Wednesday, August 8, 2007
American architectural sculpture: Gargoyles too
Let me state early in this process that what you are seeing here is just my opinion. You are not likely to find footnotes or sources or any of that academic stuff, but feel free to ask where I got these ideas from, if it matters to you, and I have no problem being shown to be wrong.
So, originally gargoyles were used on Gothic styled buildings in Europe, primarily on churches. In looking at the buildings created during the first wave of Gothic Revival architecture in the US which featured architects such as Richard Upjohn (Trinity Church, NYC - completed in 1846), James Renwick (Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, 1849 and St. Patrick's, NYC-dedicated 1878) and some slightly lesser known architects such as AJ Downing, John Notman and AJ Davis, I am struck by the complete lack of gargoyles to be found. And yes, I'd love for someone to point some out in this early era. Even a secular Gothic building such as Upjohn's Connecticut State Capitol building, though its surface is almost alive with sculpture, does not have any gargoyles.
What is starting to be found in these early Gothic churches are several different styles of carved drip or hood moldings. These were moldings that were placed over mostly windows and doors that caught rain water running down the side of the building, thus protecting the opening below it, and caused the water to drip away from the wall. These carvings are not as dramatic as many of the gargoyles but were none-the-less intersting in their own right. The pictures above are of drip molding from St, Paul's Cathedral, London, Ontario (that's Canada for you stay-at-homers), dating from the mid 1840s.