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.


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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.


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.


-click on 1 of the pictures for the larger version-

to the next post about this project→ is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

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

Gratefulness is the fruit of all the seeking-1

Jan van Velzen, 1 month before his death

In memory of my father Jan van Velzen

sculptor Jan van Velzen in 1992On Sunday 19 January 2020, at 1:14 a.m. , my father Jan van Velzen. passed away. He was also a sculptor, an artist, but above all someone who practiced the art of life. This is evident from his sayings, of which the title of this blog post was one that I had never heard of him before. He made this statement in the last days before his death, a period in which he looked back on his life, full of gratitude and love.

Jan van Velzen was by no means a woolly kind of person. He had been a small scale farmer and flower bulb grower and worked hard all his life.

A poor hamlet

Onderdijk, lower path with canal

old photo of the village OnderdijkOnderdijk in 1931 was a poor West Frisian linear settlement village in North Holland. It lay on either side of a high dike and many houses had their own bridge over the canal to the foot of the dike. His father, also called Jan van Velzen, was like most of the villagers a market gardener or small plot farmer, who sailed with a barge to his piece of land across the lake to grow onions, cabbage, carrots, red beets, tulips and potatoes. After the harvest, the boat also carried their produce to the sailing auction in Medemblik.

Longing for beauty

Mother Cornelia van Velzen-de Vries with Jan van Velzen, 2 th anniversary this yearJan was the second child, a rather quiet, sensitive boy who only started walking when he was two. He was horrified by the drab hopelessness of the hard work and the humdrum grind with which all the brilliance and beauty was brought back to 'just do normal and go on'.. He had an intense desire for beauty and talked about the delight he could feel when he heard beautiful music in the church. His father was a warm-hearted man with a lot of wisdom. On his deathbed, Jan told how he still could see his father on Sunday mornings, in his shirt, throwing the shaving water into the ditch with a swing, singing loudly and with a swarm of children around him.

Early creativity

Jan van Velzen, probably 4 th anniversary this yearAs a child, Jan was already busy with creative expressions. Sculpting clay dolls or making boats by folding and bending large tin cans to form whole battleships. But whereas I had enjoyed the creative time in kindergarten, he had experienced that same daily grind at the custody school.

Apparently the "teacher’ had the view that the children just should be kept quiet, because they had to sit still and weave mats, otherwise they had to go into the spider cupboard. To him, weaving mats was one of the symbols of "this is how it should be done and that is how it goes". Awful, because all creativity was suppressed.

Jannish constructions

Jan actually didn't feel like becoming a market gardener at all, but his father fell ill and the eldest sons, though still in their teens, had to take over the work. He would much rather have apprenticed to the blacksmith, because he was much more interested in making things from iron with your hands and welding . The blacksmith was regarded with awe by the little boys. His younger brother's legendary answer to the question of what he wanted to become later was "Fat blacksmith Kees Slaman!’

Jan lived near Slaman's smithy

It was hard work in the heavy sea clay around Onderdijk and everything was done by hand: digging to sow, digging to harvest and digging two spades deep to prepare the land. Jan hated hopelessness, so his creativity was expressed in all kinds of "Jannish constructions": inventions meant to make everything just that little bit easier. He was therefore one of the first to bring the floor of the barge to the very top, so that you could drive in the wheelbarrow instead of laboriously lifting everything in and out.

Flippus the Dreamer

His solutions were not always appreciated. "Jannish constructions’ was not really an appreciative term, and because he sometimes had his thoughts elsewhere, he was also called Flippus the Dreamer at home. He had a somewhat philosophical streak and also spent time observing his surroundings. Looking back, it is also understandable why he was born in that place: for him it was a way to go all the way from heaviness to light, and he was able to bring his light to a time and environment that was mainly focused on survival.

Injury time

At the age of 20 his number came up for military service. But the hard work had already had its consequences: he needed surgery to his knees and had to recover in the military hospital. To his horror, the therapy consisted of weaving mats! But in the classroom next to it, modeling lessons were given. At his request he was transferred and there his talent was soon discovered by his instructor. This man even arranged an introduction for him at the art academy in Tilburg.

I had always understood that it never was followed up because Jan was needed at home and because his mother always said: "Fiddlers and pipers don't go to heaven". But that was not really the biggest deterrent. Last year he told me that he was very shocked by the unkempt figures with long hair and feral beards walking around, and that he had felt very uncomfortable and out of place. But his teacher was very disappointed that he missed out on this opportunity. "Stupid cauliflower shrub!’ the man had called him, probably out of frustration that so much talent was being lost.

Business partner

marriage of Alida Vink with Jan van VelzenJan van Velzen is building a tulip flower cutting machine Jan married Alida when he was thirty, a girl from that same village of Onderdijk, in which he recognized something of playfulness and beauty, and of being free from all the conventions of the village. He started his own business, but times had changed. The number of small scale farming businesses declined rapidly and many self-employed people had to work at a factory in the Zaanstreek, going there every day in a van. Jan was looking for solutions with a number of like-minded people and decided to expand considerably with his two brothers. They had also already focused entirely on flowerbulb cultivation for a number of years. He used his creativity in this work as well: he built his own machines for cutting the tulip flowers and for washing the bulbs, and adapted many machines to make them work better.

-Read here ↑ an earlier article about sculptures by Jan van Velzen-

-to be continued- is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

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