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.
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.
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,
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.