In July 2011 we were in Salisbury Cathedral at “the biggest exhibition of polychrome sculptures since the Reformation”. Polychrome refers to ‘many colours’, in this case, painted figures. When we look at stone-work on Medieval buildings we generally see the worn bare stone that has been left after centuries of erosion and damage. What we don’t see is how they were intended to look – brightly painted, some would say – garish. The exterior of cathedrals like Salisbury and Wells would have been as brightly coloured as a remastered children’s cartoon – difficult to imagine.
The exhibition of modern sculptures of contemporary secular figures by Sean Henry that was showing last year had a strange incongruity with the Medieval architecture of the cathedral, and the sacred statues that have inhabited the space for centuries.
Weirdly, the figure in the first photograph looks remarkably like the lead actor in The Lives of Others (see film post in February)