Between the flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral

broken drumstick of the Little Drummer Boy

The Little Drummer with broken drumstick

Gothic churches with flying buttresses

If you've read any of my previous articles on this blog, then you may have seen that in the recent years I made quite some copies of flying buttress figurines for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem. Now there are only a few churches in the world that have sculptures on top of their flying buttresses. Actually that wasn't even so originally with St. Eusebius's Church. Firstly, before 1921 this church had no flying buttresses around its choir at all, and secondly, it was only during that restoration that the first flying buttress statues were installed. After World War II eventually 96 flying buttress figurines were placed there (which we are all copying at the moment).

Gargoyles and ornaments and flying butresses of St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch

St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch is richly decorated. The northwest facades were replaced in the 70s and 80s in the somewhat gray German basalt lava. The statues and gargoyles were made of Udelfanger sandstone, and date from the 19th century.

The flying buttresses of St. John's

This was all inspired by the flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch, where already since the Middle Ages 96 figurines have been sitting on top of the flying buttresses. There is a Wikipedia article devoted to them, where you can find a description of each figurine. The statues of St. John's are 19th-century copies of earlier medieval sculptures. Of these, a few can still be found inside St John's Museum De Bouwloods, next to the Cathedral.

Been working on it for years

the Little Drummer Boy on the flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch

This picture shows that the drumstick had already been broken a long time ago. Photo: Tony Zeeuwe

Recently I was asked to fix one of those flying buttress figurines. It was a really simple job, that was done in a few hours, but it was very nice to once again sit on top of the church. My colleagues and I have been working on this Cathedral from 1999 to 2010 carving ornaments, statues, gargoyles, consoles and canopies for the church, and then we have also been involved several times in carving ornaments later on.

A good cooperation

Every year a small part of the church will be restored in the context of Major Maintenance. This year, a Belgian company took on the restoration of the natural stone parts, including the ornaments. That's why I was very surprised when I was asked for this job, but I got to hear that the lines are very short between the contractor and our crew (we work together in the restoration of the Eusebius Church in Arnhem, the Dom Cathedral in Utrecht and the Dom Tower in Utrecht), so these things can be arranged very quickly.

The Little Drummer Boy

In this case it was the Little Drummer Boy's drum stick, which was broken. If I could fix it. Of course. It was made in Udelfanger sandstone, and as I still had some pieces lying around, no problem. I loaded all the stuff in my van, drove to Den Bosch, and dragged everything up the stairs to about 30 meters up. Luckily I didn't need my compressor after all.

repairing the drumstick of the Little Drummer Boy on the flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch

The beginning of the job: an aligned hole through the hand and the old tip of the drumstick. A fitting piece of new sandstone with a hole, in between the old parts. Next is adding the top piece and then shaping the drumstick

Connecting all the parts

Because it is a stone drumstick, it was obviously not too thin. I could drill a long hole through the hand and make a hollow drum stick in two parts. Once the pieces, with a lot of finicky matching, finally fitted on top and in between, I could start making them slimmer and exactly to shape. And to fix them in place, I connected the five parts with a long pin and epoxy adhesive. Add a little bit of mortar and it's done.

Flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch

A great view of the flying buttresses on the north side

Carnival, above and below

And only then I had the time to look around me. I had been so engrossed in the work that I had forgotten to take some photos of my work, but now I could clearly see that this was a very good spot. Downstairs, the Carnival was starting up, on Friday, already. But even here on top a party was going on, what a view! All kinds of different flying buttress figurines of high quality.

Jerome Bosch connection

Hieronymus Bosch Fat man on Water BarrelThere are speculations that the flying buttress figurines may have a connection with Jerome Bosch. Hieronymus Bosch, the famous 15th-century painter from Den Bosch, was, just as the architect of St. John's Cathedral, Alaert Duhameel, a member of the Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady. Whether it is true that the themes of the original sculptures indeed were partly raised by Jerome Bosch or that he even made drawings for them, we'll never know. But the atmosphere is remarkably similar. It's nice to muse about it anyway. In any case, it's a special place for Den Bosch. That's why the flying buttresses, in the Bosch-year of 2016 were the centre piece of the well-visited ‘The Wondrous Climb‘ along the sculptures of St. John's Cathedral.

Forgotten

The job was done, I loaded the stuff into my van, consulted a bit with the foreman and drove home. I had only forgotten 1 small detail. Taking a picture of the final result!

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↑
and Twitter↑
and on YouTube↑

Statue of Pope Leo the Great, completed

sanding the chasuble The statue of Pope Leo the Great, carved out of two parts of Udelfanger sandstone, is completed. I made this copy for the restoration of St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, The Netherlands. You can read the two previous articles on this subject on my blog under the following links: here↑ the article on the presawing work and here↑ the second article, on the fitting together of the two parts, and why this is made out of two pieces of stone.

Detailing, copying, finishing

The procedure, after all the presawing and fitting together of lower- and upper body of the statue of Pope Leo, is the same as in the previous statue of Thomas Aquinas: just copying what the old statue was like and what I had earlier reconstructed in plastiline clay. Upon completion it was mainly down to detailing. All details had to be finished very sharp and after much sanding I got the statue smooth and crisp. All false dents were removed.

I had discovered that grit files of (tungsten)carbide work well on this fine sandstone. I had bought three very cheap grit files and bent two of them, so that I could reach every nook and cranny. It turned out very convenient for the first rough finishing. After that, I could finish the surface completely free of scratches with sandpaper.

By now, the statue has been sent on its journey, encased in a wooden box, off to St. John's Cathedral, where it will be put on the site of the old statue on the facade in due course . The original statue will be placed inside the adjacent museum, in storage.

Sculpture of Pope Leo the Great, carved out of two parts Udelfanger sandstone, completed

Gallery

-Click on an image to get the enlarged view-

 

→ Go to the first message about this-

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↑
and Twitter↑
and on YouTube↑

Statue of Pope Leo the Great, part two

located in the joint face are two stainless steel pins of 20 mm. Statue of Pope Leo the Great

1 Statue in two parts

the top- and lower part of the statue of Pope Leo the Great are presawnWork on the statue of Pope Leo the Great proceeds much more smoothly than I expected. When I explained to the committee and to my colleagues about my plan for carving of the statue out of two parts, most of them thought it was quite a bold approach. Because the statue needs to be carved from two parts, as I explained before in the previous article and the article on the similar statue of Thomas Aquinas.

In the original statue, the layers were used vertically, but for the copy it's desired that the layers run through the statue horizontally. Since there are no blocks of Udelfanger sandstone available that are tall enough, it has to be made out of two pieces. Where would you put the seam? An initial proposal was to split it at the top and bottom of the statue, below the line of tufts of its outer garment, plus another one in the crown. I myself proposed to follow the seam of the garment, along the bottom line of the cross on his chasuble.

Finding out the way the statue sits first

The rough carving of the torso of the statue of Pope Leo the GreatNow I can't just stick the two pieces together after the presawing. Firstly, there is a lot of surplus material on both parts at the spot of the joint plane. Secondly, there would be two versions of a hand holding a book. The book needed to be removed on the upper part, because that piece sits behind the book. I also couldn't reach all parts with my presawing machine such as behind the book. So I had to partly carve both parts just to see how it all fits.

Determining the joint plane

upper- and lower body carved far enough to fit the two parts togetherThe seam doesn't run through the statue in a straight line, but is rather curved. The difficult part is on the one hand to get the bend the same in both parts. It has to fit exactly and the lines of the robe should connect nicely. On the other hand, there is a fragile point near both shoulders, where the stone is not perpendicular to the outside, but will form a thin wedge. In this place I had to be extra careful that I don't break anything off by accident.

Lifting and lowering

First fit of the state is promising.Once I had determined the line of the chasuble on both parts I could start chiselling away the excess stone. I suspended the head from the hoist with two thin straps that I had tied in the correct position. Then it became a matter of lowering, looking where it didn't fit, hoisting, adjusting, and back down again, and repeat, until it was just right. I had made the lower part of the statue of Pope Leo the Great a bit narrower at the top, so that the upper body fitted over it as a lid. The picture shows an early stage; it doesn't fit properly yet here, because there are still slits at the shoulders.

Putting in the anchoring

located in the joint face are two stainless steel pins of 20 mm. Statue of Pope Leo the GreatFor a really strong connection between the two parts to I inserted two anchor rods of 20 mm thick stainless steel wire ends. Now the two bars have to fit very well inside the two parts and cannot disturb their alignment. It is therefore important that they are exactly parallel. Also, the holes in the two parts should be perfectly superimposed and aligned. You always need to be careful when drilling! When the four holes were to my liking and Ifound that the alignment was still the same, I bonded the two pins with epoxy . Then the two pieces were stuck tightly together, but there was still some space in the joint plane. It is almost impossible to make it so that these are less than a millimeter away from each other.

Pouring the mortar

two part statue of Pope Leo the Great in Udelfanger sandstone: pouring the seam with restoration mortar

But in this case that space worked in my favor. Besides the four holes for the pins I had drilled an extra hole, which ended up in the neck of the statue of Pope Leo the Great. I still had a bucket with Jahn grout that I could use for this case. First I thoroughly soaked the statue and especially the joint, so that it wouldn't dry out the mortar too soon and then not fill the entire cavity.

the white grout in the pouring bowlThen I took some modeling clay and closed up the seam almost completely . Only at the shoulders, I left a small hole. These were the highest points, so that was where air could become trapped. Then I modeled a bowl for pouring in the neck of the Pope. The final steps were simple: mixing up the grout, casting until the shoulders began to leak, closing up the shoulders and continuing to pour until that bowl was full. After a few days, the seam was closed perfectly: porous enough, but sturdy and well connected. Finally, I sealed up the edge of the tiny seam with restoration mortar for Udelfanger sandstone, so you can't see anything of it anymore.

Shaping

beginning with detailing the head and the crownAnd the rest is simple enough: just carving a copy of how the original looks. I work from top to bottom and have now reached the beard. I've had a lot of work on the crown and the cross, in getting it all nice and tight. Yet there is still a lot of work left, but that all comes later. For now I am very happy anyway that everything fits beautifully and that it worked out fine without any damages.

Gallery

 

detailing the beard and face

detailing beard and face

Read the work of this In the next article.

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↑
and Twitter↑
and on YouTube↑

A small sandstone head for Eusebius

row of 9 heads in the Eusebius Church. In front is a head of a woman with hood
A small head in Udelfanger sandstone

I had a small job in December for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands) again. High in the upper side wall of the south transept are 9 small heads embedded inside the wall. Three of those are old heads, which were made in the Middle Ages, four are from the 50s of the twentieth century, and one head is missing. I was asked to carve a new head for the empty spot. The additions of the 50s clearly show the traces of that time, and that will probably be true for mine as well. It proved quite difficult to carve a primitive head and to restrain myself so that it won't end up all too detailed.

Taking turns

The heads in the church wall were placed alternately: every time a corbel from the last century is interspersed with a medieval one. The latter are the simplest ones, and also the example that I want to go back to. Unfortunately it is not all that easy, because there is a beautiful woman's head in red sandstone between the others. This lady has a beautiful elaborate hood. Fortunately, much reference material can be found in the book on St. Eusebius's Church. You won't find any new books anymore, but perhaps it can still be found online ↑. In this book, there are many images of the corbels with small heads, except for this series, regrettably. And I saw a few pictures of old sandstone corbels from the Arnhem Municipal Museum, which, like the red lady, were beautifully carved. But that wasn't the way I was headed.

Simple faces

medieval corbel with headThe other corbels have primitively carved eyes, simple faces and thick lips. I also found a photo inside the book of a corbel that was sent to an Australian chapel as a gift, which has a similar shape. So that's what I've looked for in this small head corbel. The little guy got a page haircut and thick lips, and big floppy ears. I made a rough and small maquette in clay and then carved it into Udelfanger sandstone. The stonemason had already done the profile work. A bit of a pity, for I would have held on to the rough shape of the old corbels. I've just tried if it was better if I scraped it all smooth, but then it all went a bit dead, So I left it with a chisel stroke. It is always difficult to work from photos, so I hope it fits well within the range.

 

 

new corbel with primitive little head

 

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↑
and Twitter↑
and on YouTube↑

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 rather difficult job! Read more on this interesting challenge in the next article about this statue.

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

Follow me on Instagram↑
and Twitter↑
and on YouTube↑

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…

Small coat-of-arms in Udelfanger sandstone

Small coat-of-arms in a baroque shape

small coat of arms in Udelfanger sandstone completedFor a customer I made a small coat-of-arms in Udelfanger sandstone. Since this time no mantling and helmet were added, I chose a somewhat more baroque shield shape to make it a lively relief. I also Shield …Read the whole article…

Finials for St. Eusebius's Church


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…

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, The Netherlands 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…

Ornaments for Utrecht's Domkerk and St John's Cathedral 2

Finial

As you may perhaps remember: I last year I carved ornaments a few times and even made some stonemasonry work for St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch.

The blog posts can be found under the following headings: Stonemasonry work and ornaments for St. John's Cathedral, Finally another update! and Ornamental work for the Utrecht Dom Church and St. John's.

I recently got a new batch of ornamental work in the yard again, including another identical finial block for the same buttress finial of St. John's Cathedral. The first block I carved in its entirety myself, including the stonemasonry parts. The second block was pre-processed by …Read the whole article…