Cuppage carvings

Vol. 4 No. 1 - 1978

Cuppage carvings in Armagh County Museum

by D.R.M. Weatherup, F.M.A.

former Curator, Armagh Museum

In the previous issue of Review, column three, number three, pages 3 and 4, T.J. Malcomson wrote on Alexander Cuppage of Silverwood House and mentioned that following a vision he carved crucifixes from different types of wood.

Mr. Cuppage did not restrict his carving activities to wood. In the collections of Armach County Museum are four examples of his work, presented in 1937 to the late T.G.F. Paterson who was an acquaintance and a frequent visitor to Silverwood until Mr Cuppage returned to Canada.

The first is an 8.5 inch high crucifix carved in apple wood (Museum No. 29-37). It protrays the figure of the crucified Christ beared and with long hair, dressed only in a loin cloth, the legs crossed at the ankles and pinned to the cross through the palms of the hands and the feet using fine wooden pins. The cross is 6 inches high, and 2.25 inches across the arms and it is mounted on a tapered rectangular base 2.25 inches square with two steps to the foot of the cross. It is finished with a coat of varnish and marked on base "Alex Cuppage, Lurgan Born 1861 No. 104 Apple Wood 1935".

Second crucifix

The second crucifix is of rams horn (Museum No. 30-37). The cross is cut from the curved side of a rams horn rising from a roughly oval base formed by the natural horn and to it is pinned through hands and crossed feet a figure similar to number 29-37; height 4.5 inches, also carved from horn. The total height of the cross is 5.5 inches; width across arms 2 inches; base 3.5 inches by 1.5 inches. Marked in red "no. 107".

The third item is also carved from horn (Museum No. 31-37). This is a plain cross with a pierced knob at the top for suspension. The length is 3 3/5 inches, the width across arms 1 5/8 inches and it bears a similar figure to number 29-37, length 2 inches, pinned with metal pins at hands and feet.

The fourth cross is ingeniously enclosed in a lantern all made from horn (Museum No. 32-37). The tiny cross is visible through one clear pane of mica in the rectangular lantern, (height 1 3/8 inches; base 5/8 inch x 5/8 inch) opposite which is a translucent pane, the other sides and the top being pierced with ventilation holes and a metal ring inserted through the top loop.

The quality of the workmanship shows quite clearly that Mr. Cuppage was not mislead by his vision but was a very competent craftsman-carver and indeed he would seem to have been an extraordinaryily talented and interesting man and Mr. Paterson once remarked that Mr. Cuppage ascribed his ability to carve to his Indian blood mentioned by T.J. Malcomson in his article.

D.R.M Weatherup