During my most excellent Grinling Gibbons tour a few years ago, I spent a long time staring at one particular carving in the Victoria and Albert museum, the Cassiobury Park overdoor. That carving is one of a set of carvings that decorated many rooms of the Cassiobury Park manor house in the late 1600s.
The cartouche in the center of the cresting piece has been the focus of my imagination for some time. That is, I imagine, perhaps foolishly, that I might someday carve a replica of that cartouche. One of the primary steps in such a project is correctly visualizing how the end result should appear, and there’s where I have a problem.
The cartouche is clearly in poor condition some 240+ years after it was carved. Yes, it appears to have been constructed of three main sections which have split apart, probably along glue lines, and then warped somewhat independently, introducing various distortions. Additionally, it appears that there are probably small pieces missing. Two close-ups, one mine and the other from the museum, show the piece from different angles and lighting conditions. Mine (on the left) was taken from below, looking up, under day-to-day museum lighting. The other appears to have been taken from a higher position with more even lighting.
Pressing it back together and filling in the gaps is not hard to imagine, at least for the front-most components. The part that still puzzles me involves the rolled over extensions on either side. They appear to be part of a layer at the back of the piece, almost as if the main body of the cartouche had been laid upon a bedding layer that wraps around the edges.
Did Gibbons intend that as a discreet layer, or, was it a lamination (originally faired into the main body) that broke loose and separated from the rest? What do you think? (See the area highlighted in green in the next photo.)