Main Panel (colour)

"Magnum Opus - Main Panel"
An original watercolour by Matthew Grayson of
 The 15th Century West Façade of Wells Cathedral, England

Medium : Watercolour, Acrylic and Graphite on Board

Original Painting Size : width 660 mm x height 530 mm
(A Signed Artist's Proof is permanently displayed at Wells Bishop's Palace) 

10 Signed, Artist's Proofs All Sold
Signed, Limited Edition Prints All Sold
Unsigned Prints Available
Commercial User Images Available

Matthew Grayson in 2005, painted this impression of the west façade of Wells Cathedral, as it may have appeared in the first quarter of the fifteenth century.

The painting was on a four-year tour returned to the Bishops Palace at Wells in 2010.

The majority of lower tier figures are now missing (having been removed or damaged in the Monmouth rebellion).

The statues stand in priority, commencing from the lower tier are medics, clergy and civic dignitaries. The central level figures are comprised of bishops, kings, queens and hermits.

Above the main statues, the resurrection scenes are depicted.

The twelve apostles stand above them with the nine orders of angels and finally Christ sat in majesty with two flanking angels.

Saint Andrew (being the patron saint of Scotland and the cathedral) stands in the centre of the order of apostles.

By drawing a cross line from either top outer corner of each tower and continuing the line to the base of each buttress outer corner it will show that where both lines cross, St Andrew's feet stand.

The colours were calculated by discovering tiny fragments of paint on the west front.

By using the geometric construction of the façade and the law of averages, a distinct pattern can be shown, thus enabling the artist to apply colour to the designated areas.

The main walls were whitewashed with a red ground applied to the recesses behind the figures.

All the west front figures were also painted white with drapery and folds painted in blue, yellow, green and gold.

A central path ran from the main doors through the centre othe west front green, with trees (probably ash) either side of the walkway.

The west front green was originally on an incline, which was levelled off a few hundred years ago, with the excess earth being used to develop the Bishop's palace kitchen garden where vegetables were grown for the palace staff and the Bishop.

To the far left of the green is the chain gate. Recent research has revealed one peg hole on either side of the gate walls, which would originally have held a single chain, centrally supported by a pole.

Slightly to the right of the old chain gate stood an outbuilding, which may have been used as an office a few hundred years ago.

This was demolished approximately 250 years ago.

By looking very closely at the central main door a small red inscription will be observed on the left buttress.

This was carried out in the early part of the fourteenth century.

Having been carved in the stone it is one of the earliest forms of graffiti known to exist and refers to a "John of' Putney."

The central doors were originally painted (probably red) with intricately designed door hinges to resemble branches of trees.

The hinges were painted a brown ochre colour to signify wood and green leaves would have been painted at the tips with birds pecking at berries.

One of the most significant changes in the appearance of the west front is the loss of its spire on the central tower.

The spire was constructed of wood and probably lead tiles, which caught fire in 1439.

Irreparable damage was also caused to the original towerwhich stood slightly taller than it does today.

Although no paint traces remain on both the west front towers, by taking the 'meaning' of the architecture and following the geometric lines which make up the façadeit can be estimated that only the buttress pinnacles and bellmouths would have been painted to compliment the rest of the polychromed façade.

he painting is full of symbolism, typical of the period to which the picture is themed.

The west front green is covered in a shower of flowerswhich is associated with the classical goddess Flora.

The red flowers symbolise Christ's bloodwhilst the white are associated with the virgin's purity.

The goldfinch to the far right of the facade refers to the Passion of Christ and is typically shown in old masters' paintings being held by the Christ Child.

Above the goldfinch some crows fly
signifying bad luckWorking towards the left of the sky, swallows fly, symbolising good luck and salvation.

The atmospheric patterns in the sky’s cloud formation are read from right to left.

To the far righta storm is approaching referring to the revelation, working through to clear, brighter skies to the left, signifying a symbol of reconciliation.

The rainbow plays an important part in the compositionbeing associated with the goddess Iriswho descended from the skies on a rainbow bringing messages from the gods to mortals.

In the bibleGod following the flood, as a sign of reconciliation, sent a rainbow.

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