Our Lady of Lourdes restored for St. Walburgers
Updated: Feb 14
Artists throughout the ages have striven to depict the beauty of the Blessed Virgin.
In many paintings and sculptures, her face expresses inner joys and sorrows, it tells us of her earthly sufferings and her heavenly glory. Heaven itself has helped us to know the face of Mary; she has appeared in apparitions throughout the world. Sometimes wearing royal robes as at Walsingham, or peasant dress as she did at La Salette.
The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the tilma in Mexico - is possibly the nearest we have to a portrait of Our Lady.The virgin is usually portrayed with a delicate chin, large eyes and small mouth. In symbolic terms, large eyes suggest contemplation of God, and the small mouth, the few words Mary spoke.
A closer look at the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes
The statue of Our lady of Lourdes at St. Walburgers is prominently placed within the church. She is of similar height and historical age to all the other statues at St. Walburgers, yet unlike the other statues, she was produced and purchased in Bruges, not Munich. As Canon singled out the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes for restoration, I felt a ripple of inner trepidation. Her face at a distance did not seem to fit with that of St.Bernadette's vision of a young lady in her 20s.
Closer inspection revealed an aged Mary, with heavy features. Her hair drooped like a small moustache which peeked from beneath her veil. She was a little unconventional. I mused if perhaps the client who had commissioned the statue from a wood carver, had changed his mind at some point during its production; from that of Our Lady of Sorrows to that of Our Lady of Lourdes. And, if the artist had adapted the figure accordingly but without changing the face.
Back at the Workshop
Back at our workshop, David and I observed that the statue was carved from yellow pine, a difficult wood to sculpt due to the large grain and sap areas. For those who write to me on such things, I mention that on the base, in serious lettering we found the words, "J. Reubens. Bruge".
Having restored many statues of Our lady of Lourdes, I studied the statues' face for some time before resolving to give her a face lift. It meant honing down the fleshier areas, and re-fining the sculpting of the lips nose and eyes. A word of caution, it is of great importance to have a knowledge of anatomy in order to successfully remodel the face of any statue in this manner.!
Below is a profile shot of the statue's face, before an after re-modelling.
Re-decorating the statue
I gilded the rosary as Saint Bernadette described it - with a golden chain. One of my sons carefully gilded the roses at Our Lady's feet- as per the apparition. Formerly, the vivid paintwork had exaggerated the chunky look of the figure. To counteract this, I added delicate details to help with feminising the statues appearance. This decoration was also more- fitting historically for a statue of this period. The further intention being to help the statue fit snugly with the decorative schemes already existing within the church.
If you would like to view the finished statue in person, why not pay St. Walburges a visit? Details below! https://www.visitpreston.com/visit/things-to-do-in-preston/walksandtours/guidedwalkstours/st-walburges-church-guided-tours/