Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Wetfold drapery Romanesque style

Monochrome study of St John The Evangelist

Monochrome study of St John the Evangelist, from the Lambeth Bible

At the start of our course, Aidan asked us to practice painting figures in monochrome. My first few studies were pretty awful but when I got accustomed to the egg tempera, I really enjoyed painting the lively fabric drapery known as the ‘wetfold’ style which was used in the manuscripts of the Romanesque period.

This is an unmistakable style; the garments articulate the figures in sweeping curves. The style is seen in several great manuscripts of the period including the Lambeth Bible.

Illuminated manuscript, English, c.1146. From the Lambeth Bible, Ms.3, fol.258 v. London, Lambeth Palace Library.

Illuminated manuscript, English, c.1146. From the Lambeth Bible, Ms.3, fol.258 v. London, Lambeth Palace Library.

The above illustration also gives us a glimpse of the interwoven lettering of the period.

The next stage of my study of lettering for icons comes from possibly the most beautiful manuscript of the Romanesque period, the great Bury Bible. It’s largely the work  of Master Hugo (c.1130-1160), the earliest professional artist documented in England. He was a multi-talented craftsman who produced various items for Bury: a great bell in the crossing tower, a set of decorated metal church doors, and a beautiful cross for the abbey choir. Master Hugo’s places of origin and training remain elusive but there is some speculation that he travelled within Byzantium given his dramatic style of work.

It’s a rich source of imagery for iconographers looking for inspiration from an historic western perspective.

Red ochre painting of Aaron on watercolour paper

Monochrome study in ‘English red ochre light‘ of Aaron from the Bury Bible

Further examples of the wetfold drapery technique can be found in other manuscripts of the period, the example below also shows interesting examples of buildings and trees.

I’ve been busy working on my final icon for the diploma course – a large festal icon of the Nativity. It seems a bit odd to write about this in the middle of Lent so I will write about it a bit later! In the meantime, I will sign off with a taster of my lettering from the Bury Bible below.

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

PS if anyone has an Instagram account, I have been posting photos of my work in progress under the name of icondiplomastudent, you can see it here.

a

 ‘A’ based on lettering found in the  Bury Bible

 

 

 

3 Responses to “Wetfold drapery Romanesque style”

    • ronniecruwys

      Thanks very much Nancy! I’m into my third and final year of Aidan Hart’s icon diploma course. Only just beginning to find my way around it, as there is a bit more to it than I first thought! The course is run through the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, and taught by Aidan in Shrewsbury, uk.

      Reply

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