Sculpture of the Day: Relief of an Unknown Man, 1790-1820

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Relief of an Unknown Man
possible Sir Francis Burdett
Polychrome Wax
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Prior to photographs, portraiture was the only way to preserve an image. Whether the portrait was in paint or a three-dimensional sculpture, to sit for such a piece of art was considered a symbol of status and financial comfort.

In the late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries, the use of wax as a medium became more popular. Wax portraits—especially in low relief—were often created as a tribute to a person who has passed.

This bas relief wax plaque of an unknown man was created between 1790 and 1820. Some believe that this curly-headed gentleman is Sir Francis Burdett, but there’s little evidence to support that claim. Regardless of his identity, it’s a beautiful portrait. Still brightly colored and crisp after two centuries, this gentleman’s visage continues to charm us long after his body has gone to dust. ads

Most Reading