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Bronze Sculpture - Material and Process

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Bronze is the most popular metal for cast metal sculptures; a cast-metal sculpture of bronze is often called a bronze. Common bronze alloys have the unusual and very desirable property of expanding slightly just before they set, thus filling the finest details of a mold.
The strength and lack of brittleness (ductility) of the material is an advantage when figures in action are to be created, especially when compared to various ceramic or stone materials (see marble sculpture for several examples). These qualities allow the creation of extended figures (as in Jeté), or figures that have small cross sections in their support (such as the equestrian statue of Richard the Lionheart), both shown to the right. The value of the bronze for other uses is disadvantageous to the preservation of bronze sculptures; few large ancient bronzes have survived as during wartime many were remelted to make weapons or to create new sculptures commemorating the victors, while a far larger portion of contemporary stone and ceramic sculptures have survived, even if only in fragments subsequently reassembled. 

The manufacture of bronzes is highly skilled work, and a number of distinct casting processes may be employed, including lost-wax casting (and its modern-day spin-off ceramic shell casting), sandcasting and centrifugal casting.

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