A blog about miniatures, wargaming, and the people driven to ruin by them....

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hannibal Barca, a Portrait


This is a slight departure from my normal gaming related posts, so some explanation is needed.  Our local gaming club recently changed venues into a posh private site.  As part of the decorative work, we were all asked to provide portraits of historically relevant (and mostly militarily relevant) personalities.  These submissions are forming a montage of famous military leaders.  This is not a contest for the "best" (whatever "best" might mean) commander ever, simply a choice of someone we have been inspired by, impressed by, or felt some particular connection to.

Here is the wall of faces, slowly coming together....
Recognize anyone?

I chose Hannibal.  I am not an expert in the Punic Wars, and I would not be interested in the great debate of "who was best".... all I can say is that Hannibal's record speaks for itself, that he was certainly a very good commander.  Heavily influenced by an early copy of Harold Lamb's "Hannibal" I have been impressed, and intrigued, by Hannibal since my youth.

What I found to be a problem was the overall paucity of portraits or representations of Hannibal.  Famously, there is a single bust that you see very frequently.  There are also some coin images, which are not too distinct.  There are some other images, but I was having trouble picking one that felt correct to me.

So I looked for the cover of the old Harold Lamb book....
However, there are a few problems with this image.  First, no way I could find a hi-res image to turn into a wall hanging portrait.  Second, well, he doesn't look quite right.

**This is where this simple post gets potentially volatile**

This Hannibal looks very Western European, he doesn't look like what I think of when I think Carthaginian:  Libyan, Pheonician, or Numidian.  He also looks very healthy, and very well fed (admittedly, at the time of crossing the Alps, he was still a young man).  But, in my mind's eye, his skin should be darker, having a more north african look.  Not because I know any better than the next guy, or have run through the genetic testing... but because it seems highly improbable Hannibal looked Anglo-Saxon.

So I looked for more images, and came across one for the Avalon Hill edition of a game, Hannibal Carthage versus Rome.... which looked... familiar....

Ah ha!  I think I see what they did there.  But what about a later edition from Valley Games...
OK, so there are some significant detailing changes, and Hannibal is starting to look closer to what I think he should look like.

In the end, I didn't feel comfortable using a game cover (rendered by someone else) for this portrait.  I also did not feel comfortable choosing a portrait of an actor portraying Hannibal, like Alexander Siddig.
BUT, he looks much, much closer to what I think Hannibal would look like.  So did Ben Maccabee....

So.... I decided to paint my own portrait of Hannibal.

I am not an artist.

I say again, I am not an artist.

With that in mind, I have no misconceptions about what meager ability I have to deal death with a paintbrush.  Still, it behooves the soul to try.  I decided to work off of the now familiar cover image from the Harold Lamb book.  Except, I wanted my Hannibal to have darker, olive colored skin.  I also wanted to portray him as he may have looked crossing back into north africa, perhaps before the battle of Zama.

Older.  Gaunt.  Tired.  With one blinded eye to remind those who viewed him of the price he had paid during the long years he had been at war.  I did the best that I was capable of, and despite my short comings (and never mind the slightly blurry image my camera took), I was happy with the finished portrait...

Not perfect, but it conveys some of the qualities I found lacking in other representations.

As you can see, the portrait (blurred out above) is already in the club awaiting its final placement (as the various portraits are re-arranged for optimal viewing).

Ultimately, I am happy with the result, and am glad to have Hannibal Barca looking over us amateur generals as we push our toy soldiers around.


  1. Nice work! If you are interested in Hannibal and illustrations I recommend the book "Darkness oder Cannae", which was funded by a kickstarter campaign and has many illustrations: http://darknessovercannae.com/

  2. Hey, thanks. I'll try to keep an eye on that.