Retreat from Moscow

Inspired by the similar fates suffered by the armies of Hitler and Napoleon 130 years apart, this box incorporates the famous “Shep Paine hidden mirror” (as seen in his Ghost of Hamlet’s Father and Son of the Morning Star boxes, among others) to depict the French soldiers and wrecked wagon in the sky above the German soldiers and ruined truck.

Above: The Germans in the bottom scene, photographed with regular room light.

The French ghosts in the top scene, photographed in regular room light.

Here, the French ghosts ready to be attached to the top of the box, facing the mirror which will project them in the sky over the French. (Because the viewer sees only what is reflected on the mirror, you’ll note that the figures are sculpted in reverse. This was done by constantly checking my modified Historex pieces in a mirror as I went.)

A blurry shot of the French ghosts set against the night sky (black velvet with fiber-optic stars lit by cool white LEDs, as are the Germans; the French fire is a warm white LED with a little yellow-orange paint and some fiberglass insulation smoke, while the fire in the German oil drum are warm white LEDs with a little yellow, orange, and red paint). The shot above is blurry and not very good, in part because the theatrical mirror effect known as Pepper’s Ghost (we have a link to more on that on our Links Page) requires the ghostly image to be viewed from a very specific angle in order to be most effective. You can of course control that with the fixed viewpoint in a box diorama, but photographing it is nonetheless a challenge! Bob Sarnowski wasn’t around to shoot this one for me, so Shep helped me get the final image on my gallery page by digitaling merging a shot of the ghosts with a shot of the Germans on the ground.