Master Bronzes: Selected from Museums and Collections in America; February, 1937, the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

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AN INTRODUCTION TO GREEK, ETRUSCAN
AND ROMAN BRONZES

The Greek, Etruscan, and Roman bronze sattuettes assembled in this exhibition include some of the best examples of ancient bronzes known. The majority (thirty out of thirty-six) are derived from the Museums of New York and Boston, both of which have exceptionally fine collections in this line. The showing therefore of selected specimen1 from these Museum is an important event. To see in one gallery the New York horse(No.81) disk-thrower (No. 82) and) the Boston Hermes (No. 69) and goat (No. 88 ) alongside tiptop work of other civilizations is an exceptional opportunity in the appreciation of art.

An exhibition of Greek bronze' statuettes is an exhibition of Greek sculpture in miniature. Bronze was a favorite material throughout antiquity and Greek artists chose it, often in preference to marble, for both full-size and small-scale work. But whereas the larger statues have mostly been melted down, bronze statuettes, votive and ornamental, have survived in large numbers. And so we obtain from them a more complete picture of Greek sculpture than is possible from any other source; for all the phases of Greek art from geometric to Roman times can here be adequately studied. Moreover bronze was a medium which exactly suited the temper of the Greek artist, especially in the earlier periods. Simplification, high finish, and delicate contour could be successfully combined in this hard yet sensitive material.

To visualize these bronzes as they were originally intended to be seen, we must imagine them as dedicatory offerings in shrines, as ornamental figures on utensils, and--at least in late Greek and Roman times--as single works of art in houses. Most of the statuettes were therefore composed to be seen from all sides, not like architectural sculptures from one side only. To appreciate them fully we must be able to turn them around, or walk round them, and watch the contours change. Also we must remember that the patina which now covers the surface of ancient bronzes is due to later atmospheric and chemical effects. Originally the bronzes were left in the golden tone of the metal and there was a play of reflected lights on the luminous surface. At least we may infer this from a study of the bronzes themselves and from statements by ancient writers. Thus, the fact that bronze mirrors--which must have been bright to serve for reflection--as well as weapons, tools, and surgical instruments are now covered with the same kind of patina as the statuettes, makes it likely that in the statuettes also the patina was a later addition. Some bronzes are decorated with other materials, for instance, niello and copper, the intention obviously being to make a contrast in colors; with the present dark tone of the bronze

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1
The choice was made by Mr. Washburn. It was determined not only by quality but also by preservation; only bronzes that could travel with reasonable safety were included.

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Master Bronzes: Selected from Museums and Collections in America; February, 1937, the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
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