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Wax Maquette

Giraffe Wax Maquette

This is a wax maquette. Of course the uninitiated may think it looks like a giraffe, but that's because it is a giraffe wax maquette.

No, no, no, "maquette" is not the name for a new brand of undersized hamburger. Instead a maquette is simply a sculptural "sketch", created sometimes for the artist to thrash out his basic plan, or it may be intended as a demo to show to a prospective client. Because of the varied purposes for their creation, maquettes vary in detail, degree of finish, and material. But maquettes are inevitably smaller than the originals and usually created in relatively easily worked medium although neither criteria is really a requirement.

Although many maquettes are discarded or lost after the final sculpture is finished, some of these "sketches" - such as the wax models of Edgar Degas - end up being valuable works of art in their own right. As of this writing, you can see some of the Edgar's sculptures - really nice stuff - at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Sometimes maquettes are the only works actually created by the sculptor, and in that sense they are the - quote - "original work" - unquote. Some sculptors - those who can afford it - limit their hands-on work to making the maquette and then have an assistant or hired specialists create the final work. That was generally the modus of Auguste Rodin who eventually got to the point where he would simply supervise, literally standing over the shoulder of his assistants telling them what to do.

This maquette was made from a high melting hard wax more often used for casting models from molds as part of the lost wax process for creating bronze sculptures. Working this type of wax can be a bit difficult and requires care and caution and proper training. But the advantage is that when cooled the wax holds it shape well and can be rendered in finer detail than in softer modeling waxes.

References

At the Met there is a side room with a lot of Edgar's work. Some examples can be viewed at http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dgsb/hd_dgsb.htm. You can read that in Edgar's lifetime he had only one of his sculptures cast in bronze, the Little Dancer. But even that's not true. Edgar never had any of his statues cast in bronze. But it is true that only one - and it was the Little Dancer - was exhibited during his life. The Dancer was exhibited at the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1881. The story is that the sculpture was so poorly received that he said, "[To heck with] it!" and thereafter did his sculpture for his own enjoyment. Certainly the sculpture was not only poorly received but received with great hostility. The statue exhibited was the wax model, dressed in a real tutu and slippers, and the critics said the dancer looked more like a monkey than a girl. Severe criticism, indeed, and Degas's other 150 statues were never exhibited and only found in his studio after he died. Artists can be quite sensitive to criticism. (Reference: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/index.php?id=851&L=1&tx_commentaire_pi1[showUid]=171&no_cache=1)