Friday, 12 January 2018

From SidneyR: Guldensporenstraat, the Street of the Golden Spurs, Laarden 1688 (75 Points)

From the journal of Don Fernando de Torrescusa, Marquess de Girona, Envoy of His Most Catholic Majesty, Carlos the Second, King of Spain, to the Flemish Free City of Laarden in 1688. 

"During my first few weeks in Laarden in the cold winter of 1689, I was almost overwhelmed by the number of civic dinners, town celebrations and council meetings either held in honour of my Master, the King of Spain, or to celebrate the arrival of my small delegation. The discussions at such gatherings ranged widely across politics, trade, the correct terms to address a Spanish plenipotentiary, the status of the current hostilities with France, the rising prices on the Laarden tulip exchange, and the current fashion for the colour yellow which appeared to be taking the town by storm. While Laarden is well known for both its good hospitality and fine food, in truth by deep mid-January my patience and stomach had, respectively, begun to tire of the endless diplomatic pleasantries and the rich fare of Laarden pheasants, Ghent eels, Campine chickens and Flemish oysters that out hosts had placed before us.

A week after New Year, I asked my guide, the young Flemish nobleman Antoine de Gautier, if we could venture one evening from the suffocating banqueting suite of the Hall of Deputies to find a local hostelry. In the process I asked if he might introduce me to some of the heritage and history of the Town. I should have known by the gleam in his eye, which I confess I mistook for civic pride, that I was about to be 'entertained'.

Later that evening, the young Lord of Laarden announced that he would take me through Guldensporenstraat, the street of the Golden Spurs. It was a uniquely colourful name, the provenance of which was the Flemish victory over the French in 1302 in which the Laarden contingent performed most creditably. I had expected a grand avenue, close to the Grote Markt. My expectation was thoroughly misplaced.

Located in the artisan quarter of the city, Guldensporenstraat was not easy to find. I was led, eventually, to a narrow, poorly lit, damp alley-way, with rivulets of foul-smelling black water oozing between the cobblestones. A solitary crippled beggar, clad in filthy brown rags and a tattered hat with the remnants of a feather, sat by the entrance to the street amidst a litter of bottles and broken glass. "Spare a florin for a veteran of Seneffe and the siege of Valenciennes, Senhors?". His voice was like fingers ploughing through a pigs entails, phlegmy, soft and gurgling with an emerging respiratory fever. We stepped over him, Antoine grunting disinterestedly, as the beggar moved his alms bowl swiftly away.

At the other end of the narrow street, I saw a lavishly dressed man bedecked in the latest French fashions. The chevalier's coat, stockings and plumage were Hapsberg scarlet, and clearly of considerable quality. "Jan de Vichet.... one of Laarden's envoys to the French Court, recently returned from Versailles", de Gautier informed me.

"A man of power, and wealth... I wonder why he's here.... Ahhhh....that's why".

From the shadow of a door, cut into the vile alley-way, stepped a young woman, dressed soberly in Laarden grey. Her golden blond hair cascaded out in a wild fashion from the confines of her cap. I heard her say something along the lines of "Nice to see you again, Senhor. The price is the same as last time", before both her and de Vichet vanished into the darkness of Guldensporenstraat.  

I recoiled from the scene, unwilling to spend any more time in the miserable passageway. "Local heritage, my Lord. You did ask...", gurgled de Gautier, a frothy bubble of laughter sounding in the depths of his throat. "Time for 'The Harvest Goose', I think", he added, pointing the way towards a nightwatchman carrying a guttering lantern. As we left Guldensporenstraat, the sound of our footsteps on the cobbles in the poorly lit streets were eventually drowned by a burst of tuneless singing drifting from the open door of a nearby tavern. I tried to disguise my disappointment, resigning myself to an inevitable hangover in the morning."


De Vichet lingered in the doorway to watch the two noblemen wander off. He could just about make out the all-clear signal from Jean-Louis at the end of Guldensporenstraat, the beggar's bandaged hand waving in the gloom slowly. He looked at Agnes and started passing her the coins.  

"So, which of the regiments were in the Grote Markt this morning and last week? Did you copy down their standards like I asked you? Have you found out when the Lorrainer cavalry are arriving? And the Duc de Luxembourg was most specific that he wanted details of the German and Polish cavalry quartered in Sint Vaalben - you remember, the ones I told you about.....the ones from the Baltic War?". 

Agnes smiled, and rolled one of her stockings down a fraction with a well-practiced gesture, tugging out a small fragment of paper with pencil marks all over it. "Tell His Grace that information like this comes at an additional price". De Vichet's eyes widened as he took the paper, reading the contents greedily. Without another word, his fingers delved deeper into his leather purse.


So, a very indulgent, fictional background to a submission I never anticipated in preparing for this Challenge. About New Year, I remembered that Sarah's Challenge is a big part of Challenge VIII - thanks for that post, Curt! I was wondering what to do with the Agnes figure when I got the idea for the above scene from the BBC's drama "The Miniaturist", which I watched with my wife and kids over the holidays.

The figures are a real mixture. Jan de Vichet, Laarden envoy to Versailles and thoroughly Francophile spy, is a 25mm Dixon Miniatures officer with a ludicrously large green-stuff wig and cravat.  Agnes, another French spy (although with better justification) is an SHQ figure from their "Tavern" line. I liked her figure a lot, especially the fact that her gesture, fingering her stocking top, could emerge as something very different to what it first seems. I added her cap in green-stuff, and she may yet turn out to be an unlikely heroine. 

Jean-Louis, the sad veteran reduced to a begging bowl, is a Midlam Miniatures beggar with a Redoubt ECW headswap. The member of the Laarden Nachtwatch is a Foundry Thirty Years War sergeant, with his halberd swapped for a Mordheim lantern. Chickens and cockerel are from Warbases, as are the geese. 

The buildings are from the venerable Hovels 25m European range, without conversion (although some of the resin bubbleholes got filled with green-stuff). They're still fun to paint almost 30 years after they first graced wargames shows in the UK.  The wonderful continental paving (which is ruinously expensive brass fret at £8 a sheet) is from Scalelink. I rarely use it, but it looks very nice. It was glued using epoxy resin to the plywood base (more details on my blog to come). It's a shame no-one makes this distinctive cobbled North European paving in plastic sheeting, as I think it sets the scene for the houses very well.

I also painted up a miniature version of a small town from 1688 in 2mm, which was very kindly send to me undercoated by good friend and wargaming chum, Matt Moran. Thanks Matt! I think the buildings are Irregular Miniatures, and Brigade Models. It's possibly not large enough for Laarden (but would do perfectly for one of the smaller sateillite towns of Laarden, such as Sint Vaalben), but it was lots of fun to paint up. I tried painting a 'brick' style on the 2mm buildings, using some 1mm 'snow' (really cotton dustings) to heighten the small town's attraction on the table top for looting parties comprised of French hussars.  By all means let me know if you like the look and I'll try and do some more.

There is a historical background to all this nonsense, but I'll leave that for a post on my blog in due course, including some interesting background on 17th century spies, nightlife (gosh!) and the use of the term "Senhors" for noblemen in Laarden (and Antwerp).

And for points - for the Guldensporenstraat buildings terrain is more than one 'terrain box', but less than 2 full boxes. The buildings' base is a shade over 6 inches, but the height is more than 6 inches. I'd like to claim 40 points (but would be happy with 30 as a compromise!).   I don't feel that I can claim 20 points for my miniature version of Laarden (it's in 2mm), but I'd be more than happy with 6 points (comparable to an infantry base in 2mm). I'll score Jan, Agnes and the Nachtwatch lantern-bearer at 15 points, and 3 points for Jean-Louis (the points reduction as he lost his legs at the Siege of Valenciennes, poor chap). I've taken the liberty to add 2 points for the chickens, geese, and the malevolent cockerel. So in total (and with a favourable wind on the terrain scoring), 66 points of Laarden night-walking and town planning.


A wonderfully entertaining and sumptuously gilded entry, Sid!

I love the background story of Don Fernando's brief tour of the more colourful streets and back alleys of Laarden (as I mentioned to Sidney when chatting about his post, it has a distinctly Warhammer Fantasy Role Play feel about it). The figures and their modifications are perfect for the fictional Dutch town, with me particularly liking the very architectural wig of De Vichet and the simple, but charmingly demure, bonnet of the efficient intelligence agent, Agnes.

I have several of the venerable Hovels range and heartily agree to their continuing quality and charm. You've done them great service here, Mr. Roundwood.

The 2mm village is charming, all socked in with snow and cozy for the winter. It will be a great addition to your TYW collection.  

This wonderful lot will weigh in at 75 points, including a few extra for the conversions and the great story. Lovely stuff, Sid!


  1. Just gorgeous Sidney! Hovels buildings are fantastic and you've done them proudly indeed

  2. Fantastic work Sidney! I really like Hovels as they carry so charm. Excellent little story as well!


  3. Simply superb! Your painting of both terrain and miniatures is of course superb -and I really like that 2mm town, the red brick makes for a great contrast to the snow- but your background really made my day. More of it please!

  4. Wonderful painting and story-telling Sidney :)

  5. Lovely stuff Sidney, love the buildings, the figures and the story. And yet again with chickens! Very well done.

    1. ...I'm so pleased you mentioned the chickens, Peter ;) They are just everywhere in the town...

  6. This is an excellent submission. I do love me some backstory, and this is top shelf stuff. Lovely buildings and some great little scenic touches to set them off.

    Well crafted, Sir!

  7. Well done!
    I quite like Agnes and the back story is terrific.
    I have the read the book “The Miniaturist” and thought it was an enigmatically compelling look into the interior lives of wealthy Dutch merchant class.
    I will definitely have to check out the BBC adaptation.

  8. Lovely choice of colours, and I enjoyed the tale! The beggar casts a sorry sight.

  9. Cracking story, great job on the buildings and figs

  10. Sidney, you painting skills and posts continue to set, and raise, the bar. Very, very well done.

  11. Beautiful work once again Sid. I love the style in which you paint your buildings.

  12. Great back story, lovely buildings and wonderful figures, and chickens of course!
    Best Iain

  13. Grand work, Sydney! I wouldn't mind spending time in Laarden. I'm sure a noble or two would be happy to hire a scout! Beautiful work on the structures and figures!

    1. Funny you should mention scouts, David. There might just be a position you can apply for in a week or so's time. Keep your ear to the ground in the Grote Markt, Sir... you never know who might need your services,

  14. The scenery is excellent but I really enjoyed the story your creating behind it!

  15. WHAT a wonderful tale, scene, buildings, minis and fauna. Bravo Sid!

  16. Amazing painting they just look perfect very very nice

  17. Oh dear sweet fluffy Laard. That is a spectacularly painted scene and story to go with it.

    Your Laarden vignettes are a highlight of the challenge!

  18. Thank you very much indeed to everyone who has commented. I really am very grateful! I was not sure if people enjoy this kind of nonsense from me....

    ... but for those who do (and many apologies to those who did not !), there will hopefully be more to come later in the Challenge...