Corbel for the Eusebius Tower: a bird-like beast?

Bird beast: a copy of a tufa stone corbel by John Grosman in new Muschelkalk limestone for the Eusebius Tower in Arnhem
One of the last of the 10 corbels for the South- and North side of the tower of the Eusebius Church at 23 meters high was this winged bird-like beast. It sits somewhat cramped in its corner and there spreads its claws and wings. This piece was originally carved in 1954 by John Grosman, who also adorned a pair of flying buttresses with statuettes. I already copied his seven trumpet angels of the Apocalypse earlier; read the report here↑.

Style characteristics

Grosman at the time quickly carved these figurines out of the original tuff, and the chisel strokes can still be recognized from up close. I have not changed their style. Stide and I both agreed: if you'd think it necessary to leave your mark on this work and go about changing things, then you'd violate their original intention, it would detract from the atmosphere of an era and you'll either end up with something completely different, or something that makes no sense at all, ending up being neither this nor that. So with great pleasure I copied this figure pretty closely. A while ago I was able to inspect the whole group on site at the tower and it became clear that these five by Grosman form a coherent ensemble, even though I have no idea of their meaning. Most of the five figurines have a rather triangular, flat face which was carved close to the original surface, and are portrayed with wings.

Legs and wings

This bird beast was slightly damaged. It missed a claw on its right leg and there was some surface damage. Although it still looks okay, it's being replaced now because of this Ettringer Tuff is already showing signs of decay, such as tiny cracks, which will in the coming decades inevitably lead to danger of falling parts. Also, the original is still clearly readable now, so it will be easy to copy faithfully. There are sculptures on the Eusebius Church that are already falling apart now and have some parts missing. This would therefore require that a reconstruction is made before a copy can be cut.

As I said, I copied this bird-like beast reasonably precise, except that I've carved the wings a bit thinner. Muschelkalk can be detailed a bit finer than tuff and is also stronger, so I can carve some things slightly slimmer than its original. In my opinion this doesn't detract from the original intention of the sculpture in any way.

Carving by pointing machine, or CNC milling…

presawing a flying buttress figurine on the copy saw

presawing a flying buttress figurine on the copy saw

There are of course methods to copy this sculpture much more precise. I could accurately copy it with a pointing machine to the millimeter and carve it into new stone. Or I could complete the bird beast with plastiline clay to a mint condition, then have it scanned with a 3D scanner, and then have it milled out of a new block of stone with a CNC five-axis milling machine. It may be clear that those methods, along with the advantage of accuracy, also have a number of disadvantages such as longer delivery time and a much higher price tag. A CNC milling will copy every little dent, so you'd need to prepare each model either to a mint condition or you'll need to keep a wide margin above the final processed surface. These are also costly machines, so this milling work does not come cheap. By the time the scan is processed and the robot and the stone are ready, I've already finished presawing. Besides, no further transport is required.

Therefore my copy saw turns out to be for the flying buttress figurines a perfect compromise: I can accurately and quickly remove a l arge amount of stone, and at low costs. Yet little preparation of the original is needed and I keep just about as much margin as I have set in advance. Unfortunately I can not make good use of this machine for the corbels because these figures are embedded into crisp masonry . I cannot risk damaging this with an overshot saw kerf. For the flying buttres figurines, this risk is practically non-existent, since they need to be cut all around. Hence I carved this bird-like beast and all his other brothers by hand and measured them with the aid of compasses and profile templates.

Two winged cubistic creatures: old tufa stone corbels from 1954 by John Grosman from the Eusebius Tower in Arnhem

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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