1902 Encyclopedia > Sculpture > English Sculpture - 12th Century; Effigies; William Torrell.

(Part 4)

English Sculpture - 12th Century.

Effigies. William Torrell.

The best-preserved examples of monumental sculpture of the 12th century are a number of effigies of knights-templars in the round Temple church in London. They are laboriously cut in hard Purbeck marble, and much resemble bronze in their treatment; the faces are clumsy, and the whole figures stiff and heavy in modelling; but they are valuable examples of the military costume of the time, the armour being purely chain-mail. Another effigy in the same church cut in stone, once decorated with paint-ing, is a much finer piece of sculpture of about a century later. The head, treated in an ideal way with wavy curls, has much simple beauty, showing a great artistic advance. Another of the most remarkable effigies of this period is that of Robert, duke of Normandy (d. 1134), in Gloucester cathedral, carved with much spirit in oak, and decorated
with painting (fig. 5). Most rapid progress in all the arts, especially that of sculpture, was made in England in the second half of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century, largely under the of patronage of Henry III.,who employed and handsomely rewarded a large number of English artists, and also imported others from Italy and Spain, though these foreigners took only a secondary position among the painters and sculptors of England. The end of the 13th century w-as in fact the culminating period of English art, and at this time a very high degree of excellence was reached by purely national means, quite equalling and even surpassing the general average of art on the Continent, except perhaps in France. Even Niccola Pisano could not have surpassed the beauty and technical excellence of the two bronze effigies in Westminster Abbey modelled and cast by William Torell, a goldsmith and William citizen of London, shortly before the year 1300. TheseToreU' are on the tombs of Henry III. and Queen Eleanor, and, though the tomb itself of the former is an Italian work of the Cosmati school, there is no trace of foreign influence in the figures. At this time portrait effigies had not come into general use, and both figures are treated in an ideal way. The crowned head of Henry III., with noble well-modelled features and crisp wavy curls, resembles the con-ventional royal head on English coins of this and the following century, while the head of Eleanor is of re-markable, almost classic, beauty, and of great interest as showing the ideal type of the 13th century (see fig. 6).

In both cases the drapery is well conceived in broad sculp
turesque folds, graceful and yet simple in treatment. The casting of these figures, which was effected by the cire perdue process, is technically very perfect. The gold em-ployed for the gilding was got from Lucca in the shape of the current florins of that time, which were famed for their purity. Torell was highly paid for this, as well as for two other bronze statues of Queen Eleanor, probably of the same design.


[558-1] One of these reliefs is imperfect and has been clumsily mended with a fragment of a third relief, now lost.

[558-2] In Norway and Denmark during the 11th and 12th centuries carved ornament of the very highest merit was produced, especially the framework round the doors of the wooden churches ; these are formed of large pine planks, sculptured in slight relief wnth dragons and interlacing foliage in grand sweeping curves,—perfect masterpieces of decorative art, full of the keenest inventive spirit and originality.

558-3 See Richardson, Monumental Effigies of the Temple Church, London, 1843).

558-4 The effigy of King John in Worcester cathedral of about 1216 is an exception to this rule; though rudely executed, the head appears to be a portrait.

Read the rest of this article:
Sculpture - Table of Contents

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries