Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Austrian Bronze Dog Figurines

Bronze has been a favored medium for sculptors for centuries. Early methods of casting the metal into masterpieces involved the use of a sand-cast mold, which was an on-off approach. The later introduction of the lost wax process, not only allowed for finer details and more exotic shapes, but also made multiple copies of these figures and sculptures a reality.

In the latter part of the 19th century the world embraced the industrial revolution. The artistic world employed changes in technology as well. By adjusting the ratio of copper to tin in the bronze alloy, and using slightly thicker wax molds, the production of multiple copies of bronze items was extended beyond the relatively few copies made in the past, to multiple copies made in a modern production-like style. These bronzes still displayed the craftsmanship and design of the artists, but now more people could enjoy their works.

The craftsmen of Vienna have a long history of producing exquisite bronzes. From the great masterpieces of the Renaissance, to industrial production of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to the beauties of Art Nouveau, the straight forwardness of Arts & Crafts and geometric intricacies of Art Deco and Modern Art, the Austrians have remained at the top of the metalworking pyramid.

One fun collecting area is the wonderfully detailed bronze animal figures made in Austria. Most of these were made in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. Some were meticulous models of the animal form, others were whimsical anthropomorphic designs of animals in human situations. Many were built into utilitarian items, combined with inkwells, desk sets, vases and the like.
I love the small animals and recently acquired a nice little collection, mostly of dogs. These display a variety of finishes – some are wonderfully patinated, others cold-painted and some show a combination of both. Most of these are miniature figures, ranging anywhere from 1 3/4 inches tall to under 4 inches tall. These are now available online, or, as usual, in our shop in Los Gatos.

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