Ephermeral Bodies: Wax Sculpture and the Human Figure by Roberta Panzanelli, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Ephermeral Bodies: Wax Sculpture and the Human Figure

Ephermeral Bodies: Wax Sculpture and the Human Figure

by Roberta Panzanelli
     
 

The material history of wax is a history of disappearance—wax melts, liquefies, evaporates, and undergoes innumerable mutations. Wax is tactile, ambiguous, and mesmerizing, confounding viewers and scholars alike. It can approximate flesh with astonishing realism and has been used to create uncanny human simulacra since ancient times—from phallic amulets

Overview

The material history of wax is a history of disappearance—wax melts, liquefies, evaporates, and undergoes innumerable mutations. Wax is tactile, ambiguous, and mesmerizing, confounding viewers and scholars alike. It can approximate flesh with astonishing realism and has been used to create uncanny human simulacra since ancient times—from phallic amulets offered to heal distressing conditions and life-size votive images crammed inside candlelit churches by the faithful, to exquisitely detailed anatomical specimens used for training doctors and Medardo Rosso's "melting" portraits.

The critical history of wax, however, is fraught with gaps and controversies. After Giorgio Vasari, the subject of wax sculpture was abandoned by art historians; in the twentieth century it once again sparked intellectual interest, only soon to vanish. The authors of the eight essays in Ephemeral Bodies—including the first English translation of Julius von Schlosser's seminal "History of Portraiture in Wax" (1910-11)—break new ground as they explore wax reproductions of the body or body parts and assess their conceptual ambiguity, material impermanence, and implications for the history of Western art.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Not only a useful scholarly collection on a neglected topic but also an opportunity to gauge and expand the theoretical presuppositions of art history as a discipline.”—Art History

“An excellent, well-orchestrated and magnificently illustrated collection of essays.  Its greatest merit is to attract scholarly attention to a complex medium, the study of which requires the attentive gaze of the art historian, the toolbox of the anthropologist and the erudition of the cultural historian.”—The Burlington Magazine 

“The extensive knowledge presented here captures the transient nature of wax and retains it within these pages for readers to appreciate.”—Leonardo 

 

“Thoughtfully conceived and insightfully presented.”—Library Journal

“Highly recommended.”—Choice

University and College Designers Association Award for Excellence in Design

“A valuable contribution to the scholarly discourse on wax figures. . . . These essays, collected in a handsome volume complete with dozens of color plates worthy of the Getty, also do well to include the first English translation of Julius von Schlosser’s 1910-1911 essay, “History of Portraiture in Wax.”—Winterthur Portfolio

Library Journal

Evolving from "Lasting Impressions: The Art of Wax Sculpture," a workshop held at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, in April 2005, this notable compilation of eight essays by distinguished art historians seeks to identify and untangle the history of surviving wax sculptures of the human figure and body parts from ancient times to the present. Also included is the first English-language translation of Viennese art historian Julius von Schlosser's seminal "History of Portraiture in Wax" (1910-11). Because they often simulated human likenesses and flesh better than other sculptural media, many wax figures were used in artistic, religious, and scientific venues for aesthetic, devotional, educational, and instructional purposes. Yet their histories are filled with gaps and controversies for many reasons not limited to the impermanent and fragile characteristics of the materials used to create them. While the contributors' essays are superior and of the highest caliber, the visual layout and graphic presentation of this publication are not as polished and professional as they could be in light of current standards and trends in art publishing. Still, the book is adequately illustrated (40 color and 87 halftone reproductions), well documented, thoughtfully conceived, and insightfully presented; it significantly contributes to the histories of the fine and decorative arts. Recommended for large public, academic, and special libraries.
—Cheryl Ann Lajos

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780892368778
Publisher:
Getty Publications
Publication date:
03/24/2008
Series:
Getty Ser.
Edition description:
1
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
7.50(w) x 10.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Roberta Panzanelli is a Senior Research Specialist at the Getty Research Institute

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >