Vlad the Impaler
by Augie Rodriguez
SUBJECT: Vlad III “Tsepesh” (“the Impaler”), voivode of Wallachia (aka “Dracula”), 1462.
ITEM #: H180-1 (Limited Edition)
SCALE: 1/10th (180mm)
CASTING MEDIUM: Polyurethane Resin (PUR)
# of PIECES: 2
SCULPTOR: Augie Rodriguez (©, 2002)
PAINTING MEDIUM/s: Oils, Vallejo Acrylics, G/S Mr. Metal lacquers, Printers’ Inks.
My first commercial bust, under the now-defunct WARLORDS label, was of Vlad III “Tsepesh”, voivode of Wallachia, better known to us as “Dracula”. This rendition of “the Impaler” was a ¼-scale interpretation (last available from Ft. Duquesne) based almost entirely on the sole copy of the only then-known portrait of Vlad that hangs in the Castle Ambras’ “Monster” Gallery in Innsbruck. I had always intended to do a follow-up piece depicting a more martial Vlad, but WARLORDS was acquired by Ft. Duquesne before any designs could be finalized.
Dr. Raymond T. McNally, Ph.D. passed away Fall of last year. It can be argued that Dr. McNally, along with colleague Dr. Radu Florescu, Ph.D., singlehandedly introduced the English-speaking world to the historical “Dracula” (yes, it is OK to refer to him by that name). Dr. McNally’s candor, enthusiasm, insight, and scholarship will not be soon forgotten–especially by one sculptor who, as a then-budding tyro, sought the counsel of, and was welcomed graciously by, Dr. McNally. This second interpretation of “Dracula” is respectfully dedicated to his memory.
The sad news prompted me to go through design notes then 6 ½ years old; re-reading select passages from Dr. McNally’s works; as well as begin catching-up on the not inconsiderable amount of literature published (most of it Roumanian) since I completed my first commercial bust. Before long, I was at the bench.
My second portrait bust of “Dracula” is in a more “manageable” 1/10th scale, and incorporates some unique ideas as to how the great warlord might have appeared on campaign at the height of his power. In this bust, I wanted to infer the duality of the warlord: on the one hand a crusading liberator and fully vested member of the Order of the Dragon; on the other–in the eyes of some–a devil incarnate who is perhaps admiring his trademark means of dealing with undesirables.
This is a 2-piece bust. I am deadset against over-engineering figures. In my mind, these are sculptures, not “scale model” kits. By keeping the breakdown of the “main” figure to the absolute minimum, production distortion and irregularities are minimized, while ensuring that the assembled figure will remain as faithful as possible to the artist’s vision. Barring subject-specific circumstances (in the Medieval & Renaissance genre, these usually involve helmet “accessories”: visors, crests, etc.), I see no reason why any “true/classical” bust cast in resin should exceed this.
And I deal in portraiture, warts and all. Whether it jibes with anybody’s concept of the individual is of little or no concern to me as these are usually romanticized and ill conceived, with little foundation in reality. And the last time I checked, all current evidence to the contrary, the name of the game is “historical miniatures”.
Vlad is wearing a mail haubergeon, heavier/larger ringed per the Eastern style, over an arming doublet with a mail standard. The jeweled medallion is based on that depicted on his chapeau in the portraits. By the 15th c., we begin to see the embellishment of mail hauberks with decorative metal appliqué; this practice would reach its peak in the 17th c. The celata is a shorter version of the “full-length” helmet that I felt would better suit the pose and attitude of the figure. In short, the type of mixed panoply one would likely see along the beset eastern frontiers of the Holy Roman Empire. I have purposely left off the panache (plumes–included in the kit) as I intended to depict Vlad prior to engaging in battle (hence another reason for the mantle to be casually draped over the “off” shoulder). This is one habit that I believe would have carried over from his time spent with the Turks.
My approach to armor, iron, and steel are well known and a matter of public record. I use Gunze-Sangyo Mr. Metal lacquers weathered with oils, exclusively.
As to the hair, there is no texturing here whatsoever–any texture is in the sculpture. As a matter of fact, the hair was pretty much applied as a glaze–a warm reddish brown was the acrylic undercoat for black hair! The black was glazed on in 2 coats using a mix of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna. Highlights were applied with Liquitex Parchment (oils–no longer being produced). This was then allowed to dry thoroughly. Finally the highlights were toned down and the entire hair “unified” with spot glazes of Schmincke Mussini Casslerbraun, followed with select deepening of shadows with Mars Black. Casslerbraun, aka Kasslerbraun, Cassel Brown, Cassel Earth is properly a Van Dyke Brown, which is a colour to be avoided at all costs. However, IF the pigment used is PBr6 (better known as Mars Brown) then we are “great” to go!
The mantle of the Order of the Dragon was green for everyday use, and black for special days of observance.
Order Of The Dragon
The Order of the Dragon was created as a league against the Hussites in 1408; at the time of its creation, the Turk was largely a secondary consideration.
The history of the “Order”, if one can call it that, is shrouded in even more mystery than that of the subject of this “article”. It was less of a chivalric fraternity than a political pact of mutual assistance; later it would serve as an honorarium to those the Hungarian crown wished to recognize. As Boulton suggets, “it should probably be called the Society of the Dragon”.
Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to examine the member roll of the Order to confirm whether or not Dracula was ever formerly invested. This is not as serious a shortcoming to the research as it might first appear as much of the evidence re: known members invested after the death of Sigismund (1437) is either epistolary or iconographic. This is decidedly the case following the accession of Mathias “Corvinus” to the Hungarian throne.
And actually, it is largely irrelevant, as to my understanding, the statutes of the Order provided for hereditary bestowal of ‘membership’. Hence, McNally and Florescu recount the oral Roumanian anecdote of the conveyance, in 1447, of Dracul’s collar/badge and his sword to his son by a boyar named Cazan. This is the critical bequest of membership in said Order. It is further supported by the following statement: “Dracula was also enough of a medievalist to take his Dragon oath seriously, seeing himself as a Christian crusader against the Infidel.” Finally, “he was compelled . . . to carry out this task [the defense of Europe against the Turk] himself as a member of the Dragon Order.”
What’s In A Name?
As to the time-honoured “tradition” of ‘Draculea’ (Dracula) being the diminutive of Dracul, and significant of filial association, while grammatically incontestable, is little more than a circumstantial red herring. Vlad II (the father) was referred to as ‘Draculea’ long before the coming of age of Vlad III. Thus were both father AND son referred to as “Dracula”, but it was the latter who would immortalize the name and ascribe to it its nefarious connotation.
I would venture to say that the image of Vlad held by most is just as fantastic as his literary counterpart, and equally ahistorical. He has been given rather short-shrift by most historians of the period and the region, as if he’s been damned to the mist-shrouded realm of myth and folklore to join the likes of El Cid, Wallace, etc.
Fortunately, that has changed somewhat. But I am still aghast that Nicolle, who co-authored what is by all rights an excellent introduction to the personalities and conflicts of the region in the second half of the 15th c. (” ‘Dracula’ and his Contemporaries: 15th c. Balkan War Leaders.” Part I: Military Illustrated–Past & Present 30 (Nov 1990), pp. 29-33; Pt. II: MI–P&P 31 (Dec 1990), pp. 26-33.) dismissed him in a mere paragraph–a virtual afterthought–in Osprey’s Hungary and the Fall of Eastern Europe, 1000-1568 (MAA #195). To add insult to injury, Nicolle gets the dates of his life all wrong (or Osprey’s copy-editors were once again asleep at the helm(!): 1418-1456???; Dracula died in 1476), and this in turn has now been given an extension of life by the recent Beneito travesty (note: just for starters, it is wearing Turkish armour of the first half of the 16th(!) century; AND it uses the same head as the previously released Norman!!)!
I think it bears noting that Vlad was no innovator, and his trademark methods of disposing of “undesirables” was his way of sending an unequivocal message to the intended recipients. Vlad must have been witness to countless impalings while a “guest” of the Porte, and the “Saxon” settlers of his homeland were also not averse to this method of torturous execution. Detached objectivity will reveal impalement as but a variant of crucifixion–taking that as a given, then Vlad was little more than an enthusiastic and ambitious tyro. And if we were to believe the numbers foisted by the propagandists, then Transylvania would have become Transcampania given the deforestation that would have taken place to supply the means to the end.
In short, Vlad Tsepesh, “Dracula”, is but another rich thread in the tapestry of history. He was not a demon, he was not the “son of the Devil”, and he was not even particularly deranged. Unfortunately, if not for Bram Stoker, he would be but another largely unknown exhibit in the “Monster Gallery”, and would attract as much attention as Skanderbeg. But since Mr. Stoker has introduced him to a wider audience, it behooves that audience to remove itself from the sphere of influence of fantastic titillation and the Gothic, and enter the Realms of History.
Boulton, D’Arcy J. D. The Knights of the Crown: The Monarchical Orders of Knighthood in Later Medieval Europe, 1325-1520, rev. ed. Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press, 2000.
Florescu, Radu R., and Raymond T. McNally. Dracula: a biography of Vlad the Impaler. NY: Hawthorn, 1973.
______________. Dracula, Prince of Many Faces–his life and times. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1989.
McNally, Raymond T., and Benjamin-Hugo Leblanc. “Dracula at Forchtenstein: A Newly Discovered Portrait of Vlad Tepes in Austria“. English on-line version: (http://hermogene.online.fr/forchtenstein.htm, 2000). Publication details available on-site.
Agustín J. (Augie) Rodríguez is a professional sculptor and painter of historical miniatures, specializing in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and the Conquest, and 16th c. Feudal Japan. His background is primarily academic, having received a Master’s degree in Early Modern European History (1485-1700), with a minor in Art History from Tulane University (MA,1984). His areas of specialization were the military and diplomatic history of the period, and Renaissance arms and armour, respectively.
His personal areas of interest are the “Hospitallers” (the Knights of St. John/Rhodes/Malta); the second half of the Hundred Years War (with particular emphasis on the events from the Battle of Agincourt through the campaigns of Jeanne La Pucelle); the Turkish Wars (including the naval conflicts); “Sengoku” and Momoyama Japan; the discovery and conquest of the New World; and arms and armour, 1400-1700.
Rodriguez took up the brush in 1977 (oils are his medium of choice), and has been sculpting professionally since 1986. Currently, he is devoting most of his time to sculpting and painting “one-off” originals (70-450mm) for discriminating collectors, while developing a 90mm line of “samurai” for Aitna that is to be launched later this year.
Our thanks to Augie Rodriguez for permission to publish these “notes” from his detailed, step-by-step, on-line chronicle of this project (©, 2002-2003). Regrettably, the article in its entirety is no longer available. And to Lloyd Passafume, Jr., for permission to reprint the images of this piece that resides in his collection.