Saturday, 8 March 2014

Castle Combe, Wiltshire

We first visited our Norman Knight on the first true day of our Drawing Odyssey, way back in March. We both feel curiously fond of him, so I feel slightly shame-faced not to have posted these drawings before now (August). 

He really is outrageously superb. The anonymous carver has made him so real, you can imagine him (slowly) waking up. This is not down to his face, which is actually carved very simply, but due to the superbly solid and believable body shape, the drape of his clothes, and the perfect pose of his ankles and feet. I have to say, it's his feet which I like the best. They are so carefully and skillfully observed that you can only imagine the carver must have had someone in mail lying next to him while he carved. I think it's safe to say he didn't have a lion, because the mini dog/lion at the knight's feet is pure imagination. It's a nice thought though, to be resting your feet on a crazy little lion dog for eternity.

Norman knight sculpture in Castle Combe, Wiltshire

Lion at the feet of the Norman knight sculpture in Castle Combe, Wiltshire

B and I were not connoisseurs of cross-legged chain-mail knight sculptures at the time. And as a result of seeing him, we're keen to see others. But it seems that our knight friend at Castle Combe is actually a very good, and very intact example. We've been other places where similar sculptures have been rather hacked about. And his chain mail is really very good, it has been carved to follow the lines of his body just as a real suit would.

The blurb in the church (which isn't always as accurate as it might be) says it's an effigy of Sir Walter de Dunstanville, who would have lived at the castle of Castle Combe, and is supposed to have died in 1270. There's also some factoid about crossed legs indicating that he went on two crusades. But I'm led to believe that the leg-crossing is more style than symbol.

The carving is so good that the mystery artist must have surely have been in great demand. There must be other effigies of his (or even hers, who knows) somewhere. I know it's a 'type' and there will be plenty of other cross-legged knights with dog-lions, but maybe it's worth bearing in mind.

I just found the craziest thing on this page which is suggesting a WdeD is in Shrewsbury abbey. This cannot be right. Unless he's turned into one of those crazy saints whose relics were everywhere and with about three places claiming to have their skull. No, it does seem to be correct that it's a De Dunstanville. There seem to have been several Walters. Maybe ours is a grandson. It'd be interesting to know how effigy styles changed over time.

 Images © Rhiannon 2014 

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