The Dead in Wax: Funeral Ceroplastics in the European 17th-18th Century Tradition

Roberta Ballestriero

Abstract


The art of wax modelling or ceroplastics has an ancient origin; funeral masks, for example, were produced from an early age and from 300 AD became widely used in the West. The few surviving examples in Europe apply to the culture of the dead are kept in the Westminster Abbey of London. However, this tradition came from the French funeral effigies started in the 13th century. The French model was taken as an example in England and also in Venice there were similar kinds of ceremonies for the funerals of the “Doges” in the 17th century and lasted until the end of the Republic, in 1797. From devotional to funeral effigies wax has played an important role in the power of images because its main characteristic is its capacity to afford a remarkable mimetic likeness far surpassing any other material.


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