The Sculpted Figure

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.

3D Scan data of the torso

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.

The Neville tomb showing carved wooden repairs to the surrounding stone work (to the left) and the extent of the damage to the top of the tomb.

The torso showing the level of damage and graffiti carved into the alabaster and the Neville saltire carved onto the surcoat.

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