Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sculpture of the Day: A Wax Bust of Queen Victoria, c. 1837

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Wax has been a favorite medium for centuries due to its ease of use and versatility. Portraits in wax portraits became quite fashionable in the Eighteenth Century in Britain. As opposed to the life-sized wax figures seen at waxworks such as Madame Tussaud’s, miniature figures and busts were often created as keepsakes. The tradition continued well into the Nineteenth Century, especially before the advent of photography.

These miniature figures were modeled from the life. The waxes were not only quite portable, but due to the nature of the medium, they had an attractive, naturalistic look which was warmer than figures in stone or metal. Often, these waxes were tinted and embellished with textiles, seed pearls or colored glass eyes, to augment the life-like appearance of the portrayal. Best of all, for a more permanent figure, a mould could be made from this initial model, from which further copies could be cast in bronze or spelter.

Here, we see a wax bust depicting Queen Victoria who is shown turned to the right wearing a V-necked dress with sleeves decorated with ribbons and a sash. This figure was created in 1837 upon Victoria’s accession by sculptor William Le Grand. Not much is known of Le Grand and it’s unclear if he not only sculpted by published copies of such waxes.

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