A malleable substance obtained from various animal, vegetable, and mineral sources, most commonly the matter secreted by bees as the material of honeycomb; when bleached and purified it can be used as a material for sculpture. Since the 1830s, synthetic waxes, based on petroleum, have also been available. Wax has a long and varied history in sculpture, for it is widely available and highly versatile: it can be modelled, carved, or cast; it is easy and fairly clean to handle; and it can be readily mixed with colouring matter (making it an excellent medium for naturalistic portraiture). However, it also has disadvantages: it tends to become dirty; it is easily broken or damaged by heat; and compared with clay (the other material typically used for models), it is fairly expensive. In addition to being employed by countless sculptors to make preliminary models (several by Michelangelo survive, for example) and also as an essential part of bronze-cating by the ‘lost wax’ process (see cire-perdue), wax has been used since ancient times to produce finished works, particularly portraits and death masks. Among sculptors who have employed it in a more individual way, Medardo Rosso stands out.
Subjects: Dentistry — Art.