Presawing Pope Leo the Great

Pope Leo the Great upper body

Another saint's statue

stained glass window of Pope Gregory

Pope Gregory looked suspiciously like Pope Leo

stained glass window with inscription Gregor . Magn.

But the name of this pope is at the bottom of the window: Gregorius Magnificus

As you might remember I copied the statue of Thomas Aquinas for St. John's Cathedral earlier this year. That statue has now been installed and I could move right on to the next one: Pope Leo the Great. It's a one hundred year old statue of a bearded man with a tiara, a book and a Byzantine cross. At first I thought it represented Pope Gregory the Great in stone, because the stained glass window behind the statue shows a similar Pope: also with a book and a Byzantine cross and tiara, but without a beard and with a dove.

Attila the Hun

Cracks in the face of the statue of Pope Leo

weathering traces in the face

But it turned out that I was mistaken after all, partly because the console of this statue shows Attila the Hun crouching. In the year 452 the Hun Army was camped near Lake Garda, with plans to attack Rome, but Pope Leo visited him and talked it out of his head. Talk about power of persuasion. Pope Gregory only came a hundred years later.

Weathering process

robe of the statue of Pope Leo has weathered

disappeared folds in the garment

The two statues of Thomas Aquinas left in a crate headed for Den Bosch, where the new statue was placed on the church and the old statue was put in the museum. By return mail I received the old statue of Pope Leo back. On my scaffolding visit I noticed that the statue still had almost all its details, but the stone wasn't in a very good condition.

Just like Thomas, the statue was made of Udelfanger sandstone. The material has been applied vertically at the time, and that has had an impact on the weathering: vertical traces of watering and the disapperance of a number of folds of his garment. The statue also shows serious exfoliation on the back and if nothing happened now you'd have a chance that in a decade many details will be much stronger affected, which would make it very difficult to make a proper reconstruction of it.

Vertical layering

foot of the statue of Pope Leo the Great

crumbled pleats

As I explained in the first article about the statue of Thomas Aquinas it's not desirable to have the stone's layers run vertically through the statue. But it is not always possible to avoid that. In the quarry, the thickness of the right layer is not more than about 120 centimeters, and the statue is at least 150 cms tall. Over a hundred years ago they picked a horizontal piece of stone for that reason and put it straight up. This is known as standing layering. But this time I need to make a statue, in which the layers run horizontally. That can only happen if I make this statue out of two pieces. A body out of one piece, and a piece with the head and shoulders.

Presawing

presawing the new statue, step 2

presawing the lower part, step 2

I had already had some blocks of stone lying in the yard: a remaining piece of the Thomas torso and the second half of the block from which I've presawn Serge's angel. Those two pieces were not mine, but they belonged to St John's. After consultation it was decided that I could use these two blocks for this statue. I started reconstructing the missing parts with plastiline clay. Next up was the presawing of the lower body, in three steps from coarse to fine. This was followed by the same process for the upper body.

Next step

presawing head of the new statue, step 2

Presawing the shoulders and head, step 2

After this will come the rough carving of the two pieces, at the point where the seam should be. The plan is to follow the lower line of the cross on the chasuble of the pope. It will be a difficult job! I'll keep you informed of the continuation of this interesting challenge.

presawing the new statue, step 3

presawing lower body ready

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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