A Damned Soul thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Europe 1600-1815, Room 7, The Sheikha Amna Bint Mohammed Al Thani Gallery

A Damned Soul

Relief
ca. 1700 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This wax is one of a pair, which may have been part of a larger group. Similar objects in the collection (A.19, 20, 21, 22-1982) also represent souls in Paradise, Purgatory and Hell. These highly realistic and dramatic wax tableaux served as ‘memento mori’, intended to inspire thoughts on mortality. Wax modelling had acquired a certain status by the sixteenth century, as it lends itself to the type of intricate workmanship on a small scale which can be seen in this object,and enhanced by the use of colour and texture to mimic flesh.

This wax is in the style of Gaetano Giulio Zumbo or Zummo (1656-1701), who was known for his expressiveness, as seen in this evocative image. Born in Syracuse to an impoverished aristocratic Sicilian family, the early life and training of Zumbo is shrouded in mystery. He spent time in Rome, Naples and Bologna, where his presence among circles of anatomists is recorded. In Bologna, he is thought to have been the first to propose using coloured wax for anatomical teaching models. From 1691 to 1695, he served Grand Duke Cosimo III and created his most famous teatrini (‘little theatres’), many of which were highly realistic and dramatic wax tableaux that served as ‘memento mori’ and intended to inspire thoughts on mortality (such as A.3-1966).


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Wax, on painted copper
Brief Description
Wax relief, in the style of Gaetano Giulio Zumbo, Italy, ca. 1670-1700.
Physical Description
This relief in coloured wax, which is set on a red glass ground with sloping side pieces of mirror glass, shows the head of a man in full face with open mouth and hair in disarray. In the lower front corners of the relief are two heads of devils with horns and protruding tongues amid flames made of splinters of mica.
Dimensions
  • Frame height: 11.5cm
  • Width: 10cm
  • Depth: 4cm
Measured by SCP (LS) and FTF (DH) on 13 December 2012 for 1600-1800 Project.
Marks and Inscriptions
'Wax. Illustrating Hell by Zumbo a Florentine Monk. One of the same on a large scale is in the Pitti Palace, Florence. Exhib. at Italn. Art Exhibn. From Propert Coll. Art 1903' (On a label on the back of the frame .)
Gallery Label
Waxes showing the fate of the soul These dramatic and highly realistic wax sculptures depict the possible fate of the immortal soul. According to Catholic doctrine, the soul is judged at death and sent to Heaven for eternal reward, Hell for eternal punishment, or Purgatory for a period of purifying repentance. These sculptures were probably for private devotion, a potent reminder of the terrifying fate of damnation and that time in Purgatory could be lessened through the prayers of the living. A Soul at Death About 1620–30 Italy (Naples) Possibly by Giovanni Bernardo Azzolino Coloured wax on painted glass Inscribed on the back of the frame in Latin ‘Death to the bad, life to the good’ Given by the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine Museum no. A.19-1982 A Damned Soul About 1700 Italy (Naples) In the style of Gaetano Giulio Zumbo Coloured wax on glass and painted copper, with mirror glass, quartz and mica Bequeathed by Lady de Gex Museum no. A.66-1938 A Blessed Soul About 1700 Italy (Naples) In the style of Gaetano Giulio Zumbo Coloured wax on glass and painted copper, with mirror glass, quartz and mica Bequeathed by Lady de Gex Museum no. A.65-1938 A Soul in Purgatory About 1620–30 Italy (Naples) Possibly by Giovanni Bernardo Azzolino Coloured wax on painted glass Inscribed on the back of the frame in Latin ‘Have mercy upon me' Given by the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine Museum no. A.20-1982(09.12.2015)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Lady de Gex
Object history
Bequeathed by Lady de Gex.
Production
In the style of Gaetano Giulio Zumbo (1656-1701).
Subjects depicted
Summary
This wax is one of a pair, which may have been part of a larger group. Similar objects in the collection (A.19, 20, 21, 22-1982) also represent souls in Paradise, Purgatory and Hell. These highly realistic and dramatic wax tableaux served as ‘memento mori’, intended to inspire thoughts on mortality. Wax modelling had acquired a certain status by the sixteenth century, as it lends itself to the type of intricate workmanship on a small scale which can be seen in this object,and enhanced by the use of colour and texture to mimic flesh.



This wax is in the style of Gaetano Giulio Zumbo or Zummo (1656-1701), who was known for his expressiveness, as seen in this evocative image. Born in Syracuse to an impoverished aristocratic Sicilian family, the early life and training of Zumbo is shrouded in mystery. He spent time in Rome, Naples and Bologna, where his presence among circles of anatomists is recorded. In Bologna, he is thought to have been the first to propose using coloured wax for anatomical teaching models. From 1691 to 1695, he served Grand Duke Cosimo III and created his most famous teatrini (‘little theatres’), many of which were highly realistic and dramatic wax tableaux that served as ‘memento mori’ and intended to inspire thoughts on mortality (such as A.3-1966).
Associated Object
A.65-1938 (Object)
Bibliographic References
  • cf. Finaldi, G. 'Giulio de Grazia: Medallist to the Spanish Viceroys of Naples', The Medal. no.24, Spring 1994, pp.3-7, fig. 2.
  • Pope-Hennessy, John. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1964. pp.633-4.
  • Panzanelli, Roberta (ed.), Ephemeral Bodies: Wax Sculpture and the Human Figure, , Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2008, 5, pp. 10-11.
Collection
Accession Number
A.66-1938

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record createdMarch 12, 2004
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