One of the easiest and best materials for an artist to work with is Bronze. Bronze is an alloy, a mix of two metals, mainly Copper and a bit of Tin which makes it a beautiful material to work with for any artistic sculpture as it is so malleable and amenable to moulding work. The hot metal is poured into terracotta moulds or more modern moulds of thick heat resistant compound rubber and traditional plaster. In the past this plaster was coated over the subject after death of a person or with air holes if they were still alive so as to get a perfect likeness. This plaster was set then baked to hardness and the bronze poured in and allowed to cool. Animals were also popular subjects with the animals created to likeness within the plaster from the artist’s memory, sketches and skilled hand. Some wonderful new examples can be seen with the Bronze Wildlife sculptures from Gill Parker but let’s also look at where the art began. Let’s go back to Ancient Greece
The classical world, being one of heroes and heroines of great renown needed to have a medium to fully show off their talents. From 1200 BC we can start to see the appearance of these fine figures. Previously the original standbys of the sculpting world were the favourites of Terracotta and Marble. Whilst terracotta was quite hard wearing and marble gleamed in the sun they did have a tendency to break easily if there were any parts poking out. Arms holding Swords, A God pointing at something in the distance or the paws of Lions sticking out were liable to be easily damaged and they did not have an equivalent of No more nails back then to attach them back on. Bronze had a major advantage in that there was no way an arm was going to go under the intense sun or by accident.
It was lighter to use than the clay or the stone as it could be moulded hollow. Weights were added to keep it down on the pedestal but when they were up, they were up. This gave the artists the chance to make racier depictions of the human form as the metal allowed you greater emphasis on certain areas with minimal work. Hollow metal casting took several generations to perfect and it was a bit of stretch to ask the local dignitaries if they could use the bronze for a solid statue as it was considered very valuable. This is why such examples from antiquity can be rare. It was not uncommon for rampaging hordes or even the locals themselves to pull down the statue and turn it into armour or weapons. Once the hollow casting was established the age of the bronze sculpture and statue was put into overdrive and there are many fine examples still in existence to day.