Project: Crucifix at Our Lady Star of the Sea
30 July 2023
My thanks once again to Francis Roscoe for sharing the beautiful photograph of his Wedding day. I noticed that there was a Crucifix hanging above the pulpit (shown above) and noticed even in the stone work that the hook that the Crucifix hung from was still there. Meanwhile, clearing out the choir loft, I rediscovered the Crucifix. At some point the face and body of the Lord had been repainted, so I thought I would have a go at restoring the corpus of the Crucifix, ahead of putting it back in its original place in the nave.
Beginning the Restoration
The first step was to remove the corpus from the Cross and then clean and begin to strip the layers of paint from the corpus. What emerged was a second paint layer - perhaps the original paint layer - beneath the surface paint. It seems that the original paint colours included a green loin cloth around the Lord’s waist and very vivid blood colours from His Wounds. In fact, as I removed the top layer of paint, ‘blood’ kept on coming through from beneath the most recent paint! As the thick layers of paint were removed, what also struck me was how beautiful the carved corpus of the Lord is: whoever carved it from wood was incredibly gifted: not only is the body anatomically correct and proportioned well, the wood grain even follows the direction of the limbs as though veins and muscles.
Removing the Paint Layers
Removing the paint layers was a messy job! The solvent to break down the paint needed several coats as the top layer was very thick. When the top layer was removed, it was evident why in the recent past, someone had painted over: the original paint layer was cracked and degraded. Oftentimes this occurs because of a lack of a primer to help the paint adhere to the wood surface or otherwise can be age, heat, damp - or a combination of these factors. As the woodgrain began to come through, it was obvious that this was a beautiful Crucifix, worthy of time, attention, and restoration. The quality of the wood and the carving is such that I will likely sand down and then simply varnish to allow the beauty and skill of the carpenter to come through. Once complete, I will reinstall in the Church. More to come!