Wednesday 9 October 2013

La Bicocca 1522

La Bicocca 1522

I have to admit the title of the post is slightly misleading. This is not a battle report or even a history of the battle of La Bicocca in 1522. Instead its an excuse for me to show the collection in its entirety for my 50th blog post. When I started this blog I did a post called Hapsburg vs Valois which contained the entire collection as it stood then: . For the 50th one I couldn't resist having a look at what everything I have painted so far looks like when arrayed on the tabletop.
I wanted some kind of theme to the set up and decided for a few of reasons that arraying the two armies for this particular battle in 1522 was a good choice. Firstly at La Biccoca the French, employing large numbers of Swiss Pikemen, around 16,000, and backed by the Venetians faced an Imperialist force containing Spanish, Landsknechts and Papal troops allied with the Milanese. I felt this could kind of justify me getting everything onto the table in one of the various factions although I doubt that the Venetians actually fielded any archers at La Bicocca as I have in this! Secondly I have most of the main commanders flags for this battle so the set up would allow me to show these various characters on the field as well as using lots of my Venetian, Swiss and Milanese Flags. Finally I have a set of earthworks, they seem to feature in most of the early Italian Wars battles, so I could use them to help create the scene. I know there is no sunken road or crisscrossing of irrigation ditches as there was at La Bicocca but they help create a good scene.
So this is the collection as it stands at the moment. There are a few guns and artillery crew that aren't present as well as all the standard bearers that featured in the last post. I think I would have gone overboard on banners if I had had them ready for these photos although in the future I am tempted to set it all up again with twice as many flags which is what I reckon there would be if the other figures had been done! I have tried to copy the set up James Roach did for the battle: . This is only fitting as his was one of the blogs that inspired me to have a go at collecting this period.

View of the Imperialists behind their earthworks

The photos have a pattern of some sorts starting on the Imperialist right flank, held by the Milanese and then working along to the left flank which is secured by an artillery position in front of the farmhouse. They then focus on the French starting with the mounted Crossbowmen and Arquebusiers and Giovanni De' Medicis Black Band on the left and working along to the Venetians on the French right. So following this order the below 3 photos are of the Milanese, mainly Perry Miniatures and figures by The Assault Group.

Milanese Contingent

The Milanese on the Imperialist right

Another view of the Milanese

Inside the earthworks are the Imperialists, with Landsknecht Pike on either side of a Spanish Pike block. The walls of the earthworks are manned by Spanish Arquebusiers and supported by Landsknecht shot just behind them. These troops with fire arms are meant to represent the ranks of arquebusiers that decimated the Swiss pike who became stuck in the sunken road in front of the Imperial position. As well as Spanish, Papal and Landsknecht banners those of the Imperial Commanders Georg von Frundsberg, Lannoy, Colonna and Fernando Francesco D'Avalos can all be seen behind the defences.

From behind the earthworks with the Swiss in the distance

Landsknechts behind Frundsberg

The Imperialist centre

The Imperialists facing two huge blocks of Swiss Pike

Arquebusiers defending the Imperial Earthworks

Georg von Frundsberg in command of the Landsknechts

The earthworks from the front (not sure about the lighting!)

Camp followers behind the earthworks

Spanish Arquebusiers supported by Landsknecht Pike

The Imperial Artillery with the Swiss in the distance

Imperialist Light Horse Skirmishing in front of the defended position

A gun emplacement in front of the country house

The Imperial guns from above

The Imperial left flank.

The two armies deployed

The next set of photos goes through the French army in detail. The troops in the photo below are meant to represent the Black Bands of Giovanni De' Medici. They carry a Medici banner however I am not sure this is what they would have carried or looked like. In Maurizio Arfaioli 's excellent study of these troops, , he explains that although many were Arquebusiers they also had supporting pikes and halberds and that they carried black banners bearing Devils and blasphemous slogans such as "In spite of you Christ"!
Following these light infantry is a large block of 120 Swiss, the one I photographed for a post a couple of months ago. Behind them is Jacques de la Palice with Gendarmes and supporting lighter French lancers. The centre is held by French crossbowmen under Pedro Navarro who by this stage in the Italian wars was no longer a Spanish commander and had entered the employ of France. The Old Glory Landsknecht crossbowmen have been drafted into this rag tag bunch, I think they are my least favourite figures in the collection.

Arquebusiers under Giovanni  de' Medici

Swiss Pike with Mounted Arquebusiers and Crossbowmen on the French left

Swiss Pike block

Jacques de la Palice and his Gendarmes 

The French centre, artillery followed by Crossbowmen under Pedro Navarro

This next Swiss block shown below is even bigger than the other containing 144 Landsknechts who with a simple change of banners have become Reisläufer for the day. The yellow banner with the red cross and black eagles is that of Anne De Montmorency who along with other French noble and gentlemen dismounted and attacked the Imperial defences amongst the Swiss in order to gain honour and glory. This highlights an interesting change in the status of the infantry, probably started by Maximillian when he stood amongst his Landsknechts and shouldered a pike with them. It's hard to imagine the French High nobility doing this kind of thing before the Italian wars, although they fought on foot at times in the Hundred Years War I don't know of examples where they deliberately joined a specific infantry type in order to gain glory.
Behind them fly the banners of Le Chevalier Bayard and Odet de Foix, Vicomte de Lautrec, Lautrec being the French commander at La Biccoca.

The second Swiss block with Anne de Montmorency on foot and amongst the Reisläufer. Bayard and Lautrec are with the Gendarmes behind

The French army from the Venetian position on the French Left

The Venetians

Finally the French right flank is held by the Venetians under the oak tree banner of Francesco Maria Della Rovere, Duke of Urbino. Most of my Stradiots are deployed here along with some Elmeti and Venetian Crossbowmen and Archers. As mentioned above I really doubt these were the type of infantry deployed by the Venetians but I was trying to field everything and they had to fit in somewhere! I think I need more generic style pikemen to represent the Italians and French, I am sure this is a project that will be attempted at some point!
The last few photos are of the whole set up again. I think I need a bigger table if I am going to set it all up but it was interesting to see it all together. I think at some point I need to do a huge siege scene and of course the various takes on Spanish, Venetian, Milanese, French and Imperialist armies that can be made out of the collection. I have a few projects currently lined up and some good ideas for the Perry Plastic Light Horse when they are released so I am afraid at the moment the collection will only continue to grow.

Venetian Horse on the French right flank

The Venetians under Francesco Maria Della Rovere, Duke of Urbino

Venetian Stradiots

The Venetians

Venetian Infantry

The two armies

The battle lines

The Swiss prepare to assault the Imperialist position


  1. Excellent. Always great to see a collection all at once, and this is no exception. Great post.

  2. Magnificent, Oli!

    Time for a game, methinks! :-)


  3. What a fantastic collection. I shall use yours and the photos as inspiration as I build mine up!

  4. Hi,

    Love your collection, etc.

    Have you ever found a picture of the manner house at Biccocca, or do you have an idea what it might have looked like. I have this battle in mind for a future demo game; it is a small enough field to warrant purpose made terrain.

    Thanks in advance,

    Olicanalad's Games

  5. PS.

    my email is: