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Foundry Cast Bronze
This is the classic and most widely used material for metal sculptures. It is an alloy consisting primarily of copper with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals such as zinc and other elements such as silicon. Bronze is usually cast using the lost wax process in which a wax copy of the original is melted out of a ceramic shell encasing it and the void filled with molten bronze. This produces beautiful, high value artworks. They are heavy with a rich lustre and can be patinated with chemicals in numerous colours or classic black. These high end artworks are suitable for indoor or outdoor display.
Ageing and Oxidation
Bronze is a reactive metal which oxidises and changes colour in contact with air as well as the acids from our skin. Thus untreated bronzes will mark easily and over time to develop a deeper, richer colour in the same way a bright copper coin slowly becomes more chocolate in colour.
Patination uses bronze’s reactivity to add permanent colour to the surface with acids and other chemicals. The range of colours that can be achieved is huge. Waxing will also help maintain this colour indefinitely. For outdoor bronzes and untreated surface is desirable to allow the natural dark patina to develop with occasional tinges or verdigris green. Damp and marine environments will accelerate the ageing process.
To preserve the natural golden colour of untreated bronze it is necessary to apply several coats of lacquer to seal it and protect the surface from moisture and finger marks etc. This must be done immediately after finishing as the colour will begin to change within a few hours.
These are some of the common colours achievable by bronze patination:
The discovery of bronze in 4th millennium BC enabled people to create metal objects which were harder and more durable than previously possible. This period is known as the Bronze Age. Bronze tools, weapons, armour, and building materials such as decorative tiles were harder and more durable than their stone and copper predecessors.
Bronze statues were regarded as the highest form of sculpture in Ancient Greek art, though few have survived. Bronze was a valuable material in short supply in the Late Antique and medieval periods and the great majority of bronze sculptures were destroyed to reclaim the metal for weapons or new sculptures. Many of the most famous Greek bronze sculptures are known through Roman copies in marble, which were more likely to survive.
In antiquity many cultures produced artworks in bronze. For example in Africa the Kingdom of Benin stands out alongside Egyptian dynastic art, from which many small lost-wax bronze figurines survive. In Europe, Grecian bronzes, typically of figures from Greek mythology, were the first to be life-sized and have influenced figurative art ever since including the better known Roman bronzes. Chinese ritual bronzes particularly from the Shang dynasty are recognised as sophisticated ancient bronze works and the Chola dynasty represented the pinnacle of bronze casting in India. Bronze continues into modern times as one of the materials of choice for monumental statuary.