Presawing Pope Leo the Great

Pope Leo the Great upper body

Another saint's statue

stained glass window of Pope Gregory

Pope Gregory looked suspiciously like Pope Leo

stained glass window with inscription Gregor . Magn.

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

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

Attila the Hun

Cracks in the face of the statue of Pope Leo

weathering traces in the face

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

Weathering process

robe of the statue of Pope Leo has weathered

disappeared folds in the garment

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

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

Vertical layering

foot of the statue of Pope Leo the Great

crumbled pleats

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

Presawing

presawing the new statue, step 2

presawing the lower part, step 2

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

Next step

presawing head of the new statue, step 2

Presawing the shoulders and head, step 2

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

presawing the new statue, step 3

presawing lower body ready

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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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

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 flying buttress with the seven sins-2: carving!

Copying flying buttress statue Rage. Photo during the carving of the detailsAs you may perhaps remember: on 9 March 2019 I posted a blogpost about our next series of flying buttress figurines to be carved for St. Eusebius' church, which arrived in pieces in our yard. These images were impregnated with acrylic resin, but something went wrong and they burst out …Read the whole article…

copy of Thomas Aquinas completed

-Click on the pictures for more details-

the two parts of the sculpture are glued together

7. The parts are glued together

beginning with carving the head

8. starting to carve the face and bird

Thomas in two parts

After long interruptions (carving finials for St. Eusebius's Church and large crockets for the Utrecht Dom Cathedral out of limestone) the statue of Thomas Aquinas is finally finished. In my previous blog posts you can read who this man was and how I reconstructed the sculpture, and how I started the copying of the statue with a lot of sawing.

When I picked up the thread were …Read the whole article…

Two stolen facade reliefs: a head and a spoonbill

My comeback on this blog!

I've recently had many different projects in progress and have just not gotten round to post any messages about them on this blog. But, fortunately we still have the pictures, as the businessman said when he saw his million dollar yacht sinking. This project has been an interesting challenge in between all the ornamental work. The job on hand was about two facade reliefs of a spoonbill and buddha head from Haarlem.

The original stone ornaments came from the façade of the Lutheran Orphan's and Old Men's Home, which was built in 1906. After the demolition of this home, the stones were reused in the garden wall of the Vitae Vesper Elderly Nursing Home that in 2015 was demolished again itself. An apartment building was constructed on this site and the reliefs remained behind, discarded and orphaned. The Lutheran Church Administration wanted to …Read the whole article…

Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing

Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing. Two large sandstone blocks

1. Two large sandstone blocks of Udelfanger sandstone: 1 for the statue of Thomas Aquinas, 1 for Serge's angel

Two large blocks

The work on the on copy of the statue of Thomas Aquinas has finally started. I had received two large blocks of Udelfanger sandstone some time earlier: one destined to make two angels out of it and one block from which I had to carve the two parts of the statue of St. Thomas from St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch and fit them together. So the first step was to divide both blocks into two with the diamond chainsaw.

Thomas. Aquinas, part 2: sawing.  I halved the block with the diamond chainsaw

2. The block is cut in half with the chainsaw

Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing. Presawing the lower body

3. Sawing the lower body

Presawing Thomas

After that I put one block on my copying saw and started presawing Thomas' lower half. The dividing line of the two parts was meant to be near the line of his hood, so that …Read the whole article…

The flying buttress of the seven sins

luchtboogbeelden 'De Zeven Zonden' old, arramged in the yard.

We, sculptors

A nice project is coming up soon! As you may know, for a few years now we've been working for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands). Who are we? Well firstly myself of course, Koen van Velzen, restoration sculptor, pleased to meet you. I work together with …Read the whole article…

Finials and side crockets, for Eusebius and Dom Church

finials in Muschelkalk for St. Eusebius's ChurchFinials for St. Eusebius's Church

We are working on the completion of three projects: the first half of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands) is almost finished, the last pieces of St. John's Cathedral are completed, and the last crockets for the South Chapel of the Utrecht cathedral are packed and ready for shipping as well. The finials in the above picture are destined for the south side of St. Eusebius's Church. These are fairly simple crockets in French Massangis-limestone, with a post-war era design, but they will contour well with their clean lines. There are only a few of those, and it's indent work: …Read the whole article…

Sculpture 'The Night’ for St. Eusebius Church Tower


Last phase of the tower

Work on the tower of St. Eusebius's Church is nearing completion. Actually, the sculptres of The Day and The Night are the last two pieces that the builders are urgently waiting for. So I think a deep sigh of relief must have come from the scaffolds of the church when I completed The Night this week. For the tower, and part of the church, need to be free of scaffolding when a commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem is held this autumn, looking back to, 75 years ago. But this is not the only thing …Read the whole article…

the Supreme Commander-in-Chief (flying buttress figurine)

flying buttress figurine of Commandor in Chief by George vd Wagt. Copying into limestoneThe next flying buttress figurine is the topmost one of flying buttress no. 33. The statues on this flying buttress were carved in 1954 by George van der Wagt, and depict six crippled, blind and lame persons, after the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. At the top sits a male figure with a beard, in a blessing posture.

Mudra

flying buttress figurine of Spureme Commander-in-Chief (with Abhaya Mudra) by George vd Wagt. The copy in limestoneThis blessing posture is often depicted in Christian art, in particular in icons. I do not know if this posture has a specific name in Christian literature. I know it from the oriental yoga; where this hand gesture is called the Abhaya Mudra: meaning, "No fear'-hand gesture. It is meant to take all fear away from the blessed person. In the West, this gesture has a more general meaning of blessing.

Supreme Commander In Chief

The Beatitudes: old flying buttres figurine of Woman With Headache

The Beatitudes: old flying buttres figurine of Woman With Headache

It is not clear to me whom this figure should portray. It's mentioned as 'a prophet’ in the records of the restoration from 1954, but I think it was rather meant to depict God the Father, on his heavenly throne. Perhaps the sculptor meant that the people who suffer are blessed. Van der Wagt was apparently not religious. In a newspaper article from that time he explained that he did not know what the story of the Foolish and Wise Virgins was about. He borrowed a Bible and read the story, 'And that's why now there are women carrying cans of oil all over the church'. So I guess he that he didn't ascribe a higher meaning to this sculpture as much, but made it to complete the series. Perhaps this was also done at the request of the church council, or whoever chose the iconographic themes.

on to the next set of flying buttress figurines →

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

follow me on Instagram
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and on YouTube