Sculptural encaustic, ganosis and ceroplastic in antiquity. The vanished vax

Charlotte Eschen
Education degree
School of Conservation
Study programme
Cross-disciplinary master programme

This thesis deals with sculptural encaustic, ganosis and ceroplastic in antiquity. On the basis of the literature, a study of the use of encaustic, ganosis and ceroplastic in antiquity are presented.

Examples are given of the description of the subject, from the written sources of antiquity, as the Natural History of Pliny the Elder, and from descriptions in the literature of wax finds from antiquity. When these descriptions are compared, it appears, that more of the finds of wax confirm the statement of the written sources. Examinations of the surface at sculptures from antiquity show that it contained wax, the wax was analysed using ATR-FTIR, one of these finds of wax is probable from the antiquity. The encaustic technique of six mummy portraits has been examined, the results show, that the wax is enable of being mixed with several colours and that the paint layers display toolmarks after course and soft brushes and after rounded and pointed hard tools. The technique was verified by own experiments, wax-colours were produced, and painting on paper, plaster casts and marble were performed using different tools and techniques. These experiments showed, that the marble has to be heated, before the first painting with melted wax is possible, it has to be encausted, hereafter this is not necessary. A method, which probable could have been used in antiquity for painting marble sculpture. FTIR-analyses of wax from one of the examined sculpture and from one mummy portrait showed a wax without the presence of free fatty acids. A punic wax without free fatty acid is produced, this wax is used together with beeswax and a mixture of beeswax and resin as ganosis in an outdoor experimental design on marble. The experiment shows that ganosis protect a paint with a gummy arabicum binder.

This thesis shows, that encaustic can be used on marble, that ganosis protects an outdoor painting on marble, and that it is possible to find wax from sculpture from antiquity. The written sources from antiquity report of the use of wax for sculpture, which is supported by finds of wax. The main conclusion is, that it is made probable, that wax is used to sculptural encaustic, ganosis and ceroplastic in antiquity and that the techniques used for marble sculpture have been an encausting, which following could be painted with melted coloured wax and worked with hard tools.