Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, is a very versatile material. Over the centuries it has been used for everything from armour to aquamanile, from humble cooking pots to huge civic statues and from technical marvels to artistic masterpieces. This versatility is probably because a finished bronze piece is immensely strong but, as it is worked in molten form, it can be transformed into any number of things. The items below range from the functional – a pair of cannon, made for John Towlerton Leather, Middleton Hall, to the decorative – a beautifully worked casket shaped as a temple bell and a crayfish flower vase which combines both frivolity and usefulness.
The bell is a good example of the range of coloured decoration achieved by Japanese craftsmen by dint of inlay (here silver and gold) or patination (here the glossy black of the dragon). In Europe, especially in France, bronze was often gilded to produce ormolu. This could be applied lavishly to furniture as mounts for feet, edging and handles or, as in the clock set above, combined with natural bronze and coloured marble to create a tri-coloured composition.
By the 19th century mass production paved the way for a huge increase in three dimensional bronze sculptures. The lost-wax (cire-perdue) method of casting, in which the molten bronze is poured into a mould that has been created by a wax model, which in turn melts and drains away, enabled sculptors to model in terracotta, wax or wood. These works of art could then be reproduced by a foundry many times over. Above are detail from four portraits by Polish, Japanese and French workshops, all of which clearly illustrate the character, warmth, fluidity and detail achievable in bronze as opposed to marble or wood.
And another thing… our latest venture is bringing us to Chelsea where we have taken the lease on a small shop. We are sharing with picture dealer David Brooker and hope to open in time for Chelsea Flower Show. Invitations to follow.
Having previously supplied Harrods antiques department for 22 years, Charles Wallrock of Wick Antiques offers his expertise and professional knowledge to help you buy and sell your antiques.
Wick Antiques was established by Charles Wallrock in the early 1980s. Having grown up in the Antiques world Charles developed an extensive wealth of knowledge.