While the finest of the bronze sculptural tradition of India is to be found in temples of the South, the pieces curated here do a great job of conveying the workmanship and beauty of the skill of working with bronze. Bronze-sculpting began with the Pallava dynasty in the eighth century in the Tamil districts of Thanjavur and Tiruchirapalli but gained momentum under the patronage of the Chola dynasty in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Metal followed stone as a medium as the Pallavas came to power. Despite the period of classical sculpture having ended in the eighteenth century, to this day Tamil Nadu continues to produce superb bronze art in keeping with the eye-watering standards established by the forefathers of present-day sculptors.
When the Bronze Age was established, it became a highly appreciated
metal among people of that Age. Different human societies entered the Bronze
Age at different times. But most people claim that it was introduced during the
Mesopotamian Era (3300 BCE). It was simultaneously introduced to India around
the same time. During that era Bronze became a highly desired metal for
jewellery and continued to be utilised for making articles for various purposes
of daily use, such as utensils for cooking, eating, drinking, etc. Bronze is
one of the oldest and classiest metals for jewelry available in India. If one
goes by the historical evidence and artefacts, one can see that most of the
exquisite pieces of jewelry were made out of bronze.
The small bronze figurine of a ‘Dancing Girl’ in tribhanga posture found
from Mohenjo-Daro datable to 2500 BCE is the first of a long tradition of
making bronze sculptures. Since then, bronze sculptures and statuettes of
Buddhist, Hindu and Jain icons have been discovered from many regions of India
dating from the second century until the sixteenth century. A group of bronze
statuettes have been discovered from the archaeological excavation at Daimabad
(Maharashtra) datable to 1500 BCE. Most of these were used for ritual worship
and are characterised by exquisite beauty and aesthetic appeal. Interesting
images of Jain Tirthankaras have been discovered from Chausa, Bihar, belonging
to the Kushana Period during the second century CE. The hoard of bronzes
discovered in Akota near Vadodara established that bronze casting was practised
in Gujarat or western India between the sixth and ninth centuries. Among the
Pallava Period bronzes of the eighth century is the icon of Shiva seated in
ardhaparyanka asana (one leg kept dangling). The well-known dancing figure of
Shiva as Nataraja was evolved and fully developed during the Chola Period.
The Cholas popularised the use of Panchaloha in the making of bronze
statues. It is a mix of five alloys - brass, gold, copper, silver and zinc. The
five also represent the five elements that symbolically sanctify the cosmic
core of sacred images. Melted in the right proportion to form a shining metal,
this alloy has been the strong base for bronze statues. Another material used
is the Ashtadhatu which means 8 metals. It is an alloy of gold, silver, copper,
lead, tin, zinc, iron and antimony. Statues made of Ashtadhatu are considered
sacred and pure in India. Since ancient times, a craft associated with the
making of Ashtadhatu utensils for religious offerings, weddings and other
social ceremonies and even personal use, has existed in India.
Bronze sculpture can be cast using several different techniques.
The basic principle is applying molten bronze into a mould and leave it
to set, before removing the mould, chasing the finished piece (refining and
defining the object using a hammer) and applying a patina. The variation occurs in how the moulds are made exactly how the liquid
bronze is applied to the mould. By far the most common technique for producing
bronze sculptures is the ‘lost wax' method.
The lost-wax process also called cire-perdue involves several different
steps. First, a wax model of the image is made by the hand using pure beeswax
that has first been melted over an open fire and then strained through a fine
cloth into a basin of cold water. Here it solidifies immediately. It is then
pressed through a pichki or pharni — which squeezes the wax into a noodle-like
shape. These wax wires are then wound around to the shape of the entire image.
The image is now covered with a thick coating of paste, made of equal parts of
clay, sand and cow-dung. Into an opening on one side, a clay pot is fixed. In
this molten metal is poured. The weight of the metal to be used is ten times
that of wax. (The wax is weighed before starting the entire process.)
metal is largely scrap metal from broken pots and pans. While the molten metal
is poured into the clay pot, the clay-plastered model is exposed to firing. As
the wax inside melts, the metal flows down the channel and takes on the shape
of the wax image. The firing process is carried out almost like a religious
ritual and all the steps take place in dead silence. The image is later
chiselled with files to smoothen it and give it a finish. Casting a bronze
image is a painstaking task and demands a high degree of skill.
The cire-perdue method, popularly called the vanishing wax method, is
followed up with finishing sculptural touches, which means that the bronzes you
see on this page are the best of the model as well as carved. Besides a few
Buddhist and Jain images, bronze sculptures usually draw from the Hindu
pantheon, from handheld icons for home temples to larger-than-life sculptures
designed for the elaborate processions the South is famous for.
formed in all angles of view - the hallmark of quality bronze sculpting - an
unputdownable dynamism, a subtle tension of quivering balance, and unsurpassed
elegance characterise this thoughtfully curated collection.
Q1. What is bronze?
Bronze (पीतल) is a
mixture of copper and tin, with a higher composition of copper. The resultant
alloy has an earthy brown color and is considered one of the purest materials
in the Hindu dharma. It is employed in making idols of Hindu gods and
goddesses, articles of Puja, and other items which are used in the worship
Q2. What is Panchalogam?
or Panchaloha is a mixture of five (Pancha) metals (loha or lauha). It is
traditionally made by mixing gold, silver, brass, copper, and lead. Panchaloha
or Panchadhatu is used by the artists of Swamimalai (Tamil Nadu) to create
stunning Panchaloha icons.
Q3. Why do we use Panchalogam?
and religious experts hold the opinion that Panchaloha used in statues and
ornaments is one of the purest materials and causes a balance of life forces in
human beings. The five metals that constitute Panchaloha act upon these metals
present in the human body and cause a perfect balance that leads to peace, prosperity,
and growth in life.
Q4. How do you clean bronze statues?
is an alloy of copper with tin which makes it more resistant to decay, however,
now and then you can clean your bronze to make sure they retain its beauty. The
dust and dirt collected on the bronze statue should be cleaned with a soft
cotton cloth. If you want to have a better result, use oil such as olive or
coconut and rub it on the bronze statue.
wax and bronze polish is also advised for a distinctive finish on the bronze,
however one should not try to remove the greenish patina that grows on the
statue because it is a natural process in the aging of bronze and protects the
article while giving it an aesthetic antiquated look.
Q5. How can you tell the age of a bronze statue?
interacting with their natural and man-made environs, bronze statues and
articles made from bronze get a distinctive residue on their surface which is
called patina. Bronzes have a greenish patina on them which is the best way to
tell their age. This surface layer acts as a marker for a bronze statue’s age
and gives it an aesthetic appearance that is sought after by seasoned collectors.
long can a bronze statue last?
Bronze is an alloy of
copper and tin metals. In addition, it also contains some amounts of elements
such as aluminum, phosphorus, silicon, manganese, etc. These additions make
bronze harder than copper, another metal alloy. Due to its hardness and
corrosion-resistant properties, it has been extensively used in making strong
and exquisite statues since ancient times. The longevity of a bronze statue
depends upon many factors which include its proper care and maintenance. If
treated with care, bronze statues can easily last for many centuries.
is bronze a good material for statues?
Due to its unique
properties, bronze has always been the go-to metal alloy among skilled artisans
for making statues or
sculptures. It is a harder material than copper and is also
corrosion-resistant which makes it a suitable material for making statues and
figurines that will last for a long period. The reddish brown color with a tint
of gold shine on the surface appears extremely beautiful in bronze statues.
Q8. How do you maintain a bronze statue?
maintenance of a Bronze
statue prolongs its natural appearance. It is essential to clean it using a
soft cloth regularly in order to avoid the accumulation of dust on its surface.
Place the statue in an
area that is not much exposed to sunlight as it may fade its brilliant shine.
If you want to remove the tarnish or patina, apply clear wax or coconut oil all
over the statue using a clean cloth. Doing this once or twice a year, the
statue will retain its natural appearance.
Q9. Does bronze fade in the sun?
is known for its highly durable nature and has therefore extensively been used
in making statues and
sculptures from the ancient period. Although it is corrosion-resistant and
is said to withstand harsh weather conditions, it tends to lose its shiny
appearance due to sun rays. Therefore, it is not highly recommended to keep
Bronze statues in an area where there is full reach of sun rays.
Q10. What happens to Bronze statues over
is a powerful and strong metal alloy and is therefore extensively used in
making statues that will last for many centuries. The material does not corrode
and does not get damaged very easily. But over a period of time, the
reddish-gold color of a bronze statue
changes into a blackish appearance, and finally finishes with a tint of green
or brown color.
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