Yesterday I received a new batch of stone again: seven new blocks of Muschelkalk limestone and seven old flying buttress figurines from St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands). This series has Noah's Ark as its theme. At first glance, I thought I saw a bear, a drunken Noah, a lion and a naked lady. Presumably his daughter-in-law. And a big old ark.
For the unreligious among us: Noah was the man who was commissioned by God to build a huge wooden boat 130 meters long, 22 meters wide and 13 meters height, with three floors.
In it, he collected a large number of animals (seven pairs of all the clean animals, two pairs of each of the rest) and took refuge with his family in the boat when it started to rain for 40 days. After this Flood, in which all human and animal life on Earth died, Noah began a new life as a farmer and once became drunk from his homemade wine. He got upset with one of his sons over this, because he laughed when he had seen his father naked. Hence a nude Noah with a drinking horn.
Copying… and a little more
I have once before carved a Noah's ark for the church, in november 2014. It was a small corbel stone for the tower. This time it's the top one of seven flying buttress statuettes, and therefore also the stone that is attached to the wall of the church. As I in the message about that smaller ark from two years ago, the previously used Ettringer tufa is very coarse and is not really suited for fine detailing. With another stone it would have looked different as well. So without compromising the original design there is some room for a little more detail in the copies. I think these figurines, much more than the rather Cubist angels of the previous series, can be made a lot livelier with a little extra care in finishing . I'm thinking of clearer shadow lines, slightly more detail in hair, and a structure of finishing that connects to the shaping. It's about detailing in service of the existing sculpture. If I would suddenly make those into quite different sculptures, then I would completely miss the point.
Ark with donkey and dove
The largest of the seven blocks contains an depiction of Noah's ark itself. In the photo it's not quite clear what is depicted here, and that is just the same in real life. It is a picture puzzle, but we can see a boat on some wild waves, with a huge pigeon on the roof and a donkey sticking his head out of a window. On the other side, Noah himself is looking out of a window, to see if the pigeon has already returned. Apparently not realizing that the animal has already landed on the roof. Between the waves three big fish are hidden.
I think it's a very nice image, fitting in the tradition of church building sculpture: full of details and with figures that are completely stuffed through and on top of each other in the space a console or corner block has to offer. Not everything is anatomically correct, but it does offer a narrative, vivid sculpture. In the coming weeks, I will first begin with the simpler works before I start this block. Not because it's so hard to make, for the technical challenges of this serious work are not so bad, but in order to get into the atmosphere of this series before I tackle the capstone. I will keep you informed of the developments!