In the ancient times (namely the Greek Empire) artists had a problem. They had plenty of subject matter to choose from such as the rather exciting Gods such as Zeus and Athena or some of their many heroes such as Hercules and Achillies. Not only that, the Greek states such as Sparta and Athens were so powerful that they had quite a bit of surplus cash sloshing around that they were very keen to immortalise themselves and other family members. The only trouble was the material they had was sadly lacking. Stone was next to useless for anything other than Doric columns and although marble was attractive it was very expensive and would chip and break easily. As for wood, that was right out, as the empire would never fail and something long lasting was required. Enter the metal Bronze. Bronze was as it was a malleable metal. In fact, bronze is still used today by modern artists such as Gill Parker and her Bronze Horse Sculptures. Before we look at how the ancient Greeks did it why not visit http://www.gillparker.com/to get a modern perspective.
Bronze is an alloy. What’s an alloy? I hear you ask. It’s a mixture of pure original metals that are fused together to make a generally stronger material. Bronze is mainly copper that is super-heated until it is runny or to give it its proper term molten. Molten tin is then added with the magic ingredient of arsenic or the rather dangerous phosphorus. This give the chemical make up of molten bronze a lot easier to mould and when it cools down it is incredibly hard wearing. For the ancient artisan it was a godsend or godsend in this case. It meant that the artist could created a stone mould and put the liquid metal in. As long as they’d got the mould casting right they were fine.
Once the new material was unleashed on the artistic community they began to produce some of the most amazing pieces that had ever been seen. So, there were large sculptures of the gods being created that could be up in a much short space of time that traditional stone. It also saw the commercialisation of art for the first tie as artist could make several copies of the piece using the same mould. You did not have to be mega rich to have a small votive to Poseidon in your home which was very useful as the sea was very important to ancient Greece for trade so keeping in with the big man down below was very important. They soon moved on to horses and animals constructing very elaborate sculptures.
Unfortunately, we have lost many examples of this art form as the first thing that the bronze was needed for in times of war was armour and weapons. This meant most got melted down again to form instruments of war!