I’ve been building a base mesh for the sectioned panels around the base of the tomb. This is the geometry without any of the sculpted decorative elements on it. These I will add later with the help of Mudbox. There is still the top and bottom of the tomb structure to create yet and I hope to do this in the following week. The second image is a capture of the geometry in 3DS Max before using Symmetry and Turbosmooth modifiers/
A recent visit to Harewood House provided an opportunity to photograph the alabaster tombs at All Saints Church in the grounds of the estate. Of particular interest are the collections of medieval alabaster tomb effigies, six couples dating from 1419 to 1510. Although originally painted, very few traces of any original colouring remain. See some images here.
The earliest couple are William Gascoigne and his first wife, Elizabeth Mowbray, dating from 1419. The next pair date from 1426, Richard Redmond and his wife, Elizabeth Aldborough. Richard lies in armour, Elizabeth’s costume is notable for a heart pendant and the flower sprigged templar nets of her headdress. The next pair of tomb effigies are similar in date and style, depicting William Rayther and his wife Sybil Aldborough, sister to Elizabeth. Sybil’s tomb is slightly damaged.
The next couple sees another William Gascoigne, grandson to the judge, with his wife Margaret Clare. Gascoigne is armoured, with some gilding surviving. The final couple date from 1510 – Edmund Redman and Elizabeth Huddlestone, Edmund the great-grandson of Richard Redmond and Elizabeth Aldborough. It is thought Redman’s effigy may be a personal likeness, although this is uncertain. At his feet is carved a tiny bedesman praying. Elizabeth too is clothed as a widow, with a rosary hanging from her girdle.
The type of armour depicted in these two Harewood examples is of a slightly later date to the Neville tomb. One of the key differences being the replacement of the aventail with a gorget; a steel collar designed to protect the throat. The Lancastrian ‘S’ motif is present and there may be some indication of an attempt at likeness in the features.
Above: Sir Richard Redman (or Redmayne) (died 1426)
Below: Sir William Ryther (died circa 1426)
Around 180 photographs were taken in total and the images were uploaded via 123D’s desktop software to be rendered together. Initial results were disappointing, but after careful selection I began to see some results. I found the best solution to missing data was to split the process into head, torso and legs and combine the data in 3D Max.
Once the scans were cleaned up and combined I found that there was suffucient data to make some initial attempts within 3D Max to look at using the Conform tool and experimant with creating a base mesh.
Below is the initial retopology attempt.
An alternative approach to laser scanning is photogrammetry, photographs can be taken with a digital camera and aligned together, the camera positions are then calculated and a point cloud is produced. There are some advantages to using a photogrammetry method, it requires little user expertise, there’s no need for expensive 3D scanning equipment and it can produce relatively accurate 3D digital models based only on photographs taken with a standard camera. My colleague Baz Armstrong had already tested Photofly and posted his results on his Flickr page.
With free access to Photofly – now called Autodesk 123D – I decided to arrange a visit to the church at Bunbury and scan the Tomb (some of these images can be seen here). The intention is to use some of the data recorded to allow for the building of a base mesh in 3D Max that would conform to something like the effigy on the Neville Tomb.
Reading Paul Binsky’s Medieval Death, Ritual and Representation , helped provide some of the answers to the likeness of Sir John. In particular, he highlighted issues around typifaction at this time and a further investigation lead to a realisation that the great majority of the tomb effigies of the period represented a standardised ideal rather than an actual likeness. Little, Charles T. and Wendy A. Stein state that ‘few sculpted heads of the Middle Ages were portraits in the modern sense. The reasons for representing the human face were far more various than recording the physical likeness of an individual. During the High Middle Ages, portraiture did not rely on likeness so much as attributes, coats of arms, inscriptions, and other identifying signs. Thus individual selfhood was subsumed in broader forms of corporate identities.’
The images below show just some of this typifaction, with figures showing a male face in repose, eyes open with mustache usually falling outside of a sculpted chainmail avontail.
Charles Alfred Stothard (July 5, 1786 – May 27, 1821), an antiquarian draughtsman whose body of work catalogued a great many of these sculpted effigies. In 1807 he was admitted a student of the Royal Academy, and in 1811 he exhibited there a picture of the death of Richard II at Pontefract, in which the costumes were depicted with strict historical accuracy. In the same year he published the first number of the ‘Monumental Effigies of Great Britain,’ a work designed to portray the changes in English costume from the twelfth century to the reign of Henry VIII. The work was issued in twelve parts, of which the first ten were prepared by Stothard himself; but the last two issued after his death were the work of other artists.
Some examples of Stothard’s attention to detail and his reference to remaining polychromatic evidence on several tomb sculptures can be seen in these careful studies:
One of the Stothard drawing brought my attention to a tomb located in St Boniface Church in the village of Bunbury, Cheshire, the Tomb of Sir Hugh Calveley c.1315 – 1394 is considered one of the best surviving examples of alabaster tomb carving in the north of England. Gardner, Arthur : Alabaster Tombs (Cambridge, 1940) states ‘this figure is typical of the standardised military effigy produced, with little variation, by the English alabaster carvers during the last quarter of the 14th and the first decade of the 15th century.’
I thought around about this time that I’d begin to look at approaches to the main effigy on the tomb. My focus at present is on the figure of Sir John and, if given the time, I will then look at Maude. As can be seen from the photos and the scanned data that I managed to obtain, there’s very little left to give me much of a clue as to the nature of the original sculpted form. Much of the problem stems from the nature of alabaster, a fine-grained variety of gypsum with a likeness to the much more robust and expensive marble. Its softness enables it to be carved easily into elaborate forms but makes it susceptible to damage and its solubility in water renders it unsuitable for outdoor work.
Much of the production of alabaster centred around the Midlands of England, and the term Nottingham Alabaster can mean any produced from around the areas covering Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire. It is unknown where the Neville tombs alabaster came from. Although it is suggested that Sir John’s son Sir Ralph Neville, whose tomb is at Staindrop Church in the grounds of Castle Raby, obtained the alabaster from Tutbury in Derbyshire due to the family links with John of Gaunt who owned great parts of the county. Perhaps this is also true of Sir John’s tomb?
What remains is a torso without head arms or legs. I would hazard that at some point in time the effigy may have been levered off the tomb. There is damage on one side of the castellated sculpted stone border that has at some point been replaced in part with carved wooden copies. There can also be seen wooden blocks used to hold the torso in place; perhaps the majority of the major damage was done at this time – but this is just conjecture.