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The Beauty of Bronze: Selections from the Hood Museum of Art

Hood Quarterly, winter 2013

Most museum installations present works of art that reflect the achievements of a particular culture, a defined period of time, or a specific theme. In The Beauty of Bronze, an array of disparate objects produced over the course of more than a thousand years in a single medium highlight a range of utilitarian forms and artistic designs produced either as multiple casts or as unique pieces. These sculptures showcase the universal allure of bronze for daily use, for devotional purposes, or for purely aesthetic appeal.

Bronze, a combination of copper, tin, and small amounts of other metals, has long been prized for its preciousness, endurance, and ability to register fine details and refl ect light. It is strong and durable, making it ideal for modeling expressive gestures, yet—in molten form—it is malleable enough to be suitable for creating intricate shapes. The term “bronze” is often used for other metals as well, including brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc.

There are two basic methods of casting bronze in order to make multiple versions of the same design. sand casting—developed in the early nineteenth century in europe—is a relatively simple and less expensive technique that relies upon disparate molds made of compacted fine-grained sand that allow for easy production and assembly. Traditional lost-wax casting uses wax models in two manners, or methods, both of which date from antiquity. In the “direct” method, the original wax model itself is used (and thereby destroyed); in the “indirect” method, reusable plaster molds are taken from the original wax model.

The medium’s intrinsic tensile strength and ability to render precise features and different surfaces have been applied to a variety of objects, including vessels, implements, portraits, animals, and figurines. The examples on display in this installation—from an ancient Chinese vessel to a thirteenth-century Indian sculpture, to eighteenth-century lost-wax models and the sculptures based on them, to the work of twentieth-century American artists—document the worldwide attraction to this remarkable material from antiquity to the early twentieth century.

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