cire perdue (sēr pĕrdüˈ) [key] [Fr., = lost wax], sculptural process of metal casting that may be used for hollow and solid casting. The sculptor makes a model in plaster or clay that is then coated with wax. This model is then covered with a perforated plaster or clay mold. When heated, the mold will "lose" the wax (hence the name of the method) as it runs out of the holes in the plaster. Molten lead is then poured into the space formerly occupied by the wax. After the work cools, the sculptor breaks the mold, removes the plaster core, and files or polishes the metal product. One can also make hollow sculptures by piece-casting, which, as its name suggests, involves the construction of a work in pieces rather than as a whole. The most important advantage of the lost-wax method is that it eases the casting of a sculpture with elaborate curves. This method also has considerable disadvantages, such as the loss of the wax "original" and the failure of rapidly cooling molten metal to fill all of the space left by the removed wax. Donatello's David was made by the lost-wax method and, as a result, is full of patches. This method has been used for centuries in the great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Africa, China, and Greece.
See G. Pack, Jewelry Making by the Lost Wax Process (1968); H. Jackson, Lost Wax Bronze Casting (1972).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.