Rupert McBain Visits St Dymphna Church to Research European Altarpieces

St Dymphna Church in Geel, Belgium houses the Passion  Altarpiece which is stylistically closest to The Bowes Museum’s 15th century Flemish Altarpiece which is currently being conserved and re-displayed following a successful fundraising campaign on Art Happens.

A flying visit courtesy of Eurostar in February was made possible by the openness and consideration of Maria Gerits and Frie Van Ravensteyn.  Frie kindly opened up the church and sat, uncomplainingly huddled in coats, for the entire  7 hours I spent measuring, photographing and generally tuning into the St Dymphna Passion Altarpiece.

This visit has had a major impact on the decision making process for re-displaying The Bowes Altarpiece.

Frie Van Ravensteyn in front of the Geel AltarpieceFrie Van Ravensteyn in front of the Geel Altarpiece
Frie Van Ravensteyn in front of the Geel Altarpiece

A replica carved figure is also being made for the gallery to give visitors the opportunity to touch and feel the texture of the carved wood. A green piece of oak is cut by me ready for Alan to carve.

Master carver at work
Master carver at work – Rupert McBain

A new case for the Bowes Altarpiece is being made from two inch thick oak joined by large, bold dovetailing.

This type construction was seen in the St Dymphna Altarpiece and is typical of the period.

Cutting the large carcass dovetails
Cutting the large carcass dovetails

By Rupert McBain, Furniture Conservator

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