Restoring a Neo Gothic Virgin
This Neo Gothic statue captures the spirit and style of the late medieval Gothic age. The delicately carved hands and slightly elongated face of the virgin imitates examples from the 13th and 14th centuries.
I love how her mantle is caught on the tip of the crescent moon, revealing the presence of a serpent, coiling around her feet. His tail is pointed like a dart, and had been re-attached back to front with a rusty old nail which took some persuading to leave. These ornate statues deserve competent restoration work, to preserve them as a reminder of times past when daily life was deeply rooted in the Christian faith.
Late Medieval Gothic
Medieval Gothic style spanned the 12th to 16th centuries, during which time Merchant trade routes had improved, and advances in the production of Gold and silver leaf made these materials more available to church artisans throughout Europe and the U.K.
Advances in building technology allowed more light to enter churches via Lancet windows, rising ever higher with the development of flying buttress. This increase of light allowed gold and silver and coloured interiors to shine more brightly.
For the Catholic church, it became the accepted style, (just as Latin had became the accepted language of the church) and gave rise to fine architectural examples such as the Cathedral of Rheims.
The old serpent & cancel culture
Although cancel culture is bandied about in the media as something new, it is an old spirit, which manifested itself in the persecution and death of the early apostles and evangelists. It made a strong impact in medieval England with the dissolution of monasteries and suppression of Roman Catholicism. This reformation (which is often referred to as the deformation because of the wholesale destruction and re-puposing of religious buildings and artifacts for secular use.) supressed Catholicism, and its culture. Church artisans lost their livelihoods or sought work abroad, and many Christians of various persuasions lost their lives in the political struggle.
By the mid-18th century suppression of Catholicism had eased, initially any new church buildings had to be out of sight and resemble farm houses so as not to offend those who would likely 'take offence.'
By the mid 1800s Catholics wanted to celebrate the resurrection of their faith and re-capture the splendour that had been lost or destroyed in the previous two centuries.
The Victorians taste for elaborate ornament and the Neo Gothic revival were good companions which nurtured each other, and went hand in hand so to speak with technical advances in production of metalwork, pigments and textile printing. All of which church architects and artisans such as Pugin, Gilbert Scott and Joseph Hansom embraced.
Observing the past
Although the heavy decoration of the neo gothic is not to everyone’s taste, the style which harks back to the medieval period is inextricably linked with Catholic history and traditions. The amount of decoration on neo gothic figures can be difficult to read in one go, especially when there is previous restoration which doesn't quite match the original. I usually have to sit with them for a week or so just making observations, compiling notes and sketches, then devising an order of work with which to proceed.
In the photo above, replicas were made of the existing points and attached to the crown, it was then repainted along with all the decoration. The scale of decoration on these statues, are usually in imperial rather than metric. This is useful to know when ensuring the distance between each pearl on the crown for example.
All replacement painting on the statue had to be such that it retained a sense of age.
Here is the finished statue of the irrepressible Immaculate Virgin Mary (in Neo-Gothic style) who is once again about to crush the serpents head, despite his ancient efforts to cancel Christianity and its culture.
My next post: Gilded Quill - St. Ambrose Bishop