|9th century box, end panel - almost finished|
As the light faded this evening here was were I was with the carving
Carving dimension; 140mm x 92mm
I have not tried very hard to find the origins, or the earliest surviving examples of this type of work, but here is a detail from a 2nd century BC bronze door in Hagia Sophia, which clearly shows two versions of the Classical Greek form this decoration took on. One thing I find particularly amazing about this door is that if one were to only see the vine and leaf ornament on the extreme right of the picture, they would surely assume it to be 14th century Western European work.
|Detail of a Bronze door in Hagia Sophia showing|
two forms of 'Rankenwerk'
I will remind everyone reading this, again, that all the ornament for this box stems from the BNF Lat 1 manuscript in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. I am not copying anything outright, but imagining myself as an artist in the 9th century who had access to this manuscript as a design resource. As such an artist, I would have, (and did) taken design elements from this work and adapted it to my plan. There is no design in the manuscript which remotely resembles this panel, but all of the various parts are there; this includes the lion, the scrolling vines, and the various types of leaves and flowers which I have used.
|BNF Lat 1 fol 4v|
Scrolling vines and leaves, the circular flower, and a rampant lion
I first began working out the design on paper, and once it had gotten to the point of feeling like it could work, I stopped and started drawing it on the holly panel instead. I did not feel like re-drawing the lion, so I traced him, cut him out, and pasted him on. "cut and paste" old school!
|The design, drawn and ready for carving|
One thing that this exercise gave a good excuse to point out, is that in laying out this type of design, one begins with circles. Some free-hand work follows, connecting one ring with the next to form spirals, but to lay it out accurately, one uses a compass as can be seen in the following picture.
|Concentric circles are the foundation for this type of design|
I point this out because it is an important thing to consider when viewing medieval illustration of furniture. Many examples are decorated with simple dots or circles, but as I have stated in the past, these renderings are not photographic, but merely form-representational illustrations. If one considers the set of six circles shown on the piece of timber above, and then the ultimate decoration that sprang from those circles, it gives a completely different perspective from which to view this 11th century relief carving of a bed.
|Detail of a relief sculpture at the monastery in La Charité-sur-Loire, France|
When I first began this box project, I was feeling apprehensive about my abilities to carve the fine details, but was willing to give it a go. As I got into the project my confidence has grown, so I felt up to the challenge of something a bit more intricate than I had originally planned. A trip to the Medieval Collection at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore also had me feeling that my attempts at reproducing medieval relief carving were actually quite pathetic. I saw things there which were much smaller than my carving, and yet a thousand times better. It is good to eat a slice of Humble Pie once in a while, and to have something to put you back in your place.
Once I got started, the carving went well, but as one might expect, it took quite a lot of time, at the point when I stopped this evening, it has 25 hours worth of work, plus the two hours to draw the design on the wood in the first place. I must still do a bit more scraping and cleaning up, as well as finish carving the moulding on the right edge; then I will give it the bleach treatment and cut it to fit the box.
Note to my regular readers;
It was a cloudy day, thus the grey colour to the picture
This is a good view because you can clearly see the intermediate stage
of carving for the moulding
Note to my regular readers;
There will be no blog posting next week, as I will be at the Waterford Craft Fair, exhibiting my wares as well as demonstrating my craft for the audience.