Saturday, August 24, 2019
It is not all in the hands. . .
The "Mussner G. Vincenzo" studio is located in Ortisei, the main village of the Val Gardena, nestled in the Dolomite Mountains of northeastern Italy. This small valley is known as "the valley of woodcarvers", because throughout the last four hundred years local people have earned their living making all kinds of carvings from wood. Religious art is an important category of this work, and it is in this field that the Mussner family has a long tradition. That tradition encompasses four generations of family members who have acquired an enviable reputation for creating and carving exquisite statues, crucifixes, stations of the cross and other items intended for use in churches.
Back in the year 1892, Giacomo Mussner (James Mussner), one of the well known and innovative master sculptors of the Val Gardena, founded a studio under the name of "GIACOMO MUSSNER, BILDHAUER". His eldest son Vincenzo, Sr. learned the sculpting art from master and professor Ludwig Moroder, as well as from his own father. As a result, in 1932 Vincenzo, Sr. took over the studio and changed the name in "MUSSNER GIAC. VINCENZO, SCULTORE".
In 1971, Vincenzo, Sr. retired, and his oldest son Vincenzo Giacomo, also a certified master sculptor, began running the studio, and managed it until recent years. Today, the shop is run by his elder son Gregor, another master sculptor, with assistance from Vincenzo. At present, and throughout recent decades, carved works which are to be colored are painted and gilded by Carlo Mussner, Vincenzo's younger brother and master artist in his field. Many of their artistic creations can be found in the United States and in other countries.
All commissioned work of art begin life in discussions between artist and client, since it is essential that the sculptor know the client's desires, and the latter will want to consider the artist's ideas regarding presentation. The tentative plan which results from the consultation step is then translated into the tangible form of simple sketches, and also, in many cases, into a small scale clay model. The model is especially desirable, inasmuch as his three-dimensional character aids visualisation of the final piece, and the easy workable material facilitates incorporation of needed or requested modifications.
In the next step of process, the sculptor fabricates a blank of the appropriate shape and size by joining together planks of well seasoned and dried wood with good synthetic glues. The woods most used in our studio are linden and pine, but sometimes chestnut and walnut, which are much harder to work, are employed.
Transformation of the blank into the desired artistic work begins by roughly drawing the chosen figure on the wood, then using an axe or a chainsaw to remove large masses of waste wood, i.e., wood which will not be part of the sculpture itself. Next, the desired figure is formed and shaped, first using large gouges and a mallet, and then switching to smaller tools as the final shape is approached.
After the rough-hewn form of the sculpture has been achieved, the piece is inspected by an expert from the Chamber of Commerce, who inserts in the base a metal disk carrying the trade mark for entirely hand carved pieces. Later, when the piece is complete, an official will reinspect it and issue a certificate attesting to its completely hand carved nature. All of our sculptures are certified in this manner.
In the last phase of carving, small gouges guided by the expert hands of the artist are employed to smooth rough surfaces while producing the exact final form of the piece, and to incorporate fine details. This is the phase in which intensive schooling and training and long experience are most important, because good results depend solely upon the deft touch of the sculptor.
Once sculpting is complete, the work is transferred to the painter for finishing. Some pieces require a natural look, and they receive only a layer of wax or a light wood-tone dye. However, most sculptures for display in churches will be colored, using traditional oil colors and fine gold leaf.