“Le temps viendra” by Emily Pooley, the creator of Anne Boleyn’s waxwork

Today we have a guest post by Emily Pooley, creator of Anne Boleyn’s beautiful wax work that is currently on display at Hever Castle. Emily kindly agreed to write an article about her interest in Anne Boleyn and how this wonderful wax figure was made. Enjoy!

Le temps viendra.

– by Emily Pooley, technical and special effects artist for television, film and live events.

At this moment, I am sipping a cup of tea looking out of my parent’s office window to the bottom of garden where I would sit for hours with my best friend Holly, patiently carving sticks into stakes -ready for our first encounter with vampires on our next trip to the woods down the road. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an idol of ours you see – 6:30pm, BBC2, telly on full volume for the intro music. We would train for hours, using the swing as an assault course, passing levels that we would invent.. preparing ourselves. When we created a sufficiently sharp point.. off we went. Deep into the woods.

What, I hear you cry, has this got to do with Anne Boleyn? Buffy was my first encounter with a strong and independent female role model. We were inspired and empowered enough to come face-to-face with a pointy-toothed demon and fight to the death. Of course, there was never any real threat and I have since been dragged kicking and screaming into the serious world of adulthood.. and I found myself looking to a real lady for inspiration, with an incredibly powerful story.

When our GCSE exams were over (finding that miraculously my method of cramming in as much research into the night before actually worked) it was time to plan ahead – what on earth was I going to do!? Like a large number of girls my age, my first port of call was: Vet. But after spending a long week of work experience at a veterinary clinic, clearing up ‘presents’ from the animals as they called it, the reality of work really set in. Don’t worry, Anne is near – ‘le temps viendra’ people!

I sat at home flicking through prospectuses for colleges deflated and racking my brains. This was interrupted by my weekly unmissable dose of Doctor Who. Again, full volume for the intro. Next came Doctor Who confidential on BBC Three courtesy of our brand new digibox, where Neill Gorton talked through the creation of one of his prosthetic monster make-ups. It suddenly dawned on me that people actually made a living out of making these things! This would be the programme that would set me on a path to a career in special effects in television and film.

So off I trotted to Art College and then on to Wimbledon University of Art for my degree in Technical Arts and Special effects.

In cometh Anne Boleyn.

It was shortly after I had completed my second year that Anne Boleyn and I became good friends. We had been acquaintances for a number of years as Hever was my place of choice to visit when my parents were looking for a way to entertain my brother and I without covering the house with PVA glue and tissue paper – as was the norm. We had also met briefly through the pages of the Horrible History books (the new CBBC series is a hilarious watch may I add!) History has also fascinated me, the clothing, the rituals, the drama. Third year rolled around and we were finally permitted to create a project of our own choice. Without a doubt, there was only one person who would be joining me.

I looked for yet more inspiration with another great historical female figure. Marie Tussaud had a mix of rich history with breathtakingly detailed technical and special effects – just the thing I was after. My ambitious aim, albeit it made naively when considering the technicalities, was now to create my own life sized waxwork of my beloved Anne Boleyn.

As with any model, before you can touch any clay you must know and more importantly understand your subject. Especially when a well-known personality or historical figure is concerned. This meant living with my old friend Anne Boleyn for the summer, making her a new outfit to keep her on side. I read as many books as I could but having always struggled with reading (I can read a page without taking any of it in) I only focused on Anne’s coronation with most books.. not due to lack of interest, but rather a complete fascination with the beginning of her story. This is what I knew I wanted to portray with my model. I watched every movie and television adaptation or documentary on Anne that I could find – Degree’s can be such hard work – and used this research to begin my 5000 word dissertation describing the positive and negative portrayals of her throughout the decades.

Next, I had to decide my own take on her. Although I have always been an avid Boleynian I wanted to stay quite neutral in my representation of her, and instead use my figure to tell her story through symbols and props a technique that old Tudor portrait artists had mastered. Once a design and maquette was created, I was to look for a life model to work from. My friend Laura worked next to me at university and bared an uncanny resemblance to my absolute favourite depiction of Anne’s image – Holbien’s sketch. Once I had cornered her and badgered her into sitting for me, I began recording her details.

This process involves drawing a large number dots on the face at keys points like the tip of the nose and tragus (the little sticky out bit above your earlobe.) Photographs are taken of the model from 360 degrees and the points on the face are measured and recorded using calipers. These are all extremely useful reference materials when sculpting and ensure that you can get an accurate a likeness as possible, especially when you don’t have the model to work from.

When sculpting, you need a strong and sturdy armature frame to support your clay. This meant welding – my nemesis. Once the armature is bent into position, finally, the sculpting can begin. This is the process I love the most. Since a kid, I have always had the desire to shape clay into objects and creatures. Luckily enough, I came across a natural clay pit whilst out staking vampires. This meant an endless supply of creatures, props and pots turned up in the house of my poor unsuspecting parents. Much to their delight of course.

Over a number of weeks, the body is built up – constantly referring to the reference material and measurements. Measuring has always been my weakness, so at one point – I had to operate on Anne and give her a leg extension, cutting them off and hoisting the armature up. The ruler changes length every time I swear! The body and head are roughly built up together, until the stage where the head needs to be refined.

This meant the amusing task of removing Anne’s head – a process that caused a number of opportunistic comical photos with myself and my classmates. I apologized to Anne, and lopped through her neck with a cheese cutter (clay wire to the pro’s.) I shuddered, thinking of the actual day of Anne’s execution, and that night watched a docudrama by the BBC called ‘The Execution of Anne Boleyn’. The horror of her final days struck right through me as I remembered my reasoning for the creation of my model: to tell her incredible story and to somehow do her justice by bringing her back to life. I became a lot more serious about her after this day. I worked on her head at home, spending whole days locked in my room, often forgetting to eat. As payback for making fun of her – she made my life very difficult. At this point I was juggling my dissertation with a few days until the deadline, with the impending day of finishing and moulding her head. She also decided to fall over a week after I got her body out of the mould – splitting the resin cast along the seams and causing a number of repairs. We didn’t talk for days.

But alas, the sculpt had been finished and moulding was complete – the hands were the only section of the model that I had life cast, a technique that Madame Tussaud’s also follow. A plaster waste mould was used for the body and a fiberglass resin cast was pulled out. For the head, I used a flexible silicone jacket mould, which meant pulling a delicate wax cast out would be a lot easier.

I decided to give Anne her infamous 6th finger.. not to make fun or to create a monster (I didn’t want to fall out with her again) but to describe the attacks on her image shortly after her death. Of course, the extra finger most likely did not exist, but I wanted to stir up a bit of debate amongst people who saw her – get people talking about her story again. It was great to hear a conversation at my show on this exact subject: ‘Look she has an extra finger!’ ‘Yes, but she didn’t actually have an extra finger.. it was made up by the Catholics’… ‘But I heard it was a friend that gave a description of it?’… bingo. Of course, Hever had me remove it – much to my pleasure.

Finally, Anne and I had made it to the final hurdle. Once the eyes had been burned into the wax, and the eyebrow hair punched in – I repositioned her head. She looked at me approvingly. All had been forgiven.

Painting her was more of a relaxation process than anything… all of the hard work was completed, now it was time to make her pretty and get her ready for her first party. Finally, I popped her new shift and corset on that I had won her over with the previous summer and fitted her wig. I left her hair down, as she did – a fashionable one was our Anne!

Success! After a year long friendship, with ups and downs and a hell of a lot of hard graft, patience and may I add £1000 in material – I finally stood next to the infamous Anne Boleyn. I had placed her in front of a mirror so that her reflection mimicked many of her alleged portraits – Holbein’s sketch included. I stood beside her and read the words surrounding the frame: ‘Le Temps Viendra’ – the time will come. The infamous words written by Anne in her copy of the Book of Hours that I had read on tip-toes through a pain of glass at Hever as a girl. These words had stuck with me constantly throughout the project. The time will come when all my hard work would pay off and I could relax and show her off to industry professionals and my long suffering friends and family at the show…. The time would come also when I had to say goodbye, and let her go home.

I had been so wrapped up in her story and so concerned with actually finishing her for the show, that I hadn’t given a second thought to what I would do with her once she was here! She spent many weeks in my bed at my family home.. she always won when I came to visit – I got the couch. I began contacting castles to see if she could come and live with them, not once thinking that Hever would be remotely interested. Chance would have it though, that my mum had a close friend who worked at Hever and passed on my details. Next thing I knew it, I was walking with Anne’s head tucked neatly in a box under my arm, walking through the back corridors of the offices at Hever. I whispered to her so that the Lady I was following didn’t here.. ‘welcome home.’

It feels very strange to talk about her again after so long. So much has happened since I parted with her last year. I have been very lucky to land a full time job doing what I love, two days after I took my degree show down and recently worked on the Churchill dog for the insurance commercials. I have a lot to owe her.

I would like to thank the people who have taken the time out of their busy lives to contact me about my waxwork and indeed to read my mad babblings – congratulations if you made it this far! It is such a joy to talk to people about the stuff you love, and for an artist it is the best feeling in the world to know that someone else enjoys your work. It is also great to keep tabs on how Anne is getting on on her own. We were reunited when the exhibition opened – it was such a strange feeling to stand in front of her, wearing an absolutely stunning outfit that someone has made for her (feeling slightly jealous of their relationship). But it is great to see her living her own life.

I feel so privileged to have had the time with her and be able to bring Anne Boleyn home. Please say hello from me if you get a chance to meet her!

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One Response
  1. Stephanie says:

    The wax sculpture is absolutely beautiful, and better than the one done before it. This shows Anne Boleyn’s beauty, and I am sure if we were to see the life size portait of Anne this would look like it!

    The artist did an outstanding job!

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