This 40 inch plaster nativity set needed some TLC. It had become rather grubby and damaged with years of handling.
As work began, we found a number of " shortcuts" had been taken in the past. The ends of this shepherds, bagpipes had broken, and the remaining stub painted over. The pipes were rather truncated and needed to be rebuilt.
So here are three stages of my re-building the missing "chanters" or pipes.
(fig 1.) the proposed correction far left,
(fig 2.) Supports fitted to rebuild the mouth of chanters and fingers,
(fig 3.) Shaping the fingers to match the originals.
Partial restoration requires that the restorer has to prioritise which areas need her attention most. Old repairs even if unsightly or poorly modeled, sometimes have to remain if they are sound.
However, this king's crown was too prominent a feature to over look.
Just as the bag pipes, the central point was broken and over painted in an attempt to disguise the break. It spoiled the king's regal appearance, and was a definite candidate for renewal!
So here are the stages of correcting the old repair;- I'm sure you will agree that the appearance is much improved.
And so, let us return to the "pipe-less" shepherd...
With the missing chanters re-built, The shepherd definitely appears to be playing a musical instrument - and not sucking orange juice through a large straw.
The following images show the areas which were missing, and the completed repairs.
.Masking tape covered the break in this shepherds neck. When it was removed, I could see that the neck had been misaligned at some time in the past.
realignment of the broken neck showed that the area to be repaired and filled were greater than first appeared. Support wires which should have been deeply embedded, were protruding through the surface.
From the reverse view, the neck and head had been poorly modeled; giving a " lollipop" appearance. As a consequence of the narrow neck, the head was also too narrow; improving the appearance would be somewhat limited. The average human head weighs around 5kg, and we have large muscle groups to support it. (as shown)
Re-modelling the shepherd's neck
What had begun as a straightforward repair became more of a re-model.
I decided to thicken the neck to make it look more natural, and add further supporting irons. This made the neck area stronger against future wear and tear, and make the statue more durable for my clients.
With the right hand side of the neck corrected, the head needed a new ear to finish the job! As the modelling on the hands were simply done, I kept the modelling of the ear to the same style.
Below; The restored nativity shepherd admires his new neck and ear!
My family crib set was gifted to me by my Parish priest Msgr. Butchard
(now retired). around ten years ago. It had a few chips and breaks, but he asked if I'd like it anyway for the children. This was some time before I had even considered taking statue restoration as a full time profession.
Now each Christmas I remember Fr. John in my prayers, with gratitude for his priesthood, and how God worked through him.
By receiving this priests thoughtful gift and restoring it, I took another step on the road toward my present work. That little figure of the baby Jesus reminds me that God often speaks to us in little ways.
The Catholic web has been discussing the pros and cons of the current Vatican Nativity. It includes extra figures meant to draw our attention to the corporal works of mercy.
Some have been outraged by the inclusion of a semi-naked male figure sporting a six pack, and others bemoan that they are as expressive as shop mannequins. I think it would be unfair to question the competency of the artists who executed the scene. I do not know what particular constraints they were under to produce the figures, and how much creative input they were allowed. If the tableau is skilfully rendered or not, the main question is whether it works as a piece of religious art.
There is a long tradition in Catholicism that art is a teaching tool, it exists that we should learn some spiritual truth from it.
Sacred art can be a "sermon" in pictures, and Integrity demands that a Nativity scene draw the viewer into the central mystery of Christ Incarnate. It is the contemplation of Christ as a babe, which is key to our treating others with love and respect.
The final battle - Sr. Lucia
Cardinal Caffera of Bologna recorded the prohecy of Sr. Lucia, who wrote that: "The final battle between the Lord and Satan will be about marriage and the family." She said that we mustn't be afraid, because Our Lady had already crushed Satan's head, but the family and the sanctity of Marriage would be the decisive issue. It was due to this that St. Pope John Paul II had urged the Cardinal to establish the Pontifical Institute for marriage and the family.
Eggs over easy
The inclusion of extra figures ministering the corporal works of mercy rather over-eggs the scene. It allows the viewer to take the easy route out; distrcated by the side show. Afer all, contemplating the vulnerability of God made man is immense.
In addition, the Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was once upheld as a model for married family life. It is their parental virtues which deserve our attention in these times.
With the family unit as the core building block of society, its disintegration has gone hand in hand with the degeneration of our culture.
Society continues to undermine the vulnerability of children and their need for nurture, and guidance. They are too often regarded as a commodity, or a burden, rather than a gift from God. When we think of the attack upon the family in these times, it is essential to keep our focus on the Holy family of the Nativity. Their example, is one of putting unconditional love into practice.
The following link has some clear photos of the scene.
The Catholic Traveler
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