– modern sculpture with ancient roots

When Dali’s surreal sculpture began to appear on the art market in the first half of the 20th century it was seen as both modern and innovative in its aesthetic; but these works were rooted in a surprisingly ancient artistic tradition, created using the lost-wax method which dates back to the third millennium BC which many sculptors in the Clarendon portfolio still use today.

This fascinating process begins with a maquette (or model) created by the sculptor from wax or clay, which is covered with multiple layers of plaster in order to make a mold. This is a complex and painstaking process as it is essential to capture every detail and give an exact negative; only complete accuracy will preserve the authenticity of the original maquette.

This rock-hard shell is resistant to high temperatures and pressure so it can be put in a furnace where the wax melts away, leaving a hollow space – hence the term ‘lost wax’. When the hard shell has cooled, molten bronze is poured into the cavity that is left by the lost wax and when this solidifies the plaster can be chipped away or sandblasted to reveal a faithful bronze replica of the original maquette.

On occasion a sculptor will decide to give the bronze a coloured surface known as a patina. Once again this is a painstaking and highly skilled process in which the sculpture is brushed with chemicals before being subjected to extreme heat causing a reaction which changes the colour and the texture as desired by the artist.

Watch the lost wax casting process video

In addition to the Dali Universe collection Clarendon has a strong portfolio of work from sculptors using the traditional lost wax method to in the casting of their foundry bronzes.