– For St Eusebius' Church in Nijmegen I have made some corbels. They had originally been carved in tufa in the 1950's and -60's but had become so weathered that they had to be replaced. The new corbels are carved from Muschelkalk and have been made with a little more details. Read all posts about this project on my blog below.
Koen, Jelle, customer and Stide near flying buttress sculptures carved by Jelle
We're going viral
Last month I would have had visit to the Sculptor's Workshop again: customers of St. Eusebius's Church who had bought one of the old flying buttress sculptures, could come over and have a look at the place where they are being copied into new stone. But a spanner was thrown in the works. At the moment everything is about that darn coronavirus and I too seem to be unable to avoid having things cancelled. I received a cancellation and a request to make a video of our work, so that the buyers/viewers can still get an impression.
Now it is different when I'm telling something all by myself than when people ask questions. Most of the work has become so obvious to me that I don't realize that parts of the work process are not yet clear to others. The best interaction is of course if you can answer questions directly, and often one question leads to another. And explaining things gives a different nuance than if you'd tell stories and quote anecdotes.
But the Chinese already said it: a picture paints a thousand words. So here goes my replacement tour of the sculptor's workshop, with performances by colleagues Stide and Jelle. So the whole story revolves around flying buttress figurines that we're currently replacing, and these are some of the last of arc no. 14 and 16, with the musicians and apostles. Learning to film and edit was an interesting challenge, so I'm probably going to do that more often. I have plenty of plans, now to find some free time for it.
James the Lesser
The flying buttress sculpture I am working on in this video is now finished. Read in this post↑ more about the statue of James the Lesser. You will find the accordionist in this post↑. I have also started on the last flying buttress statue for now, that of James the Upper, about which more later.
Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl
The next flying buttress figurine of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem was one from the series of apostles of arc no. 16. It represents a heavily built man with a club. This could either be Judas Thaddeus, or James the Lesser. He was called the Lesser because he became an apostle later than James the Greater. The other James was, along with his brother the apostle and evangelist John, a son of Zebedee, a fisherman. They were inspecting their nets when Jesus arrived and asked them to become fishers of men.
Brother of the Lord
But James the Lesser was called "brother of the Lord". Then how is that possible? Well, according to the Medieval stories, that everyone knew in those days, the carpenter Joseph had been married before and he had a number of children from that marriage, but his wife had died. He was a widower when the young girl Mary (Miriam) came to live under his protection. She took care of the children, and especially James was very fond of her because he was very young when he lost his mother. Maria was about 14 years old when she came out from the temple protection to live with Joseph . Her father and mother, Joachim and Anna, had miraculously been gifted child in their advanced age and therefore entrusted her to God as a temple maiden. So she was brought up very pure and trained in high spiritual knowledge.
When she was 16 years old, she suddenly turned out to be pregnant and Joseph wanted to distance herself from her, but the angel confided to him that she was carrying a great miracle. He decided to marry her. Mary became the mother of Jesus, and James grew up with him. He was at least seven years older, but was among his most faithful disciples.
The club that the apostle James carries with him shows a different way of thinking that was common in the Middle Ages. Emphasis was placed on the suffering and martyrdom of Jesus and of his apostles and saints, therefore, the club with which he was put to death was given a prominent place in the depictions of James. Now this is not a Medieval statue at all, but made in 1956 by Eduard van Kuilenburg. In the Dutch language book on the sculpture of the Eusebius Church Elisabeth den Hartog and Ronald Glaudemans write that the themes for the sculpture were presented by Arnhem city archivist Mr Schaap. That could explain why Van Kuilenburg gave the saints such traditional attributes.
Traditionally, James the Lesser was sometimes depicted with a fuller's stick instead, a heavy piece of wood that was used to felt wool, because he was supposedly been beaten to death with it. So who else could have become the patron saint of all wool felters other than James? Those inimitable twists of thoughts of those Medieval people though…
Today we would be more interested in the life and works of such an apostle than in his martyrdom. The lurid details and emphasis on martyrdom for the Church are definitely from another time.
An fact it was actually not an accordionist. More like a man with a melodeon, that small thing that they use in sailor's choirs. But at last it had arrived! I 'd been waiting for it for a long time, because it was stuck. To the new Focus Filmtheater. When I first asked for it, the replies were not good: the figurine (that I still was to copy) was temporarily borrowed out to the theater, but apparently it was attached so very rigidly that it was impossible to ever get it loose again. The roof would have to come off, or I would have to recieve the sculpture with the Film theater attached, you get the point.
After much consultation, calling and meeting the sculpture turned out to be a bit easier to disassemble and it came my way.
When I got it in, the long pieces of threaded rod were still attached. That was actually a bit of a bother, because I had to make an entire construction for it to properly anchor the statue on my presawing machine. But a challenge from time to time is fun, so with some inventiveness we were able to come up with a good solution. It wasn't all that complicated from that point on: presawing the sculpture, copying it and sharpening up the details.
The two flying buttresses that we are currently tackling have been carved (around 1956) quite roughly by Eduard van Kuilenburg. Add to this the fact that this accordionist spent more than sixty years on top of the church and you'll understand that it has all become a bit vague. The challenge in this sculpture is therefore not so much in the technical difficulty. The statue of Pope Leo the Great was a much more difficult job. When carving this group of sculptures, the main issue is with the details and finish.
These statues don't have many details, and the parts that were there were carved very simple. The finish is coarse. Therefore, the most interesting part is carving things like the face, the hands and feet in such a way that these show a bit more, but still clearly match the style of the rest of the sculpture. And as for the finish: by playing with different surfaces such as bush hammered, pointed, toothed or flat chisel marks, lively surfaces can be created that enhance the design.
Giving it hands and feet
The accordionist's hands were not equal on the left and right. The right hand did have somewhat like fingers, but on the left he only had a lump with a few stripes. However, the sculptor had chosen a nice position of the fingers, which indicates the playing on the keys. The feet were never really detailed, and after that it all weathered down further. The position of the hands and feet has remained the same in the new copy, but I've made more obvious fingers and toes on it. They're still huge lumps, though. The accordionist's face was slightly turned to the right, and he had a nice crooked smile, as if he was completely absorbed in a difficult piece of music. It was almost impossible to see anymore, so I recreated it a little more clearly in the new copy. The eyes of these figurines all have only upper eyelids and a hole underneath. However, it works very well in terms of shading, so I left it that way.
It is striking that almost all heads that Van Kuilenburg carved are so strongly asymmetrical. Foreheads that run in an odd angle, a cheekbone two centimeters deeper than the other, eyes that are in a completely different plane. More and more often I wonder if he might have had trouble seeing depth, or that he only had sight in 1 eye. This sculptor's life was very tragic and he only got 39 years old. Maybe someday more about his life will be published, but it is not up to me to do that here. In any case, we try to make those crooked heads a bit more plausible without detracting too much from the character of the original sculpture. If you'd copy it exactly like this you'd get a sculpture that is even worse than the original, because you can't transfer some of its directness into the copy. Therefore, in order to maintain this fluency, we don't copy it with a pointing machine, but we work partly in the same way as Van Kuilenburg: shaping directly into the stone.
A partial assignment that came in between all of this was the ornamental work for the South Portal of St. Eusebius's Church. We suspect that this too was originally carved in the 1950s. But it is known that Baumberger stone doesn't last that long and washes out quite quickly into a shapeless mass. Because a number of parts were already missing and chipped, a lot of natural stone has been replaced. We did some of those ornaments, our colleague Serge did the largest part at our request.
Finally, someone came by this week with a scanner and laptop: Emiel Frederiks from Nidim. He recorded the copy of the accordionist into a 3D model, from which one day maybe small versions will be printed. We'll see.
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. We also missed the picture of from Accordeonist ↑, 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 …Read the whole article… →
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. …Read the whole article… →
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.
I 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 should it be one …Read the whole article… →
And my colleagues Stide Vos, Serge van Druten and Jelle Steendam were also contributing to this project. I have not seen how these finials are installed now, but I am confident that …Read the whole article… →
We're currently carving parts of pinnacles by the cartload. They are all destined for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands). Below are some pictures of work I've made this far. In the picture above you can see a number of blocks ready for transport: successively, an old tuffstone block, a block of red sandstone from my hand, one by Stide and one by Jelle, and finally …Read the whole article… →