Search

A concrete cantilevered building against blue sky and green landscaping

A large green wall with oil paintings in gold frames above a tiled floor

A museum interior space with paintings and concrete walls and stairs

A concrete-walled lobby with windows, a tiled floor, and a circular desk

The top of a concrete spiral staircase with a wooden railing

A tall tree is the focal point of a garden in between two concrete buildings

About arrow_back

Admission for everyone is always free! Check here for current hours and more.

A concrete cantilevered building against blue sky and green landscaping

Collections arrow_back

The Johnson Museum holds more than 40,000 works in its collection from around the world.

A large green wall with oil paintings in gold frames above a tiled floor

Exhibitions arrow_back

Check out what’s on view this season at the Museum and look back through our history.

A museum interior space with paintings and concrete walls and stairs

Events arrow_back

Free events for everyone, plus special programs for students, families, and more!

A concrete-walled lobby with windows, a tiled floor, and a circular desk

Learn arrow_back

The Johnson Museum actively contributes to the intellectual life of our campus and community.

The top of a concrete spiral staircase with a wooden railing

Support arrow_back

Help the Johnson Museum continue its legacy by making a gift today.

A tall tree is the focal point of a garden in between two concrete buildings

Unidentified foundry

Head of Antiochus III, after the antique

View All Works

Object Details

Artist

Unidentified foundry

Date

ca. 1900

Medium

Wax over plaster core, model prepared for lost-wax bronze casting

Dimensions

Sculpture: approx. 13 7/8 × 8 3/8 × 10 inches (35.2 × 21.3 × 25.4 cm)
Including mount: H. 17 1/2 inches (44.5 cm)

Credit Line

Acquired through the Ernest I. White, Class of 1893, Endowment Fund, with generous support from the Cornell University Department of Classics

Object
Number

2022.008

This is a rare surviving example of a wax cast of an ancient portrait, built around a plaster core. (…)

This is a rare surviving example of a wax cast of an ancient portrait, built around a plaster core. Its original is a marble portrait of the Seleucid king Antiochus III (223-187 BCE), itself a Roman copy of an earlier original. The wax cast is a transitional object in the lost-wax method of casting bronze sculpture and would normally be consumed in the process. Pliny provides crucial information about ancient uses of this technique, crediting Lysistratus of Sicyon, brother of the fourth century BCE sculptor Lysippus, as “the first person who modeled a likeness in plaster of a human being from the living face itself, and established the method of pouring wax into this plaster mold and then making final corrections on the wax cast” (35.153). Pliny suggests that wax casts made directly from human bodies could then be altered to create different visual effects. Surviving bronzes suggest that this technique of replication and modification was used by Greco-Roman sculptors to create multiple variations on a theme. Beeswax was fundamental to this process, its malleability allowing for both precise reproduction and subtle refinement. Although there is little evidence for ancient casting from life, the “veristic” style of Hellenistic and Republican Roman portraits such as this head of Antiochus certainly project the idea of fidelity to their human models. As such, they also resonate with Pliny’s discussion of the wax masks of family ancestors (imagines) that were displayed in Roman aristocratic houses and carried in funeral processions. (Verity J. Platt, “Wonder and Wakefulness: The Nature of Pliny the Elder,” exhibition organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, curated by Andrew C. Weislogel and Verity J. Platt, presented at the Johnson Museum January 21–June 11, 2023)

Discover More

Create an account

Please take a moment to fill your information to create your account.

Reset Password

Lost your password? Please enter your email address. You will receive mail with link to set new password.

Save Artwork

Save the artwork in any of your exhibitions or create a new one.

You have not made any exhibitions.

Create New Exhibition

Create New Exhibition