I really wanted to go and see the funeral effigies at Westminster Abbey as soon as I found out about them. I love waxworks, death masks, anything which gives an unsettling physical presence – think original Madame Tussaud during the French Revolution rather than a David Beckham.
Anyway, I went to there a little while back after doing a bit of drawing in the main abbey of the tombs, but it was so busy that I retreated into the Museum which is tiny but fantastic. It’s a low ceilinged and lit place with the effigies, both wooden and wax, displayed in rows in cases – I found the medieval wooden ones more affecting and rather creepy – they have arms lopped off, just a head remaining, elongated proportions, rot, all sorts! This is my favourite drawing of the day:
I think I may go back at some point again as they were really inspiring. The later wax ones are rather peculiar as they are totally naturalistic and dressed in the person’s clothes but are only modelled in the places which would be seen – so look like something strangely modern when you see a photograph of them disassembled. It seems that well-respected artisan women (‘Mrs so and so’) modelled the heads which is intriguing, and its all given me the idea for a wordless story…plus I’ve just seen The Skin I Live In so it’s all whirling around in the sausage machine. Here’s one of a stone head in the Museum, I’ve just included it because it was a pleasurable drawing!
I went to Lille for the day a couple of weekends ago and to the lovely Palais des Beaux Arts there, they had a great collection of wooden altarpieces and I am rather partial to these: