Around 40,000 years ago, our earliest ancestors began creating monuments and other sculpted figures. They used a variety of materials, including bone, antler, ivory, and stone.
Statues are still frequently in production today, often made from bronze, thanks to it’s beauty and durability.
Bronze in Artistic and Historical Contexts
Bronze has been a popular medium for the creation of art for centuries, however, the earliest bronze processed and cast by humans was used for the creation of tools and weaponry. This period of history is known as the Bronze Age.
The earliest known artistic uses of bronze have been traced to Asia where the technique known as lost-wax casting was used to create natural-looking pieces.
The Dawn of Bronze Statues
Currently located in modern-day Pakistan, the prehistoric Dancing Girl is the oldest bronze sculpture on record, measuring at only 10.5 cm. However, it was the Greeks who were first to create the life-sized Bronze statues for which they are so well known. Though the life-size Greek statues were beautiful and detailed, only a few remain today.
The Romans were a bit more successful in creating long-lasting Bronze sculptures, many of which you can still see today. They were commonly made to honor public figures, such as gods, politicians, and military leaders.
Life-size bronze sculpture progressed even further during the Renaissance. Thanks to advancements in casting techniques, artists inspired by the famous sculptures of Greece and Rome were able to create even more detail.
Bronze is cast in a few different ways and is typically blended with other alloys, such as arsenic or tin. For many ancient metalsmiths and artisans, the alloys used were simply whatever was available.
It took years of trial and error to narrow down the ideal percentages of alloys and bronze to use. Different casting processes can also create different types of distinctive bronze works.
Sand casting is the oldest method of bronze casting. It is still used today thanks to the ease with which custom shapes and details can be created.
Within a box or “flask,” artists and metalsmiths use sand to form a pattern. The sand is specialty hardened using a binding agent.
After the mold has cured, the pattern is removed. Molten bronze is then poured into the remaining shape. Once the bronze has cooled, the sand is removed and the sculptor adds the finishing touches.
Investment, or Lost-Wax, Casting
This method, used in the oldest bronze sculptures, involves creating a full-sized model of the sculpture itself. A wax mold is then cast from the model. A second mold was placed over the wax, to keep the molten metal from pouring down the sides.
Modern investment casting features passages to pour the liquid metal. The metal then cools and hardens, enabling the artist to remove the mold. Finally, they will file and polish any defects.
This method is typically not used for larger sculptures because of the cost associated. This method requires access to more metal, making it much more expensive.
With continuous casting, gravity is used to move the metal through the mold, creating a crisp end product without much resource loss.
The Modern Uses of Bronze
In the early days of the United States, citizens were unable to master the use of bronze due to limited technologies. However, as the U.S. rose to power during the mid-1800s, bronze statues were used to represent growing economic and technological influence.
Bronze art steadily rose in popularity and was frequently found in the homes and galleries of many types of collectors.
Though the “golden age” of bronze art may have been thousands of years ago, it remains relatively popular to this day and can be a wonderful reflection of personal style and values.
Bronze is also much easier to work with thanks to an abundance of metal boundaries and available materials. From small pieces, to life-size statues, to massive installations, bronze remains relevant today and is just as beautiful as it was thousands of years ago!
Create Your Own Bronze Collection
The display of Bronze statues doesn’t need to be limited to professional collectors or museum galleries. In fact, anyone can start a personal collection to transform the artistic presence of your home, office, or outdoor space.
Browse our wide collection or contact us to create the perfect custom bronze piece to reflect your individual style. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about the creation or installation of these fascinating works of art.