Reviews of the 2017 Wax Congress, London.
An International Congress on Wax Modelling… Why?
"Thanks to the multi-discipline international audience the Wax congress in London 2017 brought inspiration and ideas for reaching new, hitherto unrepresented and even unexpected experiences with the material in view of history, art, art history, conservation, medicine, history of medicine... The role of an artistic medium for culture in the widest sense of the word was effectively brought to mind".
Curator of early modern sculpture from north of the alps,
Kunstkammer and Schatzkammer,
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien.
"2018 saw the first International meeting about Ceroplastics in the modern era. Organised by Dr. Roberta Ballestriero, it was an enormous success. Participants from many European countries and further afield attended and contributed significant papers on the art and craft of wax modelling and sculpting along with significant contributions of the preservation and restoration of these priceless works of science and art.
Despite their veracity and beauty these objects have fallen out of the purview of most academics in the field of medicine and the arts. It is through these meetings that the real importance of these wax anatomically realistic sculptures can be returned to their rightful place in the pantheon of the arts and science".
Consultant Cardio-thoracic surgeon to Papworth
and Addenbrookes NHS Foundation trusts.
Associate Lecturer in Surgery, Cambridge University
Marco Antonio Mirada Razo,
"Vela Escamada", Devotional Candle
"Across mainland Europe and into the UK and beyond there exist many collections of wax models created for the purposes of education, worship and for entertainment. Sometimes these models were made to support scientific endeavourers, such as Anatomical, Pathological, Zoological or Botanical subjects; all to inform and educate. Some were created in homage or to commemorate religious figures, types of votive or allegorical sculptures. The entertainment collections were generally models of the famous or infamous, both historic and contemporary figures; murderers being especially popular. Some of the entertainment models were of “Medical curiosities”, these usually being unfortunate individuals with extreme varieties of disease or with congenital conditions.
For many years now most of these collections (if they survived at all) have been ignored, “lost” or at least reduced by the short-sighted to mere historic oddities with no really significance. I would argue that this attitude is completely wrong, but proper study, research and academic discussion is essential for the development and future of Ceroplasty in the modern era.
There were Ceroplastic congresses in Florence in 1975 and in London in 1978, but then nothing concrete happened for another 41 years until the Ceroplastics International Congress on Wax Modelling in London in 2017. This brought together for the first time experts from the fields of Anatomy, Art History, Sculpture, Restoration, Conservation and Contemporary Art. This was a marvellous and unique opportunity for experts, professionals and artists engaged in the various fields within Ceroplasty, allowing for academic discussion and debate and to consider new possibilities in the 21st Century.
It is so important that the momentum gained in 2017 is not lost as it was in the 1970’s. Therefore the proposal of a new Congress in Padua for 2019 is a wise and exciting prospect and a real opportunity to continue to make progress in this important but somewhat neglected field. I for one would be very happy to be involved and I have no doubts that it would be just as significant as the 2017 Congress".
William G.J. Edwards
Curator - Gordon Museum
Senior Tutor and Head of Lister House
Deputy Director EMDP
Kings College London
The “golden” period lasted from the middle XVI- to the last decades of the XIX century when the popularity and use of ceroplastics in its artistic, devotional, scientific and documentary aspects, spread from Italy to all Europe. The fortunes of wax modelling, however, greatly declined in the first half of the last century due, possibly, to the advent of photography and of the cheaper malleable, plastic materials.
It was just shortly after World War II that a novel interest, spurred by the publication of a number of seminal books and essays, aroused a new attention. This lead to a rediscovery of the scientific (particularly anatomical) collections which, because of their association to academic or sanitary institutions, had survived the long period of obscurity. The first International Congress was held in Florence at La Specola Museum in 1975 and a second in London in 1978. In the following decades, no International congresses on the topic were held, despite a robust increase of literature on the various aspects of ceroplastics, the return of appreciation for the superior quality of the works in wax, and the start of a new season of popularity for the exhibitions of wax models.
Who changed this in September 2017, was Roberta Ballestriero, a passionate researcher on wax modelling since her student years at the Academy of fine Arts in Venice, a prize-winning European PhD on the topic, subsequent stages in Spain and UK, and the author of a list of outstanding publications.
In September 2017, with no Academic nor Institutional support, but solely thanks to the hospitality of the Gordon Museum, the help of her husband as webmaster, and that of a few enthusiastic artists, historians and scientists, Roberta succeeded in gathering from all the world an unprecedented number of people interested in ceroplastics.
The high quality of the presentations, encompassing an unprecedented wide spectre of arguments, and the enthusiastic response of the participants, inspired Roberta to take once again upon herself the burden of organizing a similar open and independent forum, in June 2019, at the prestigious University of Padua, one of the cradles of European Culture.
I am sure that Roberta will repeat and even surpass the results of the London meeting, making a step forward in her bold project of finally reinstating the role of ceroplastics, at an equal level, among the modern figurative arts.
Alessandro L Riva MD
Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and History of Medicine,
Founder and Director (1991-2016) of the Collection of
Clemente Susini’s Anatomical Waxes of the University
of Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.