An Italian sculptor who came to Paris to work in 1884 and settled there in 1889, frequenting Rodin and Carrière, Medardo Rosso was a most unusual artist. He was unusual in his taste for wax, in his choice of subjects and in his treatment of surfaces.
He is the only sculptor to be connected with Impressionism as his work conveys the notion of something glimpsed indistinctly. Post 1906, he struggled to find a new approach in his work.
This strange piece is thought to represent the artist’s wife embracing their young son. The technical execution is typical of Rosso’s work: he poured liquid wax into the hollow of a plaster mould, doubtless created from a clay original. The wax shell thus formed was reinforced with plaster and a metal stem added so that it could be hung vertically, as Rosso intended it to be viewed. The marks of workmanship such as seams and drips are deliberately left visible, which was a highly innovative approach for the period.
The scene is difficult to read and is a long way from realism. The light plays on the transparencies and relief in the wax, thus giving the impression of an ephemeral fragment snatched from life, a moment of genuine happiness.