A Mythological Wax Relief by a German Female Artist

A Mythological Wax Relief by a German Female Artist

The episode featured in this elegant wax relief attributed to female artist Anna Maria Braun (Lyon 1642 – Frankfurt 1713) comes from the Greek myth of Zeus and Antiope. The maiden, daughter of King Nycteus of Thebes, is caught in a storm while riding on Mount Cithaeron and takes refuge in a cave, where she falls asleep. Zeus happens on her and falls in love, deciding to assume the appearance of a satyr to seduce her. The relief depicts the moment when Zeus finds the lovely Antiope asleep in the grotto, shown here (as often portrayed in paintings of the scene) by two drapes acting as backdrop and drawing attention to the sensual naked figure in the foreground, slumbering on plump cushions. Zeus, in the mid-ground accompanied by a second satyr, is bended onto his knees in contemplation of the maiden, absorbed and ready to launch his ‘amorous attack’. To the left of Zeus is a large marble fountain, while the background offers a landscape with an imposing building (indicating Thebes), a forest and the vague outline of two galleons. Above the scene looms a gloomy sky: heavy with thunderclouds, it recalls the storm of the myth.


A respected German wax modeller active during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Anna Maria Braun was renowned mainly for her portraits of illustrious members of the German and Dutch reigning families, as well as for re-proposing, again in wax, various episodes from Greek mythology, such as the one depicted here. Typical to her creations is the presence of curtains acting as theatre wings, very much evident in this work as in her portraits. Another of her traits is the inclusion of natural elements to heighten composition realism: in the case of our wax relief, a small real mother-of-pearl shell appears in the lower right-hand corner.

Anna Maria Braun (1642 -1713), attr.
Polychromed wax relief
Frankfurt (Germany), late 17th century
Cm 35 x 27 h

References: Christian Theuerkauff, «Historien, Sinnbilder» und Bildnisse von Anna Maria Braun (1642 -1713) – «eine im Wachs = poussiren unvergleichlich geübte Künstlerin», in Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen in Baden –Württemberg, Deutscher Kunstverlag München Berlin 2006, pp. 39-54.

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