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Thread: Numen Adest

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Default Numen Adest

    Ambo;

    Am"bo, n.; pl. Ambos. [LL. ambo, Gr. ?, any rising, a raised stage, pulpit: cf. F. ambon.] A large pulpit or reading desk, in the early Christian churches.

    Client; Kungsåra parish, Ängsö church.

    Form and composition; Yours truly.

    Craft; Me, Rune Löwing, Daniel Brandt, Peter Tillman.

    Shots from the shop;


    36972.jpg

    Comment; We were given free hands to design and execute this commission. I had been to the church in question for other work and had a good picture album. I sketched out four or five basic forms but quickly settled on the conical basic shape with pillared top; it works with the existing elements without stealing attention. The latter is an important point when doing church work in my opinion, when a spectator is taking in the whole interior scene a functional piece such as this should not stand out and not crave a glance; if the eye happens to rest on it for a fleeting moment it should be pleasingly proportioned in its own right but not more than that. Subdued elegance, or some such.


    36973.jpg

    Comment; At first, I had the idea to make the whole central pillar conical but sketching it out I decided to restrict that form element to the full frontal aspect. As you can see in this picture, the flanks are not conical which (in my opinion) tends to ground the form. It is interesting how the human eye works; had this been a symmetrical cone it would have looked more ‘dynamic’, but perhaps too striking. By restraining the shape, even though it introduces asymmetry, it looks more settled to the ground.


    36974.jpg

    Comment; Tour de force is too strong a term, but this shot of the book rest side of the ambo displays the showpiece of the work; an incrustation of cherry inlaid in birch, “NUMEN ADEST”, meaning “God is present”. It is –piquantly enough– originally from Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, but was later used by the Swedish botanist and biologist Carl von Linné (Linnaeus) in his motto; Innocue vivito, numen adest (Live irreproachably, God is present). There’s a fair bit of history behind this motto and while it may sound Lutheran moralist enough, there was probably quite a bit of cheeky playfulness on the Great Taxonomist’s mind when he chose this motto at his knighting. Ever since I saw it inscribed over a door visiting his summer home at Hammarby I’ve thought it’s quite clever and it popped into my mind as I sketched this piece; as the person who shall read the bible verse of the day approaches the ambo and lays down the holy book upon it, this is what he or she sees: God is present. I think it works. (Yes, the male and females for the incrustation were done on the Shopbot – of course.)

    As an aside, from a design perspective I prefer that the showoff in the piece is not normally visible, until you go up to it as if commanding it for use, only then do you see it. The most perfect inlay I have ever, ever seen was a simple floral inlaid in the bottom of a drawer on an otherwise unassuming yet elegant writing desk. As you pulled out the drawer, it was fleetingly visible. That’s the true sense of perfection for me, to perform a strict and modest piece and then secreting something like that there: a surprise, a mark of the mastership of the maker; a gift for the user.


    36975.jpg

    A shot of the ‘temple’; yes, the book support section is pretty traditionally formed as a temple with a central piece and surrounding pillars, though with an acute angle spicing it up. I debated including more decorative sections on the top piece, but standing back from it and trying to see the installed setting I decided against it.

    Parenthetically, this is why I think ‘composer’ is much better fitted to the trade of giving form to objects than the usual term ‘designer’. It is rare indeed that your work will be the sole focus of the spectator, that’s the domain of great artists. What we do is much more modest; the canvas is already there, a scene imprinted on it, now we have to compose the asked object into those givens.

    There is one point to this shot however: can you see that the sides of the central body (with the Christ monogram) are very slightly angled outwards? If they had been straight, the piece would have looked very different: the top section being much blockier. A tiny 3 degree angle replicating the more pronounced angle from the central pillar helps the eye integrating the two pieces with each other.

    Finally, a shot of the piece in its home,


    36976.jpg

    I delivered it today, myself. There are still some articles of composition I’m unsure of but now it’s there and I can take that with me for future commissions.

    In parting, I have a personal connection to this church, peculiarly through a ghost story; since it’s a Christmas ghost story and this being the season, I’ll briefly retell it.

    Back in the 16th century, the estate (with castle) on which the church is situated fell into the hands of Frau Brita Bååt. She was, in the Shakespearean sense, quite the shrew; two husbands did she put in an early grave, the latter the one from which she inherited the estate. One Christmas eve, she asked the chamber maid to wake her early on Christmas day so she wouldn’t be late for mass. She woke up the next morning, looked out the window from her bedroom and saw the lights from the church. Thinking the maid had failed to wake her she hurried out of the castle and to the church, but as she entered the congregation turned towards her – and she realized they were all ghosts. Both her husbands were present, and they gave chase, one of them snipping off a piece of her dress with his sword, the other hitting her with a rock. She survived the attack, but died of shock three days later. The sword and rock that according to this legend undid her are prominently displayed in the church; she wasn’t very well liked, after all. (On my mother’s side, I am very distantly related to Brita Bååt.)

    Booh!

  2. #2
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    Default

    Very nice. Very clean. Excellent modest form!

    Verily, Innocue vivito, numen adest.

    ;)

  3. #3
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    I didn't catch the OP when I was scanning the photos and thought "This looks like Henrik's work!" sure enough, it was.

    Great job and good ghost story. I not sure exactly how the relation helps or hurts you... but I advise against visiting old Churches after midnight... unless of course you are Snipe hunting.

    /RB

  4. #4
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    BEE-uty-ful

  5. #5
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    May 2007
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    Very nice!

  6. #6
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    Dec 2007
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    Nice - elegant design - nice photography too!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Vasteras, Sweden
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    Thanks guys.

    And to Terry, that's actually a bunch of pretty badly lit and cramped pictures but a bit of photoshop magic and I guess it looks ok.

    It would be interesting to hear how others do that, if I get some time over the holidays I'll jot down how I go about it and maybe we could get some discussion going with different takes.

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