This nodding angel made everyone who saw it in my repair shop smile. Smiles are something we have all missed, having worn masks for far too long, so his arrival was more than welcome. I wondered how many children over the years would have enjoyed popping a penny into the mission box, to see the angel nod its head in approval; such a simple thing that brings to mind our guardian angels encouraging us to do good.
How old is the angel?
The nodding angel statue belongs to a church in Wigan, where a parishioner asked me its age. Putting an age to plaster statuary is not an exact science; a figure made in 1920 may well be re-produced for the next 30 - 70 years.
Clues to age can be found in the way a statue is painted, the colours used and the style of the eyes in particular. The Victorians liked their eyes with lashes, the 1920's favoured thin arched brows and so on.
The eyes on this nodding angel have a liveliness which many modern figures sadly lack, Its bright eyes are a feature which I took care to faithfully reproduce. Based on these observations, I responded to the parishioner's question about the age of the statue as around 60-70 years old.
Finding the true colours One of the first jobs to do was to clean the angel thoroughly. Paint will not adhere to a dirty or greasy surface. This can also reveal its original colours, and any damage hidden beneath the dirty surface is more readily seen.
The angel's neck and cowl had some unsightly repair works; cleaning revealed that the head had also suffered damage in the past. I had to remove some of these old repair areas before I could remodel them.
The pattern of damage found pointed to the statue having been dropped at one time in the past. The damage to the rocking mechanism could not be seen from the outside of the statue. Unfortunately, the restorer missed that this too had been damaged in the fall. To enable the head to rock more freely we re-aligned the rod into its correct position.
The nodding mechanism
The photo below shows the hand and shell re-built. As the lip of the shell will be prone to wear, I inserted a supporting iron which runs through the lip of the shell to help strengthen it. The nodding mechanism is constructed of twisted or looped metal wire with a plaster counterweight. The 'tail', which catches the coin, had been tapping against the front of the statue and created the hole marked on the photograph. The hole had been hidden by an Elastoplast which almost perfectly matched the colour of the gown lining! It all looks a little messy at this stage as all flaking and loose paint has been removed from the figure to ensure good surface adhesion for the new paint.
All in all the statue had a number of damaged areas that needed our attention, as shown in the image below. The photo shows the statue with most of the major areas re-built.
The nodding angel restored
This nodding angel has been fun to restore. It's always nice to have something a little out of the ordinary to work on. This is one of three statues we are repairing for the church in Wigan. All three will be returned to the church once the other two are complete. You can see a short video of the restored statue with its nodding head in action on my Instagram page.