• Jeanette Lewis

Changing Colours

Updated: Oct 4

Restoring Statue of Saint Joan Visionary & Martyr

We are much accustomed to seeing St. Joan dressed in armour ready for battle, yet this lovely statue by Rafl of Paris depicts St. Joan in a more subdued mood during one of her visions.

In this attitude, she reminds us that being attentive to God's voice, prepares us for life's battles. She will be travelling soon to a school in France.

Surface damage

I am uncertain why the statue had been " repaired" with a mixture of yellow ochre paint and gritty caulk. The repairs bore no resemblance to the finely modeled original.

Some of the bad repairs I find on otherwise lovely

statuary cannot be fathomed by reason alone. I file them mentally under " attempted repairs" so that I do not get too distracted from the task in hand by asking " why oh why?"

For example this delicately modeled foot, has been given the appearance of a spill from clumsily handled mustard jar, which St. Joan has inadvertently stepped into...

Flesh tones

This image is a clip from one of Julian Baumgartner's videos on painting


I chose it to illustrate how surface grime can significantly alter the colours of an artwork, from those the artist originally intended.

As he removes old surface grime from the young girl's face, we can see how very different the tones of her sister's face appear before treatment. I chose it to illustrate how surface grime (amongst other things) can significantly alter the colours of an artwork, from those the artist originally intended.

The Chartres Madonna

When a restorer discovers the original colours differ significantly from those the owner perceived them to be, it can be a problem.

A recent case in point being the restoration of the statue of the virgin and child known as the Black Madonna at Chartres Cathedral. She was restored to her original appearance to keep the integrity of the splendid interior of a tenth century Cathedral.

Some who had lived only a fraction of the years of the madonna statue, were piqued by this, as they had always known the Madonna darkened - which more accurately - put - was in a state of deterioration. They argued that it should have been left this way. I found this approach somewhat short-sighted, and needless to say I am on the side of the restorers. Studying which colours were favoured throughout historical periods can tell us about the industries of that time and society, but that is the topic of another post. Suffice to say that a good restoration preserves a figure from further deterioration for future generations.

Back to restoring St. Joan

To restore this statue of St. Joan I had first to remove all of the hardened yellow repair works and surface grime.

Underneath this, I found the flesh tones were pink, similar to those in the painting of the young girls, shown earlier in this post.

I remodelled the broken nose and fingers directly in plaster, and repainted her completely. The hair which had appeared mid brown because of the covering of yellow, was actually a rather dark brown.

The skirt which was denim blue, had red ochre in the shadow tones. The little shield and surrounding foliage sprang to life once they were repaired and their colours restored.

see more on our saints restored page

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