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Abbey Ellis in our Sculpture Galleries

In this new 8-part series, we explore the stories of our Sculpture Galleries and uncover curious things that usually only curators get to see! Discover sculptors’ secrets and makers’ marks, focus on flashlines and fig leaves, and seek missing arms – and even extra feet – as Abbey Ellis traces the tales of our cast collection.

SCULPTURE SECRETS begins with an insight into the hidden arts of the sculptors’ workshop.

Secrets of the Sculptor’s Workshop

When we think of a sculptor at work, images spring to mind of a lone artistic genius, producing images of exquisite beauty from roughly hewn blocks of marble. In reality, the sculptor’s workshop contains many secrets: well-hidden sculptural techniques that you may be able to spot in the finished pieces, but only if you know where to look.

One surprising fact that you may not have spotted on your last visit to our Sculpture Galleries is that many of the works on display are not made in one piece.

Our plaster cast of Apollo Belvedere, the Greek god of music and healing, is one such work. His body and limbs were cast separately from different moulds and were then assembled like a 3D jigsaw puzzle. A craftily hidden internal armature (or framework) of wood, metal, or bone, holds him together. In the image below, can you see the hole where the armature would have been inserted into Apollo’s arm in order to connect his missing hand?

Missing hand

The raised bolt-like shapes, or nipples, on the cross-section of the severed arm would have fitted into matching recesses in the missing hand to hold it firmly in place.

Such plaster casts are not our only sculptures that were made in multiple pieces. Marble sculptures can be monolithic, meaning that they are formed of a single large block of stone, but they can also be assembled from multiple pieces of stone.

Sculptures would be assembled in this way if a large enough piece of marble could not be found for the whole composition, or if the composition was too complex to be executed from a single piece of stone. The body, arms, and head could be carved separately and then seamlessly joined using pegs to create the finished sculpture.

You can catch a glimpse of how marble sculptures might be assembled by looking at our statue by John Bushnell, which is thought to represent King James II. You may notice when looking at King James that his right toes are missing. The metal nail which would have kept the toes in place can still be seen. The location of the original toes is also suggested by the indentation in the marble. Using the photo below, can you make out where the rest of his foot should be?

Secrets of the Sculptor's Workshop Image 4

Family Fun

Virtual fun in the Sculpture Galleries doesn’t stop here! Each post in this series will be accompanied by an activity sheet especially tailored for a younger audience. In this instalment, we invite our artistic explorers to design some new arms for our cast of Apollo Belvedere.

Secrets of the Sculptors Workshop Activity

Click here to download the activity sheet

Share your child’s finished designs on social media using the hashtags #sculpturesecrets and #crawfordartgalleryhomelife.

Next in the series: Another Side to Socrates (9 May 2020)

Abbey Ellis is a PhD researcher at the University of Leicester and Ashmolean Museum, Oxford on an AHRC CDP placement at Crawford Art Gallery. Her research focuses on archaeological plaster casts, sculptural materials and making, and authenticity.

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In this new 8-part series, we explore the stories of our Sculpture Galleries and uncover […]

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In this new 8-part series, we explore the stories of our Sculpture Galleries and uncover […]

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In this new 8-part series, we explore the stories of our Sculpture Galleries and uncover […]

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Emmet Place, Cork, Ireland
T12 TNE6
Tel: 021 480 5042

General Opening Hours
N.B. Last entry is 16:45

Monday–Saturday 10.00am–5.00pm
(2nd floor closes at 4:45 pm)
Late opening Thursdays until 8.00 pm
(2nd floor will remain open until 7:45 m on Thursdays commencing 19 March)

Sundays and Bank Holidays
Gallery: 11 am4 pm
Café: 11 am4 pm

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Crawford Art Gallery

Crawford Art Gallery

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