A Brief History of the Art in Bronze

Bronze has very deep roots in history

The creation of works of art in bronze is one of the most ancient and widespread art forms. For over 4,000 years, bronze has played an important role in art. Not only did the use of the material as a medium change the world of art, but bronze tools also revolutionized the arts of wood working and stone working. This metal served as a dynamic medium for artists that produced stunning works with details unseen in other mediums. The versatility of the material also made it possible for artists to quickly reproduce a piece or work of art. It is only recently that this beautiful material has been applied to the creation of memorial markers. For more on bronze headstones, please read our article, which provides many useful information and tips.

The use of bronze for statues, coins and decorative articles and even tools dates back to approximately 3000 B.C. Bronze working continued through the 10th and 11th centuries in China, India, Egypt, Greece, France, Germany and Italy.

Bronze was a prominent metal in Chinese art. The earliest Chinese works in any form are in bronze. There are numerous examples of bronze work from the 14th century B.C. Early Chinese bronzes are of great value for their aesthetic appeal, decoration, patina, beauty of form and for their documentary value as historical records. The lost-wax process was developed in China during the Shang Dynasty in 2000 B.C., also known as the 'Bronze Age'. Most Chinese bronzes were produced by the lost-wax method and inlay work was customary. Bronze figure casting began with Buddhism and starting in the Sun period (960-1279 A.D.), numerous bronze sculptures were created.

Bronze is a very easily personalizable materialOne of the most famous bronze sculptures, Artemesion Bronze, is estimated to be from around the 6th century, but the origin and artist of this amazing masterpiece is still unknown. What makes this bronze statue particularly intriguing is the fact that is was not discovered, but recovered from the sea in northern Euboea, meaning it was found in the water. This ancient statue used to have inset eyes, and other small parts, such as his eyebrows and lips. While most art historians assume the eyes were most likely inset with bone, in which case it is not surprising that the inset is no longer present, there is debate regarding what the other accents were inset with. Many believe the other features were inset with precious metals such as silver and copper. This is what makes this particular statue so fascinating, because if the small features were inset with other metals, you can see the durablity of bronze over time in comparison, as the statue, with the exception of the finish, is in nearly pristine shape. Almost every detail is as it would have been when it was first created, with the exception of the insets of course.

The Etruscans made extensive use of bronze and were highly skilled in its working. The Romans made considerable advances in the technical aspects of bronze casting - particularly the use of prefabricated parts and in methods of joining bronze castings. During the centuries between the fall of the Roman Empire and the first years of the Romanesque period (c. 1000 A.D.), stone was used more frequently than bronze for sculpture. The Carolinian Renaissance of the 9th century marked the return of bronze. In the 10th century, during the Ottoman Period, bronze was used extensively.

Bronze was primarily used for architectural features during the Renaissance in Italy. The future of bronze sculpture was greatly influenced in 1432 by Donatello's decision to cast his work of David in bronze. The statue of David was the first freestanding nude statue created since classical times. A school for bronze sculptors was established at Padua in the 15th century by followers of Donatello.

In France during the 16th century, bas-relief was the predominant form of bronze work. From 1400 to 1800 A.D., the Benin culture, which inhabited southern Nigeria, produced beautiful bronze ritual objects known as Benin bronzes. The 16th and 17th centuries were high points for bronze carving in west Africa. Bronze statuettes were abundant.

Gilt bronze was very popular in the late 17th and 18th centuries. In 1788, a process of founding with sand was invented in France which became as popular as the lost-wax method of hollow casting. In the 18th century, bronze sculpture was produced on a more modest scale. Antoine Louis Barye, a great animal sculptor, created some of the finest bronzes of the century.

The use of bronze in art declined during the 19th and 20th centuries. Direct carving became the preferred form in the early part of the 20th century. Today, cast bronze is unchallenged in the fine arts as a medium especially for freestanding sculpture. The durability and lightness of bronze make it preferable to stone or wood in many types of work. Bronze sculpture offers a freedom of conception, which is impossible in stone.

While bronze has long held a main staple in the art community, it has only recently been utilized to craft impressive and unforgettable grave markers, or headstones. Bronze grave markers pair very nicely with granite, to create a neat and aesthetically appealing look that is quickly becoming a tradition in itself. For more information on the granite that is available for these elegant memorials, please visit our Qualities of Granite article.

The beautiful bronze memorials presented by are created by one of the top two memorial manufacturing companies in the United States, which helps ensure that the tribute will carry on the memory of a loved one for all eternity.

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