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Revival and Invention

Sculpture through its Material Histories

Sébastien Clerbois and Martina Droth

Materials may seem to be sculpture’s most obvious aspect. Traditionally seen as a means to an end, and frequently studied in terms of technical procedures, their intrinsic meaning often remains unquestioned. Yet materials comprise a field rich in meaning, bringing into play a wide range of issues crucial to our understanding of sculpture. This book places materials at the centre of our approach to sculpture, examining their symbolic and aesthetic language, their abstract and philosophical associations, and the ways in which they reveal the political, economic and social contexts of sculptural practice. Spanning a chronology from antiquity through to the end of the nineteenth century, the essays collected in this book uncover material properties as fundamental to artistic intentionality.


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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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