Laser Scanning Louis-François Roubiliac’s Montagu Tombs

Banner 3We are fortunate to regularly see some remarkable works of art, architecture and sculpture and yesterday was particularly rewarding in this regard as we were invited to the Church of St. Edmund in Warkton, Northamptonshire to laser scan one of the Montagu tombs which grace the chancel of this small and much altered 12th century church. The funerary monuments in the chancel are of international interest, being by the great 18th century Rococo sculptor Louis-François Roubiliac (1702 – 1762) the best Huguenot craftsman working in London at this time and as such these monumental sculptures are some of the finest examples of their type in Europe. They commemorate John, the 2nd Duke of Montagu (d. 1749) with an allegorical group of Charity and her charges opposite which, in the south wall, is a second comprising a group of the three Fates commemorating the duke’s widow Mary Churchill (d. 1751), fourth daughter of the first Duke of Marlborough. A third monument on the north side is to the memory of Mary, Duchess of Montagu (d. 1775) in the form of an allegorical group within an architectural setting designed and executed by Peter Mathias Van Gelder (1739-1809). The fourth and final memorial in the remaining recess on the south side comprises a seated statue by Thomas Campbell (1790-1858) of Elizabeth Montagu, widow of Henry, the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch (d.1827) erected by her grandson Walter Francis, 5th Duke of Buccleuch. Many are produced in the finest Carrera marble and Roubiliac’s skill in particular is extraordinary. With the assistance of a Heritage Lottery grant The Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust in association with the Prince’s Trust are supervising the conservation and cleaning work which is being carried out by the Skillington Workshop Limited. The wrought iron cramps and ties that bound the masonry parts of the monuments together were badly corroding and are being replaced with stainless steel ones while the disassembled parts of the monuments are being expertly cleaned. This affords the rare opportunity to see the revealed masonry core of a high status 18th century church monument and allow our PhD students a better understanding of the architectural and constructional process which lay behind the erection of these elaborate and exquisitely beautiful memorials. It also allowed us to take a number of laser scans of this revealed core as part of the The Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust’s ongoing program of Collections, Archive and Research management.

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About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
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