Exeter Cathedral West Front
The West Front Image Screen of Exeter Cathedral is one of the great architectural features of Medieval England. The screen is covered in a wealth of carving, dominated by three rows of statues in niches. At the bottom are angels appearing to support all the figures above. Most of the figures of the middle row represent Kings of Judah. In the upper row, to right of centre, is a representation of God. On His right hand would have been a seated figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her image was destroyed in the Reformation and, later, mistakenly replaced by King Richard II. Also in the upper row are figures of the Apostles, the Evangelists and Old Testament Prophets. Dozens of figures also peer out from the battlements above and the whole screen is decorated with plants and animals. Originally, the image screen was entirely coloured and must have made a convincing vision of heaven.
Our teams have been working hard on the digital reconstruction of the statues on the West Front. The statues were scanned by EESAB and have been rendered digitally by the team at BU, with the help of an external consultant, Eddie Sinclair. Eddie has spent many years working on the colouring of these statues, not an easy job given that the colours have faded considerably over time. Eddie’s expertise lies in the conservation and research of historic painted surfaces and she has built up a knowledge and understanding of West Country polychromy, with particular interest in the materials, techniques and conservation needs of medieval decoration. With the West Front, the blackened stonework of the image screen was cleaned with a variety of water-based, lime techniques, surfaces were consolidated and areas of vulnerable stone were filled and built up with lime mortar repairs. Fragments of medieval colour were revealed and an archive of paint samples was created. The BU team then worked to painstakingly reproduce these exact colours. The West Front reconstruction will be available for visitors to view on tablets in the New Year.
You can find out more about Eddie’s work on her website: https://historicpaintconservation.co.uk/