Monday, November 20, 2017

Mystery Saint, Opus Anglicanum restoration Part 2

One of the most satisfying things about restoring something ancient, is when the original intention of the artist, which may have been made obscure through time due to disintegration of the original, or poor restoration, can be brought to the light again.

Here will be detailed the finding of the "Mystery" Saint between the two prophets on the front Orphrey of the Opus Anglicanum.
It was obvious that this figure was a Saint, since he had a halo. He held a tome in one hand, but the other raised arm had no visible hand, and seemed to be holding a large lozenge shaped object, which was impossible to identify as any saintly attribute.

Having studied many other images of Opus Anglicanum Saints juxtaposed with Prophets, it was concluded that it would be likely to be an Apostle, but which one?
Since the embroidery was heavily restored in these areas - as could be seen by the amount of newer threads coming through to the back of the later lining, as well as the poor quality of workmanship, especially in the face - the embroidered lines delineating the eyes nose and mouth were positioned very crudely - it was decided that the threads should be carefully removed, using tweezers, from the back.

The result was most surprising, and extremely gratifying to see..

Even though there was very little left of the original, the black outline threads were still in place, and the positioning of the features, beard and hair, could be easily worked out from them. What also could be seen was that he has a left hand holding the raised object, and from careful examination of where the original background threads had extended to, it could be seen that it was a short-handled curved blade of some sort.  This made the task of discovering who the saint was a lot easier.
Having researched typical attributes given to Apostles in the iconography of this period, it was deemed to be a flaying knife, and since St Bartholomew is frequently shown with this as his attribute,

St Bartholomew, from All Souls, Oxford.

the conclusion was that it is an embroidery of St Bartholomew.

With this in mind, the restoration was undertaken. The areas to be restored were quite extensive, so it was again deemed best to make a replica of the areas on hooped-up silk organza. Below, you can see the extent of the area which was to be covered, rather than sewing through the original canvas.

The restoration was completed in the same manner as described in the earlier blog posting Part One with the final result being like this.


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