Countess Karenstein








Christopher A. LeClair


Formerly Soldat now available by Fox Fire Studios. Sculpted by Mike Cusanelli.


 Countess Karenstein has a rather lengthy and complex history that surrounds her. She was the fictional incarnation of British author Sheridan Le Fanu who originally wrote the short story “Carmilla” of Karenstein in 1872.  The “original female vampire story,” and “Carmilla” was published in a collection of short stories entitled In a Glass Darkly. Since, many writers and film makers have been created from that first story of  The Countess of Karenstein and Laura (the countess’s victim).

 “Carmilla” --or Marcilla, Millcara-- as she was also known as was based on the real life Countess Erzsébet Báthory (Elizabeth Bathory). Her home, the Castle Csejthe in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, only known as Transylvania then, now part of  Nadasdy region of Hungry. Elizabeth Bathory is also said to be the inspiration for Bram Stroker’s Dracula.

 Elizabeth Bathory was the notorious “Blood Countess” who was responsible for the brutal deaths of more than 650 young girls. She thought by bathing in the girls’ blood she could retain her youthful beauty, and played other sick and twisted games with these women. Eventually, the Hungarian authorities discovered Elizabeth Bathory’s gruesome and condemnable behavior; however, under Hungarian law the nobility of the “Blood Countess” saved her from being sentenced to death for her crimes. In 1610, they sealed her in a tower at the Castel Csejthe save for a small window through food could be passed to her. She remained there until her death, August 14, 1614, at the age of fifty-four. However, Elizabeth Bathroy’s story doesn’t begin or end there.   


The kit is a fantastic girl kit by a great sculptor Mike Cusanelli. Countess Karenstein is breathtakingly beautiful and wonderfully detailed. She is casted crisply and cleanly in white resin. The parts are smooth and free of any air-bubbles and perhaps the best castings I have ever seen. Sometimes you don’t get this quality in a hundred-dollar kit. The kit comes in six parts: the base, headstone, main body, arms and legs. All conveniently joined at natural parting lines of the Countess’s attire.   


One thing I always liked about Mike Cusanelli’s work and Soldat (Fox Fire Studios) overall was the quality of the workmanship. Very little prep work is needed to get started on the main task of painting these kits. There was no seam filling, air bubbles to fill, or any other ‘defects’ to fill or sand before starting on the kit. Only the small casting slugs needed to be removed from the main parts, but that is typical of any resin kits. There just isn’t a lot to be said about a superbly produced six part resin kit, other then building it wasn’t any trouble at all. Everything fit and lined up the way it was supposed to.    


I started with the “Girl.” Once I had her parts ready to go, I had to make a choice. With doing girl kits there is always the question is how to paint them and where to start. Soldat made it easy. Since all the parts were at natural seams I decided to paint the body flesh tones first with the arms and legs not yet attached. I used, as I always do for figures, Model Master’s flesh tone system that works well for figure kits that the colors can be airbrushed. Usually, anything 90 mm or bigger can be airbrushed. Smaller scales get difficult to airbrush effectively and other techniques work much better for those smaller scales.

 In any event, I airbrush a base coat of MM “Flesh Base” down then I alternate that MM tone and shading color between to build the depth and tones in the skin. Some times going back to the base with light mist to lighten the tones up. There can be thirty to fifty lightly applied coats of color on a finished skin tone to get the depths and tones down. Layering smaller and smaller amounts of paint down as I go. I have been impressed with this system only four colors are all you need to do most any skin tones. Depending on the subject, making the tones lighter or dark by how heavy you use the toning and shading colors is easy.

There is also a dark “shadowing” color, but I don’t use it often, especially on fair skinned vampire girls.  I just repeat the steps as necessary: base . . . tone . . . shade, base, tone, shade until I am satisfied with the appearance of the skin. I often refer to the great fantasy artists’ Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo, Luis Royo, and Sorayama work as guides when working with skin tones on girls. Females are, in fact, the hardest to do. Males tend to have defined muscles making them easier to paint, where as females need a bit more finesse softer and subtle tones for them to look right. It’s just the way it is, so you cannot be too heavy handed when painting them.    

 When I do a kit like this I don’t worry about over spray, and in this, I did not mask off anything when shooting the skin tones. I find that doing the skin first is much easier, and the results look better when you’re not worried about getting skin color on the cloths, masking off sections, or being forced to cut a pass short. By time I am done the figure is usually covered entirely with skin colors.  After I am happy with the skin color I go back and detail the rest of the figure, eyes, clothes, jewelry, etc.

 She is a vampire and red or black are the logical colors to use on her outfit, but you can use whatever you like. I, arbitrary, picked the color red for Karenstein’s clothes. I mixed up some semi gloss red, MM flat red and gloss red, to give her attire more of a leather look then a vinyl look. Once dried I went back over it with some thinned Detail Master Black out to highlight the wrinkles in her boots, gloves and suit.

The metal details in her suit were done with Rub-n-Buff gold.  Rub-n-Buff is great stuff to simulate gold or silver jewelry, or anything else that is supposed to be actual silver or gold. You can brush it on without brush strokes or streaks showing. The red stone was Tamiya clear red over the Rub-n-Buff gold. A good way to simulate precious stones is Rub-n-Buff gold or silver and Tamiya clear colors.

 Karenstein’s eyes, and lips were done with 10/0 brush and artist oil paints for a more natural look then enamels. Her dark hair was semi gloss black with some subtle reddish-brown highlights.

Once all the parts were painted, I assemble her arms and legs with small brass pins and epoxy. I highly recommend using epoxy for this as “super glues” tend not to be strong enough for putting together larger resin kits. As a final touch, I added a few painted-on strands of black hair with a 10/0 for additional life like appearance. She was set aside and I moved on to the base.

 The base was comparatively easy some assorted Floquil browns, and aged concrete on the top then washed with Windsor and Newton inks. The headstone was done with MM flat white and entirely coated with Detail Master Black Out with a touch of emerald green ink for an aged marble look. I added a few strands of Woodland Scenic field grass around the head stone and glued in place with CA. I use CA here because it was a tight fitting part to begin with and smaller so it carried no weight.

 The final step was to attach Countess Karenstein to the base, and then she was complete.    


I appreciate seeing Mike, who took off a couple years to get his master’s degree, back sculpting. There are now four other Countess Karenstein kits available from Fox Fire Studios. The latest one is featured on the cover of Amazing Figure Modeler. She’s so fine.

 Countess Karenstein is a great first figure kit because it is of such high caliber and doesn’t take an enormous time to fix, fill, or sand seams, which is sometimes a problem with resin figure kits. You can really focus on painting and getting the skin tones down. She looks great! Furthermore, this kit is an outstanding value at $45.00, which is cheap for female resin kits, and I highly recommend any of Mike Cusanelli and Fox Fire Production’s kits.  


The Vampire Book by Gorden Melton  Pub. Visible Ink ISBN 0-8103-2295-1 1994

Vampires by Manuela Dunn Mascetti Pub. Penguin ISBN 0-14-023801-8 1992

Christopher A. LeClair


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