On old buildings or places of worship all over the world you can find diverse representations of figures, sometimes friendly faces, sometimes evil grimaces, even nasty monsters or bizarre gargoyles. The subject is interesting for sculptors and stonemasons insofar as there is now a viable method to produce such beautiful trifles cheaply: only the original is made by hand, be it in clay or stone, and the copies for sale are made by CNC robotic arms using the data cloud of a 3D scanner that has previously scanned the original from all sides.
We have once again descended into our archives, and have looked for models for such creations.
Sculptors have always had their way in the vast field of grotesques. We show photos of the facade of the cathedral in the British city of York: there, 20 former grotesques at the very top of a tower had completely deteriorated, and so the stonemasons were given the opportunity to create new figures during the restoration. They chose disease as their theme, meaning things like toothache but also behavior outside the social norm. The strange figures are located at a height of 37 meters.
At Milan Cathedral, as is well known, you can climb to the roof and enjoy the view of the city from there. On the way you pass countless sculptures, be they boxers or representatives of the faith, entwined with foliage.
Not to mention the gargoyles, also countless and with diverse motifs.
Washington Cathedral in the U.S. capital also boasts a special figure at lofty heights: there, at the Northwest Tower, is Darth Vader, the villain from the War of the Stars movie series.
In the past, such depictions by no means served to terrify the viewers, on the contrary: by depicting the horror, it should be made controllable. In a sense: the monster in stone is like the tiger on a leash. We had reported about the US sculptor Walter Arnold, who developed such motifs for home and garden.
Peter Crinnion, sculptor from England, is a specialist in mischievous sculpture. This can be the praying bumblebee in stone or just as contemporary a media figure as the now almost forgotten Pac Man.
As inspiration for garden walls, we show a couple of ceramic figures that greet from the fence of a schoolyard in Berlin-Schöneberg, Germany.
Artistic trifles by no means always have to represent figures. On a house wall in Bologna, we have seen these reliefs in stone. If they are again representational and show grimaces or grotesques, art history has a name for them: Mascaron. But unlike the gargoyle, a mascaron has no function for the building; it is only decoration.
At the Xiamen Stone Fair 2015 we had encountered these figures by Ikastone company, which are predestined as beautiful trifles.
As for the distribution of such pieces, we recall the flourishing of the iron industry in England and Germany in the 19th century, which later became the steel industry: At first, the industry worked primarily with cast iron, and entrepreneurs had quickly discovered that private individuals valued the material for all sorts of building elements.
In cooperation with artists, today we would say: with designers, they brought out pattern books showing an almost endless variety of such objects. They were produced in large mass production by iron casting, an innovation at that time.
(28.04.2023, USA: 04.28.2023)