We have now been carving a lot of large finials, crockets and ornaments for the Utrecht Dom Tower. At the top of the tower, at about a hundred meters height, a ring of gargoyles are installed to spit out the rainwater that falls on the roof and the balustrade. At the end of last year we received three of these old limestone gargoyles: an eagle, a stone-cutting devil and a monster that sits on another devil's shoulders. We divided these three gargoyles among the three of us: colleague Serge got the eagle, Jelle got the stonemason and I would make the last one, all three from new blocks of Portlandstone. We just had to wait a little longer for the third gargoyle, because it hadn't arrived yet. If only I'd known what I'd gotten myself into!
It doesn't fit!
Jelle's stone-cutting devil on the contour saw
Serge immediately started cutting out the eagle on the contour saw, then Jelle got to work. But when "my own"’ gargoyle arrived, it turned out that this one was 2 metres 60 tall, and I can only handle 195 cm on my contour sawing machine. So it became clear that I had to measure and copy this gargoyle by hand from the block of stone. The other two were just long enough to fit into the machine.
If it all doesn't fit in the machine, it has to be done by hand. In this case I put the two pieces on top of each other, to simplify all measuring work. You can then very quickly see whether the shapes match, because they are put so close to each other. With compasses and contour templates it's easy to find the main shapes.
Once the three most important sides were defined, including the stonemasonry parts of the gutter on top of the gargoyle and the hole through the monster's mouth, I put the two blocks upright. And then it turned out that there was also another demon hiding at the bottom. But with each block on its own turntable I could easily compare and copy again, so that in the end a faithful copy emerged.
Video: inspection at the sculptor's studio
In November 2020 local broadcaster RTV Utrecht visited us for a video report of our work on the ornaments. The restoration committee came to judge our first results.
There is an article on the RTV-Utrecht website with a short report (see herethe link↑), but if you wait until everything is loaded, the video will also appear, on which we can bee seen from minute 4:50 in the studio. Because I took this job together with my colleagues Serge van Druten and Jelle Steendam, can they also be seen in this video. By the way, the whole video is worth watching.
Video: Jelle is working on a gargoyle
In the meantime, Jelle was working on his own gargoyle, a stone-cutting demon. I made a short video of it.
Gallery: work progress on the two gargoyles
Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl
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.
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.
If 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?
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.
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.
The Four Evangelists
Halfway 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
These 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.
We 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
There 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-
Gloomy clouds gather around Arnhem's Eusebius Church. After years of smooth and energetic restoration, the first restoration budget has come to its end. In a previous message from 2016 I could report that money had finally been released, and although the subsidies have been handled very efficiently, at that time it was already known that it would not be enough to complete the entire project. There is a lot of fuss in the media about it, and immediately there are also people who claim that the entire project would be a bottomless pit, but they talk like a headless chicken.
A top-class restoration
For this budget, the Eusebius Church, at less than one-third of the amount previously estimated, is being thoroughly restored and also adapted to contemporary requirements. The time of mass church attendance is simply behind us, and the church is now mainly used for other purposes. In addition, this is a top-class restoration, which can be seen by everyone who gets the chance to wander through the building and over the scaffolding. Certainly not a bottomless pit, butan examplary project. It would be foolish to stop now, just when we are nearing the finish line and have stayed within budget despite extensions to the original restoration approach. So I look forward with confidence to the next round of investment in this important building.
In the Gelderlander of 6 October 2020 the following article could be read:
The scaffolding around the tower of the Eusebius Church in 2016
ARNHEM – The restoration of the Eusebius Church in Arnhem has been halted again due to lack of money. In 2016 the work has also been stopped once, because there were no subsidies from the various governments.
There is still approximately missing 3 million euros for the completion of the last phase of the large-scale restoration project on this national monument. The hope is that the province of Gelderland will help financially in the short term.
This provincial support had already been counted on, but due to various circumstances it has not yet been granted.
Within the budget
The money is needed for the repairs to the choir part of the building. That is the part on the east side of the church, opposite the 'Duivelshuis' the Devil's House. The total restoration project for the Eusebius Church in 2013 was budgeted at approx 32,5 million euros. The total project remains within budget.
The Provincial Executive of Gelderland recently proposed to the Provincial Council to make a maximum subsidy available of 2,5 million euros to the Eusebius Arnhem Foundation, which is responsible for the preservation and operation of this house of God.
But it is not until November that the Provincial Council will decide whether to agree to this during the discussion of the budget for next year.
The tenor of these two articles is the same: lots of alarm and drama, while there is actually not much going on. An awful lot has been done with the available money and the restoration will also be completed with the same care.
Consequences for the sculptors?
copying flying buttress statue The Hope at 35 degrees Celsius
Actually, this does and doesn't have consequences for us. On the one hand, we just keep doing our thing and we still squeeze out one flying buttress figurine after another. On the other hand, the budget has also been temporarily suspended for us. Why then do we just continue with those statues, you may ask? This has everything to do with a period of relative calm before a great hustle and bustle.
Lots of work to come
The old flying buttress statue of The Hope, out of tuff stone
I can't say everything about it yet, but in spite of the apparent calm on this blog, Jelle and I in particular have been extremely busy recently. That is the reason that I couldn't keep up with writing blog articles. Indeed, I recently completed a flying buttress sculpture that depicted The Hope, from the series of the Seven Virtues, and I simply forgot to take pictures of it! Well, then it is therefore not possible to write an article about it anymore. But it is not forgotten, I will take pictures of it later at the Eusebius Church, where the figurine is stored.
A very busy autumn and winter
Things will get even crazier in the coming months, because we are currently already working on large finials for the Utrecht Dom Tower, and another major project is coming up in Veghel, I still have to tackle a number of smaller projects, my mother eagerly awaits my father's tombstone, and there are still a great number of ornaments and sculptures coming which I cannot name yet.
Stide at the old flying buttress statue of Fides. This statue clearly shows why we cut these copies: they are completely full of cracks.
But around the summer period we had a somewhat quiet time. But we have not been idle! Like with the flying buttress of the Seven Sins that we had last year, there was now the flying buttress next to it, with the Seven Virtues. Jelle and I have almost finished all of them, except for the statue of Faith, that Stide is now working on.
We thought it would be smart to tackle the next flying buttress now, because we already knew there was so much work to be done later. However, they were not waiting for that at the Eusebius Church. This flying buttress is actually part of the next restoration phase and they hadn't even started on that yet. Plus that the budget was starting to run out. But with some deliberation we could move forward. If we had postponed it, it would have become much, much busier next spring!
Modeling the shield for the two griffins
When some space came up this summer, Jelle and I immediately seized the opportunity to finally decisively to continue with the modeling work On the two mirrored griffins, on which I already started in 2017 with a scale model. The work is in no hurry because the castle is not ready yet, but now we have been hard at work. Soon I'll post an extensive report. In any case, we made full-size clay models and cast them in plaster. On Instagram you get to see something of these activities.
One of the figurines I copied for arch no. 23 is Caritas, the symbol of Love. Quite appropriate for this time in the restoration of the Eusebius Church, Caritas also means Charity and Generosity.
Sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg has carved Caritas from tuff as a young woman in a thick dress, holding a somewhat listless child in strange proportions on her lap. It has a rather small head and very broad shoulders.
In the copy I made a few minor adjustments to Caritas, so that the child has a bit more of a child's head. I also made the heart that was on the right side, from a flat object into a rounded shaped, pumped up heart, because luckily I had more mass in the stone at that point. It is characteristic of our approach: we largely stick to the original sculpture, in finish, dimensions and details, but we try to give some points a little more tension, which makes the figurinea bit more expressive. We also carve, just as we did with the Seven Sins, the Latin name of each virtue in the side profile. See more about this in the post about the previous flying buttress statue from this series: Temperantia.