The present relief of a young man with his hair tied en queue
is a rare example of wax portraiture of a large size modelled in France in the late 18th
Displays of life-size wax figures and more common smaller, hand-held portraits were immensely popular in France from the second half of the 18th
century and the material provided a unique opportunity for artists to create extremely realistic images, underscored by the use of human hair and 18th century textiles.
The most celebrated of these artists was Philippe Curtius (Stockach 1737 – 1794 Paris), a German-born naturalized Frenchman. Curtius ran two salons with displays of wax figures, one on the Boulevard du Temple, the other at the Palais Royal. In addition to exhibiting likenesses of the most celebrated personalities of the period, Curtius was also commissioned to produce individual wax portraits of lesser nobility.
M. Poggesi, "The Anatomical Waxes of "La Specola," in La Specola: Anatomie in Wachs in Kontrast zu Bildern der modernen Medizin, P. Friess and S. Witzgall eds., Bonn, 2000, p.12-21;
M. Von During, M. Poggesi, G. Didi-Huberman, Encyclopaedia Anatomica, Museo La Specola Florence. Cologne, 2004