This set claims to depict Landsknechts for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but in fact the Landsknecht period was from around 1480 to the later sixteenth century, and the appearance of these figures dates them to before 1550 or so. During that time these men certainly made a name for themselves, proving very effective soldiers, though other aspects of their reputation were considerably less savoury.
The set contains three identical sprues of 10 poses, five of Doppelsoldners and five of arquebusiers. The Doppelsoldners were the most experienced men in the regiment, and were paid more than the common Landsknecht soldier. All five depicted here are armed with a sword, and all five are clearly in combat. Naturally the arquebusiers are armed with the arquebus, a handgun fitted with a matchlock that was the forerunner to the musket. Three are firing in very similar pose, with the other two reloading. None of these 10 poses are particularly energetic, but they are all reasonable.
As regards costume, there can be few soldiers to match the Landsknecht. Their flamboyant clothing was considered outrageous even at the time, and though there was no uniform as such, these figures display all the characteristics of their incredible appearance. The clothing with all its slashes, the hose and in particular the enormous hats are all present, as are more subtle aspects of their clothing like the Kuhmäule or cow's mouth footwear that covered little more than the sole of the foot.
The hats come as separate items, and for each sprue of 10 men there is a sprue of 12 hats. Each man has a peg on the top of his head, and a hole in the middle of his back. Each hat has a hole through the middle of the crown, and a peg. Thus the figure can wear it either on his head or hanging on his back. However, if the hat is on the head then the hat peg must be trimmed off and the man still has a large hole in his back. Equally, if the hat is worn on the back, then the head peg must be removed and the hat will still have the hole right through the centre, so while this is an interesting choice for the customer, either way will still leave a hole that some may feel needs filling. At this time, whether soldier or civilian one very rarely went bareheaded, yet all but two of these men seem to have nothing but hair on the head if the hat is not worn. The remaining two wear a coif (a close fitting cap), which could be worn by itself or under the hat. The hats themselves are all of the barett type, essentially a large beret with extravagant feathers for decoration. However we felt that a small number of these feathers were too large even for this subject, and they also had the effect of making the man top-heavy and quite likely to topple over, especially since the bases are very small and not always flat.
Doppelsoldners carried two types of sword (at the same time). One was the short Katzbalger, which was worn on a belt at the waist and was almost horizontal. The other was the enormous Zweihänder, a two-handed sword that could smash through pikes and halberds and sometimes had an elaborate hilt. Both these weapons are accurately represented here, although unfortunately there is no evidence that the serrated blade found on two of the swords was ever actually used in combat - such blades were for show and offered no advantages over the straight blade but were more difficult to produce. The arquebus in this set is short, and no-one is using a rest, which is fine. That could suggest a date of before around 1520, when the longer musket was introduced which necessitated the use of a rest, though the short arquebus remained popular long after that time. Most of the arquebusiers carry a bandolier with the measured amounts of powder that were to be a common sight in later decades.
These figures have lots of detail, which is just as well given the very ornate costume, and it has been crisply done. There was no flash at all, and the anatomy is OK although heads are on the large side. We felt the hats were both a success and a failure. They worked as separate pieces in that they could be much more accurately made that way, and they fitted well on the peg and in the holes provided. However like everyone else the Landsknechts always went into battle wearing a hat or helmet, and since all these figures are in battle the option of putting the hat on the back was not worth the cost of having a hole in the man's back (though you could always use the discarded hat peg to roughly fill it). Also some of the particularly over-the-top efforts should have been replaced by some of the simpler caps that were also often worn. The poses are not particularly thrilling, perhaps since all of them have both feet firmly on the ground, and hardly a knee is bent. Still, this is certainly a set that stands out from the crowd, and a fine effort for a very difficult subject.
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Landsknechte (another name: Lancknechte) is a formation of German mercenary infantry that was established in the 15th century, and gained its greatest fame in the 16th century. The father of the Lancknecht units is considered to be Emperor Maximilian I Habsburg, who formed the first unit of this type in 1487. At the beginning of the 16th century, the basic organizational unit of the Lancknechts was a regiment, consisting of 10 to 16 companies, approx. 400 men each. The vast majority of soldiers of this formation were armed with white weapons - a wheel and a slash. The equipment included, first of all, spades (up to 5.5 meters long), halberds and swords, both one-handed (e.g. katzbalger) and one-and-a-half and two-handed swords. Crossbows were used as additional weapons, and later arquebuses and muskets. Defensive armament includes various types of helmets and breastplates. Many of the soldiers of this formation did not carry defensive weapons. On the battlefield, the Lanckernechs most often took an offensive stance, striving to engage enemy units and disrupt their formation. The formation was famous on the one hand for good discipline on the battlefield and often bravery in combat, but also ruthlessness and large-scale robberies (for example, Sacco di Roma from May 1527). Lancknechts took a very active part, first of all, in the Italian wars (1495-1559), but also in the peasant war (1524-1525) in Germany and the First Northern War (1563-1570).