Lost wax method or casting (Also known by the French term cire-perdue) is an ancient process dating back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. One early classical development was the widespread change from marble to bronze for large-scale sculpture. Hollow statues were cast by the ‘lost wax’ process. Solid bronze casting had been used since the Aegean period (a history of western art) It is still the best method for capturing exquisite detail in metal objects, which could not otherwise be produced given the complexity of their design. This process allows anything modelled in wax to be recreated fully and faithfully into various metals. The lost wax method is still employed today in the areas of sculpture, fine jewelry, restorative work in dentistry and in the industrial setting. It is a demanding and expensive process, but rewards the artisan with an object of great detail and individuality.
The Egyptians, Minoans, and early Greeks had often made statuettes of solid bronze using the direct lost-wax process. The technique was simple. The sculptor modeled his figure in wax; covered it with clay to form a mold; heated out the wax; poured this alloy into the space left by the “lost-wax” in the clay mold. Yet because figures made in this way were solid, the method had severe limitations. A solid-cast, life-size statue would have been expensive, incredibly heavy, and prone to developing unsightly bubbles and cracks as the alloy cooled. So from the eighth to sixth centuries B.C ( 800-600B.C), the Greeks developed the indirect lost-wax method, which allowed statues to be cast hollow and at any scale.
STEP 1 Making the Mold: First, the sculptor molds a soft pliable material such as clay or plaster into the desired shape STEP 2 Making the Wax Casting: He then covers the clay core with a layer of wax to the thickness of the final metal casting(like a wax statue now). STEP 3 Chasing the Wax: He needs to carve the details of the statue carefully in the wax as all details and features the sculptor desires in the finished piece must appear in the wax model. The figure is then sectioned into its component parts- heads, torso, limbs, and so on. STEP 4 Spruing & Gating: Wax sprues and gates were attached to the model to provide pathways for the wax to evacuate the mould and for the molten metal to enter it. Wax vents were also added through which hot gases could rise while the liquid bronze was being poured. STEP 5 Casting the Ceramic Shell: The wax model with its vents and gates is then painted with very thin clay first in order to pick up the finely sculpted and carved details. Then it is covered completely with a coarser clay mantle. The mantle was attached to the inner core by iron or bronze pins called chaplets. / the ceramic shell can be of any shape. STEP 6 Burn-Out: The ceramic shell is then baked slowly so that the wax would melt out (lost from the shell) and then it is fired at higher temperature so that the shell would harden. This creates a hollow ceramic shell mold. Thus the term “Lost Wax.” STEP 7 Metal Casting: Molten metal (~2100 Farenheit) – usually bronze, can also be silver or gold- is then poured into the space left by this ‘lost wax’. STEP 8 Break-Out/ Devesting: When the molten metal cools and hardens for a few days or more, the outer and inner molds are carefully broken away, leaving a metal casting (hollow) The chaplets, vents, and gates, now in bronze, are also removed. It is then glass beaded, water or sand blasted to remove any remaining shell material from the intricate details of the casting. STEP 9 Assembly/Welding: If the original was sectioned into multiple pieces, it would now be carefully fitted and reassembled. A visual inspection is done to check for any casting inclusions. If there are any surface defects, these would also be repaired at this time. All sections of the casting are welded together with great care and attention to alignment. STEP 8 Metal Chasing /polish: All the weld marks are chased and re-detailed
qualities of Bronze -relatively strong alloy of two other metals, tin and copper. the ease of transportation, considering how light a hollow bronze statue is compared to a counterpart in marble. - Bronze is used for sculpture of god,heroes and athletes because of its light weight, its flexibility and its color- like oiled and tanned flesh. pg228 -The ability of bronze to hold its shape - no matter how complex - allowed sculptors to more easily experiment with less rigid poses. -leaden weights could easily be placed inside the hollow feet, enabling any number of sculptural poses that would otherwise cause the sculpture to topple over (or crack from internal stress if the statue was bolted to a base)Eg. Poseidon or Zeus from Cape Artemisium c. 455. -
The Charioteer of Delphi possesses the dark color with reflections and sharp contours, the crisp edges of the details necessitated by the darkness of the material, which are characteristic of work in bronze. black and gold of bronze have a depth and intensity the nature of bronze permitted the sculptor to utilize exquisite detail and extraordinary shine or dullness
varieties of marble are derived from the sedimentation (a slow geological rock formation process) of calcite limestone, and are fundamentally related in that regard. They differ due to color, texture, weathering, and chemical composition. the coarseness or fineness of the marble crystals. ( fine texture enabled the sculptor to achieve greater detail with his work. But the smaller crystals (of the finer surface) created a duller surface that was more apt to tarnish by the collection of small particles of dirt in crevices between these minute crystals. ) (choice of texture was the sculptor's option for a coarse surface, with larger crystals that showed readily, which imparted a more brilliant surface to the finished work. ) -does not handle well as it absorbs skin oils, causing staining.
depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty(Venus de Milo) marble has a slight translucent surface which can even be compared to the appearance of the human skin. Precisely this translucent surface gives the marble sculpture a visible depth, deepness beyond the faintest surface and this evokes certain realism, especially when it is used to make human figures.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MARBLE AND BRONZELooksBronze-Bronze is used for sculpture of god,heroes and athletes because of its light weight, its flexibility and its color- like oiled and tanned flesh. -black and gold of bronze have a depth and intensityMarble-marble has a slight translucent surface which can even be compared to the appearance of the human skin. Precisely this translucent surface gives the marble sculpture a visible depth, deepness beyond the faintest surface and this evokes certain realism, especially when it is used to make human figures.(the low refractory index of refraction of calcite permits light to penetrate into the stone (as it does the human skin), resulting in the typical "waxy" look which gives the stone a human appearance.)-the whiteness of marble a coldness, clarity, and, serenity, inescapable.-does not handle well as it absorbs skin oils, causing staining.Bronze vs Marble-leaden weights could easily be placed inside the hollow feet, enabling any number of sculptural poses that would otherwise cause the sculpture to topple over (or crack from internal stress if the statue was bolted to a base) if it was made of marble.-Unlike marble, the nature of bronze permitted the sculptor to utilize exquisite detail and extraordinary shine or dullness-the ease of transportation, considering how light a hollow bronze statue is compared to a counterpart in marble.
Art history group 1 greek art
1. What is the Lost Wax Process?
2. What is the debate surrounding the Elgin Marbles all about?
3. Do you believe that this is ‘national’ or ‘universal’ heritage? Should we
interfere to protect it when we feel it is endangered?
4. In what ways are so many of the attitudes of Athenian society evident in
the sculpture / architecture of the 5th Century BC?
5. What difference does sculpting in marble or bronze make in terms of
physical appearance and expressive qualities?
6. Can you label the ‘orders’ (Doric, Ionic & Corinthian)? Do you think their
differences are purely aesthetic or is there a ‘meaning’ behind each?
Lost Wax Process
• Also known as “Lost Wax Method”, “Lost Wax Casting” or cire-perdue
• Used in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome
• Became popular during the Early Classical period (480-450 B.C.), and
Greece developed a widespread change from marble to bronze for
• Casts hollow metal statues
• Captures exquisite detail in metal objects
• The “Lost Wax Process” is still employed today in the areas of sculpture,
fine jewelry, restorative work in dentistry and in the industrial setting
Two types of Lost Wax Process
Two types of Lost Wax Process
2. Wax Casting
3. Wax Chasing
4. Spruing & Gating
5. Ceramic Shell Casting
7. Metal Casting
10. Metal Chasing
Zeus. c. 460 B.C. Bronze, height 6’10” (2.08m).
National Archaeological Museum, Athens
Knidian Aphrodite. Roman copy after an original of c. 340 B.C. by Praxiteles. Marble, height 6’8”
(2m). Musei Vaticani, Museo Pio Clementino, Gabinetto della Venere, Citta del Vaticano, Rome
Adams, L.S. (2011). A History of Western Art (5th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill
Janson, A.F., & Janson, H.W. (2006). A Basic History of Western Art (7 th ed). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
Collins, N. (2007). Lost Wax Casting. Retrieved from
Lost Wax Method. (2006). Retrieved from http://canequest.com/lost-wax.asp
The Original Lost Wax Casting Process. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.frbronze.com/casting.htm
Bronze Art Casting Process. (2011) Retrieved from http://www.americanbronze.com/process.html
What is the debate
surrounding the Elgin marbles?
The Elgin Marbles
• The Elgin marbles (a.k.a Parthenon sculptures) are a series of
ancient Greek statues mainly from the Parthenon and buildings
around the same area,
• Created as a dedication unto the goddess Athena nearly 2500
•The building survived changes and alterations over centuries until
an explosion occurred in the mid-sixteenths, which landed it in ruins
• The British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Thomas Bruce, had
a love for Greek art and had obtained a firman from the sultan to
remove and bring several surviving sculptures back to England.
• It is now stationed at the British museum in London.
Relocation debate :
Should the artifacts be returned to Greece?
Or should they remain in Britain?
Reasons for returning to Greece :
• Illegal means were used to get the sculptures. It should therefore
be returned to its rightful place.
• The museum in Greece was built to imitate its natural climate
(temperature and humidity etc..) and would therefore be a more
apt place to store the artifacts.
• The intepretation of the piece of artwork would be better if it was
all in one piece rather than being scattered around the globe.
• The British museum could use casts of the sculptures, while the
originals should be in the museum at Athens.
Reasons for remaining in Britain :
• The museum wouldn’t be a museum if it didn’t have artifacts from
around the world.
• Britain had saved the sculptures before they could be destroyed
by natural disasters and pollution in Athens.
• The statues are too fragile to be transported back to Greece.
• Even if the sculptures were returned, the set in Greece would still
be very incomplete.
• The removal of the statues had been approved by the ruling
government at that point of time.
Public opinion on the matter :
• A survey carried out by Ispos MORI, the second largest market
research organisation in the United Kingdoms, was conducted in
- 40% in favour of returning the marbles to Greece
- 16% in favour of keeping them at the British Museum
- The remainder had no opinion or chose not to vote.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Elgin Marbles, 2008, O.Ed.
Casey, Christopher (October 30, 2008).
""Grecian Grandeurs and the Rude Wasting of Old Time": Britain, the Elgin Marbles, and Post-Revolutionary Hellenism".
Foundations. Volume III, Number 1. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
Linda Theodorou; Facaros, Dana (2003). Greece (Cadogan Country Guides). Cadogan Guides. p. 55. ISBN
Mark Ellingham, Tim Salmon, Marc Dubin, Natania Jansz, John Fisher, Greece: The Rough Guide,Rough Guides,
1992,ISBN 1-85828-020-6, p.39
King, Dorothy (2004-07-21). "Elgin Marbles: fact or fiction?". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
Nicoletta Divari-Valakou, (Director of the Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of Athens), "Revisiting the
Parthenon: National Heritage in the Age of Globalism" in Mille Gabriel & Jens Dahl, (eds.) Utimut : past heritage —
future partnerships, discussions on repatriation in the 21st Century, Copenhagen : International Work Group for
Indigenous Affairs and Greenland National Museum & Archives, (2008)
Brabant, Malcolm (2006-11-10). "Swede gives back Acropolis marble". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
"TA NEA On-line". Tanea.gr. Retrieved 2009-01-20.
Bernard Tschumi — New Acropolis Museum
British Museum press release on the Elgin Marbles".
Do you believe that this is ‘national’
or ‘universal’ heritage? Should we
interfere to protect it when we feel
it is endangered?
“The Athenian Acropolis, ‘the corner stone of the Classical Greek era’, in becoming a
‘world monument’ also became the national monument of Greece par excellence”
Brabant, M. (Producer). (2008, May 7th ). Acropolis Museum girds for battle over Marbles [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from
Zeman, A. (2012) A Game Changer? The Complexities of Cultural Heritage in the Debate Over the Elgin Marbles. Retrieved from
Rakic, T., & Chambers, D. World Heritage: exploring the tension between the national and the ‘universal’ . Retrieved from
In what ways are so many of the
attitudes of Athenian society evident in
the sculpture / architecture of the
5th Century BC?
Walcot, P. Greek Attitudes towards Women: The Mythological Evidence. Retrieved from http
Cartwright, M. (2013). Greek Architecture. Retrieved from http://www.ancient.eu.com/Greek_Architecture/
Death, Burial, and the Afterlife in Ancient Greece (2013). Retrieved from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dbag/hd_dbag.htm
Giants. Retrieved from http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Fi-Go/Giants.html#b
What difference does sculpting in
marble or bronze make in terms of
physical appearance and
Poseidon or Zeus from Cape Artemisium c. 455.
The Charioteer of Delphi, 470s B.C. Bronze, 5ft.11in. high. Delphi Museum, Greece.
Hermes bearing the good person by Praxiteles. Parian marble
“Venus de Milo” (Aphrodite from Melos). Parian marble
Carved by Alexandros, a sculptor of Antioch
Bronze vs Marble
“Marathon Boy” or “Ephebe of Marathon”
Bronze. Retrieved from http://library.thinkquest.org/23492/data/bronze.htm
Greek Sculpture. Retrieved from http://www.portergaud.edu/academic/faculty/mcarver/cmcarver/grsc.html
Donatello’s David. Retrieved from http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth213/donatello_david.html
Spencer, R.B. (2010, Dec 14th). Top 10 Greatest Sculptures. Retrieved from http://listverse.com/2010/12/14/top-10-greatest-sculptures/
Marble. Retrieved from http://library.thinkquest.org/23492/data/marble.htm
The Marble Sculpture- Advantages and Disadvantages. Retrieved from
Marble Sculpture. Retrieved from http://arts.indianetzone.com/sculpture/1/marble_sculpture_india.htm
Marble Sculpture. Retrieved from http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/sculpture/marble.htm
Llgreek, I. (2012, Jul 30). Greatest Greek Bronze Statues [Web blog post]. Retrieved from
Can you label the ‘orders’
(Doric, Ionic & Corinthian)?
Do you think their differences are
purely aesthetic or is there
a ‘meaning’ behind each?
Plato. (January 28, 2013). Classical Wisdom Weekly. In Not Just Another Column. Retrieved August 29, 2013, from
Dietsch, D. K. (n.d). For Dummies. In Greek Architecture: Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian?. Retrieved August 29, 2013, from
Cline, A. (n.d). Columns of Greek Temples. In Ancient Greek Mythology, Religion, Art. Retrieved August 29, 2013, from
Emerson, M. (2007) Greek Sanctuaries: An Introduction. London: Bristol Classical.
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.