Sculpture through its Material Histories
Edited By Sébastien Clerbois and Martina Droth
Maarten Delbeke - Matter Without Qualities? Wax in Giacomo Vivio’s Discorso of 1590 91
Maarten Delbeke Matter Without Qualities? Wax in Giacomo Vivio’s Discorso of 1590 The problem with wax Natural bees-wax is white or yellowish but it can be coloured. Thanks to its malleability at room temperature, wax can be fashioned into almost any imaginable shape. It can be mixed with oils to make it more supple, or with resins to toughen it, and it has a quality of translucency that can produce a f lesh-like realism. In sculptural practice, it is well-established as the essential material in the preparatory stages of bronze casting, and in the production of modelli and bozzetti for sculpture, painting and architec- ture.1 These reasons have contributed to the fact that wax has not earned the same autonomy within the larger field of sculpture that bronze and marble have, and that it is rarely discussed as a sculptural material in its own right.2 In fact, on those occasions when art historians have focused on autonomous works in wax, they have done so at least in part to scrutinize the boundaries and preoccupations of art history as a discipline, such as the distinction between high and low art, the status of portraiture as an artistic practice, the relation of lifelikeness to the agency of objects, or the exchange between religion and aesthetics.3 Indeed, works in wax tend to be characterized by their subservience to something outside of high art, such as to ritual or devotional practice (for example the ex voto) or to eerily realistic simulacra, whether of vener-...
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