A Japanese lantern for Clingendael Estate

An old Japanese lantern

Japanese Garden Clingendael

Japanese Garden of Park Clingendael. Photo by Takeaway – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

You'll probably know them: the granite lanterns adorning Japanese gardens. I didn't know this, but even in the Netherlands, we have wonderful Japanese-styled gardens. Actually you can't really call them Japanese Gardens, because the criteria for these are apparently very strict. Rule no. 1 is as I believe that it should be located in Japan, and that just won't fit inside The Netherlands. Anyway, in The Hague, specifically in the grounds of ​​Clingendael Estate in Wassenaar, there is also a Japanese garden. A very beautiful one, that was created around 1915 and only opens for 8 weeks per year. To save the moss.

Copying in Bavarian granite

blocks of Flossenburger granite gray-yellowAround the time of the construction of the garden, its owner imported a number of granite lanterns for her garden. Among them was also one somewhat primitive Japanese lantern made of Shirakawa granite. It weathered rather quickly however, and was restored a number of times over the years. And then in May 2017 I was approached by Raymund Bervoets of Restauratie Breda, who asked me what it would cost to have a copy carved in Bavarian granite.

The lantern consists of five parts: the base, the shank, the fire chamber, the roof, and the cap. Typically, all the parts are loosely stacked onto each other, but in this one, because of all the repairs, several parts were glued together. Its base had gotten lost over time, perhaps it had weathered and been done away with, so at one time a composite cast piece was made.

Chrysanthemum themed

reconstruction of the shank and fire chamber of the lantern on the sawing machineUsually Japanese lanterns look very different. For starters they haven't got 20 but 16 lobes, and thus get to bear the title 'Imperial'. Also, base and shank will be carved much more clearly. But the common element was that the roof of the lantern consisted of chrysanthemum petals. Perhaps this was a somewhat more rustic version of an official lantern?

Raymund had done a lot of research into the right shapes for this lantern. On this basis, a plan was drawn up for copying. We needed a new design for the base, with, just as the roof and the shank, has 20 lobes. The shank was supposed to get a bit of a tummy. The fire chamber had deepened 'edges’ so that a small window frame with rice paper could be put in. The roof had to get 20 chrysanthemum leaves just as the original had, but sharper and fuller, and the cap had to go get a tip. And everything was supposed to get a hand-carved character.

Of course, no problem! You ask, we run.

Getting to work

presawing granite shank piece on sawing machineBureaucratic mills never grind very quickly and certainly not in The Hague, but at the end of 2019 I got the green light and I could start reconstructing the lantern and then copying it in Flossenburger yellow-gray granite. With plaster I completed the five components, cut out the major shapes on my presawing machine, and carved the copy just as irregular as its original. Many details were deteriorated quite badly, so I had to bring them back a lot sharper in the copy.

Carving the base of the lantern

Lantern base in granite completedThe base was supposed to be partly covered in earth, and a layer of soil was to cover it. I thought it would be nicer to give the part that would end up underground a hand-carved finish as well. Of that, I made a short film. Carving granite with a chrome vanadium chisel is not easy! Only at the end I realized that I had a carbide (tungsten) point chisel lying around somewhere. That proved to go remarkably easier. In the first chisel, its tip was blunt after just a few hits, but with the carbide chisel, I could keep carving for a long time. I was afraid that the tip of the chisel would shatter at the first blows, but it all went without any problem.

A special way of experiencing a Japanese lantern

The Japanese garden in Wassenaar is actually too popular to let everyone experience it in peace. If there would have been access to the garden all year round, the moss would not survive the many photo sessions. Therefore, it is only accessible to the public for eight weeks a year. But not everyone keeps to that rule! It has happened a number of times that uninvited visitors entered the garden at night and went frolicking about with lanterns. Since all the parts are stacked loose, several times, parts have ended up in the pond.

Jam jar and cap

lantern in Japanese gardenFor that reason, we discussed how we could make the copy more stable. The result was that I was to make a kind of jam jar structure for each component. On top of the lower part, I would make a raised edge, and the portion above that was to receive a cavity that just fits over the lip. Like the cap of a jar.

As a result, the stack will no longer be easy to shift, but can still be lifted. That's why we've also applied a flexible adhesive between the parts during installation. In this way the components can always be removed someday, with some precaution, but they are anchored better in case someone wants to throw the thing over.

Gallery

-Click on a picture for an enlarged view-

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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