1437 | Florence

Man Made

How to cast bodies.

I inform you that you may mold and cast a man in one piece, like the many naked antique figures that we find. You must get a naked man or woman, and let the person stand upright in a sort of box or case, which will reach as high as the chin, and let the case be joined together.

Let a very thin copper plate be placed against the middle of the shoulders, beginning at the level of the ears down to the bottom of the case, and let it follow the outlines of the naked person’s body without hurting him, just not touching the flesh; and let this metal sheet be fixed in the corner where the case is joined together; and in this way, fix four sheets of metal going to the corners of the chest. Then grease the naked person, put him upright into the case; mix a quantity of plaster abundantly with tepid water, and take care to have an assistant with you; and while you pour the plaster in front of the man, let the assistant fill the back part at the same time, so that it may be filled to his throat; with regard to the face, you may do that another time. Let the plaster rest until it is quite stiff, then open the case where it is joined, insert tools and chisels into the corners where the copper or iron plates join the case, and open it like a nut, holding on either side the sides of the case with the mold you have made. Withdraw the naked person very gently from it; wash him carefully with clean water, for his flesh will be as red as a rose. And as when you mold the face, you may make a cast with any metal you please; but I recommend you to make it of wax, for this reason, that the mold may be broken without the figure sticking to it, and you may take away and add and make any repairs where the figure is defective. After this you may join the head on, and make a cast of the whole person. You may similarly cast any member separately, an arm, a hand, a foot, a leg, a bird, a beast, or any kind of animal or fish. But the animals must be dead, because they have neither the sense nor firmness to stand still.


Cennino Cennini

From The Craftsman’s Hand­book. A late Gothic painter, Cennini worked in the tradition of Giotto, though none of his paintings have survived. Other techniques he describes in The Craftsman’s Handook are how to “make a glue out of lime and cheese” and how to “fashion or cut out the stars and put them on the wall.” Cennini argued that painting, which he believed combines theory and imagination with physical skill, deserves an elevated place among human occupations.