviously hard to see at this scale. Those figures with bayonet fixed have a straight example rather than the Yataghan-bladed type, while those holding it separately have a sword/bayonet version, but again straight-bladed. Finally some of the figures sport beards, which was a privilege peculiar to the Zouaves.
Having produced their French Infantry in an excellent blue we do not understand why the Zouaves were initially made in an unpleasant bright red, but happily later batches were made in a more pleasant and appropriate blue colour. However we can confirm that they are very highly detailed and very well sculpted, with very low levels of flash. As usual with Emhar they have not exaggerated the depth of the detail, as many companies do, so it is very shallow, making the painters job no easier. However everything is there, including engraving for the lace found on the jacket. Weapons in particular are gloriously slender and realistic, and folds in clothing, particularly the baggy trousers, are very realistic. The man clubbing with his musket (first figure in bottom row) has one separate arm to achieve this pose elegantly, but the plastic takes ordinary glue very well so this is not a chore. Also the man lying down and firing has a separate base, but again this presents no problems.
So this is an accurate set (or at least as accurate as one set is likely to get covering so long a period) with excellent sculpting. The fact that the detail is shallow, and hard to see through the vivid plastic colour (if you get the red one) will put some people off, but our main complaint is the several poor poses. One feature we would also highlight is the average height, which at 25mm (1.8 metres) is really too tall for a mid-19th century subject. A set that is very good in parts then, but not without its problems.