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!






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