Eye for Detail
|A feature of Kippen church that makes it remarkable is the truly
astonishing collection of bronzes that were purchased and
donated by Sir D.Y. Cameron. Together they form a superb
representative selection of late Victorian and early 20th Century
art nouveau, religious sculptures.|
The best known of the bronzes are the
figures of the Virgin Mary and St.
Elizabeth of Hungary that are housed in
the little prayer chapel. These were
created by the most famous British
sculptor of the period, Sir Alfred Gilbert
(1854-1934). In 1892 Edward, Duke of
Clarence, son of the Prince of Wales, died
and Gilbert was commissioned to
design and construct an ornate tomb
that would be located in the Albert
Memorial in St Georgeís Chapel at
Windsor. Gilbertís design incorporated twelve 18inch high
statues of saints on a grille around the tomb
and there is no doubt that the Kippen figures
were intended to form part of that group.
St Elizabeth of Hungary (1899):
bronze by Sir Alfred Gilbert.
The Virgin (1899):
bronze by Sir Alfred Gilbert.
||However, Gilbert fell into severe financial
difficulties: perhaps because he took so long
to complete the task, he was unable to keep
within the agreed budget. Eventually he was
reduced to fairly desperate measures and at
some point (probably about 1903) he sold
the figures of Mary and St. Elizabeth
to Cameron, replacing them on the
tomb with much plainer replicas.
In working on these figures Gilbert was at the height of his
powers and full of wit and invention. The art historian,
Richard Dorment, describes the Virgin as wearing a silver robe,
its rough surface scumbled with gold. A rose bush with purple
flowers and gold branches envelopes her feet and torso, then,
amazingly, keeps growing over her head to form an aureole and
crown. The imagery of Mary and the rose bush
and of her softened crown of thorns extends
far back into the Christian tradition.
by James A. Woodford.
||The figure of St. Elizabeth is even more
extraordinary. Gilbert interprets her legend by
clothing her in a soutane,
burgundy chasuble and a
billowing cloak from which a
mass of pink roses tumbles
around her feet.
When the church was being
renovated Cameron arranged
for the prayer chapel to be built specifically to
house these two figures. However, he also
purchased from Gilbert a third, less well-known,
but rather more controversial figure that had
also originally been intended for the Clarence
tomb. This is a statue of St. Catherine of
Sienna with a figure of the Christ child in her arms and it now
forms part of Kippenís beautiful baptistery, located by the east
The Entry Into Jerusalem
(c.1930): bronze by Sir Alfred Hardiman.
The Gilbert figures alone would make the
Kippen collection of bronzes
exceptional, but two other statues by
Sir Alfred Hardiman are also
remarkably fine. One, The Entry into
Jerusalem, was, about 1930,
specifically commissioned by Cameron
for Kippen Church. It is a strikingly
beautiful art deco representation of
Christ riding on the foal of an ass.