Late 18th Century / Early 19th Century
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Plaster, raised pins, coloured to simulate terracotta
Height: 32 3/4 inches (83.5 centimetres)

Private Estate UK


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Full of elegance and liveliness, it conveys the consummate ability of the artist. Beautifully reinterpreting the portrait conventions inherited from eighteenth-century sculpture, Mozart is presented in a three-quarter view, his gaze turned. His wonderfully elaborate hair and the sweeping drapery reminds the viewer of the swagger of the previous century, as does the well-rendered folio and quill, giving the sitter a sensuous sophistication and conferring a sense of majesty appropriate of Mozart.

An exceptional, fine quality, mid-nineteenth century work, it bears nail heads and markings that apparently served as precise reference points for the sculptor. The nails are placed similar distances apart to determine the exact depth and spacing the sculptor needs to chisel. Nails are visual tools that help sculptors achieve the correct dimensions for the sculpture.For sculptors to get accurate pointing on their sculptures and depict their subjects realistically, many points have to be used. This is especially true for complicated sculptures, like life-sized sculptures of people.

If a sculptor were to just start on a stone block first and mess up, they would need to start from scratch. The block of stone would potentially be wasted. Once a plaster sculpture is completed, the dimensions are transferred from the plaster sculpture to the stone block with the pointing tool. The nail on the pointing tool is used as the pointer to get the reference distance so that depth is transferred correctly.

The pointing tool was perfected by the famous Italian sculptor Antonio Canova in the 1700s and used a nail as its main measurement mechanism. Plaster sculptures save sculptors from destroying valuable stone sculpting material like marble.