Virginia Barton

29 September 2017: “Moonlight is sculpture, sunlight is painting”

29 September 2017


“Moonlight is sculpture, sunlight is painting.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that sentence. Provocative, isn’t it?


It has to be said that ever since trying to make an armature from wooden spills for a replica of Degas’ Little Dancer, I’ve been a sucker for sculpture.

Do you remember spills? Sometimes dyed in cheery colours, these fine slivers of wood were about 20 cm long and half a one wide. At home we kept a jar of them hazardously by the fireplace. They were used for lighting the fire, candles, or cigarettes. Because they burned more slowly than a matchstick burnt fingers were less likely with a spill. (I will not bore you with the etymology of the word but quietly look it up for myself. Think spillikins.)


With the armature roughly cast and glued, I proceeded with a few slabs of plasticine. It looked nothing like Degas’ teenager but I was pleased enough with the result.

Sadly it didn’t stand the test of even three weeks. Those spills were just not up to the weight of the plasticine and the whole thing not so much crashed as buckled. Why I didn’t ask my father for a remnant of wire I know not.

The liking for the art form never died and I daresay I would have attempted Rodin’s Kiss had I had enough plasticine.


Here is a particular favourite: it’s the statue of Gediminas; 13th century mighty warrior and Grand Duke of Lithuania. Every time I go to Vilnius (which is not often enough) I head straight for Cathedral Square, visit the silvered chapel of St Casimir and then pay homage to this magnificent sculpture.

The strength in the forward thrust and the angled sword all combine to form something both massive and controlled. I long to leap into the saddle and go with him to face the Teutonic Knights!

Talk about a stirring image. Not a lot of moonlight about it – or is there?




Incidentally, on Sept 1st I wrote of the demise of the postcard. This morning the closure of Britain’s oldest postcard producer, JK Salmon, was announced on the News. It was Salmon who invented the “Wish you were here” slogan. They blame social media, as did I, roundly.

Collect all your old pc’s and box them safely: they’ll be a valuable curiosity one day.

O tempora! O mores!





  • Jack L says on: September 29, 2017 at 12:35 am


    I’m wondering, Ginny, given your love of sculptures and statues, what you think of this recent craze to tear down monuments to historical figures in town squares? I’m aghast at the mob mentality to destroy and erase, regarding these instead as important reminders of history, however painful. “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” as Edmund Burke said…

    Given that our heroes were often men (and women) with flaws or politically incorrect views, where does one draw the line?

  • Coal-Filled Wellies says on: September 29, 2017 at 5:17 am


    Tricky one, Jack. Would you have been against the invading Allies pulling down images of Hitler in 1945? They’re not just a history lesson…

    • Jack L says on: September 29, 2017 at 12:33 pm


      Agreed. But there’s a big difference between the spontaneous removal of symbols of an oppressive regime (which had no right to be there in the first place) — think of all the Lenin statues pulled down when the Soviet Union collapsed — and the efforts of fringe groups in the present day, with no knowledge of history, to impose their will by targeting statues and memorials that have been in place for, in many cases, centuries. Over here George Washington is being targeted because he also owned slaves. I suppose once the statues come down, then we also need to change the name of the district and the state. Where does it end?

      In Germany today we’re seeing a worrying resurgence of the Right. Is there an ignorance of history? (Answer: Yes) I can’t say whether or not interpretive statues or displays of the horrors of Nazism that people would need to pass by and ponder daily would be a good thing, a painful reminder of what must never happen again… One could say the same about the Confederacy memorials in the American South. Look at those and pledge, “Never again”…

      Sorry Ginny — I’m ranting on your blog!

  • Ginny says on: September 29, 2017 at 2:16 pm


    A controversy has been alternately raging and rumbling in Oxford concerning a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a great benefactor to Oxford, with a fortune made in Africa presumably at the expense of many Africans. How beneficial he was to Africans in Africa only they can judge. Have they knocked down or defaced all his monuments?

    I don’t see how it’s possible to weigh and judge his work in our contemporary scales. There was never any fuss about the Rhodes statue in Oxford until the strangling era of PC.

    On the other hand (as Tevya the milkman said), the removal of countless Soviet “heroes” from the city streets of former satellites was greeted with almost universal praise. As was the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein.

    Here’s an idea: near Vilnius there is a place called Grutas Park, unofficially known as “Stalin’s World”, where nearly 90 statues of the Soviet era were collected and arranged by an astute mushroom millionaire. You can choose to visit the park or not, patronise the cafe and enjoy the children’s play area. Perhaps instead of smashing — re-locate?

    This particular millionaire won the Nobel Peace Prize.

    • Jack L says on: September 29, 2017 at 6:43 pm


      Capital idea, Ginny!

      Reminds me of the “Neon Boneyard” in Las Vegas where all the vintage garish casino signs go when they break down. It’s a huge tourist attraction.

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