Sunday, August 30, 2020

Llanwarne, Herefordshire


The variations on the classical orders of architecture – Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite, Tuscan – are legion. They’ve been the subject of posts on this blog before, but I don’t think I’ve covered a Jacobean variation. This is from a wall monument inside the ruined church at Llanwarne that I featured in my previous post. Maybe some dedicated pursuivant of heraldry could work out whose monument it was from the coats of arms on it. Perhaps it commemorates the person who paid for work on the church in the 17th century, including the south porch – but that’s speculation and in this post I’m concentrating on one small detail of the monument’s design.

Even now the stonework is weathered, the amount of effort expended by the carver is clear, and one focus of that effort was to delineate a variation in the Ionic order that’s very much of its time. Even the shaft is distinctive, with its deep, curving convex mouldings, in contrast to the concave flutes that are more usual on classical columns. There’s additional fine detailing between each moulding that looks as if the sculptor has created a series of miniature flutes topped with tiny roundels. The necking ring above is very deeply moulded, and above it is a band ornamented with tiny hemispheres in groups of five, arranged in a pattern that’s repeated in the capitals above. Between the capital’s spirals is what looks like some egg and dart decoration, but this has worn rather flat. Adjoining the shaft and capital to the right are the rolls and scrolls and flat patterns we now called strapwork, something typical of 17th century English interiors.

In other words, this detail shows an English carver doing what English carvers so often did – taking a classical motif that we associate with ancient Greece or Rome and giving it a character that’s both more local and very much of its time. True, some of the ideas may come from pattern books published in France or the Low Countries, go-to sources for much English Renaissance design. But the effect – vigorous, rural, but showing visual flair – is very English, and shows, as so often, that the orders were an adaptable starting point for craftworkers who’d learned the classical ropes.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Somehow, this being in the open air, evokes monuments in ruined old churches in Ireland. There's a confident swagger about Jacobean sort-of Classical which is very beguiling, although one regrets the tendency of the time to fill up parish churches with elaborate monuments for the rich. The compensation of course is the heraldry. I don't know where to find the notes on this monument, if I made them, but the old lion rampant suggests one of the old Native Welsh arms so prevalent in Wales and over the border - Llanwarne of course being quite near it, and I think in the old Archenfield (Erging) that was a Welsh-speaking area once. The heraldic design has that confidence too. There must have been a fair number of artists (or one very over-worked one) able to do these things circa 1636.