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These properties have seen wax used for modelling since the Middle Ages and there is testimony for it having been used for making masks (particularly death masks) in ancient Rome. The masks (effigies or imagines) of ancestors, modelled in wax, were preserved by patrician families, this jus imaginum being one of the privileges of the nobles, and these masks were exposed to view on ceremonial occasions, and carried in their funeral processions. Figures in wax of their deities were used in the funeral rites of the ancient Egyptians, and deposited among other offerings in their graves; many of these are now preserved in museums. That the Egyptians also modelled fruits can be learned from numerous allusions in early literature. Among the Greeks during their best art period, wax figures were largely used as dolls for children; statuettes of deities were modelled for votive offerings and for religious ceremonies, and wax images to which magical properties were attributed were treasured by the people. Wax figures and models held a still more important place among the ancient Romans.

Human Skeleton - Anatomical Wall Chart - anatomicalstoreThe closing days of the Saturnalia were known as sigillaria, on account of the custom of making, towards the end of the festival, presents of wax models of fruits and waxen statuettes which were fashioned by the Sigillarii. Most of the figures would wear the real clothes of the deceased so they could be made quickly. The effigy of Charles II of England (1680) was displayed over his tomb until the early 19th century, when all were removed from the abbey itself. The museum of Westminster Abbey has a collection of British royal wax effigies, as well as those of figures such as the naval hero Horatio Nelson, and Frances Stewart, Duchess of Richmond, who also had her parrot stuffed and displayed. The display of temporary or permanent effigies in wax and other media of the deceased was a common part of the funeral ceremonies of important people in European historical times.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects, vol. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Waxworks (plastic arts). Gillet, Louis. “Leonardo da Vinci.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects, anatomical models vol. 1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization. This page was last edited on 24 July 2022, at 04:54 (UTC). Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0; additional terms may apply. Westminster Abbey, “Horatio, Viscount Nelson”.

John Flaxman executed in wax many portraits and other relief figures which Josiah Wedgwood translated into pottery for his Jasperware. In the 19th century, a painter like Ernest Meissonier still used wax models to prepare his paintings, like ‘Le voyageur’ (Musée d’Orsay, RF 3672) while Rodin made a wax model of The Gates of Hell (1880). Among the major wax works of the period are Paul Gauguin’s portrait of his daughter Aline (1881, musée d’Orsay), and a 125 cm high self-portrait of Jean-Joseph Carriès (Petit Palais). The National Portrait Gallery has 40 wax portraits, mostly from this period. This was the case of Jean-Pierre Dantan, or David d’Angers, for example, the latter even belonged to the Société phrénologique de Paris founded by François Broussais in 1831. As for Moulageur and sculptor Joseph Towne, he is best known for the creation of anatomical wax models. The Royal collection trust owns several baskets of wax fruit and wax flowers. This was a time when artists were often inspired by phrenologists or physiognomonists.