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.
Occasionally, visitors can date their statues by knowledge of which of their ancestors owned them, which churches they belong to.
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 - 46.
Originally French, they later acquired a second studio in Ireland. As the company's production diminished, some of the moulds found their way to the U.K. and some of the figures are still produced to this day; (however, many are being supplanted by the fad for resin or fibreglass figures, which do not have the longevity of plaster.)
Raffle of Paris dominated religious statuary for Churches during the nineteenth century, and enjoyed a heyday in commercial religious art production.
The figures were usually produced in plaster, which kept costs reasonable, and were thus 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.
It is 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.
I am presently restoring a lovely set of Nativity figures, all from Maison Raffl; or should I say, from an
Anglican church in Redditch. The broken surfaces have been over painted by a film crew (who were there to record a service.)
The statues were cleaned, and the broken areas repaired and in- painted, I addressed all the chipped areas, matching the colours and finish throughout.
I'll post some more photos as work progresses.
Liturgical artist/restorer. Bachelor of Art and Design, Catholic Blogger
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