Figurinaia: Birkenhead-Style

The Bagni di Lucca Arts Festival continues apace into its third month without showing any signs of abating.

New displays are being  inaugurated all the time – at least two this week alone – and Ponte must certainly be now regarded as “la rive gauche” of Bagni di Lucca, if not its “Greenwich Village”.

After a month away from this vibrant scene I returned last evening to see what was on show.

Maureen Halson is well-known and well-regarded for her sculpture which combines a long experience in the ceramics industry in the UK with delicate and perceptive creativity.Those of you who have collected china figurines from such firms as Royal Worcester, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton will recognize her work. And those who have participated in the Colombina Festa will identify Maureen as the originator of that white dove you can paint in whatever colours you like.

I especially liked the operatic characters Maureen has modelled. No marks for guessing which heroines they represent, except to say, naturally, they are Puccinian. The interesting point about these figurines, as the artist has noted, is that even if their legs are not seen they must be assumed to be there, otherwise the result becomes quite unconvincing.

A dig at the inflated prices some modish artists still fetch around the world is wittily portrayed in the sculpture of “the emperor’s new clothes” AKA ““laughing all the way to the bank.” I though his glasses were a nice addition – short-sightedness? The artist portrayed is, of course, the one distinguished by his piquant use of formaldehyde.

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Another fashionable practitioner in the arts field is depicted in the following “princess who slept on a pea” which turns out to be quite otherwise. I enjoyed the detail down to the written quotes and I thought the cat looked suitably non-plussed by the whole spectacle…

There are several other examples of Maureen’s craft in the gallery delicately modelled in material from clay to plastiline and all highly attractive.

Incidentally, to explain the title: the figurinaio, of course, is the traditional Lucchese who sailed the world and, tongue-in-cheek, discovered Americas even before Columbus to whom he sold his plaster-of-Paris statuettes, and Birkenhead is where Maureen hails from.


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