Challenging wax-cast figurine serial production unravelled by multi-analytical techniques†
Eight complementary techniques were successfully applied to study a pair of very alike eighteenth-century colored wax figurines belonging to the Museu Nacional Machado de Castro, Coimbra (Portugal): examination under visible and ultraviolet light, X-ray radiography (XRR), neutron radiography and tomography (NR and NT), energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF), scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), micro-X-ray diffraction (μ-XRD), gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and micro-confocal Raman spectroscopy (μ-Raman). A careful examination of the two objects provided an insight into their manufacturing and revealed that they were cast from the same molds, although details differ. The main cast material employed was a mixture of beeswax, Venice turpentine, other diterpenoid resins and a very low amount of lipids. The wax used was certainly reclaimed from a metallurgic activity involving lost-wax casting. Each figurine consists of sixteen parts, most of which consist of solid wax. The presence of fillings within the body was unexpected. The elements which remained hollowed played a fundamental role at the assembling stage. A loose wooden tenon helped to keep the head in place and metal rods were used to fasten the base to the main body. Polychromy was carried out in wax, with different pigments and opacifiers. The fabrication of the colored wax from different inorganic/organic wastes is also discussed. Textures were achieved by adding materials. The results gathered offered the unique opportunity to verify aspects inherent to the production of multiple copies in wax casting.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Synchrotron radiation and neutrons in art and archaeology