Thursday 1 June 2023

Wallachian Calarasi

A new unit for the collection today with a return to the 16th century border warfare of Eastern Europe. These horsemen would be as equally at home in an Ottoman raiding party as they would in an army defending the eastern reaches of Christendom. The figures represent the light cavalry of the provinces of Wallachia and Moldova, the calarasi. The calarasi were made up of plainsmen or members of the lower nobility. Armed with bows and lances they made ideal scouts and couriers. They could often be found patrolling the borders of their provinces, ever vigilant against the constant threat of enemy raids.

The calarasi wore rich and bright clothing when they could afford it. Another distinctive item of clothing often worn were tall beehive shaped hats, made of lynx fur, which they decorated with feathers. There are some interesting contemporary images of these expert cavalrymen, but the images need to be treated with caution. The first image below, from around 1530, shows two "turks" from a raiding party. One of them looks to be a Wallachian or Moldovan horseman serving as an Ottoman vassal. He wears the distinctive beehive shaped fur hat and is in striped clothing. The second is from a German military manual in the University of Heidelberg. It is so similar that it may simply be a copy of the fist image by Erhard Schön. The later 16th century images by Abrahm de Bruyn match the clothing and hats of the first two images very closely.

Erhard Schön 1530 Two Turks. One of the horseman is probably a Wallachian in Turkish employ as he wears the distinctive fur hat of the calarasi. Note the striped clothing he wears.

A possible image of a calarasi horseman from "the book of the tried arts", South West Germany 1535.

Abrahm de Bruyn - a Wallachian c.1585.

Abrahm de Bruyn - Wallachian from the later 1500s.

A contemporary image to Erhard Schön's is Daniel Hopfer's etching of three "Mamluks" shown below. Rather than being mamluks this trio of horseman may well be calarasi, they certainly look very similar with the distinctive hats and striped coats. In fact so similar that it is most likely that Schön or Hopfer has copied the other, although whose image was first is hard to tell. The later image shown below from the mid 16th century costume codex, now in Madrid, is clearly a copy of Hopfer's etching. Again they are labelled "Mosqvwiter" which I assume is meant to refer to them as mamluks. So we have images, some of which are probably of Wallachian and Moldovan calarasi, even though labelled as mamluks, but it is had to tell how many, if any, are by an artist who actually witnessed these cavalry. Some of them are clearly copies of the earlier works.

Daniel Hopfer, three Mamluks c.1526-1530 - but are they actually Wallachian cavalry wrongly identified as Mamluks?

Probably a copy of the image above from a codex of costumes - the Códice De Trajes c.1547. Are these Mamluks or Wallachians? This also serves to illustrate how images were clearly copied by other artists.

This being a Camisado blog post I had to find an excuse to include some woodcuts from Maximilian's Weisskunig! While the two images from it included below may not be of Wallachian or Moldovan troops specifically they do show the fashion for striped tunics among Eastern European troops in this period. Both woodcuts depict various characters and two of them in eastern fashions are clearly in striped clothing. I had intended to avoid the stripes when painting up the miniatures but having found these images I decided at least some of them would have to be painted like this.

Woodcut from the Weisskunig c.1514-1516. The two gentlemen on the left look to be Eastern European and one wears the distinct striped tunic as shown in the Erhard Schön and Daniel Hopfer images above. The mix of mail and plate armour of the man second from the left is also interesting.

Another woodcut from the Weisskunig c.1514-1516. Again some of the characters depicted look to be Eastern European with the gentleman on the right being in another striped coat.

These figures have all been converted to show the distinctive beehive fur hats. These were sculpted with green stuff after the hats the figures had been wearing were filed down. The feathers were then added from other miniatures I have converted in the past. Most of the figures are Old Glory Miniatures Balkan light cavalry or Delis whist the captain, carrying a mace, is an Assault Group Figure. Some of the figures carry the shields they originally came with whilst some have been swapped for Perry or Redoubt Enterprises shields. Finally all of the figures are on Assault Group horses instead of the Old Glory ones. 

I am pleased with how they have turned out. These cavalrymen fought for both Ottoman and Christian armies during the constant border warfare of this period and they will make a really colourful addition to both my Ottoman and Hungarian armies. They are also useful for a relatively long time period being suitable from the 15th Century through to at least the end of the 16th. These troops would also be great in a 15th century army of Vlad the Impaler and I was tempted to go down the rabbit hole of starting to build an army for Vlad to take on my Ottomans. But that will have to wait for now as there are lots of other projects in the pipeline!

28mm Wallachian or Moldovan calarasi.

Calarasi fighting under a Christian banner.

Wallachian cavalry, possibly in Hungarian service.

The calarasi under an Ottoman banner.

28mm Romanian Cavalry.

Converted 28mm Old Glory miniatures.

The figures would be perfectly suited to a 15th century Wallachian army under Vlad Tepes.  

Detail of some of the figures.

Detail of the striped clothing worn by some of them. The captain is a converted figure by the Assault Group whilst the rest are Old Glory miniatures.

The standard bearer is in a particularly fine purple coat.

A view of the unit from behind.

And finally an image of the calarasi with a unit of more generic Balkan calvary behind them. Most of the figures in the calarasi unit were converted from the Old Glory Balkan cavalry miniatures.