Death of a sculpture? Palinurus’ Tomb.

Many years ago I was a sculptor of sorts. This is one called Palinurus’ Tomb. Palinurus was the helmsman of the Aeneid, he was lost at sea and his ghost was assumed to wander since he was never buried. However, Palinurus met Aeneas in the Underworld and said that he had reached land and then been killed – yet he still had no tomb.

In the late 1970s the sculpture came to rest in our garden

Over the years the material – plaster filled with iron-filings (terrosa ferrata) – slowly disintegrated, and parts disappeared.

Other big sculptures in the garden were, one by one, broken down and ended in a skip. 

As we have a major reworking of part of the garden, I decided it was time for Palinurus, with dangerous areas of metal armature sticking out, to go too. However, there was a protest. So I looked out some of my old tools and found that the sculpture suppliers, Tiranti’s, were still in business, and still sold the special plaster with iron filings (and their irresistible tools). I set to work to make Palinurus safe (not restored, just safe). It doesn’t look great, but it was an enormous please to be back reworking a sculpture and it will definitely last for another ten–twenty years.


I wish I could say that I am back to blogging, but this is only a partial return. I have spent time with friends and family, and the novel has has made some (rather minimal) progress. The tomatoes and beans have ripened. Yet, time at my desk definitely needs to be kept to a minimum, and not eat into time with those close to me. So, I’m around, but in the background.


48 thoughts on “Death of a sculpture? Palinurus’ Tomb.

  1. I never knew you were a sculpture, at least not to my recollection! I envy your many talents. It’s great to see you here again, but family and the book come first!

  2. Mon dieu ! – you must be The Compleat Artist, HCG: I don’t know whether to express joyous amazement or jealous rage ! 😀
    Both, then – and mounted in a setting of wonder and praise.
    You show me, too, how I might not have shut down my blog but merely visited it with words from time to time. Trop tard maintenant …
    You remain my hero/ine.
    Love from me.

    • A jack of all trades, I fear. But I revel in your praise. When I gave up sculpture (a need to contribute to the family earnings, a bad back, and the feeling that my work was of no use to anyone), I had to make a clean break. I loved my subsequent work in brain research and I know it was more useful to others than my sculpture, but it certainly made me very happy to have tools and surfaces under my hands again.

      I’m sorry you shut down your blog and so cheered when you pop up again here or elsewhere.

  3. Perhaps, Palinurus’ memento finally belongs and his ghost can rest in peace, or tell Aeneid that he has found a place on land. Equitable distribution of time between the desk and dear ones is a mirage.

  4. You are a true Renaissance woman, Hilary. I agree that it looks wonderful now (I liked the original too, but time has a way of changing things and it is great that you were able to preserve the legacy of the piece). All the best and I hope everything works out all right.

    • That sounds so much better than Jack of all Trades! I have been very lucky in being able to pursue several avenues in my work. Thanks for your good wishes, life is complex at the moment, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  5. Your reworked sculpture looks great, and I imagine it was most enjoyable to put your sculptor’s hat on again. What a splendidly unique piece of artwork to have in your garden, and how heartening to hear that the company you used to use is still in business. It sounds to me as if your work/life balance is a very healthy one.

  6. I like it Hillary, and I must say it stands proud in the sun, glad to be reborn again! I’ve been a bit remiss at blogging as well between summer backpacking, family, fires and Burning Man. But I’m back, sort of. I’ll see what else comes along to sidetrack me. But I do miss the blogging and the friends. —Curt

    • Yes, I’m a jack of all trades – which is not always great for giving your undivided attention to a single task. Thanks for your good wishes, sometimes I think I will never finish another novel… then, as yesterday, I was discussing a patch of ground with a robin and suddenly a whole scene popped into my head and needed writing.

  7. Really happy you’re sculpting again 😊 Great reworking.
    My Mums just taken up painting something she always wanted to do, so creativity must be bubbling up in people.
    Just off for the final days BambinO rehearsal ready for our Glasgow run. Good to see a blog post from you I miss them 🙋🏼

    • Tell your mum to go for it. My grandmother took up painting in her 60s and had a solo exhibition in her 80s.
      I can’t seem to find the time to write posts (though I have a queue of subjects) and I must have a so much more time than you can possibly have.

      • Thanks soo much dear Hilary!! Can´t wait to check the new posts!!! ❤ I was looking on your website for an email address for my winter wishes, but i couldn´t find any… Many many hugs to you! 🤗


  8. I think that the restoration was quite the success. And oh what a garden you grow 😍. May your latest novel receive the recognition it deserves in 2018. A good reminder for me to add it to my Indian Ocean reading list

    • You are so kind. All my garden works are suspended as the builders, who should have come in December to remove ancient concrete foundations, will not come now until January… or even February. I’d better get back to the writing!

  9. Pingback: At Home with Hilary Custance Green – Cynthia Reyes

  10. Reading this made me remember sculptures we saw along the breakwater of the marina in Graciosa in the Canaries – they were created from, so far as I could tell, some form of mild steel and are meant to break down and change over time. It takes some courage to create something in the first place, and more both to create something meant to break down or to recreate a sculpture that has broken down into something other. Or so I think. I hope sculpture finds its way back into your life in some form, even if not now.

    • Thank you Margaret. You are right, time is an element we often forget when creating something, but most objects do have a life though it could be milliseconds or millennia. My garden is my sculpture these days, it certainly needs the same muscles!

  11. Tiranti’s are still going? I left London over decade ago and wasn’t aware of that. My mother was a portrait sculptor and I’ve also done some sculpture over the years (not portraits but semi-abstracts). Yours are interesting and it’s a bit sad that they are succumbing to the elements. Mum’s work was mostly cast in fibreglass resin so it won’t last forever, either, nor the moulds for them.

    • Amazing, I used fibreglass a lot, often with a metal filler. This survives remarkably well. I have an indoor piece which is unchanged, also an outdoor semi-abstract which is almost undamaged, though it should be polished and I never get there these days. Most of my work was semi-abstract, except for the portraits which I did for money and cast in ciment fondu. Where did you and your mother train?

      • Mum was partially self-taught but in the early days had some tuition from a sculptor. I’m mostly self-taught in almost everything I do or have done as I’ve a history of ill health, but I had a few years at a place in West London – not an art school as such but it had a variety of classes. I think a lot of artistic ability in my family is probably inherited (though my dad was not an artist but a doctor.)

        I know ciment fondu – bloody heavy to lift!

        Did you do the portraits to commission? My mother did, but found it very difficult to sell them to anyone other than the sitters and their families afterwards.

      • You are right about ciment fondu, my back has never been the same since I spent those years using it. I only did portraits on commission. I was never a portrait sculptor, though I grew to love the work, it was very satisfying, but I never charged enough so it didn’t really make me a living.

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