Thursday 12 November 2015

Italian Infantry

Here are the Italian infantry I have been working on for a while now. I really enjoyed painting them, especially once the horror of painting the shields was over. The shields were made much easier by the use of the old Citadel transfers as described in a previous post. Some were painted free hand but the transfers have really helped to show a few more complex designs. Anyone who has read this blog for a while will know I loathe painting heraldry, or more correctly attempting to paint heraldry! Although these aren't heraldic shields, surviving examples show all kinds of motifs which are what I have attempted to reproduce here. I originally had 5 bases of these chaps and have completed another 7 to make quite a formidable group.

They are meant to represent Italian infantry for the 1490s into the 1500s, suitable for use from the French Invasion in 1494, through the French and Spanish campaigns in Naples, up until Agnadello in 1509, though at a pinch I would use them for a bit later. I have seen these troops described as "Rotularii", a kind of Italian assault infantry. They are a useful unit to have as Italian troops were, unsurprisingly, heavily involved in the Italian Wars. They could be found either fighting for the Italian states as mercenaries or militia, here they are shown in Milanese service, or as mercenaries in the service of France or Spain.

I have used Perry Miniatures with a dozen or so Assault Group figures mixed in as well. The pictures below, the first two of which I have shown before on this blog, give an idea of the kind of infantry they are meant to represent. Unfortunately for those of us trying to create miniature armies for this period, fashions at the end of the 15th century changed very quickly so while these may look great for 1490-1500, by 1515 Italian infantry, I would hazard a guess, showed more influence from Landsknecht style dress, though still retaining distinct differences that would have been recognisable at the time. Add to this the regional differences in Italian dress and it gets even more complicated.

Vittore Carpaccio, Arrival in Cologne, from the Legend of Saint Ursula, early 1490s

Detail of the St Ursula Cycle, Martyrdom of the Pilgrims, early 1490s

Infantry from Cronaca della Napoli aragonese c.1498

So in attempt to give a specifically Italian flavour to this unit I have added a few extra plumes of feathers to the headgear. The feathers I picked up from Simon at Je Lay Emprins,, a while ago and they have proven extremely useful for all sorts of small conversions. From the contemporary pictures above it is clear that the Italians were very keen on such plumage! I have also given a few of the polearmed troops bills as these seemed to be a characteristic weapon of the Italians, see the image above. The bill was not solely the preserve of the English Infantry. While probably a little out of date by 1500 I have included lots of Perry Miniatures with "mazzocchios", the fabric stuffed rolls that they wear around their Barbute helmets. Whether they would have been worn or not at this time they are excellent for adding to the Italian "feel" of these infantry.

Finally I don't understand how the polearmed troops could have used their polearms while also carrying those enormous shields! My guess is that a primary role of these troops was in assaulting enemy positions, similar to the Spanish Rodeleros. While the sword and buckler armed men would probably have retained their shields or bucklers for combat, perhaps those with polearms would have discarded their shields or shouldered them once the threat of projectiles had reduced and they had got to grips with the defenders.

In support of such a theory take a look at the below image, which is actually of Swiss infantry leading an assault in the early 1500s. They can clearly be seen using large shields to defend themselves as they scale the ladders, while some of the troops have them slung over their shoulders on straps. While Swiss not Italians in this picture, I would guess the Italian troops fought in a similar fashion. As a nod to this you will see that many of the miniatures armed with pole weapons have their shields over their backs and a strap added to hold them. The straps were just simple pieces of thread glued on before the undercoat was applied.

Swiss infantry assaulting a fortification using large shields

Milanese Infantry for the early Italian Wars

Italian Infantry

Italian Infantry for the early Italian Wars

A shot from behind to show the detail of the shields slung over the soldiers backs

Another photo showing the infantry from the back


  1. Beautiful and colorful work on this unit.
    Well done!

  2. A great post and beautiful figures!

  3. Very nice article, great looking figures. I would agree with you on shield painting. Must be why I mostly paint landsknechtes!

  4. As always your painting is fantastic.

  5. Very beautiful Italians. I am going to the army for the Italian wars. Simply super!

  6. They look great Oli, really charming post, and i hope to do some italians in 15mm in future and will look at yours for good reference ideas!

  7. Wonderful painted figures! And thanks for sharing that superb research and the images of Ursula (her 11,000 fellow-martyrs actually made it into the coat of arms of cologne).

  8. Great looking troops and nice reference pics
    thanks Iain

  9. These units look terrific! Following your blog...

  10. Fabulous stuff!!!

    I think you nailed the heraldry on the shields.

    Also, a great mix of TAG and Perry and they seem to blend in seamlessly.

    I'm doing Ravenna soon so although many of these guys would have been an anachronism by 1512 they shall serve as inspiration nevertheless :)


  11. Hello! Really wonderful site you have. Quite an inspiration.

    For what I found surfing the web (in Italian sites) on the topic of Italian infantry there were a number of different specialties: the sword and buckler men or "rotellieri" were basically assault troops meant to engage the enemy at close quarters during sieges or in broken ground like the one found in northern Italy (that with fields, irrigation, streams and edges is somewhat "bocage-like"). To this end the shield could be a proper buckler or a bit larger, but still round.

    The men with the larger oval shields are meant to be heavier infantry. The shield is similar in function to a pavese, but lighter for improved handling on the move and not only "in line" ( it is not provided with a point to be stuck in the ground). The shield is called "targa" and the shield bearer is called "targoniere"; his weapon of choice are short polearms, spears or similar, that could be used one handed. He is helped by an assistant "famiglio" whose role is to hand him the spear or the sword, depending on the situation.
    The targonieri would form a loose line, behind them more lightly armored shooters (crossbowmen or arquebusiers) would be able to fight protected from enemy fire.

    Behind the anchor offered by the shield bearers also the Italian version of pikemen, or lanzeloghe, would fight (their weapon was somewhat shorter than a proper pike and we can imagine it was meant for a more mobile and looser formation than a true pike square).

    This is just my 2 eurocents: I just started to research, so probably there is a lot more than that 🙂.
    A good site is (sorry the Italian):

  12. Thanks for the comments guys

    Ratmaul I agree on the role of the sword and buckler men - the "rotellieri" or "rotularii" (I'm guessing these must be the same troops).

    The guys with polearms and shields I am not so sure on. The role you describe would indeed make sense as to why they carry the large shields but in the "Cronac della Napoli", an image of which is shown above, they appear in a lot of the sketches, but don't often seem to have missile troops with them. Having said that in one image, see my previous post on the shields, it does clearly show crossbowmen standing behind them which would argue they could still be using the tactic you describe in the 1490s. In other images it seems that lots of the Italian infantry were armed in this way without supporting missile troops? It's hard to tell from just these images.

    I have wondered if the "marines" used on the galleys may also be armed in this manner. The shields would make sense as a useful protection before a landing or a boarding action.

    Of course the final big question would be if the "rotellieri" and "targoniere" were still being used as an infantry type in the 1490s - how long did these troops last into the Italian Wars? A study I have read on Giovannis Band Nere argues the Italians still had specialist light infantry types in the 1520s but their armaments were different by this date.

  13. nice post oli! I noticed on your blog you have no posts specifically for Italian pike. could you do that?

    1. Cheers Ryan, I probably won't do specific Italian Pike as I have done loads of generic early 16th Century Pike already, although of course in reality each region, let alone each country, would have had differences in dress and equipment, . By adding a few Italian Command bases to these chaps and changing the flags I can get some Italian Pikemen.

    2. I thought TAG makes Italian pikemen figs?

    3. Yes they do, I have used loads of them in those pike blocks. I mixed them with other ranges and other TAG figures.

  14. Ratmaul, As early as this (pre-1500), the "rotellieri" were acting in a similar way to the Spanish sword and buckler men? I imagine that your source referenced no pike being present? i ask as it seems very early for the classical Spanish tactics of the Early Renaissance to come into play? (Sorry for so many questions- I was just surprised at the idea)

  15. beautiful artillery park, the icing on the Ottoman cake. I also want an Ottoman army