The other week I went to a Christening. Nothing strange about that its true. It was held in a Catholic Church, the only reason I mention that is because I had certain expectations or rather hopes before I got there. I was hoping for a lovely old church filled with carvings as a lot of them can be. When I got there and it was a modern building with a very sparse interior I was, to be truthful, a little disappointed.
I did spend some of my time, when I wasn’t concentrating on what was going on, looking around at what was there and this is where my question comes in. I was drawn to the 14 Stations of the Cross which were displayed on the walls around the church. In fact I was sitting right next to number 11, you can see it to the left.
At first I thought that they could be carved in wood. The more I looked at them the more I decided that I didn’t think they were carved.
Firstly there was very little undercutting, most of the parts of the figures especially just went straight towards the back, they didn’t curve round as you would expect. Secondly the colouring had a certain sheen/glow to it that I wouldn’t expect on painted wood. Thirdly the texturing on some parts you just wouldn’t expect on a carved piece or even a gessoed piece.
I have a sneaking suspicion that they are cast resin that have been painted. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying there is anything wrong with cast pieces, I just enjoyed spending some time trying to figure it out. Well I was sitting there anyway so it kept my mind occupied as I couldn’t really understand the priest.
To be sure I would have needed to touch one of the pieces, then I would have known conclusively. Unfortunately for me they were placed too high up for this to be done and the priest was too busy even at the end of the service for me to ask him, he may not even have known himself. I’m not sure that you can really get a good enough impression from the images I was able to get for you to be able to make a decision either way.
There were, however, three wood carvings that I got to have a proper look at on the way out (I had been a little late arriving so had rushed inside) they were hanging in the lobby of the church.
I know that these are all definitely wood as you can see the grain! They also curve beautifully and have lots of undercuts.
Despite my initial disappointment at the church being a modern one it was interesting to look at the figures and carvings that they did have, and I wasn’t there just to look at them anyway!
What do you think? Are these Stations of the Cross cast or carved? I’d love to know whether you can work it out from my photos.
Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .