Rome and its silver waters  home

Enamoured througth the centuries with its water supply ,which it enjoyed thanks to its aqueducts, Rome celebrated it with its baths and fountains. The latter, first leaning against the walls or placed at the corner of street and palaces, were destined to alleviate the thirst of wayfarers or all those who had no water in their homes. Later ,they grew in size and splendor of shapes until they became veritable monuments.In them for an admirable syncretism of architetture ,sculpture and fresh concert of sounds the noble spirit af eternal city is mirrored and turned into an echo of history,a reflection of beauty always renewed and varied.With the advent of Renaissance and gradually with the succession of later epochs, external magnificenze entered the palaces. It was transferred from the squares to courtyards and terraces, from balconies to banquet halls, finally landing on the tables. The fountain,translated into masterpeses of chiseling andd sculpture, nade presious by silver or gold, embellished by rare gens, became a table ornament. It illuminated the food; it regaled the guest with the silent suggestiveness the water. Thus the openair "theaters of water" came to occupy domestic indoor spaces.  (Vincenzo  Labella)

This is an example of our creation: the translation of a Roman fountain into a silver miniature of it. We shall explain to you the varius phases of our work.

We start, as with any creative process,from a drawing which studies and establishes the proportion of the components. First among these is the basin .Then comes the Rock on which these tritons are to rest.And,lastly, on the very top, the cup or bowl.

        

 

To construct the basin we begin by tracing the negative profile of framework -or MODINE- on a silver plate about 1/2 millimeter

The MODINE is made to slide along a template obtained from the octagonal plan of the basin.In this manner a positive framework is set in the not yet solidified plaster.Once the plaster has grown hard,the two ends are butted,thus creating the model of one of the basin's eight sides.

                      

Once we shape the clay model of the rock ,which is freeexpression of creatice fancy very popular among sculptors of the seventeen hundreds,we proceed to cast a so called lost mold in order to turn the clay model into plaster. Here the clay model is divided into two parts by thin copper plates.

We pour the plaster onto one of the parts.Then,once plaster has hardened,we remove the plates.

We complete the mold by working on the other part.We will have taken care of wetting with a ligth layer of oil the side of the plaster that comes into contact with the clay,to facilitate the subsequent detachment.We open the mold and free it of the clay.Then we wet it oil before closing it again.Finally we pour plaster in it till it is filled.

We extract the negative mold we have thus obtained,breaking it with a little chisel(2),playing attention not damage the work.With equal caution we shall proceed to work the plaster so as to obtain particular effects which are impossible to be archieved in clay

  (2)  

The figures of the tritons represent the most engaging part of the work,both for their expressive function and for difficulties inherent in the representation of the nude,traditionally a limit that distinguishes the artist from decorator.To mold the figures we shall use beeswax,a modeling material chosen for its property of softening under heat.

                                                     

The cup ,or bowl,has been molded in clay,another ductile material which allows the rapid modeling of sizeable volumes.A procedure similar to the one we used to turn the rock fron clay to plaster,allows us to obtain from a negative mold the wax model of the cup.

Whith this last passage,we have completed the series of the various pieces that compose the work.Here we see them all assembled so that we can verify their proportions and the overall effect.

  

                                                                  THE FORMS

The negative molds allow us to obtain from them positive forms of a thickness fit for the "lost wax" fusion. These forms will permit thepreservation through the years of faithful molds of the original creative models.

We begin with the mold of the basin which is executed in plaster.Let us observe this component as it is prepared to be processed.In order to detach plaster from plaster we use spray silicone or gasoline in which a small quantity of wax or a few drops of oil have been dissolved.

The process begins with the making of the two side dowels and of the"mother mold" that enclosed them.The dowels serve to extract the negative mold of the model ,and then of the waxes neededfor its fusion

                                                                       

The first dowel ,as we can see, has been worked so as to transform its perpendicular side into an oblique one.Let us observe the second dovel.

 

Then observe the two dowels that have been detached, so that we can understand their function. Lastly ,let us see them applied to the sides of model now entirely covered by the "mother form"

              

The model has been extracted, together with the dowels which, thanks to their oblique side, have facilitated its exit.

To mold the cup, or bowl,we have chosen silicone ,a substance easily employed and therefore suitable to make technical process understood.In effect,silicone,is a liquid chemical substance which,combined in a certain percentage with anotherchemical becomes rubbery,thus making the use dowels unnecessary.Furthermore ,being both detachable and resistant to heat, it separates very well from plaster and wax ,even when the latter is very hot.

In sequence ,let us observe the model of the top bowl,first,as it is ready to be worked and then covered with a uniform thickness of clay upon which we shall build a "mother mold" or plaster

   

Once the plaster has hardened, let us open the mold and free it from the clay.

In the void that has been created between the model and the "mother mold", let us introduce through some injection channels the liquid silicone compound that 4 or 5 hours ,willassume a rubbery consistency.

  

Let us repeat the same procedure with the part of our work we have called "rock".Let us observe, in sequence one half of the rock first as it is readied,then covered with a uniform thickness of clay.After having constructed the "mother mold" and taken away the wax ,let us pour in the silicone.And now ,after having removed the model ,here is the complete negative mold of the rock ,lined up near the negative molds of the "tritons" and the "bowl".

                                                                          THE WAXES

It is now necessary to obtain an empty imprint of positive wax.It is a very thin layer of beeswax, of a minimum thickness of 2 miilimeters.The perfecft execution of this phase is essential for a good result of the subsequent fusion in silver.Let us then start with the "basin" which ,being cast in plaster,must be wet with a light layer of oil in the parts that will come in contact with the wax heated to 60 degrees centigrade:this precautionn will not be needed for the silicone mold,the latter being as we have said resistant to heat and able to be detached with relative ease.

Let us pour wax into the mold,accurately checjing the thickness of the imprint that will result.

In this particular operation ,the only valid criterion comes from experience ,as it is impossible to use measuring instruments. Only the eye of the artist can judge.

Now let us free the mold from the superfluous.

 

 

In sequence, we see the emptied mold, in which the wax imprint is a thin film adhering to the walls

Once extracted from the mold ,this imprint will become the starting element in costruction of octagon that will serve as the basin of the work.

Let us proceed with a similar operation for the negative mold of the rock.

 

Once we have removed the superfluous ,always watching the level of thikness of the wax that is becoming solid along the walls,let us open the mold to extract from it the wax imprint ready for the fusion,let us repeat an identical operation to obtain the wax imporints of the Tritons and the Bowl .

       

Here we see assemled ,the wax imprints of all the parts ready for the fusion in silver.The coloration of the wax is selective.Our workshop,following an ancient tradition,uses only cinnabar to color the wax of the basin the rock and the bowl. As to the nude figures of tritons we leave the wax its natural color.

                                                                   THE FUSION

The metal fusion,so called by "lost wax", follows a very ancient technique which permits the trasformation of a wax cast into gold, silver or bronze.Let us see the various phases of this method as they performed according to am updated process.Let us take as an example the wax cast of the rock .In the lower section we notice a truncated cone from which at first ,the wax will flow out.Into this so called "gate" the metal will subsequently be poured.On this same cone,wax-teeming nozzles will be fixed by heating the points of attachament with an iron.Then followinga more advanced technological method,we place the cast inside one of two special metal cylinders.

 

Here we observe a few instruments that will be used to fill the cylinder containing the wax, with a special compound traditionally made up of one gypsum and three parts brick powder.In a container we pour water, accurately measured out,we add to it gypsum until we see it come afloat.

Then after having amalgamated it and poured it into the cylinder (paying attention that it does

solidify)

 

we place the cylinder under a glass bell, creating a vacuum by means of a pump.

Thus we facilitate the release of air caught in the plaster which could cause troublesome bubbles.This process allows the liquid plaster to fill the inside of the mold totally and perfectly thus becoming what we call the "soul" of it.

Another structure ,equipped whit a lid, shall create a closed space inside which the vapor produced by the bolling water will reach a temperature of one hundred degrees centigrade ,causing the wax(which melts at sixty degrees) to come out of the plaster, settling

in the water below

. 

The cylinders,extracted from the wax dripper, will be placed in an oven and brought to a temperature of eight hundred degrees centigrade to be dehydrated before receiving the metal casting.

After lowering the temperature to four hundred degree, the cylinders will taken out so that the silver may be poured into it.

      Successively, the cylinders must be inserted into an apparatus called "vacuum

".

 

This is composed of cubic structure inside which is a section tube ,and of an upper cylinder.Once set in action,the pump will create a vacuum inside this cylinder .In its center we will notice a chamber on the bottom of which is a valve that is operated by an outside pedal.

  

The cylinder is placed in its seating ,which prevents air from entering.

After a thorough chek,we start the pump by pressing this red button and stopping it ,by pressing the blak button,at the level that corresponds to the pre-established vaccum gaunge value.

 

Now .we begin the fusion of silver, we take the crucuble placed in a gas and fourced air cylindrical oven

Once we have fused the silver ,we take the crucible out of the oven,with an appropriate instrument, bringing it close to the cylinder that is destined to receive the pouring.

Due to specific property of silver ,for a perfect result the mold reach the temperature of about four hundred degrees centigrade, measured by the oven's pyrometer.As to the temperature of the metal itself, it must at this moment be at almost nine hundred degrees. The determination of this allimpostant factor can and must be entrusted solely to the master's experienced eye.

He will calculate it by observing the color of the metal.This extremely delicate phase is well manifested by these two images:in the instant that precedes the pouring,we depress the pedal that opens the valve in the chamber at the bottom of the cylinder.

                

 The liquid silver is thus sucked into the moldd's vacuum filling it in all its parts.

A water jet will easily set the mold free of the dehydrated plaster.Once we take away the cylinder,it is luminously evident that the master's effort has been rewarded by a perfect fusion.Carrying on with the same dedication and an equal technical mastyery ,we shall see the various other parts of the work being turned from wax to silver.

  

                                                                                 The CHISEL

The verb to chisel is commonly used to describe an operation meant to achieve precision and refined beauty. It comes from chisel an instrument whisc, in tens of different sizes, and with the help of another very small tool called "uphand hammer" ,serves to soften, diminish or exalt,enhance or overshadow, the shapes that the metal has achieved due to sculptor's work.

Thanks to the chisel ,materials already splendid like gold and silver(and with them no less prized bronze)achieve preciousness of relief and decoration worthy of begin compared to masterpieces of jewelry.

Every true artist makes his own Chisel ,thus giving his work characteristics of individual identity, in accordance with ancient tradition that still today allow us to distinguis and recognize the Florentine school from the Roman ,French ,Flemish or Germany ones.

To make a Chisel we use a square bar with a side varying from 3 to 12 millimeters, according to the requirements and peculiarities of the work to be executed. With a HACKSAW we separate a 10 millimeters segment from the bar.Working with adeguate files we give the chisel the desired shape and its precise instrumental identity.

  

We may,for reasons of simplification ,divide the chisel in categories,which we see here represented from left to right:

These are the PROFILE TOOLS which serve to trace lines.They may be straight ,thinner or thicker, and of  various curvatures.

  

Then the PLANERS : by beating on the metal they perfect its surfaces and moldings . they are smooth or skinlike. The latter have a granularity of metallic composition that assimilates them to skin and are particularly useful to give a touch of verism to the modeling of nudes.

then: The BACKGROUND PLANERS which posses a thick metallic grain .When beaten on the background of relifes they add perspective depth to the modeling.

and: Thwe RULERS which serve to trace a series of fine and extremely fine parallel lines,useful to represent hairdos, manes and anything else that needs an almost microscopic figurative rendition

The HORSE SADDLE chisels, in their various sizes,add sharpness to rounded surfaces or relifes,like tree branches, foliage ,leaves,fingers,toes muscles, etc.

The so called FAVETTE ,chisel ending in almondd shaped points are utilized to obtain intense light and shade effects.

Now we see the preparation of the material which is necessary to fill the interior vacuum of any precious metal object that one wishes to chisel.Given the lightness of gold and silver .the filling is indispensable in order to absorb the beating of chisel ,even though hese are applied with the utmost scruple and dexterity of hand. For this particular porpose we use a humble and unattractive compound of one dose of Greek pitch,with a third of a dose of bitumen, one half of plaster ,with a tenth of grease added.

Once the pitch compound is poured into the vacuum of the molds and left to solidify,the object will be ready for the operations of chiseling.

In these sequences ,we observe the chiseler at work and we can appreciate the contribution of perfecting and embellishing that is due to the artist's ability and experience.

 

                                                                       

Polishing the object with a soft-cloth wheel exalts the luster peculiar of silver.

For the costruction of the basin one does not need chiseling.It is exeuted with compass and files,in a well-ordered ,simple sequence of quasi-mechanical operation.The headers are shaped to be inserted following the line of the radius.

The elements that compose the basin are assembled,welded and finally polished.

 

A perfectly flat slate, fixed by four small dice on sxcrew pins,will serve as a base for the object.On this slate we imprint the trademarks that declare the name surname, paternity and ,so to speak,the DNA of the work itself.

      

These are the three marks:

The first ,obligatory by law, identifies the place and the registered number of the workshop,a datum supplied by the State authority to those who are authorized to work precious metal.

The secon ,also mandatory by law , attest to the title of the metal ,an information which specifies the purity of the precious metal.�

The third is the symbol or ensignia of the workshop and represents its registered and affirmed tradition.

                                                                     THE FINAL ASSEMBLAGE

As we have already seen,for pratical reasons of execution and polishing,the work has been divided into four elements: the basin ,the rock, the figures of tritons, and the bowl.

A single screw pin will fix the bowl and the tritons to the rock.Two pins will join these three elements to the basin.

 

At last the work has been accomplished .We see it, in its silvered rendition, firmly set on its olive-wood base,just released from the cradle of our workshop...

                

...and now mirrored in its full-scale shape of monumental fountain .in the Roman square of the Bocca della Verit�, the Mouth of Truth, where Carlo Bizzaccheri erected in 1717 and whence in was translated into thi silver miniature ,mute of water yet eloquent of light.