Rory Hutton X Westminster Abbey: Over 1000 Years of Artistic Inspiration
A commission from Westminster abbey is a daunting experience, where does one start when confronted with a cast of Saints, Royals, politicians, soldiers, scientists, writers, poets and artists spanning over a millennium.
Fortunately, Westminster Abbey is the resting place of two of my favourite British Monarchs, Elizabeth I and her ill-fated cousin, the catholic Mary Queen of Scots, so this was a natural starting point.
The Abbey houses an effigy of the Virgin Queen made from her death mask, this is perhaps the closest likeness we have to a queen who continues to capture the imagination of writers, filmmakers and fashion designers today. The Elizabeth I monument is exceptionally beautiful, Elizabeth is surrounded by gilt Tudor roses and fleurs-de-lys under an ornate canopy, guarded by crowned lions. These royal symbols formed the basis of the designs I carved in lino.
I based my lino cut of Elizabeth on a portrait in the collection of Westminster Abbey, she holds a glove in one hand and a feather fan in the other, as one would expect from the image conscious queen she is dressed in the most ornate fabrics and wears pearls in her hair.
My design for Mary Queen of Scots is still a work in progress but hopefully if Elizabeth is popular we can expand the range next year to include one of Scotland’s greatest hero’s!
While Westminster Abbey is full of intriguing historical artefacts the fabric of the building itself is no less enticing, every stone steeped in historical significance and punctuated with eccentric details including Britain’s oldest door, a simple door of wooden planks, reputably constructed in the 1050s for St. Edward the Confessor, I think its fair to say this door is noteworthy only for its age. It is perhaps this mix of stately monuments on one hand and an appreciation of simplicity on the other that makes Westminster Abbey so appealing. Britain’s oldest door is in my opinion a very worthy contender for a silk scarf, surly silk scarves should be about celebrating the eccentric, but on this occasion the humble door has lost out in favour of the medieval tiles which pave the floor of the Chapter House, arguably some of the oldest floor tiles still in situ anywhere in the kingdom.
The floor of Westminster Abbey’s Chapter House, a room briefly used by Parliament in the 14th century, is covered in the most charming medieval tiles imaginable, their decoration depicting fleurs-de-lys and lions as well as the simplified forms of soldiers on horseback complete with shields and swords. It is easy to imagine how these tiles could become a scarf, I quickly sketched them on one of my visits to the Abbey and reproduced the medieval craftsman’s designs in lino when I got back to my studio.
The colours used for the collection are bold and bright, lending the Abbey’s historic details a new contemporary relevance. We are accustomed to seeing the past in muted, faded tones, I wanted to use bold unexpected colours, reflecting how a medieval visitor to the Abbey might have felt when confronted with the tiles and the wall paintings in the Chapter House when they were new and bursting with exuberant colour.
The opportunity to work with this historic institution in 2019 as it celebrates the 750th anniversary of Henry III's rebuild has been a great honour, reinterpreting some of the most beautiful medieval and Elizabethan symbols and honouring the craftsmen of the past has been awe inspiring. I hope one day I can design a scarf to celebrate Mary Queen of Scots and Britain’s oldest door but for the time being please click here to check out the collection inspired by Elizabeth I and the Chapter House Tiles.
Rory Hutton X Westminster Abbey is available now from the Westminster Abbey Shop both in store and online.