Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sculpture of the Day: A Wax Relief Plaque of Queen Anne, early 19th C.

The V&A
Polychrome Wax Relief
Samuel Percy, early 19th C.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We’ve looked at other bas relief wax tablet portraits before.  There’s something interestingly odd about this one which is said to depict Queen Anne.  We see the Queen, rendered in polychrome wax, wearing an alarmingly low-cut gown trimmed with ermine and bands of gold across the corsage. The dress is further adorned with the representation of a chemisette of lace.  Queen Anne’s ebony hair falls in curls on her shoulders, and she wears a crown with applied loose pearls on the front arch as well as an applied string of pearls around her neck,

The wax is set within folded drapery of real puce velvet within an oval black frame.  The collection notes’ call the velvet, “purple,” and it may have been at one time, but it seems to have faded to a puce-like taupe.   The curators of the V&A state that, “The purple velvet mounting and possibly the oval frame are modern. The velvet probably replaces the wax draperies generally used by Samuel Percy.”

And, this makes sense.  Originally, when this portrait in wax was created, the background was surely also in wax.  For some reason—probably due to damage—when the tablet was re-framed, the original polychrome wax background was replaced by actual fabric drapery.

This is almost certainly the work of Samuel Percy (1750-1820) who seems to be responsible for the majority of these wax relief portrait plaques.
  His style seems to have become more confident over time and this figure from later in his life and career is far more successful than some of the crude portraits of his early life.  

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