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Hussar – Crimean War

Posted on April 30th, 2015
Henry Wilkin of the 11th Hussars - before and after

This is Cornet Henry Wilkin of the 11th Hussars, Crimea 1855. Wilkin was a survivor of the ill-fated ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ in the previous year. He was the assistant surgeon at that time. He purchased his rank of Cornet in 1855. (Cornet was a rank of the British cavalry until 1871 – equivalent to the modern Second Lieutenant)

The base image used here is available from Wikimedia.

Henry Wilkin of the 11th Hussars - Crimea 1855

Our starting point for this article.

  1. Repairing the base picture
  2. The background landscape
  3. The tent
  4. The horse
  5. The lower uniform
  6. The face
  7. The upper uniform
  8. The horse tack
  9. Light/dark color contrast
  10. The finished picture

A. Repairing the base picture

The image has a few scratches and blemished that needed repairing with the clone tool. Luckily the face and details of the uniform are unscathed making the job relatively easy. There is a slight blurring of the horses head (and more so the tail) from movement during the plate’s exposure but I decided against trying to sharpen this.

The repaired picture was desaturated and its grey levels were adjusted using the Curves dialogue.

B. The background landscape

The landscapes of Crimea are very similar to the Mediterranean area, parched grass with patchy vegetation. Here I have used several layers with Gimp’s ‘Color’ blend mode. Sky lowest, distant landcape, vegetation and rocks, and finally the muddy foreground.

C. The tent

The tent is a type known as a ‘Bell Tent’, it is NOT a ‘Shipley Tent’, as some internet resources suggest, those weren’t patented until 1858. The Bell Tents where made of cotton canvas and I have given it a cream color to represent this. The ropes are colored in the layer above.

D. The horse

The horse was filled in black with a some subtle brownish tints. Hooves a fairly unsaturated brown.

At this stage I added a layer for the rear of the shabrack (the cloth over the saddle) colored green.

E. The lower uniform

In 1840 the 11th Light Dragoons were renamed the 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars after Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria. The regiment chose crimson colored trousers based on the livery of House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Albert’s family. The trousers included double yellow stripes down each leg. Here the stripes are so close together there is hardly any visible gap between them.

F. The face

Layers are assigned for the face; base flesh, ruddy complection and beard. The eyes are hidden in shadow and need no treatment.

G. The upper uniform

Typical of Hussar uniform the 11th wore a jacket called a dolman and another jacket called a pellise hung over the left shoulder to ward off sword cuts. These were blue with gold frogging. The brown hat, known as a busby, has a crimson bag attached. The plume is made of white osprey feathers with crimson feathers at the base.

The front part of the shabrack is finished here.

H. The horse tack

The horse’s tack is leather with brass fittings. Care is needed as there is a lot of fine detail here.

I. Light/dark color contrast

To bring out the light and shadow a new layer is created using the Gimp’s ‘Gradient Map’ function on a copy of the greyscale layer, changing it from orange (highlights) to blue (shadows), medium areas being left grey. This is then given a ‘Soft Light’ blend mode.

J. The finished picture

Here then is the finished picture. Cornet Henry Wilkin of the 11th Hussars in color.