Mendrisio-Florence and back for state-of-the-art investigations

To create a sculpture in stone or marble, sculptors have, since ancient times, used a clay model. Given the perishability of this material, in modern times, once the model had been made, a plaster cast was made of it, to preserve the form, and then the final work was transposed, which could also be done with the help of assistants and collaborators. Modelling in clay was almost always the work of the author, so it is in plaster that we find the most autograph forms. Comparison between the plaster and the finished work, in marble or stone, allows us to precisely document the manner of this passage, identifying the presence of any tangencies or differences between them.

For Lorenzo Bartolini, as for many 19th century sculptors, the plaster model represented the interface between the exploratory and design aspect and the more technical or practical aspects of his creation. The marks on the surface of the plaster bear witness to the stages of this complex process, provide a better understanding of what the artist’s modus operandi was and can provide information on many aspects of the technical procedures of his atelier. In addition, the surface of the models bears traces of their conservation history, their vicissitudes and previous restoration work. They are extremely fragile works: plaster is a material that is by nature not very tenacious and very porous, therefore prone to fractures, scratches and abrasions and is very sensitive to the environmental context in which it is stored. It must also be remembered that the models are largely hollow and in some cases made of very thin plaster, with vegetable fibres and cloth mixed in the mixture. Very often they have wooden or iron elements inside the projecting parts. They are polymateric works and require special care in their handling and display.

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