Painting guide for the Great Italian Wars (1494–1559) and Spanish Conquistadores in the New World. It covers:
Spanish Infantry including Conquistadores
Infantry should look splendid, with little uniformity. During the Italian Wars the Spanish wore close fitting hose, loose tunic, and often Moorish boots of red Morocco leather (Gush, 1975). Most wore armour and many wore helmets. In Italy the armour was metal but in the Americas many men wore cotton armour.
Spanish Hats, Tunic, Breeches, Stockings, Cloaks
Spaniards wore cloths of a variety of colours. The general guidelines are:
- Bright red (most common), yellow (common), green, but also white, black, grey, blue, brown, etc. Heath (1997) says blue was unpopular, and brown shunned because it was associated with rustics.
- Contrasts common, but not garish (leave that for the Germans to come).
- Often striped or patterned; often slashed to show contrasting material beneath. Sleeves may differ in colour.
- Shoulder wings of doublet often alternative colour, sometimes striped (may have distinguished units).
- Hats: Conquistadores, and probably Spanish in Italy, favoured flat little caps in red (Heath, 1999).
- Stockings: often white.
- Clocks: often scarlet.
- Field sign: officers, pikes and cavalry wore red sash; others often wore a red Burgundian cross stitched to their clothes
Spanish shields were either a round buckler (rodela) or a kidney shaped shield (adarga).
Steel shields would predominate amongst the infantry and men-at-arms. From what I can tell all round bucklers were steel/iron although some might be gilded.
Adarga (kidney shaped) shields, as carried by Spanish genitors and some infantry, could be leather covered or steel faced. If leather covered they could be natural or painted. Painted adarga shields only used black, white and red. They could be plain or have very simple patterns.
Shields01 to 05 are leather adarga. Shield04 and Shield05 have tassels.
Shield06 to Shield15 show typical painted adarga configurations. Shield06 to Shield10 are plain shields in white (Shield06), red (Shield07) and black (Shield08). Spanish cavalry in the Americas favoured plain white (Shield06).
Adarga could be a painted one main colour but with a contrasting line about 3 inches from the edge all around. Gush (1975) describes such a field with a white field and a red line (Shield09). Shield10 is a conjectural version with a black field and red line.
During the Reconquista adarga could be painted in two colours, half and half split vertically. I assume this was still possible in the Renaissance. Shield11, Shield12, Shield13, and Shield15 are examples. Shield14 has two colours but with a while field and a thick red border.
Shields16 to Shield20 are steel shields. Shield16 is a steel adarga. Shields17 to Shield20 are rodela and the unadorned Shield17 would be the most common. Shield18 to Shield20 are decorated rodela, with some of the panels either bronzed or gilded.
Armour and helmets
Armour was also common amongst all arms and could be a plate corselet, mail shirt, studded brigantine, or leather jerkin. Most had helmets, either sallets, burgonets, or cabacete morions.
- Plate armour and helmets: Varied including steel, gunmetal, gilded, or blackened.
- Mail: Iron or blackened
- Leather armour: Brown or buff
- Linen armour (used by Conquistatores): Probably white or off white
Sword and daggers:
- Handle: Iron, ivory, or wood
- Blade: Steel
- Haft: Wood
- Blade: Steel
- Stock: Wood or blackened
- Barrel: Steel or gunmetal
- Cartridge bag: White
- Powder flask: Blue
- Boots + straps + belt, etc: Brown or black with iron fittings. Boots sometimes red.
Hair (their own)
Black or dark brown
Spanish and Italian Cavalry
as infantry, plus ….
- Plumes/helmet crest: Highly coloured. Often red.
- Horse trappings: Coloured; same colour for all trappings on each horse.
- Lance: Coloured to match trappings, often striped. Spanish tended towards red over yellow lance pennons.
- Cassock: Various (as infantry colours above). With a Red Burgundian Cross as field sign front and back.
A few images …
The Italians pretty much wore the same costumes as the Spanish (Infantry, Cavalry).
I’m not sure that the Italian men-at-arms used the same red over yellow lance pennons as the Spanish.
German / Landsknecht
The Germans (including the Landsknecht) and Swiss wore similar clothing. Both Swiss and Germans favoured the slashed look. Both would have colours schemes like the Spanish, but more colourful. Parti-colours costumes were possible.
German officers in Imperial service, and some with long lasting loyalties like Georg Von Frundsberg, wore a red sash (Miller, 1976). And nominally at least all Landsknecht were in Imperial service – although at times some fought for the French. All men in Imperial service wore a red cross as a field sign.
Landsknechts, favoured leather ‘overalls’ more than the Swiss.
Example Landsknecht colour schemes from the plates in Miller (1976):
- Green shirt; Blue/yellow stripped hose
- Blue/yellow stripped shirt and hose
- Parti-colours doublets in blue/red with red over yellow slashed sleeves; Parti-coloured hose with blue/yellow and red/yellow legs
- Parti-coloured left and right, including shirt, breeches and stockings. Left: blue over white. Right: Red over yellow.
- Red over white slashed shirt and breeches. White stockings.
- Blue over white slashed shirt. Hose parti-colour with tan and red legs.
- Green shirt, breeches, stockings. Leather jerkin over top
- Blue over yellow shirt and breeches. Leather jerkin over top
- Blue-Black over crimson shirt and breeches. White stockings.
- Black over red shirt. Black breeches and stockings with red trim.
- Parti-coloured left and right, including shirt, breeches and stockings. Left: Red, white and green stripes. Right: yellow over white shirt and breeches; yellow stockings.
On German artillery the carriage was always black with red metal fittings (Miller, 1976). The wheels were left their natural colour. Barrels were bronze.
The Swiss wore similar clothing to the German Landsknecht.
Swiss, particularly officers and standard bearers, favoured feathered caps and turbans more than the Germans. The Swiss wore a white cross as a field sign.
Gush, G. (1975). Renaissance Armies 1480-1650. Patrick Stephens.
Heath, I. (1997). Armies of the Sixteenth Century 1: The Armies of England, Ireland, the United Provinces, and the Spanish Netherlands 1487-1609. Foundry Books.
Heath, I. (1999). Armies of the Sixteenth Century 2: The Armies of the Aztec and Inca Empires, other native peoples of the Americas, and the Conquistadores 1450-1608. . Foundry Books.
Miller, D. (1976). The Landsknechts [Men-At-Arms 58]. Osprey.
Miller, D. (1979). The Swiss at War 1300-1500 [Men-At-Arms]. Osprey
1 thought on “Painting Guide for the Italian Wars 1494–1559 and Conquistadores from 1492”
hi there, nice site, but the final picture, taken from the Osprey, shows English troops in France.