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Relief - A Damned Soul
  • A Damned Soul
    Zumbo, Gaetano Giulio, born 1656 - died 1701
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A Damned Soul

  • Object:

    Relief

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Zumbo, Gaetano Giulio, born 1656 - died 1701 (makers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wax, on painted copper

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Lady de Gex

  • Museum number:

    A.66-1938

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 7, The Sheikha Amna Bint Mohammed Al Thani Gallery, case CA18

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).

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.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)

Date

ca. 1700 (made)

Artist/maker

Zumbo, Gaetano Giulio, born 1656 - died 1701 (makers)

Materials and Techniques

Wax, on painted copper

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 .

Dimensions

Height: 11.5 cm Frame, Width: 10 cm, Depth: 4 cm

Object history note

Bequeathed by Lady de Gex.

Descriptive line

Wax relief, in the style of Gaetano Giulio Zumbo, Italy, ca. 1670-1700.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

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.

Labels and date

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]

Production Note

In the style of Gaetano Giulio Zumbo (1656-1701).

Materials

Wax; Copper

Techniques

Modelling; Painting

Subjects depicted

Hell; Man; Flames; Devil

Categories

Religion; Christianity; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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