A flying buttress figurine with two pedantic heads

Two-Headed Eagle Completes

Too many other priority projects

We haven't made flying buttress figurines for the Eusebius Church for three quarters of a year now, because a number of other projects came in between, such as the finials and large crockets for the Utrecht Dom Tower, the figurines of the 4 seasons from Badhoevedorp, the 10 blocks from the Latin School in Nijmegen, the roasted dolphins of the Art'otel in Amsterdam, the Kalasams, once again a whole batch of large crockets for the Dom tower, and especially a lot of ornamental, relief- and sculpture for the reconstruction of two facade claddings for the church of Veghel, about which more later, after the unveiling.

Headless chicken

double-headed eagle before disassembly

before disassembly, around 2006

But once that was completed I could enjoy carving another flying buttress statue, a two-headed eagle this time. This figurine had also suffered quite a bit from the impregnation process gone awry and the weather conditions. As a result, it ended up going through life headless. Two old photos showed that the heads were not really very expressive, and if someone doesn't agree with it they should come over and tell me so, but I took the opportunity to make some nice and pedantic new heads in foam and plaster. I imagined those two heads arguing with each other all the time and being very conceited to boot. Taking into account the block size from which they had to be carved afterwards, I also made sure that they each looked in a different direction. I also made them look a bit more like eagle heads, because I couldn't make much out of that old photo.

Foam and plaster

old weathered eagle of tuff

a few years after dismantling

As said, the necks of this two-headed eagle were so thoroughly broken off that even a beginning could not be found anymore. So I drilled a few holes for a support frame and made two foam necks and heads, which I later covered with a layer of plaster. I left it all pretty coarse, because I would only really start to shape it when carving the stone. This also fits better with the approach of the original sculptor, who preferred to carve the flying buttress figurines in direct carving style at the time.

Following our tried and tested method, I then sawed a copy into new stone with my contour saw, after which the carving could begin. More about the operation of this machine can be found in this article and video, and in all articles about the copy saw machine.

Plaster reconstruction of the heads of the double-headed eagle

the plaster reconstruction between the finials of the Dom Tower

The Two-Headed Eagle

Two-Headed Eagle CompletesThe two-headed eagle is an ancient motif, that can be found in many cultures. Often it has to do with references to an empire. Van Kuilenburg had clashes with Germany in his youth during the war, where the symbol was widely used, but also in the centuries before that, the Reichsadler was already a widely used symbol.

Bald bird gets feathers

Two-headed eagle during carving process

We've now copied have a whole series of figurines by Eduard van Kuilenburg into new stone. For the vast majority of these, we have closely followed the original figurines. But with a sculpture like this, much of which is missing, it was more important for me to make an interesting image that fits in with the atmosphere of his other work, than obsessively trying to reconstruct what is no longer clear. Because I have already found feathers on some of his earlier birds, and because it soon turned out that I would otherwise be left with a large uninteresting surface at the front, I chose to apply a new plumage here. double-headed eagle completed

The heads of the double-headed eagle have also become quite stubborn, as I envisioned. Initially, the left head (for the viewers at home on the right) was a lot bigger than the right one, and I had to carve away quite a bit of it before a kind of uniformity came in. Of course something like this affects the position of the head, which makes this neck look a little more stretched, which came in handy for me.


profile of the eagle

I still have to adjust the profiles on the spot

I carved the plumage of the two-headed eagle with a a tooth chisel for structure, creating a lively effect.

The head and beak were carved less expressive because otherwise the design would suffer. This two-headed eagle stands on the spot where two flying buttresses sprout from the church, which probably also led to this design. I have tried to follow the dimensions of the old connections between the arches and the church as accurately as possible with a pointing machine and templates, but as the past few years have taught me, nothing ever fits exactly on such an old church. Nothing is square or plumb. That is why I left extra mass on all parts that have to connect to existing work, that after placement will be adjusted on the spot. This chicken had very expressive legs, and when these get a little more space later, after carving away the excess stone, I can shape them a bit clearer as well.

All in all a very nice flying buttress statue to make!


-click on a photo to view them in a larger size-

on to the next flying buttress figurine→

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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