It has been a while since I added to my Toussaints series, so I am pleased to introduce Lilium Candidum, the latest of these mixed media pieces based on/ up-cycled using early 20th century religious prints I have collected from the South of France.
The print of the Madonna and Child I started with was originally manufactured in Florence, as indicated by a small label still attached to the back of the piece. Not that it came as a huge surprise – this picture with its heavy lacquer, the grandiose gilded frame and how it was mounted on wood, is a text-book example of mass produced Italian souvenirs. My guess is that it is also not nearly as old as you might first think it is, dating anywhere between early 1960’s to 1980’s. So not exactly a masterpiece of the Italian arts, but a perfect candidate for repainting.
Before beginning, though, I had to address some issues within the structure of this piece. The lightweight wooden frame had a coating of plaster that was cracked in places and missing bits of paint. Now, I would not take this approach with an antique frame, but the most cost effective way for me to stabilise it was to glue in any large chunks of plaster as well as loose paint and fill the voids with bog-standard wood filler. Having waited for my repairs to dry I gave these spots a light sanding and touched up missing paint with my oil paints. I had no desire to replace the missing gilding, but as the frame had been purposely distressed by the manufacturer, my repairs done with non-metallic paints were practically invisible anyway.
The theme of this piece came straight out of my latest sketchbook: I have been obsessing over bygone medical illustration for some time and wanted to combine anatomical motifs with vintage style floral patterns – this picture with its dark background felt like the perfect backdrop to explore these ideas using white paint markers. By dividing the image into three separate fields using two circles drawn on top one another, I managed to create a sense of structure within a fairly straightforward composition as well as in painting a distinct decorative backdrop for my two main subjects, Madonna and Child and a line drawing of a human heart.
With all of these elements completed in white, I used spray varnish to isolate my drawn layer and used thin washes of oil paint to add colour on top of it. It took me a bit of going back and forth before I was completely happy with the results, but I was able to achieve a good contrast of white and coloured drawn elements by alternating between white paint markers, varnish and oil paint. Once the drawing was completed, now a mixture of tinted line work and thicker outlines in pure white, I chose to cover all voids in my background with a simple mint green-to-teal gradient. This made the painting appear more complete and allowed the tinted lines of the lilies merge in with the gilding of the wooden frame.
All and all, a happy little repaint job. What a shame it took me so long to get it finished after months of gathering dust in the studio!
Named after a white lily, also known as the Lily of the Virgin Mary, Lilium Candidum will be the last one of the Toussaints… for now. Although, I am off to France for a well-earned summer holiday in a week or two and who knows what I find rummaging through the brocantes and depots-vente by the foot of the Montagne Noire!
À la prochaine!