Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Farthinghoe, Northamptonshire

Lift up your eyes…

Here is the other monument that caught my eye in the church at Farthinghoe. It’s to George Rush, father of the two young women whose monument was the subject of my previous post, and he died aged 70 in 1803, just two years after his daughters. He was clearly a man of substance – the inscripton on the monument refers to him as ‘late Patron of the Rectory of Farthinghoe and Benefactor to the Parish’. He died, what’s more, at his house in Upper Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, London, an address almost as upmarket then as it is now. The family could clearly afford a good sculptor to do his effigy, and the man they chose was CharlesRegnart.

Regnart was the son of a carver from Flanders who settled in Bristol, but by the time this monument was made he had moved to loved, where his studio was established in Fitzroy Square. His family claimed descent from Raginhart, a Goth who had fought with Alaric when Rome was sacked. If his ancestor really did take part in the fall of the Roman empire, Charles Regnart did not work in a Gothic style. This monument is classical in sensibility, and certainly striking in its quality. The sculpture shows Rush recumbent, holding a substantial book, presumably a copy of the Bible. But he has looked up from his reading, to stare not at us, but at something beyond, at the beyond, it may be, or at the sky or ceiling at any rate. His expression doesn’t look at all sad: maybe his heirs took heart that he had found consolation or inspiration from what he was reading. It seems that he had finished the book…and that the book of life was about to be closed.

In my book, the carving is very good indeed. The face is well handled and characterful, the hands lifelike, the folds of drapery dramatically undercut. Even the book is believable – the thick leather binding, the pages delineated, some pages even slightly ruffled to tell us that this is a volume that has been used. I was very impressed indeed by this sculpture, and even though the lighting didn’t make it easy to photograph, I hope my image has captured its essence. Hats off to Mr Regnart. I hope that the family of the deceased found the monument consoling and maybe even uplifting. Over 200 years on, I was not a little uplifted myself.

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