Scaffolding visit: last time Eusebius Church

The last time on the scaffolding

All joys will eventually come to an end, and so did our work on the Eusebius Church in Arnhem, the Netherlands.. Luckily we had to go there one more time to make some adjustments. There were four connections of flying buttress statues to the church that still needed to be carved to fit at the very end. That means that it all didn't exactly match the old parts, and that we had to adjust the protruding bits. In addition, we had deliberately left parts unfinished in a number of places because we could only properly see on site how it would connect to other parts.. This was about the upper flying buttress statues of arch nr 23, with the Seven Virtues, from arch no. 20, on which a man (or woman?) wcould be seen with a watering can, from arch no. 19, with my Goat nibbling on a crocket, and finally of arch no. 17/18, on which my Two-Headed Eagle defiantly sat wide-legged. The first two were carved and therefore also adjusted by Jelle. The other two were adjusted by Tim and myself.

Drip ledges

At the top of each of these four flying buttress statues sat a horizontal ledge. We carved all four of them on the spot, because this gives the contractor's masons more leeway when installing the sculptures. You'll need to adjust it to the inclination and the transverse direction of the arc, to the vertical wall plane of the church and to the right height above the arch. In such a case, every part that is already defined is adding a level of difficulty. That's why it's more convenient to, as I reported in the blog article about the Two-Headed Eagle a while ago, not to tailor a number of things yet and not to finish carve them until they're on the church. That was also the reason that we, especially on the eagle,, whicho stands on two flying buttresses at the same time, needed to do a lot of work on the spot, but we had already counted on that.

Eduard van Kuilenburg

sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg at work on the Eusebius Church between 1950 and 1960The Arch with the Seven Virtues is right next to the Seven Sins. They were also carved in the same style by sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg. Van Kuilenburg was a passionate sculptor, who put all his passion into this church. He died shortly after completing his work on this church. I recently got his biography, from which it can be concluded that shortly after the war he was severely judged on a choice he made in despair and out of self-preservation. I suspect he repressed his war trauma with sculpting. Sometimes he also climbed over the fence on Saturday to continue working, on his own. Anyway, a piercing story of struggle and suffering, that you can read here (in Dutch only, sorry) by clicking on his photo.

The Seven Virtues

The figurines of the group with the seven virtues are again predominantly ladies. We see a woman with a dog (temperantia-temperance, ), a woman with a rooster (justitia-vigilance), a man with a lion (fortitude), a woman with a child and a heart (caritas-love), a man and woman with an anchor (spes-hope), a woman with a cross (fides-faith) and a woman with a lantern and a book (prudentia-wisdom). Van Kuilenburg has played with textures, poses and hairstyles, and though we've sharpened up a bit here and there, we actually mostly copied the sculptures just as they were.

From the figurines of Spes, Hope, I forgot to take pictures beforehand, so I couldn't dedicate an article to it either. So now you can find it here below. You can also find the couple below, in the gallery.

Gallery

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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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Veghel 2: Forty enamelled panels

Unique project in Veghel-2

Forty enamelled panels

As I mentioned in the previous post about our work on the Lambertus Church in Veghel last time, for this project we also filled ten niches with enamelled panels. It is especially these panels that were a challenge for us. It's unique in the Netherlands that this method was used at this time and we have had to reinvent the wheel for many aspects of this technology, because to my knowledge this hasn't been done before.

These ten panel parts were subdivided into four pieces each, and as such, from top to bottom:

  • a triangular spandrel with a plant motif and a heraldic rose.
  • a scene from the life of Jesus
  • a narrow text strip
  • a bottom panel with a geometric pattern of circles and intersecting lines

Everything in natural stone

Finials for the arches at the church of Veghel

roofs of the arcatures

The entire facade has been reconstructed in new stone, delivered by Slotboom Steenhouwers BV from Winterswijk. They took care of the bluestone plinth and all the pieces of yellow Jaumont limestone, on which we designed the ornaments (see the previous post). They also supplied the stone for the enamelled panels: French Volvic basalt lava. We received it neatly cut to size in sheets of 5 cms thick. Basalt lava is an magmatic rock, that is, it once flowed liquid from a volcano. This type comes from around the village of Volvic in the French Auvergne region, near Clermont-Ferrand, where the whole cathedral was built out of this stone.

completed crocets in Volvic basaltic lava, wet by rain

Volvic basalt lava is also beautiful when wet

Perhaps you'll know of the black hexagonal blocks that are used everywhere in the Dutch dikes: that's basalt too. The material is virtually indestructible but also almost impossible to carve. Rock hard stuff.

Fortunately, basalt lava is a lot easier to carve, because it is completely porous from tens of thousands of tiny gas bubbles that came along with the lava flow at the time. It's also less black, and especially Volvic is quite even gray. Yet it also has its own color schemes, which are especially visible when the material is wet: from anthracite to dark brown and even purple brown. We've worked in it before, such as last year when we made a batch of large crockets for the Dom Church in Utrecht. Other varieties are Mendiger and Mayener basalt lava from Germany, which are much darker and above all much coarser and harder.

Sample panels

To see how the carving and enamelling would go, Jelle and I first made two test pieces for these enamelled panels: a panel with a part of Jesus on it, plus a piece of text. We carved out the image and the letters and sent them to the French enameller for a test piece. However, the first result was not quite to my liking. My own work had to be sharper and the enamel work could also be better. After a lot of consultation about what our goal was, we then started with the first triangular panels at the top, the so-called spandrels (a spandrel is an area at the top between the lines of a pointed arch).

Spandrels

I had already noticed during my research at home that there were three motifs in these panels: the middle spandrel had an ivy motif which I named 'C'’ and the other four had alternately a kind of thistle- and a leaf motif (‘A’ and 'B'). These were placed nicely mirrored on the right facade, (A-B-C-B-A) but left was an irregular rhythm (A-B-C-A-B). I decided to keep the reflection the same on both facades, so that there was a clear regularity.

I'd sharpened and enlarged the old photos of the two facades again and had everything printed out to full size, so we didn't have to enlarge this by hand. I had also reconstructed the curves of the spandrels and the trefoils at home, in this case with Sketchup. Because I don't know AutoCad, but with Sketchup it worked fine. We could use these prints to transfer the image onto the stone.

Nico carving a finial

Jelle had made the first spandrel, but there was so much work to do we thought we wouldn't get it all done in time. Fortunately Nico came in January to make these spandrels, so that Jelle could continue with the first capitals. When it started snowing in February, we were able to get a first impression of the result in basalt lava.

 

Jelle working on the first capitals, February 2021

The texts

I had also been staring at the texts for a while and I had scoured the internet for an Old Dutch font that closely approximated the old letters.. I knew it would never quite work out because the letters were originally just a hodgepodge of hand-cut letters in stucco, with modern fantasy capitals and gothic-looking lowercase letters.

part of the reconstruction by Britt Nelemans

part of the reconstruction by Britt Nelemans

The spacing varied greatly and also there were two different versions of the S. Of the Dutch letter combination ij there was a version with dots on the i and the j and one without, which could sometimes even be found together in one sentence. The lower case a was replaced by a small capital A. But I was hoping I could match the text in Photoshop with the super-blurred old photos, on which I could only discover some smudges and stains. Maybe the whitespace could reveal how the words were originally placed. That worked, but it only gave an idea of ​​how it should be. The real letters were to be hand drawn.

Letters In Steen

I soon realized that this was a time-consuming part and that Jelle and I simply couldn't do everything ourselves. Jelle had carved the test piece for this long before, based on a computer font, but the final text would be manual work. But Jelle was already busy carving twelve capitals and had his hands full with it. That's why I was happy to outsource this part to Britt Nelemans, who has her studio Letters in Steen in Utrecht. Britt specializes in carving text in stone and was therefore the perfect person to reconstruct and carve the old lettering. She did that with all due care and feeling, even though this type of stone is not very suitable for the really fine lines of those Gothic letters. It got tense for a while when she broke her wrist… but everything was delivered on time for transport to the enameller!

The bottom panels

Arcatures Lambertus Church

old condition on photo before 1960

The ten enamelled panels at the bottom were a next big job. Because those had to be very clean lines, we thought we would be smart and outsource this work to have it sandblasted. I had first looked at the bottom panels extensively using drawing programs. I manged to make a reconstruction of them, which has been converted into a CAD drawing by Slotboom's designer.

my reconstruction in Sketchup

That drawing was then used as a starting point for the computer plotter that would cut out the sandblasting rubber. The motif consists of a series of perpendicular lines in an oblique pattern, with a circle motif with petals at the intersections of the lines. Alternately, the circles have an open and a closed heart.

So this was eventually sandblasted into the stone by Bas Mulder from Slotboom Steenhouwers, but it did have quite a few hickups.

the first enamel layer has been applied

The blasting foil did not stick well on this coarse stone, and because at first I had said that it needed to be up to 7 mm deep it was also very difficult to get the desired result. I don't know how he did it, but in the end he succeeded.

Ten scenes from the life of Jesus

Jelle is working on The Descent into Hell

Now it was already quite a task to reconstruct all the other parts, but doable. We saved the hardest for last, so that we now had a good grasp of the material and design. From four of these panels with the big scenes (nearly 110 x 90 cms) there were some clear pictures. Jelle and I were able to copy these photos into the stone without much alteration. But the other six were a lot less sharp and a few were so indistinct that even after magnifying all that remained was just a few blurry spots .. The solution was of course drawing them anew. We first printed them all a few times on A4 format and drew the desired lines on it, and repeated this so many times that we began to know the scene and the lines, in a combination of interpreting and tracing.

Once by our drawing practice we had arrived at a good reconstruction, we started on the full size drawings. We were able to transfer these onto the basalt lava plates and then carve them into the stone. The surfaces were all deepened and the lines, just like with hand-carved letters, were carved into the stone in a V-shape. In this way we hoped to approximate the effect of the stucco and also to provide the enameller with a clear indication of the lines.

But in this gray stone it's hard to imagine what it should look like. Only with hard light from the side could a glimpse be caught and would the lines become clear. We were hoping it would be a lot clearer in enamel.

Enamelling

After everything was ready and approved, we strapped them onto a few pallets and all parts were sent off to France for enamelling. We ourselves continued to carve the ornamental parts of the Lambertus Church and making the two limestone statues of St. Peter and Paul.

 

Meanwhile, in the studio in the Auvergne, they worked hard to get everything ready on time and every line was painted with care.. After the primer, the cream-colored base color follows, then the orange-red color of the backgrounds, and finally the brown color of the lines, each time with a round in the oven at 960 degrees Celsius. The enamel melts at this temperature, and the stone can also crack if the tensions are too great, so professional knowledge and great care is a first requirement. Normally enamelled panels are 2 or 3 cms thick, but because of their application and the transport, we went for a thickness of 5 cms, which resulted in an extra level of difficulty.

The completed panels

In September, the new enamelled panels arrived at the stonemasonry in Winterswijk. There they were first displayed on the floor for a final check, before they were installed. The panels were anchored to the church with stainless steel anchors in the wall behind and then grouted all around. If you zoom in well on the photo, then you can see that I had given all forty panels the number of the construction drawing and also their own serial number from 1-10 for our own use and for the installers from Slotboom Stonemasons. Because crayon will burn off at 960 degrees in the enamel oven, I carved the numbers into the sides.

Five times sad

Here we see successively five sad and five joyful moments from the life of Jesus. It starts on the left, with the Dedication in the temple, where Joseph and Mary are told by a scribe that their child is facing a great but hard life.

On plate 2 Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt with their child Jesus, because King Herod has decreed all the little boys under 2 years old in Bethlehem are to be killed. He doesn't want competition from a new 'king of the Jews'.

In the third scene we see how Joseph and Mary return to Jerusalem after three days of searching, where they find the twelve-year-old Jesus in consultation with the scribes. At that time he already shows his great wisdom.

Mary's fourth sorrow is the Descent from the cross. Mary sits with the dead Jesus on her lap, and Mary Magdalene and John kneel beside her.

In the fifth image, the body of Jesus is placed in the tomb.

Five times joy

To the right of the church are the more joyful moments from Jesus’ life. This group must be read from the outside in, just like the left panels, in this case from right to left. So on panel 10 we see how the three wise or kings from the East offer their gifts to the child in which they recognize a great soul.

On panel 9, the second from the right, Jesus is baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist. John stands in a robe of camel hair (itchy) and an angel descends to the left, while the holy spirit descends like a dove from above.

On the center panel, number 8, we see how Jesus undergoes a transfiguration on Mount Tabor and how Elijah appears on the left and Moses on the right. The sculptor makes the three seemingly float in the air above a convex mountain top.

On plate 7, the fourth from the right, Jesus descends to hell and frees Adam and Eve from original sin. The devil at his feet is trampled and the dungeon door is wide open. There is room for columns and capitals in hell.

On the last plate, number 6, we see the resurrection of Jesus depicted. Two Roman soldiers turn away in terror and blindness as Jesus beams and rises from the tomb with a staff.

Design from another time

If you take the original photos, you do notice that the new reliefs radiate less of the dreamy atmosphere that the old work had. This is mainly because it concerns a fundamentally different process. Matt stucco simply produces a different surface than glossy enamel, and where it was possible to show something of gray tones in the stucco version, with the current version it's either black, or white. The image has been converted to a line drawing. Another cause is the color scheme: the old work had yellowed a little more over the years, making the current cream (the photos show the panels much whiter than they actually are) a bit harder. After all, a lot of sharpness has been lost in the old work over the years, and also the old photos are pretty blurry, so that the new work must come across very sharp. It will probably take some getting used to for the Veghel people, but for me it's a chance to retell the stories from Jesus’ life, seeing those through the eyes of another time as well. Panta Rhei, as the Greeks already said: Everything Flows, everything changes.

to the first post about this project-

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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Unique project in Veghel-1

In the deepest secret

It's been rather quiet on this blog over the past year because I had to keep still about a huge project. It was a gift to the Lambertus Church and the people of Veghel, sponsored by the Van Eerd family, owners of supermarket chain Jumbo. This project had actually since 2017 been in preparation, but only in february 2021 did we actually start carving the first ornaments. However, this was preceded by a long process of studying grainy old photos, enlarging, enhancing, drawing, modeling designs and researching sources.

Two facades

black and white photo old niches Veghel

It concerned two facade claddings for the side gables on the west side of St. Lambert's Church. The entrance side. This church was only the second one that the later famous architect Pierre Cuypers was asked to build, and it was also quite a bit simpler than many of his later buildings. But the building pastor at the time thought that was too meagre. From 1850 (ten years before the start of construction) Catholics were allowed to openly proclaim their faith again and that had to be celebrated in a big way. It had to be richer. More decoration on the outside. And that's how almost 30 statues were added to the tower and how the side facades were covered with natural stone moldings and arches. Until the year 1960, when in the context of a major 'restoration’ the claddings of both side facades were removed. The sculptural parts on the tower were to remain. But the ornaments on the sides had all become a bit jaded, people thought, and in addition, there was still visible damage that had originated during the Liberation of 1944 at the end of the Great War. Good riddance.

Renewed interest

condition of the facade of the Lambertuskerk in Veghel before the restoration of the archesIf we fast forward to the year 2017 we notice that there is renewed interest in the old front view of the church. There were still faded traces on the church that made it clear that at one time something must have been there before, and when some old photos appeared as well, the desire to restore this again arose. It is thanks to the volunteers of the Lambertuskerk that this has been taken up energetically, that a sponsor has finally been found and that it has now come about. On 3 October 2021 the whole project was unveiled by the bishop.

How to tackle such an undertaking?

CAD drawing of the arches for reconstruction and stone carving Already in 2017 I was asked about my thoughts about this reconstruction, but in the end I was involved as a subcontractor of Slotboom Stonemasons in this project. At Slotboom, the existing facades have been accurately measured and compared with the photos, and every part has been worked out in a large three-dimensional computer drawing. The ornaments we were to carve later on fitted snugly inside this main drawing.

I started by blowing up the photos a lot, sharpening them, clarifying details and trying to understand what the project entailed.

Actually, what we see here is a set of arcatures: ten niches with pointed arches and a roof-like structure, which ends in several vertical lines around the neogothic arch window of the church itself. At the start of this window arch we see a horizontal line on the left and right, after which the vertical lines are narrowing again until they end in a niche with a statue of a saint, crowned with a few small finials. The most striking part were the depictions in the bottom ten niches. At first I thought these were ceramic panels, but apparently it was originally done in two-tone stucco. We were asked to also reconstruct these parts. I decided to take it on together with Jelle, and later Nico also joined the team.

Unfamiliar territory

Because there is still yellow Jaumont Limestone to be found at the capitals of the portal, it was quite an obvious choice to carry out most of the natural stonework on these parts in Jaumont as well. It's easy to carve and it also creates nice shadows. Cutting ornaments is not new to me, so I wasn't too worried about this part. After all, gradually many things become clear by themselves if you go at it one thing at a time. Making a proper quotation is sometimes more difficult than the implementation!

However, the design was much more stylized than I normally find in Gothic and Neo-Gothic churches, so that was a bit of a switch. At the top were two statues of St. Peter and Paul, and though the pictures were quite blurry, one will find a way through it if you just tackle it step by step: first a small model at scale 1:4, then at full size and then reproduce that into stone.

Panels

But the most difficult were the panels with ten scenes from the life of Jesus. I honestly don't know much about ceramics and thought I had to outsource this part, until someone suggested I carve it in basalt lava and then have it enameled. So we did, just as we were told. About that later meer↑.

The limestone ornaments

After working in Photoshop and a number of other programs (including the fantastic free program Faststone Image Viewer, in which you can also do some editing at lightning speed) to get the old images enlarged and sharpened, I was able to get a good impression of most of the ornaments and the two statues of the saints. With prints of these photos I could model the maquettes for the ornamental work and cast them in plaster. Jelle took care of the capitals, while Nico already started carving the first pieces inside the top of the niches: leaf motifs in basalt lava that would later be enamelled.

Meanwhile, all the photo editing added up unnoticed, until I had been staring at it for days, but it gave me a nice handle for the reconstructions. With one exception that we couldn't really get a grip on. At the bottom of the frames at the start of the large gothic arch window are a total of four very unclear ornaments. You can discover one in the photo above. This is the clearest of the four, but the meaning of it completely eluded us. Taking the plunge, I then proposed to replace these four corbels with the four evangelist signs according to tradition.

small corbels with the four evangelists fot the Lambertus Church in Veghel

The Four Evangelists

roof parts with ornamentsHalfway through the facade you will now find four small corbels with an angel on them, a lion, a bull and an eagle, all four with a book. They are the age-old symbols of the evangelists, in response to a text in the Bible book of Revelation:

Revelation 4:6-8: In the midst of the throne and around the throne were four creatures . The creatures were full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature looked like a lion. The second creature looked like a young bull. The third creature had the face of a human. The fourth creature looked like a flying eagle. Every creature had six wings and every creature was full of eyes inside and out.

Although I don't think this is about evangelists at all, also because this bible book is full of astronomical and astrological references, in later centuries people invariably represented the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John according to these four symbols. In any case, as a sculptor you can make something fun out of it.

Playing with composition

sketch for corbel with bullThese are the parts we like to make the most. How do you design something like this? Just the four heads or the whole beasts? With or without wings? Should we add a book or a scroll or neither? Do we just carve a very cubist, Art Deco-esque head or emblem? These were very small and shallow blocks in which we had to fit the ornament, with a continuing column on one side.
So after a few quick little sketches and a bit of rough sculpting, we carved these corbels in a sort of mix between direct carving and working from a model.. Jelle made the angel and the lion, I did the bull and the eagle. I made a clay model of the bull after a tiny drawing, the eagle was done a bit more in the direct carving method.

corbel stone St. Luke's Bull VeghelWe always have a lot of fun putting little details into it and making it a little bit odd, just like this sort of thing is always meant to be. Of course they are often not quite anatomically correct and the stone was actually a bit coarse for these kind of small details, but it's a lot of fun to cram it all in and find an interesting composition for it. Jelle made his angel and lion so that they looked down, and I thought that was a good idea, that I followed for my eagle. The bull is the only one looking over his bible book and holding it with his paws. On the left facade you see Matthew and Mark: a downward flying angel and lion, each with a book. On the right facade we have Luke and John: a seated bull with book and a descending eagle with book. The book indicates that these are the four evangelists.

Carving voluptuous ornaments

band with ornaments in yellow limestone for the church of VeghelThere is a horizontal band with ornaments on the two facades, for which I first made a plaster model to explore the shapes. Gradually I got some fun carving the curvy shapes of these bands, that somehow reminded me of a well-filled lady. Jaumont is also a type of stone that lends itself to this work, because it is easy to finish with a sharp wood rasp and it also draws nice shadows with that yellow.

All ornamental work in Jaumont limestone

the left facade with arches, here without enamelled panels (photo: Bas Mulder, Slotboom Stonemasons)

Thus we carved all the ornaments on the two facades. Above the pointed arch window you will find four large crockets on each facade, Nico made two more French lilies, there are two small capitals next to each statue and at the very top you will find two small pinnacles and a small finial. All other yellow natural stone parts were supplied by Slotboom Steenhouwers, who also took care of the installation.

Gallery

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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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the right facade with arcatures, here without enamelled panels (photo: Bas Mulder, Slotboom Stonemasons)