Days before we closed for Christmas break, I visited a church to refurbish the carved symbols on the altar. These were of the alpha and omega, with a Pelican in the centre, feeding its young.
The Carving of the Pelican was looking rather dull. It was lost in a sea of beautiful deep green marble. The story it was meant to tell had become unreadable.
The P.P. wanted to revive that story, so that he could better explain the Eucharist to the children.
The story goes something like this:
In medieval times, it was thought that the Pelican preened feathers from her breast until it bled. With her own blood, she fed her young chicks to ensure their survival.
The Pelican became a symbol of the Eucharist; Christ feeding the faithful with His own body and blood.
I might add to the story by saying "Strengthened and matured, the young birds find that they have the strength to leave the earthly nest and soar heavenward."
The source of this legend has been lost in time, yet it gave rise to the intriguing Catholic symbol we see in our churches today.
The following set of stations of the cross belong to a London Church.
Father wanted them to look as beautiful as possible, but hold back on some areas where damage was minimum to retain their sense of age.
I think this was the right approach, as the stations were new in 1858, and part of their beauty was in their age.
The figures which make up the tableaus, are beautifully carved, and originate from Belgium or Germany. As with many old church pieces their provenance has been lost with the passage of time.
We restored the figures where paint had flaked, and replaced missing spears and clubs.
The spires and gilded acanthus leaves were broken, along with some of the crosses topping the frames. We found that the wooden frames had been more colourful, the tan brown which now predominated was not original, but a change made just after the war.
It appeared that when the stations has been restored in 1948, new back grounds had been added, perhaps the originals had deteriorated to such an extent that this was deemed necessary.
The image below shows the crudity of this " new" addition compared to the attention given to the frames and figures.
When we visit various churches, parishioners often tell us how unhappy they are about the scenic element to their stations of the cross having been painted out altogether.
We felt it important to address this problem, not only to restore some of the original integrity of the artworks, but also to enhance the story - telling aspect of the set. (That is the Catechetical element.)
The following images show the eleventh and twelfth stations with backgrounds re-painted in th spirit of the originals.
An artist's paintbrushes, are the tools of his trade. I once counted that I had used over 14 different types of brush on one statue.
If you are aware that a posi-drive screwdriver is not suitable for a flat slot screw head- then you will have some appreciation for the virtue of having the right paintbrush for the right job.
A house painter and decorator will agree that choosing the correct brush for the job is important. While house paint brushes are pretty standard in appearance, artists brushes come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and bristle types.
The liner below will produce long thin marks, This one has natural bristles of sable. The gilders tip - used for placing gold sheets onto a surface for gilded decoration, can be made of squirrel or badger hair. While it is not used for painting, it is an important tool in my emporium!
In years gone by, the addition of lead or tin to paints, gave artists the ability to create sinuous lines, and a satisfying opaque finish to works. These heavy metals gave the paints greater longevity. However, they decreased the longevity of the artist's life - (and that of their manufacturers) - so these metals have since been removed.
The result is that the fluidity of the paint has been compromised, and creates more of a challenge for the artist/restorer.
The image above shows, the decorative detail of a Sacred Heart statue I'm currently restoring, I am using two differently shaped brushes with different hair types to replicate the quality of line used in the original.
The internet shop photo hadn't shown the greasy glob of goo which sat on his forehead. A candle stand had hidden the missing fingers of his left hand.
The all important "Heart" had been nailed to his chest at a jaunty angle.
Despite this, someone saw past the rash of problems - and brought him to us for rescue!
With all the old paint and goo removed, the statue revealed that it had been made from open grained low grade wood which split easily. We carefully pared down the front of the mantle so that the heart would sit comfortably on his chest .
With these two alterations, the figure immediately took on a more dignified appearance.
The next remedy was to carve some new fingers. We used a denser wood than that used for the figure, and spliced these into the palm of the hand. as shown below.as
This statue of the Sacred Heart was intended for a church sanctuary. As we were also restoring the figure of Our Lady for the same sanctuary, I designed a motif which would suit both figures, to give them unity.
Below is the finished figure (photographed at my studio) with its new look complete.
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