Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Research Report: Which Way Did the Paul's Cross Preacher Face?

We have been trying to determine in which direction the preacher faced when he preached at Paul's Cross.

The Gipkin painting (above) shows him facing northwestward. This seems a bit odd, since he is facing away from the People of Quality in the Sermon House to his left.In fact, he is facing away from the crowd in front of him.

Another image – an engraving from Speed’s Theatre of Empire – shows the pulpit facing generally southwestward toward the point of intersection between the Choir and the North Transept. 

Other images from the early 17th century – 2 states of a single engraving that appeared in books from the period  – show the preacher facing southward toward the spot along the Choir where the Preaching House was located, although the images do not show the sermon house.

Given this contradictory evidence from the 16th and early 17th centuries, we were puzzled.

Then I read the comparison of the Gipkin with this engraving in the account of the Gipkin painting in Pamela Tudor-Craig's 'Old St Paul's': the Society of Antiquaries' Diptych, 1616 (2004). Tudor-Craig points out that the horse and groom on the right side of the engraving is the same as the horse and groom in the left side of the Gipkin painting. 

Then it occurred to me that an engraving is a mirror image of the original image produced by the artist on the plate. I opened a file of the 1621 image in Photoshop, flipped it horizontally, and got this image:

Suddenly, lots of other echoes of the Gipkin painting stand out. Note the people standing behind the crowd, between the crowd and the cathedral, for example, and the facade of the cathedral itself, which looks a lot more like the facade of the North Transept than it does like the facade of the east end of the Choir. It has a door in it, for example, which the east end of the cathedral did not.

Here, it becomes clear -- at  least to me -- that the engraving showing the preacher facing southward, toward the north side of the Choir, is actually an image of the Gipkin painting, reversed in the engraving process. These images thus are derivative of the Gipkin painting and not primary sources of information about Paul's Cross. 

But can these engravings help us in any way in understanding the design of Paul's Cross? 

David Hill and Josh Stevens, the architects working on the visual model, pointed out that Gipkin chose a position from which to make his painting that, had he made his painting geometrically correct, he would have obscured the preacher. To show all the elements of the scene, we believe it is likely that he turned the Cross preaching station in his mind to bring the preacher into view. 

So, we've concluded the engraving is right about the orientation of the preacher, and about his position a step forward of the roof of the Cross structure, but the Gipkin painting is right in all other ways.

Hence, we decided that the preacher at Paul's Cross faced westward, toward the North Transept, and stood in a small pulpit a step out from under the roof line of the Cross structure itself. 

There are other possible interpretations of the evidence, however, and we plan to provide alternatives in the final version of the model.

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