ST. HUGH of LINCOLN
DRAWING by DANIEL MITSUI
This is an ink drawing on a 5 1/2" × 8 1/8" piece of calfskin vellum. I drew it using calligraphers’ inks applied with dip pens and brushes, and gold and palladium leaf.
The original was created on private commission.
St. Hugh of Lincoln was a 12th-century Carthusian hermit who became the Bishop of Lincoln. He oversaw the rebuilding of the city’s cathedral choir after an earthquake in 1185; the result is some of the most beautiful Gothic architecture in England. He appears in medieval art holding a crosier and a chalice in which the Christ Child sits, with a swan nearby. This swan befriended the bishop, ate from his hand and guarded him while he slept.
In my drawing, the Carthusian order is indicated by the habit under his cope and the emblem on its morse. The damask pattern is my own design - it includes fish, birds, plants and miniatures of Lincoln Cathedral.
St. Hugh’s halo is similar to ones that I have seen in 15th century Italian paintings that copy the designs of Egyptian gold platters. The writing resembles Arabic, but is not; it actually spells the words Amen and Alleluia three times each. The crosier is an adventurous design, with an ivory newt forming the head and a unicorn horn for the shaft and foot. Newts are something that I use as a symbol of the clergy, as the Bestiary describes them as enemies of the scorpion, a symbol of the devil and his servants. Unicorns are Christological symbols, and their horns purify poisoned water.
I set the picture near a lake at evening. I took advantage of the unique properties of calfskin and applied ink in certain areas using natural sponges, or pressed the wet ink with glass paper to form decalcomania textures. I then used a knife to etch away additional details into the inked surface; the tree trunks, leaf veins and water ripples I formed this way.
I also wanted to use the translucency of the calfskin for artistic effect, and drew a few things on the opposite side of the sheet, in reverse. These are a face in the moon, decorative leaves in the capital H of Hugo, and the word Lincolnensis. Like watermarks, these are more visible when the drawing is held up to a light. The drawing thus has a different character depending on how and where it is seen. The appearance of the gold and palladium leaf also changes depending on the angle of viewing and time of day. (These effects are not as apparent in the giclée print, which is printed on one side only).
An open-edition giclée print of this drawing is available for $42. You may use the button below to pay via PayPal, debit card or credit card. Be sure to confirm the shipping address.
Please note that the original drawing was made on calfskin vellum, which is not perfectly white, flat or homogenous. Natural variations in the color and thickness of the calfskin show up in the giclée print, especially in the outer borders. These are not smudges or printing errors, but part of the artwork itself.
See this page for additional ordering instructions and general information. If you want to pay via a check or money order, please e-mail me at danmitsui [at] hotmail [dot] com.