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Michelangelo Madonna Child

Pitti Tondo
Michelangelo 1503
Bargello, Florence

Michelangelo's Pitti Tondo | John Robinson

Inspection time

Winter had come before we received word from Josef saying that the wax was ready for inspection. My son Peter and I set off together well rugged up for our trip to the heart of frozen Eastern Europe with thoughts of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow swirling around in our heads like snow in a blizzard. To our surprise when we landed in Prague we found a beautiful sunny afternoon with the thermometer standing at 70 degrees!

Viewing the waxes

The sun was setting by the time we had arrived at Josef’s studio two hours later. He and his wife are in the process of renovating an old farmhouse, one room of which acts as a studio in the winter. He had made two wax casts of the Tondo just in case of a mistake, one of bees wax and one of a mixture of bees wax and resin, the later being better for lost wax casting. The addition of resin strengthens the bees wax and although a very effective technique it makes the wax very hard to carve, so I wondered how I would get on. Putting all that out of my mind we went out to dinner to celebrate Josef’s success.

Carving the wax

Peter and I were up early as we were dying to see the wax in the daylight. The morning was bright with not a breath of wind. Joseph set up a table in the yard so we could inspect the waxes in the sunlight and I started to carve the hard resin wax. As I had expected it was difficult to carve but eventually, using some soft beeswax to build up the damaged areas, I got the job done. In comparison the soft beeswax cast was a dream to work on and was finished in a few minutes. In case Joseph had to correct any errors that might appear in the sand mould when he melts the wax out I had brought over a plaster cast of the eyes I had carved into the marble Tondo.

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