As promised, the results of our most recent restoration; a Madonna statue which was missing a hand, and the cross for the Christ child's orb.
She now holds Rosary beads rather than a sceptre, as the statue will be installed in a prayer room dedicated to the Rosary.
It is not professional restoration practice to repair in this way, because the results can be discordant, and even comical.
When parts of a statue are missing, I always sculpt a new replacement part to ensure that it is modelled to the correct style and proportions of the statue.
In this way the the figure retains its dignity and original aesthetic.
So, this week I have been preparing a clay model for the replacement - (Photos below) and hope to make the mould and cast it by the weekend.
As we will be making the sceptre too, the statue should be complete within a couple of weeks, when I will post the results of the completed restoration.
Above: Three views of the clay hand, to the right it holds a modelling tool which is the correct diameter for the sceptre.
Since writing this post, we visited the area where the statue was to be displayed, and it was decided that the statue would hold a rosary rather than a sceptre.
So I have since made some adjustments to the model of the hand, and it will soon be ready to cast.
Having seen the Marian shrine of my childhood church in Liverpool relegated to a meeting room, (during re-ordering in the 70's) I am grateful to Fr. S for having considered me for this work, and to have been part of re-instating devotion to her. It helped to heal that former sense of loss, to know that devotion to Mary would be shared again.
With all the parts for our statue of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament now cast, we will wait for them to dry out, and then smooth out any fins.
"Fins" are the seamline areas of the mould, which appear on all cast works.
Once this has been completed the parts of the statue can be assembled and painted.
There were some unavoidable delays in the progress of this figure, but we are now back on track and hope to have it ready for May.
I am looking forward to seeing it painted up and installed for the place it was intended.
I hope to post again soon with images of the completed statue.
Above: Original decorative alb of the Christ child is revealed as old paint layers are removed; here the glass eyes are cleaned of overlapped paint and debris.
When restoring church statuary, I occasionally find at the base, the name of the studio which produced it.
I like finding those; because so many have been erased over the years and their origins lost to the mists of time.
People will often tell me how old their statues are, and which of their ancestors owned them, which churches they belong to and their country of origin.
One Studio which I encounter fairly often, is that of "Maison Raffl" also known as " La statue Religeuse" or "Raffle et Cie." (depending who the owner was at the time of production.)
The studio had many owners, and operated in between 1857 and 1920, and possibly up to 1946 (though I need to confirm the latter.)
Originally French, they later acquired a second studio in Ireland. They dominated religious statuary for Churches during the nineteenth century, and enjoyed a heyday in commercial religious art production, usually produced in plaster, which allowed a much lower cost than those of the traditional statuary carved in stone or wood. For this reason they were favoured by parish priests; particularly the order of Saint Sulpice who recognised this as a positive way to assist the faithful in encouraging their prayer lives in the home, and it seems that for this reason, the art which came from "Maison Raffl" is sometimes known as being modelled in the " Sulpicienne style." Its a term used to describe figures which are appealing, easily comprehended and finely modelled.
Sales were mainly through their catalogues, illustrated with engravings and early photographs; and although they specialized in the religious sector, their products included furniture, consoles, pedestals, and other items.
The House of Raffl manufactured in tens of thousands (over 62,000 for the period from 1871 to end 1877), installed in churches throughout France and also exporting worldwide.
A Madonna statue from Studio Raffl, (if memory serves it was dated 1918.) The statue was returned to its original decorative scheme, the colours chosen were those preferred by the owner.
It gathered momentum after I had made some instructional films for a religious sister, these helped to extend virtually the one to one time I had with her. She encouraged me to continue with them.
Now I just film when I think there is something I am working on which may be of interest to others. I hope our short videos help familiarise with the idea of working with ones hands and rather than keep methods “secret"; (as the early "Masters" often did - they might encourage a future religious artist or two, to create something both pleasing and beautiful.
The importance of Seeing and Believing
Early artists had to invent ways of making paints; (and the difficulty of this didn't put them off) their knowledge of pigments was held somewhat in secret, and passed from Master to Apprentice.
They used all manner of materials and binders to make their paints; crushed petals, and powdered dirt for pigments, stabilised with binders from spittle to animal collagens.
No doubt they were spurred on by the desire to create something of beauty and have others to enjoy it.
This reminds me of the bible passage John 9:6
"Having said this he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle put this over the eyes of the blind man and said to him " go wash in the Pool of Siloam."
Jesus used what was just dirt and spittle, (the ingredients of artist pigment), to cure the man who had been blind form birth - he could see for the very first time.
To foster religious art within the church, I believe its important to de-mystify it somewhat, so that people find it accessible again. In this way, both clergy and laypeople (hopefully) can see how it fits in to our beliefs; that's the "raison de etre" of our short films.
Alas, its difficult at present to find good resources for this particular apparition,(as the story has been somewhat hi-jacked by the Pious X society to further their opinions.) None the less, the sufferings of Sister Mariana were in expiation for the Church and peoples of the 20th century.
The reasons for the statue were given thus:
“First so that men in the future might realize how powerful I am in placating Divine Justice and obtaining mercy and pardon for every sinner who comes to me with a contrite heart. For I am the Mother of Mercy and in me there is only goodness and love.
Our Lady's stated to Mariana, that she would be prioress of the convent until the end of time.!
This story is about two people being in the right place at the right time; what St. John Paul the Great would call a "God- incidence" rather than a "co- incidence".
Commissioning a statue of Our Blessed Mother isn't just a matter of commerce or duty; according to St. Louis de Montforte they are vehicles which encourage us to holiness.
In his famous treatise, St. Louis lists twelve interior practices which indicate "True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin" (Article 115)
Here are three which concern religious statues:
9) Taking charge of her confraternities, decorating her altars, crowning and adorning her statues.
(I will post further progress on this sculpture as time allows.)
We've been restoring a pair of statues for a Lourdes Grotto - Spot the difference? (the daisies I mean.)
If St. Bernadette were my little girl, I would have embroidered the yoke of her blouse for sure!
I am told that the children from the local school stop to say a prayer at this Grotto each morning. I think they would appreciate the daisies....
On this Statue we found a little label which said " A. STROBE "Artistic Decorator". Inscribed on the base in a fancy scrawl was the date (1930).
I had first thought, that "A. Strobe" was the sculptor, or at least the name of the studio; but the term " Artistic Decorator" suggests the possibility, that this label referred to the person who had poly chromed the statue.
A selection of images of Our Lady (Church approved for devotion) - wearing different coloured garments.
The back of the chair is arched to represent the arch of the rainbow; "the sign of the covenant between God and every living creäture.
" (Gen 9 :v 12)Under her feet is the Toad stone, believed during medieval times to be formed in the head of a toad, and to have magical powers;- it is the East Anglian equivalent of the moon or serpent, all representative of evil; superstitious practice and idolatry.
Just as the serpent is crushed under heel in the book of Revelation, so Mary (crushes) the Toad stone and all it represents - under her feet.
The finished statue holds a sceptre fashioned like a three fold lily, as Mary is the pure Lily chosen by the Trinity from all eternity.
I have added two decorative golden bosses at the base displaying the Greek symbols for Mother of God and Jesus Christ ♥
It is said that "When England returns to Walsingham; Mary will return to England."
Slide show of procession
As its not always possible for me to attend the installation of my statues or similar events like this procession; I am always grateful for those who send me a photo or two.
The slideshow is courtesy of Mrs. H. and the comment is from " Brendan" :
"The day has been very special the sun has been with us, Carmel was full and even the old Sister's looked young, really seemed that Our Blessed Mother had arrived home, Our own English Queen will be singing your praises in Heaven, She will be delighted with your statue. Well done.
Lewis and Lewis
is a Catholic family run business: specialising in statue restoration, and church interior projects.
Jeanette is a professional sculptor/fine artist and designer; husband David is a traditional upholsterer/technician.
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