The history of bronze statuettes in the Middle Ages begins with the gradual abandonment of this minor art in the first centuries After Christ, followed by a slow return until the way was paved for a real revival in the Renaissance. In many respects the development is analogous to that of sculpture, reflecting in miniature the history of more monumental works; so that the two should be studied in relation to one another, in so far as the sculptors and bronze casters faced and solved their problems alike or altered their viewpoints with the shifting ideas of the times. In this way one appreciates more clearly certain changes from century to century in the types of bronzes, changes which otherwise Would be obscure.
The Romans were passionately fond of all sorts of figurines in bronze, the household gods in particular often being executed in this medium. Perhaps because of this association with image worship the early Christians, as followers of the new cult and imbued with the Near Eastern aversion to images, seldom had small statues in any medium, although a number of marble statues believed to represent Christ still exist. Among the rare examples of the art from the beginning of the first millenium are a St. Peter now in Berlin and a seated man in the British Museum, both transitional in type with modelling already beginning to be formalized, the same tendency which appears in the marble statue of Christ in the Museo Kircherano in Rome. Beautiful bronze lamps, frequently with animals for decoration, were numerous during these same years and demonstrate that the art was not forgotten, but abandoned probably because of religious prejudices.
As far as the Christian East is concerned bronze statuettes ceased to be made during the iconoclastic controversy of the eighth century. In fact, Byzantine statues of any kind are practically unknown, their place having been taken by reliefs in marble, ivory or other materials. A few bronze plaquettes reflect this tendency, but they are rare and for the most part poor in contrast to the reliefs in ivory, steatite or bloodstone.
The West differed in its attitude toward statues, clinging to the old Latin fondness for sculpture in the round and being only slightly touched by the questions of the iconoclastic controversy. Charlemagne, in his desire for a Renaissance of culture, gave new life to the sculptural arts. Although the influence does not appear to have been widespread, bronze statuettes were made during from the Carlovingian Renaissance. Besides documents which speak of them, a statuette from the school of Metz actually exists in the Musée Carnavalet, an emperor on horseback, variously identified as Charles the Great and Charles the Bald. The inspiration for this statuette was no doubt the equestrian figure of Marcus Aurelius in Rome which stood all through the Middle Ages, a favorite sight with pilgrims who believed it represented Constantine the Great. In this instance, as in others, the Carlovingian Renaissance sought inspiration in Roman art as it was then known, giving us a figure of such