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 reflect 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 a 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 various surfaces have been applied to a variety of objects, including vessels, implements, portraits, animals, and figurines. The examples on display here document the worldwide attraction to this remarkable material from antiquity to the early twentieth century.