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 Council wanted to provide these ornaments a final resting place in their garden wall between Frans Loenenhofje and the Lutheran Church in Haarlem.

A stolen spoonbill, pelican and buddha head

-click on the photo for the article-

The seven facade reliefs were removed from the original garden wall and kept separate. But three of those reliefs, of a pelican, a spoonbill and a Buddha head, were stolen from the construction site. Fortunately, the pelican was found again three days later. Apparently there is a market for stolen ornaments.

Stylized

The carvings are quite stylized and I thought for a minute that they were made in the Art Deco-style. But Art Deco only started from the 1920s, so although around 1906 there was already a stylization going on, it was not yet Art Deco.

The emphasis must have been on their decorative function, because I can't imagine what relation a heron and a Buddha head should have to a Lutheran orphanage. Or an Old Men's Home, for that matter. As the article mentions they were carved around 1905 by sculptor Tjipke Visser from Bergen, North-Holland. He made seven of those, a Buddha head, a head of a native American woman, two feline heads, an ibex, and a pelican and spoonbill. The spoonbill and the pelican are placed on opposite sides of an existing memorial in the garden wall of the Lutheran Church. The other reliefs got a place further down the wall.

We currently have a lot of work in progress at the same time. I just couldn't get it all finished on time alone, so I was glad Jelle took on the carving of the head while I was busy making a blue statue from sodalite in the meantime. Some time later I had time to tackle the carving of the spoonbill. We both followed the same procedure, so my approach below was the same for Jelle's sandstone head. I had ordered two blocks of Bentheimer sandstone to the right size, so we could get started right away.

Modeling and copying

Two new reliefs ready on the pallet

I had thought about carving this spoonbill straight out of the block, but that is not the best way to address it if the customer wants an exact copy. I had received a lot of pictures of the old reliefs via email, along with a number of measurements that were carried out on the counterparts that were preserved. This proved essential in the reconstruction: from these measurements and the pictures I was able to model a similar looking spoonbill in clay. Fortunately, there were pictures from three sides, from when the bird was still in its last garden wall. Once the clay model was to my satisfaction, I could start carving a copy in stone. Small details like feathers in the wings I had left out for the time being.

I traced the contours of the spoonbill onto a piece of cardboard, so I could transfer them onto the stone. After I'd carved away the stone outside the contours, I could transcribe the other sizes quite simply with a compass. In such a case, I usually put the two pieces tightly together. That way, I can transfer most of the width measurements one by one, without adjusting my compass. I've once made a video and a blog post about that. Once most measurements were in place and the rough shapes were carved, only the finish carving of the spoonbill needed to be done. The method of working from a clay model first is called the Indirect Carving Method. Read more about this method in this blog post↑.

Slideshow

-Click on a picture for the enlarged view-

The facade reliefs can be seen in the garden of the Lutheran Church, Witte Herenstraat 22 in Haarlem.

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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