Between the flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral

broken drumstick of the Little Drummer Boy

The Little Drummer with broken drumstick

Gothic churches with flying buttresses

If you've read any of my previous articles on this blog, then you may have seen that in the recent years I made quite some copies of flying buttress figurines for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem. Now there are only a few churches in the world that have sculptures on top of their flying buttresses. Actually that wasn't even so originally with St. Eusebius's Church. Firstly, before 1921 this church had no flying buttresses around its choir at all, and secondly, it was only during that restoration that the first flying buttress statues were installed. After World War II eventually 96 flying buttress figurines were placed there (which we are all copying at the moment).

Gargoyles and ornaments and flying butresses of St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch

St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch is richly decorated. The northwest facades were replaced in the 70s and 80s in the somewhat gray German basalt lava. The statues and gargoyles were made of Udelfanger sandstone, and date from the 19th century.

The flying buttresses of St. John's

This was all inspired by the flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch, where already since the Middle Ages 96 figurines have been sitting on top of the flying buttresses. There is a Wikipedia article devoted to them, where you can find a description of each figurine. The statues of St. John's are 19th-century copies of earlier medieval sculptures. Of these, a few can still be found inside St John's Museum De Bouwloods, next to the Cathedral.

Been working on it for years

the Little Drummer Boy on the flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch

This picture shows that the drumstick had already been broken a long time ago. Photo: Tony Zeeuwe

Recently I was asked to fix one of those flying buttress figurines. It was a really simple job, that was done in a few hours, but it was very nice to once again sit on top of the church. My colleagues and I have been working on this Cathedral from 1999 to 2010 carving ornaments, statues, gargoyles, consoles and canopies for the church, and then we have also been involved several times in carving ornaments later on.

A good cooperation

Every year a small part of the church will be restored in the context of Major Maintenance. This year, a Belgian company took on the restoration of the natural stone parts, including the ornaments. That's why I was very surprised when I was asked for this job, but I got to hear that the lines are very short between the contractor and our crew (we work together in the restoration of the Eusebius Church in Arnhem, the Dom Cathedral in Utrecht and the Dom Tower in Utrecht), so these things can be arranged very quickly.

The Little Drummer Boy

In this case it was the Little Drummer Boy's drum stick, which was broken. If I could fix it. Of course. It was made in Udelfanger sandstone, and as I still had some pieces lying around, no problem. I loaded all the stuff in my van, drove to Den Bosch, and dragged everything up the stairs to about 30 meters up. Luckily I didn't need my compressor after all.

repairing the drumstick of the Little Drummer Boy on the flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch

The beginning of the job: an aligned hole through the hand and the old tip of the drumstick. A fitting piece of new sandstone with a hole, in between the old parts. Next is adding the top piece and then shaping the drumstick

Connecting all the parts

Because it is a stone drumstick, it was obviously not too thin. I could drill a long hole through the hand and make a hollow drum stick in two parts. Once the pieces, with a lot of finicky matching, finally fitted on top and in between, I could start making them slimmer and exactly to shape. And to fix them in place, I connected the five parts with a long pin and epoxy adhesive. Add a little bit of mortar and it's done.

Flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch

A great view of the flying buttresses on the north side

Carnival, above and below

And only then I had the time to look around me. I had been so engrossed in the work that I had forgotten to take some photos of my work, but now I could clearly see that this was a very good spot. Downstairs, the Carnival was starting up, on Friday, already. But even here on top a party was going on, what a view! All kinds of different flying buttress figurines of high quality.

Jerome Bosch connection

Hieronymus Bosch Fat man on Water BarrelThere are speculations that the flying buttress figurines may have a connection with Jerome Bosch. Hieronymus Bosch, the famous 15th-century painter from Den Bosch, was, just as the architect of St. John's Cathedral, Alaert Duhameel, a member of the Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady. Whether it is true that the themes of the original sculptures indeed were partly raised by Jerome Bosch or that he even made drawings for them, we'll never know. But the atmosphere is remarkably similar. It's nice to muse about it anyway. In any case, it's a special place for Den Bosch. That's why the flying buttresses, in the Bosch-year of 2016 were the centre piece of the well-visited ‘The Wondrous Climb‘ along the sculptures of St. John's Cathedral.

Forgotten

The job was done, I loaded the stuff into my van, consulted a bit with the foreman and drove home. I had only forgotten 1 small detail. Taking a picture of the final result!

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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Flying buttress figurine: Apostle Andrew last week

flying buttress figurine of Apostle Andreas, newly copied in Muschelkalk limestone

Setback

We're coming along nicely with carving the musicians from flying buttress no. 14, but we were faced with some adversity. The block for the trumpeter showed some significant cracks and had to be re-ordered. That's all part of the warranty by the quarry, but still annoying, because they will not reimburse transportation. Fortunately, I 'm not bothered too much by that myself, as it's all in the hands of Slotboom Stonemasons as they're the ones orderering the stone. Added to that, we were still missing the sculpture of the Accordionist, which had mistakenly been glued to the new movie theater. But meanwhile it has now been pried loose and has finally arrived in our yard. I immediately started with pre-cutting with the saw machine and the first carving right away. We were also soon to receive a delegation of customers who had bought an old statue of the apostles, but Coronavirus has thrown a spanner in the works.

Attributes for each apostle

Meanwhile, we've just begun carving work on flying buttress no. 16, a series of 6 times an apostle and the Mystic Lamb up on top. Stide has already completed the apostle St Peter, Jelle has just finished carving the Mystic Lamb, and I completed Apostle Andrew last week for this buttress.. He was easy to recognize by the cross he holds. It's a jolly group altogether, those apostles: all of them hold the torturing device by which they were put to death. Those were the days.

Andrew did not want to be crucified in the same way as Jesus, but that never bothered them: they made the St. Andrew's Cross especially for him. We now use it as a warning sign for a level railway crossing.

Coarsely carved

side view Saint AndrewAs I previously reported, these flying buttress figurines tend to get more voluminous and rougher as sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg was nearing the end of the work. From arch to arch you can clearly see the development the sculptor went through.

In the fascinating book on the sculpture at this church is an anecdote that relates how the church council responded in shock to the "crowded flying buttresses’ carrying these massive apostles. The six disciples sit there looking impressive, with big hands and broad heads. They're fairly easy to carve, but very expressive in their execution. At different angles, you can see how the sculptor worked: he drew on a number of sides the contours of arms, body and legs and just started carving away. That's why his left arm still remains quite flat and follows the mass of the original block.

Two right feet

Apparently his feet were less important, because Van Kuilenburg spent considerably less attention to those details. Like the Listening Man that Stide copied and with The Little Praying Man from the northwest side, one of his feet is the other way around, with the big toe on the wrong side. Again, I just corrected that a bit, that doesn't further affect the overall look of the sculpture.

No changes made

But apart from that one foot, I haven't changed anything in this figurine. It was carved a little bit cartoon-like, and anatomical correctness was clearly subordinate to its narrative power. If you would try to adjust everything by all means to 'how it should be', then you would clearly miss the point and end up with something that's neither this not that. Therefore I have tried to approach the coarse structure of the old figurine by using the bush hammer-chisel, because this also contributes to the overall character of this statue. I thought it was a very expressive little thing, that reminded me strongly of the twelve heads that Stide copied on the west facade of the tower of St. Eusebius's Church.

All in all a very nice sculpture to carve. This series will definitely be clearly silhouetted on the arches around the chancel of the church later on!

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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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 a seemingly primitive Japanese lantern, made in 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 best to also shape the underground part with a hand carved finish. 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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Flying buttress figurine: A Flute Player

flying buttress figurine of Flutist 1flying buttress figurine of Flutist 2A guided tour

Last week I completed another flying buttress figurine, a fluter player from the sieries of Musicians from flying buttress no. 14 this time. I had already presawn this sculpture a long time ago, but since I had recently completed a number of projects I could now get on with this one. Around the same time a group of visitors came to the sculotor's yard. These people had bought an old flying buttress figurine from this series, and we gave a tour and explained about our work, as shown below in a short video and pictures.

flying buttress figurine of Flutist Presawnflying buttress figurine of Flutist 3

Koen, Jelle, customer and Stide with flying buttress sculptures by Jelle

Koen, Jelle, customer and Stide with flying buttress sculptures by Jelle

to the next article about flying buttress images →

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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Statue of Pope Leo the Great, completed

sanding the chasuble The statue of Pope Leo the Great, carved out of two parts of Udelfanger sandstone, is completed. I made this copy for the restoration of St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, The Netherlands. You can read the two previous articles on this subject on my blog under the following links: here↑ the article on the presawing work and here↑ the second article, on the fitting together of the two parts, and why this is made out of two pieces of stone.

Detailing, copying, finishing

The procedure, after all the presawing and fitting together of lower- and upper body of the statue of Pope Leo, is the same as in the previous statue of Thomas Aquinas: just copying what the old statue was like and what I had earlier reconstructed in plastiline clay. Upon completion it was mainly down to detailing. All details had to be finished very sharp and after much sanding I got the statue smooth and crisp. All false dents were removed.

I had discovered that grit files of (tungsten)carbide work well on this fine sandstone. I had bought three very cheap grit files and bent two of them, so that I could reach every nook and cranny. It turned out very convenient for the first rough finishing. After that, I could finish the surface completely free of scratches with sandpaper.

By now, the statue has been sent on its journey, encased in a wooden box, off to St. John's Cathedral, where it will be put on the site of the old statue on the facade in due course . The original statue will be placed inside the adjacent museum, in storage.

Sculpture of Pope Leo the Great, carved out of two parts Udelfanger sandstone, completed

Gallery

-Click on an image to get the enlarged view-

 

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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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Statue of Pope Leo the Great, part two

located in the joint face are two stainless steel pins of 20 mm. Statue of Pope Leo the Great

1 Statue in two parts

the top- and lower part of the statue of Pope Leo the Great are presawnWork on the statue of Pope Leo the Great proceeds much more smoothly than I expected. When I explained to the committee and to my colleagues about my plan for carving of the statue out of two parts, most of them thought it was quite a bold approach. Because the statue needs to be carved from two parts, as I explained before in the previous article and the article on the similar statue of Thomas Aquinas.

In the original statue, the layers were used vertically, but for the copy it's desired that the layers run through the statue horizontally. Since there are no blocks of Udelfanger sandstone available that are tall enough, it has to be made out of two pieces. Where would you put the seam? An initial proposal was to split it at the top and bottom of the statue, below the line of tufts of its outer garment, plus another one in the crown. I myself proposed to follow the seam of the garment, along the bottom line of the cross on his chasuble.

Finding out the way the statue sits first

The rough carving of the torso of the statue of Pope Leo the GreatNow I can't just stick the two pieces together after the presawing. Firstly, there is a lot of surplus material on both parts at the spot of the joint plane. Secondly, there would be two versions of a hand holding a book. The book needed to be removed on the upper part, because that piece sits behind the book. I also couldn't reach all parts with my presawing machine such as behind the book. So I had to partly carve both parts just to see how it all fits.

Determining the joint plane

upper- and lower body carved far enough to fit the two parts togetherThe seam doesn't run through the statue in a straight line, but is rather curved. The difficult part is on the one hand to get the bend the same in both parts. It has to fit exactly and the lines of the robe should connect nicely. On the other hand, there is a fragile point near both shoulders, where the stone is not perpendicular to the outside, but will form a thin wedge. In this place I had to be extra careful that I don't break anything off by accident.

Lifting and lowering

First fit of the state is promising.Once I had determined the line of the chasuble on both parts I could start chiselling away the excess stone. I suspended the head from the hoist with two thin straps that I had tied in the correct position. Then it became a matter of lowering, looking where it didn't fit, hoisting, adjusting, and back down again, and repeat, until it was just right. I had made the lower part of the statue of Pope Leo the Great a bit narrower at the top, so that the upper body fitted over it as a lid. The picture shows an early stage; it doesn't fit properly yet here, because there are still slits at the shoulders.

Putting in the anchoring

located in the joint face are two stainless steel pins of 20 mm. Statue of Pope Leo the GreatFor a really strong connection between the two parts to I inserted two anchor rods of 20 mm thick stainless steel wire ends. Now the two bars have to fit very well inside the two parts and cannot disturb their alignment. It is therefore important that they are exactly parallel. Also, the holes in the two parts should be perfectly superimposed and aligned. You always need to be careful when drilling! When the four holes were to my liking and Ifound that the alignment was still the same, I bonded the two pins with epoxy . Then the two pieces were stuck tightly together, but there was still some space in the joint plane. It is almost impossible to make it so that these are less than a millimeter away from each other.

Pouring the mortar

two part statue of Pope Leo the Great in Udelfanger sandstone: pouring the seam with restoration mortar

But in this case that space worked in my favor. Besides the four holes for the pins I had drilled an extra hole, which ended up in the neck of the statue of Pope Leo the Great. I still had a bucket with Jahn grout that I could use for this case. First I thoroughly soaked the statue and especially the joint, so that it wouldn't dry out the mortar too soon and then not fill the entire cavity.

the white grout in the pouring bowlThen I took some modeling clay and closed up the seam almost completely . Only at the shoulders, I left a small hole. These were the highest points, so that was where air could become trapped. Then I modeled a bowl for pouring in the neck of the Pope. The final steps were simple: mixing up the grout, casting until the shoulders began to leak, closing up the shoulders and continuing to pour until that bowl was full. After a few days, the seam was closed perfectly: porous enough, but sturdy and well connected. Finally, I sealed up the edge of the tiny seam with restoration mortar for Udelfanger sandstone, so you can't see anything of it anymore.

Shaping

beginning with detailing the head and the crownAnd the rest is simple enough: just carving a copy of how the original looks. I work from top to bottom and have now reached the beard. I've had a lot of work on the crown and the cross, in getting it all nice and tight. Yet there is still a lot of work left, but that all comes later. For now I am very happy anyway that everything fits beautifully and that it worked out fine without any damages.

Gallery

 

detailing the beard and face

detailing beard and face

Read the work of this In the next article.

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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A small sandstone head for Eusebius

row of 9 heads in the Eusebius Church. In front is a head of a woman with hood
A small head in Udelfanger sandstone

I had a small job in December for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands) again. High in the upper side wall of the south transept are 9 small heads embedded inside the wall. Three of those are old heads, which were made in the Middle Ages, four are from the 50s of the twentieth century, and one head is missing. I was asked to carve a new head for the empty spot. The additions of the 50s clearly show the traces of that time, and that will probably be true for mine as well. It proved quite difficult to carve a primitive head and to restrain myself so that it won't end up all too detailed.

Taking turns

The heads in the church wall were placed alternately: every time a corbel from the last century is interspersed with a medieval one. The latter are the simplest ones, and also the example that I want to go back to. Unfortunately it is not all that easy, because there is a beautiful woman's head in red sandstone between the others. This lady has a beautiful elaborate hood. Fortunately, much reference material can be found in the book on St. Eusebius's Church. You won't find any new books anymore, but perhaps it can still be found online ↑. In this book, there are many images of the corbels with small heads, except for this series, regrettably. And I saw a few pictures of old sandstone corbels from the Arnhem Municipal Museum, which, like the red lady, were beautifully carved. But that wasn't the way I was headed.

Simple faces

medieval corbel with headThe other corbels have primitively carved eyes, simple faces and thick lips. I also found a photo inside the book of a corbel that was sent to an Australian chapel as a gift, which has a similar shape. So that's what I've looked for in this small head corbel. The little guy got a page haircut and thick lips, and big floppy ears. I made a rough and small maquette in clay and then carved it into Udelfanger sandstone. The stonemason had already done the profile work. A bit of a pity, for I would have held on to the rough shape of the old corbels. I've just tried if it was better if I scraped it all smooth, but then it all went a bit dead, So I left it with a chisel stroke. It is always difficult to work from photos, so I hope it fits well within the range.

 

 

new corbel with primitive little head

 

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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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 rather difficult job! Read more on this interesting challenge in the next article about this statue.

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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Year review of 2019

250th blog post

2019 was a great year! I've had all sorts of things in progress, among which a lot of ornaments for the Utrecht Cathedral and the Eusebius Church in Arnhem. Time for an annual review of 2019.

Blue sodalite

woman in blue stone Not everything I've done this year has been published on my blog. For instance, I carved a few things for other sculptors. One was a large sculpture in blue sodalite, of a stylized lady. I copy-sawed the plaster maquette into the new stone and then carved and polished it. This material is difficult to work in, but it has an overwhelming color. I'm sure once installed in the right place, it will make a big impression. Through all those vivid colors it becomes hard to see its shapes in my photo, but upright and under good lighting conditions (not under my roof with subdued light) it will be easier to recognize the shapes. Since it was made for another sculptor, I made no mention on this blog at the time. I did though in a blog post show how I cut the block to size with a chainsaw.

Holocaust Monument

The painting in of the details in the crack

One of those projects for another sculptor was a small job that I did last week for Gerard Overeem in granite: the carving of a crack in a Monument to the Holocaust. The crack represents the suffering caused by the persecution of the Jews that has left its traces. Read here↑ the corresponding newspaper article. In an earlier newspaper article more information about the monument. It is to be unveiled on 27 January 2020 in Barneveld.

Thomas Aquinas

copy of statue of Thomas Aquinas beside reconstructed original

The copy of the statue of Thomas Aquinas was a project that almost took this entire year. In November 2018 I received the original sculpture in my yard and started with its reconstruction, in March 2019 I cut the block of Udelfanger sandstone to size and I started presawing. I also started enthusiastically on the rough carving of the two parts and fitting the pieces exactly together, but suddenly all kinds of commissions came and interfered before in October 2019 finally I was able to finish the statue.

Pope Leo the Great

presawing the upper body of Pope Leo in sandstone presawing the lower body of Pope Leo in sandstoneAfter I had shipped this statue, I could skip ahead to the next statue for St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch: Pope Leo the Great. At the time of writing this, the work on this statue is halted as well because of a trip to India, the above holocaust memorial and a commission for carving a Japanese Lantern. But I was able to presaw the two parts of the statue entirely, so I can expeditiously start carving them in the new year. This statue also stands on the north side of St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, that is, to the left from the statue of Thomas I mentioned above.

A Japanese lantern

Copying  of granite Japanese lanternIt may seem that I took a long time carving these two statues, but that's nothing compared to the last piece I worked on this year. For the Japanese Garden of Clingendael Estate in The Hague I made a quote in May 2017 already, and only now I get to carve it. I was asked to carve a reconstructed copy of a weathered Japanese lantern out of Bavarian granite. I'm already well on the way, but I still need to carve a lobed base and then sort out the details with the client. A blog post will follow soon!

A marble birdbath

a marble birdbath in the shape of a duck. Annual Review 2019Sometimes you get out-of-the-ordinary commissions. A client had modeled a bird bath in the shape of a duck as a boy and now he wanted it in his garden in marble. Of course that's possible. Unfortunately his clay model had disappeared, so I first had to reconstruct it. Alongside is a picture from halfway through the carving process.

Pan in porphyry… again?

Pan in porphyry: carved the legsAt the end of October I was able to find two days for working on my sculpture of Pan in Red Porphyry. As you can read in my last post about it I had just started with rough carving when I had to put it aside. That was almost two years ago (March 2018).

But I had to put the sculpture aside again quickly this time as well because I had to take on other projects first, such as Pope Leo. Yet I was able to roughly carve the hooves, the face, the hands and the flute. So far, I've been working it for only five days altogether. I hope I can find more time in the coming year and be able to finish the sculpture.

A small head for the Eusebius Church in Arnhem

a simple head in Udelfanger sandstone for Eusebiuskerk. Annual Review 2019The Eusebius Church contains various sculptural parts. The quality varies from very finely carved to fairly primitive, and dates from the construction time to present day. Somewhere in a side transept of the church, at the very top, missing a small cup of men ↑ in a row of 9 rather primitive homemade heads. Three of those were from the construction period of the church, and three of them dated from the 1960s. I was asked to carve a new head for the empty spot. It only had to look just as primitive as the others. That proved to be quite tricky! Someone told me that you'd best ask for a mason or a beginner to carve it, they might hit upon the right atmosphere. So I just made it into a little man with a page haircut.

More for St. Eusebius's church: Two huge finials

finial blocks for Eusebius Church ready for shippingBy far the majority of the work of this year was spent on carving ornamental work for two large finials and surrounding ornamental work on the northern transept of the Eusebius Church. Stide, Jelle, and I, partly with support by Serge, had months of work to carve all that.

We carved ornaments in two types of red sandstone for this north aisle, in Udelfanger sandstone and in Massangis limestone. It was so much work that I was in for a joke at the end.

Carving ornaments for the Utrecht Dom Cathedral twice

Large crockets in  weiberner tufa for the Utrecht Cathedral

completed crocets in Volvic basaltic lava, wet by rain

But Eusebius Church was not the only church which we made ornaments for. Having ended the previous year with 29 tufa side crockets for the south chapel of the Dom Cathedral in Utrecht, we got more big crockets this summer, in Volvic Basaltlava this time. These twenty large crockets we have been sharing between the four of us (Serge, Stide, Jelle and I) and despite delays we were able to complete them just in time.

Carving ornaments on the Utrecht Dom tower

test crockets for Dom tower UtrechtAdmittedly, it was but a small pilot project, and the main work on the Utrecht Dom Tower has yet to arrive. But at a time when the scaffolding around the tower was still not up, Jelle and I scrambled up all 465 steps of the Dom Tower with all our tools on two days, and carved a few test ornaments at the very top, so that the approach of the next part can be determined. Fortunately it was beautiful weather and we had a magnificent view.

Coat of arms in Udelfanger sandstone

small coat of arms in Udelfanger sandstone completedFor the front façade of a farm in the east of the country I made this small relief with a family crest in October, in Udelfanger sandstone. In order to keep it lively, I chose a baroque shield shape, so it really stands out on the façade.

 

Coat of arms in bluestone

bluestone coat of arms with two falcons. Coat of Arms, coat of arms, relief with crest/coat of arms, family crestsThe coat of arms that I finished later in that same month of October was much larger: 41 x 66 cms tall. It will be inserted in a restored parsonage, on the outside, somewhere in Belgium. I had a lot of fun shaping the flowing undulations of the mantling and the tiny details of the helmet.

Sculpture of The Night

Sculpture The Night by Eduard Kuilsburg- new copy in Muschelkalk limestoneBut it was not all ornamental carving work, I also had some sculptures in progress. For the west facade of the tower of St. Eusebius's Church I carved the large corbel with the sculpture of The Night out of limestone: a naked lady with a nest of owls beside her. To accelerate the process, I cut it and its counterpart, The Day, on my presawing machine machine. It only just fitted: I had to cut away some corners, otherwise this lady couldn't even turn around inside the machine.

Flying Buttress Figurines: Seven Sins

Carving a copy of flying buttresses figurine RageIt was made in last year and the year before especially with carving flying buttress figurines. That was a bit less this year, because the ornaments demanded all of our attention. We only had one flying buttress to go, with the Seven Sins depicted on it. Jelle made the Vanity, the Gluttony and the Greed, Stide got Envy and Lust, and I made the last two.

The Anger was a flying buttress statue of a man with a contorted face pulling a knife. He looked rather primitive, in his bearskin. As the only man among all the women, he actually had not much to complain, but he was clearly not happy with it.

flying buttress figurine Laziness completedThe Idleness on the other hand, ie the Sloth, didn't mind so much. She sat back a little, caressing her workhorse, in her provocative dress, and seemed more concerned with her own laziness.

A boulder with house numbers

boulder with house number- finishedFor a building in Amersfoort I carved a large boulder of red granite into a house number. Maybe I will be gilding the numerals one day for clarity.

A tree with rocks

For the same building I helped making a work of art for its residents: for each resident I made a stainless steel tree leaf with their own rock on it, which were all made into one big tree. It was a lot of work to cut everything out, bending the leaves, welding and glueing them, especially since I'm not equipped too well for metalworking. It was a lot of fun to make. Painter Sandra Nanning turned the staircase into a three-story encompassing tree.

A spoonbill from Haarlem

clay maquette and stone spoonbillNot all sculpture to be replaced has suffered from weathering. Sometimes sculpture disappears because of renovations and later on, residents want it back again on their building, and sometimes something is stolen. Such was the case with a buddha's head, a pelican and a spoonbill in Haarlem. Fortunately, the pelican was found again. I made a copy of the spoonbill after first reconstructing it, and Jelle accounted for the buddha head.

A lot of work for my colleagues

Presawn Angel for St. John's Cathedral in Den BoschAs you might have understood, I work regularly with my colleagues Serge van Druten, Stide Vos and Jelle Steendam. They, like me, all three have their own independent businesses. Only Jelle works in my shop; Stide has his own workshop next to me and Serge 20 kilometers away. I like having my colleagues around and being able to share larger contracts.

But I am the only one with his own presawing machine. That means that I regularly get the request to presaw something for the others too. Jelle also can properly handle the machine, so he'll be sawing for me sometimes and mainly for himself. But Jelle and I have also often enough presawn sculptures for Stide and Serge. I also usually keep track of the big picture, the tenders and the distribution of all joint projects, such as Eusebius Church and the Utrecht Cathedral.

repairing a broken vase. Year review of 2019Jelle mainly operates under my supervision, but he also takes on his own work (have a look at his website). So I regularly pass on things to him that are too much for me to take on. Sometimes he would take a little longer than I would do, That's because I do this work, of course, for a longer time. Unfortunately we have no specific training for restoration sculpture in Netherlands, so the work itself is his training. This year for example Jelle restored some garden ornaments.

New year: musicians and apostles

weathered figurines of the musicians in storageWhat's coming up next year? The most important work coming up is all of the ornamental work that we are going to get from the restoration of the Dom Tower in Utrecht. Balustrade finials, gargoyles and various other ornaments.

Next, we will be getting work from flying buttress no. 14 and 16 of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem. Flying buttress no. 14 consists of a group of 7 musicians and no. 16 contains a number of apostles. These are the last sculptures that sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg made for the church, and in these we can see a transition to a somewhat more angular style. There were at the time of completion (around 1956) already alarmed questions from the church council about the "overcrowded flying buttresses’ that this led to, even though the block size was no larger than that of the previously created sculpture groups around the choir. Especially the apostles have massive fists and lumpy heads. We're looking forward to copying them into new stone (if you want to know why these figuries are replaced: read this article about the Ettringer tuff ↑ of which they were made).

Boxes full of debris and more sculpture to go

crates with flying buttress figurines that are yet to be copied.So that adds up to fourteen sculptures for flying buttresses nos. 14 and 16, for which we expect to get the new stone blocks in early January. We have been reserving a spot for those. But there are still 12 boxes more in our storage and a group of loose sculptures outside in the yard, which will all have to be copied one day.

Some of these other sculptures are heavily weathered because they started to shatter after the impregnation process and fell to pieces, and they're lying as a layer of debris at the bottom of the boxes. It will still be an interesting project to reconstruct them. If that happens at all, because people are currently considering an alternative way to fill the empty spaces. We sent in our estimate already anyway :).

All other blog posts from the past year

I wish you all a very good, educational and creative New Year. Thank you all for following this blog!

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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Flying buttress figurine: The Idleness

-to the first post about of this flying buttress- ↑

first stage of rough carving The Idleness

Acedia

The next flying buttress figurine from arc 24 of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem wasn't entirely clear to me. We've seen all seven sins pass by, except Sloth, sometimes called idleness, laziness or inertia, so this one had to be it.

Idleness

next stage in carving flying buttress figurine The IdlenessI just don't know how the sculptor had originally intended this. I also thought at first that this one was Pride, or Hubris, a lady with voluptuous bosom that sits high on horseback. Or maybe it should depict a donkey?

Dolce Far Niente

flying buttress figurine Idleness completedMaybe this lady portrays the lack of direction of a bored rich lady, spending her days with useless things and letting the workhorses do the work? "Idleness is the devil's earcushion,’ as an old saying goes, though I always thought they meant you really had to be flexible if you wanted to give the devil a kiss on his ear. This lady is in any case sufficiently limber!

However it may be, I just copied the sculpture as it was. While working I noticed that not only the breasts threatened to fall overboardfrom her gown, but even the nipples are in focus. "It's must be feeding time again', commented my mate Stide. 'How so??’ I asked.

‘Well,’ he said, 'The piglets are already looking over the trough!’

Structure

flying buttress figurine Idleness completed

The old sculpture had a heavily weathered surface, but I noticed something that hinted the sculptor had carved something of a structure and had made the suggestion of a thick woolen dress. I tried to imitate that by first bush hammering, horse and dress and carving short, shallow lines into the dress with a pointed chisel, resulting in a lively surface.

Dog-Latin

sculpture The Envy -presawing

presawing Envy, step 2

In a previous post on this flying buttressI told you about the theme that these sculptures convey: the seven deadly sins. Each figurine we have carved so far (and Jelle has made three out of these seven) has been given a Latin name in the profile on the side: Superbia for Vanity, Gula for Gluttony, Ira for Rage, Avaritia for Greed, This Laziness or Idleness is called Acedia, and then later Stide will be adding Luxuria for Lust and Invidia for Envy. Which are both on their way as well.

A mysogynous sculptor?

sculpture The Envy -presawing

presawing Envy- step 3

Some ladies noted that women come down quite badly in this series, because actually only the Fury is a male. This went against their sense of justice and some of them therefore ascribed a very negative view of women to the original sculptor.

But even in the next series, which should represent the seven Virtues, the majority is shown as female as well. The conclusion is clear: Eduard van Kuilenburg, who carved almost all of the flying buttress figurines in the 1950s , had no trouble with women. On the contrary: he would rather carve images of women than men. That would explain why there are so many women among these sculptures.

Measuring up

carving the profiles on Idleness

The profile leans 5 degrees to the left with respect to the wall face, and 61 degrees downwards

Because with the previous flying buttresses often the topmost sculpture didn't fit quite right inside the surrounding wall surface, I especially went to St. Eusebius's church along with Remon Theissen from Slotboom Stonemasons to measure how the arc is positioned relative to the church. A visit to the church is always a wonderful opportunity to see how our work from the last months looks in its rightful place. And again it was clear to me how much skill is invested in this restoration. The finished part looks awesome, and our previous flying buttress figurines with the trumpet angels, wise maidens, foolish maidens and crippleds from the Beatitudes fit right in.

flying buttresses Eusebius's church, south side flying buttresses Eusebius's church, south side flying buttresses Eusebius's church, south side flying buttresses Eusebius's church, south side flying buttresses Eusebius's church, south side


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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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