The world of tin flat figures
The flat figure collection is a relation of the more known hobby of "ronde boss" collection.
The figures are made in a similar alloy of tin, but in this case they are flat (bi-dimensional): the standard size is 30 mm of height, referred to a foot figure and measured from the feet level up to the eyes line.
The flat figures were very popular expecially in Germany from the end of 19th century up to the first half of 20th century.
The flat figures are called in Germany "Kultur-Historische Zinnfiguren" or "Flachfiguren" or shortly "Zinnfiguren".
The figures were produced at first for the games of childrens and therefore were rather rough for proportions and as for historical accuracy. Starting from the beginning of 20th century, the Editors realized that the market were that of adults, which began to use figures for collection or for building dioramas.
Therefore more accurated figures were manufactured with uniforms and dresses more and more close to the history. This more serious research was accompanied by the skill of great artists which produced drawings and engravings considered true masterpieces.
At present, new flat figures are still edited, however, in my opinion, the best figures are those produced in the years 1920-1960 by the talented hands of artists like Frank, Mohr, Frauendorf, Maier.
An exciting feature of the flats is that the various Editors produced pieces covering nearly all historic period, from cave men up to nowadays, with both militar and civil subjects. Therefore the collector may concentrate his research on a particular period or a Nation, or he can create a collection covering all the human history, without invading too much space in the house and this is a great advantage in comparison with the other types of figure collection.
The rough flat figure, as you buy it, has a look similar to the one in the figure: you have to clean the figure from flash of moulding and work by files to make it exempt from little defects; then you can give a primer coat with matt enamel and, when perfectly dry, you are ready to pass to the painting phase.
It is obvious that, due to the bi-dimensional construction, the painter shall apply all his skill with lights and shadows in order to give the impression of tri-dimensional look, as in the oil pictures.
Usually artists' oil colours are used with very tiny brushes (size 00 or 000), high quality ones, available by the fine arts shops.
An International Flat Figures Association exists gathering the fans of flat figures only, and is The British Flat Figure Society, based in the United Kingdom: for further informations send an Email to my address.
The images included in the sections below
try to give a pictorial idea of the uniform history from the Ancient Age up to
the beginning of 20th century.
The figures shown in this website are part of my collection, unless where otherwise stated.
Every image has a caption with the actual Editor of the figures and with the engraver: therefore you can see which are the series of figures you like best and than you may go to the chapter EDITORS to learn where you can get the figures.
Napoleonic Age (part 1)
Napoleonic Age (part 2)
Napoleonic Age (part 3)
The end of 19th century
The 20th century beginning
THE MAIN EDITORS
The nowadays flat Editors are many, but generally little companies; often they are private persons who have the moulds (sometimes inherited) and cast the figures in the free time only upon receipt of an order.
The Editors are allocated expecially in Germany, one in France, two in the UK.
Having decided to buy some flats, the first step is to get the Catalogues, possibly with figures or drawings.
Unfortunately, the marketing is still far from this field and the catalogues are often simple lists (in German language) or, if they have drawings, they are of bad quality. There are very few fine catalogues which publish understandable images and informations about the engravers and so on.
The result is that in most cases you do not understand clearly what you buy because often the images in the catalogue may deceive you (bad figures corresponding to fine drawings and-viceversa- true masterpieces hidden in a poor drawing): if you do not know already the figures, you have to order hoping in your good luck.
The images shown on this website have the scope also to help you a little in this problem.
In the list which follows only some Editors are considered, expecially those with wide catalogues including figures of various historical periods.
It is obvious that no commercial link exists between this site and the listed Editors, which are only some of the main Editors and are mentioned only to help those readers which are starting with the hobby of flats and have still not many informations.
A complete list of all active Editors of flats is issued in the Almanach of every Kulmbach exhibition (see below).
In this typical town of Germany (middle way between Nurnberg and Leipzig) every second year is held the Zinnfigurenbörse which is attended by main Editors of flats and ronde boss figures manufacturers and which is visited by people coming from every part of the world.
The city of Kulmbach is dominated by the Plassemburg castle: in this castle it is possible to visit the biggest world museum for tin flat figures with a lot of dioramas, old and new figures, etc: no doubt that a visit here is mandatory.
The exhibition and the museum constitue an unique occasion for give a look into all that the market of flats produced in the past and can offer to-day.
This is particularly useful for the flats, for which it is often difficult to get informations or illustrated catalogues.
Furthermore, it is a good thing to see what you buy: infact, as already said, the catalogues are often misleading:therefore you can take this occasion for seing what you buy and fix in your mind which are the series or Editors which match best your tastes. You may also use your camera to help your memory.
In conclusion, I strongly recommend a visit to the Kulmbach Zinnfigurenbörse: it is held in August in the odd years. The next edition will be 10-12 August 2007
For further information:
Stadt Kulmbach, Deutches Zinnfigurenmuseum
D- 95326 KULMBACH (Germany)
BASIC PAINTING COURSE
The readers which became courious and decided to try the art of flat figure painting may find here some basic hints.
Various ways for showing the painted figures: from showcases to dioramas. Photos and comments about some dioramas.
Besides the own Editors' sites in the net, I recommend the following websites:
German collector and great expert of flat figures, expecially in the Napoleonic
Of great interest in the site: the complete list of napoleonic figures engraved by Ludwig Frank and the reconstruction of the illustrated catalogue of THIEL figures , actually dispersed among various Editors or definetely lost.
Konrad Schulte: big site with many images of flat and ronde boss figures, articles, informations, forum and many links