Your Ultimate Guide to

Commissioning a Bronze Statue

In this article, we will review everything there is to know about bronze statues and cover the steps on how to commission custom sculptures, the history of bronze statues, and everything you need to know when creating a custom bronze commission.

Commissioning a custom statue is a way to bring class and affluence to a public or private space. Whether you want to commemorate a significant event or memorialize a special person, a custom bronze sculpture is an ideal way to pay tribute, either in private or public, like a sculpture park or garden.

While numerous people admire the finished monument, few people may understand the process that creates a custom, three-dimensional work of art. From conception to completion, the client (also known as the patron) and artist work together.

How to Commission a Piece of Custom Artwork

The process of commissioning a custom statue may include any of the following steps:

  • Choosing the artist or gallery
  • Holding several meetings with the artist (topics include reviewing themes and sketches, statue size, project budget, materials used, and projected deadline). For example, you may provide photographs to give the artist an idea of your overall style. You may also wish to consult with the artist about what metals make up bronze used – classic bronze is an alloy of copper with tin as the main additive, but silicon bronze is also a popular alloy used for modern sculptures.
  • Reviewing a clay model of the sculpture and providing necessary feedback
  • Sending the sculpture to the foundry for the casting process
  • Completion and professional installation of the bronze sculpture

This process allows a skilled artisan create a sculpture that represents your personal style or the character of your organization. In addition, the tensile strength and ductility of bronze enables the artist to incorporate the type of subtlety that would be harder with stone or marble. The following guide can help you make an informed decision in transforming any space for the better.

What is the price difference between a mass-produced sculpture and a custom sculpture?

The price difference between mass-produced sculptures and custom sculptures occurs due to significant differences in the design and production process. Mass-produced means that the manufacturer makes a standard size of a product in bulk quantity.

This standardization reduces overhead cost, and so mass-produced sculpture art tends to be cheaper for the customer. In contrast, a custom job requires artist time and talent, custom mold creation, and other unique attributes. This customization makes the statue more expensive to produce and results in a higher price.

The History of Bronze Statues

Ancient bronzes have an art history that dates back to around 4500 B.C.E. Around this time, civilizations in China and the Middle East began mining copper. While copper is a malleable and useful metal, these cultures found that using additives of tin or arsenic could make copper stronger. As a result, ancient metallurgists combined pure copper with other metals to produce the metal alloy bronze. This metal alloy became the chief material used for weapons, tools, and sculptures. Ancient bronzes became so ubiquitous in use that historians and anthropologists refer to this era as the Bronze Age.

4500 B.C.E

Archeologists have found bronze figurines and ax heads dating back to this time in Serbia. Cultures during this period began mixing copper with tin to produce bronze. Before this era, stone and clay were the most common materials used for weapons, tools, or statues. The bronze casting process meant that people could create more intricate shapes (and build better tools and statues)

3500 B.C.E

The use of bronze appeared in Sumeria and China

3000 B.C.E

At the height of the Early Bronze Age, Crete, ancient Greece, and other Mediterranean islands produced bronze statues consisting of around 90% copper and 10% arsenic additive. Unfortunately, this process led to arsenic poisoning in the ancient world. Within a few centuries, tin became the most crucial copper additive for making bronze.

2500 B.C.E

By this era, the Greeks’ bronze casting process became sophisticated enough to produce life-size bronze sculptures depicted gods and warfare. (An example of this human-scale bronze sculpture is the saltwater-preserved Victorious Youth statue that dates to the Classical Greece period). Sculptors also produced detailed figurines using the lost wax method or investment casting (such as the famous Dancing Girl of Mohenjodaro figurine made in Harappa, India.

2000 B.C.E

Bronze became the metal alloy of choice for instruments in Egypt and China. These instruments included bells and cymbals. Bronze became one of the essential metal alloys used for statues found alongside mummies in Egyptian tombs. Egyptians considered bronze to be the best material for cat statuary (animals that guarded owners into the afterlife). Similarly, Chinese sculptors during the Shang Dynasty era produced intricate bronze vessels for ceremonial use in tombs.

Although the Bronze Age ended around the first millennium B.C.E., this metal alloy remained essential to statutory and other uses. For example, the Chinese discovered gunpowder in A.D. 800 when royals discovered bronze’s low metal-on-metal friction in firearms. Bronze also became the official material used in third-place medals for Greek athletic competitions. Between the 14th and 19th centuries, the Kingdom of Benin produced some of the most famous bronze sculptures in the history of West Africa. European cities also experienced an upsurge in foundries in the 15th century (most notably Florence with the production of the works of Donatello).

Bronze remains one of the most important metals used in modern sculptures. If you are interested in what metals make up bronze in the modern art era, most contemporary statues consist of 90% bronze and a metal additive such as tin, aluminum, nickel, or zinc. Some sculptors opt for non-metal or metalloid additives such as phosphorus or silicon.

Three Factors to Consider When Creating a Custom Bronze Commission

Artist Time and Talent

A custom project requires payment for both the artist’s time and talent. You should draw comparisons from the artist’s standard rates, length of experience, and level of expertise. (An artist’s associated gallery may also help make suggestions on the required rates.) Big statues and more intricate sculptures may also increase pricing. Keep in mind that a foundry’s scheduling (existing projects or high-demand seasons) may also increase the price of a project.

Custom Mold Creation

Since your project is unique, it cannot use a cookie-cutter mold. A custom mold is a hollow frame or matrix made using a pattern or model of your final sculpture. For some projects, the cost of the mold can equal or exceed the bronze casting.

Cost of the Casting Itself

Casting is the process of delivering liquid or molten bronze into the custom mold to produce the desired shape. After delivering the metal into the custom mold, the factory lets the mold cool and then extracts the metal part (the casting). The modern casting process takes expertise and requires the right scheduling and fees. Casting methods include hot-cast bronze and resin casting.

How are bronze sculptures made?

The Step-By-Step Process of Making a Bronze Statue

Meetings

The client holds meetings with the artist to determine conception and design. Following the initial meeting, the bronze artist usually produces sketches or preliminary drawings for the project.

Materials Used

The client then decides which material best conceptualizes the design. Bronze is one of the most perennially popular materials that artists and estates choose. The artist can also produce a clay mold to help demonstrate the final product

Mini-Sculpture Model

In the last step for pre-production, the sculptor may also create a miniature model to give the client a three-dimensional preview of the final product. Some clients use plaque models to make changes or for fundraising and presentation purposes.

Creating the Backbone

Sculptors refer to the backbone of a bronze statue as the armature. It is a steel frame filled with foam that provides the outline or template for the final project. The sculptor then seals the armature with a latex coating before starting the sculpting project itself.

The Sculpting Process

This process begins when the sculptor applies hundreds of pounds of hot clay to the armature by hand. The clay blocks in the armature for the first time. With a painstaking process of adding, removing, and molding clay over time, the sculptor produces the final design. The artist then adds additional detailing until the sculpture is complete and ready to be molded and poure

Top Questions to Consider When Making a Commissioned Bronze Sculpture:

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the statue you want already exist?

If you have a general idea of the sculpture that you want, a sculpting business may have already created it. You may save yourself time by purchasing a sculpture from the existing inventory. However, if you envision a contemporary sculpture that is truly innovative and unique, you may need to commission a statue. Compare your ideas to existing figures and create a checklist. This can help you effectively communicate your desires to the artist of your choice.

What is your budget?

It is crucial to be clear about your budget from the beginning. This clarity enables artists to know what they have to work in terms of labor and materials. An artist can use this budget to give you a precise estimate or quote on the sculpture size and customization you can expect. Keep in mind that you should consider the costs of transportation to the display site and installation in addition to the down payment and labor payments.

If you have a low budget, the artist may be able to make suggestions or referrals to purchase an existing piece. The artist may also be able to offer a small discount for bulk orders or religious or non-profit organizations.

HOW QUICKLY WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR SCULPTURE TO BE MADE?

It is important to note that it takes time to achieve a custom sculpture. If you need a statue more quickly, you may wish to browse through a current selection. Custom sculptures can take a while. First, you must articulate your ideas to an artist. Creative individuals who know how to make a bronze piece need time and inspiration to bring your ideas to fruition. Depending on the size and complexity of the statue, this process can take months.

After the initial artist’s work, the sculpture has to undergo wax casting at the foundry. Since bronze foundries serve multiple contemporary artists and galleries, these factories often have a large backlog. Within the bronze foundry, artisans carefully create rubber molds to produce casting wax for the high-quality bronze casting. The rubber-mold process itself can take weeks (especially for a large statue). As you can see, the planning, casting, and sculpting process can take weeks or months to get exactly right.

What styles of sculpture do you like?

Hyperrealistic – Hyperrealistic art emulates a high-resolution photograph. Many individuals prefer this art form because it can bring life to their surroundings. Some of the most famous bronze sculptures include hyperrealistic military or memorial statues. If you like your artwork to feel like a snapshot or live-action moment, hyperrealistic art is an excellent choice for you.

Impressionistic – Impressionistic sculptures convey moods or archetypal concepts. This type of art can range from abstract to thematic. According to many reviews, the best way to describe impressionistic art is the visual depiction or interpretation of a dream. If you like artwork that captures the scope of an idea, then impressionistic may be for you.

Contemporary – Contemporary sculptures reflect current trends and concepts. This artwork can include modish, global, en vogue, or technologically advanced pieces. Bronze contemporary sculptures are a great way to give an area an up-to-date look using materials that will last a lifetime.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT WORKING DIRECTLY WITH AN ARTIST?

Contrary to popular belief, Lorem Ipsum is not simply random text. It has roots in a piece of classical Latin literature from 45 BC, making it over 2000 years old. Richard McClintock, a Latin professor at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, looked up one of the more obscure Latin words, consectetur

HAVE YOU TAKEN THE TIME TO VISIT AN ART GALLERY AND VIEW DIFFERENT SCULPTURES?

An art gallery represents a group of preeminent artists, and the gallery often represents current themes or trends of an art movement or era. Galleries also serve as the primary agents of the art industry. A gallery can recommend an artist for your project and help negotiate contracts and financial terms. Keep in mind the galleries can charge up to a 50% commission for their services. If you work with an artist directly, you should note that many artists keep their prices comparable to gallery rates to maintain the industry standard and avoid shortchanging professional relationships within the art field.

Large Bronze Sculpture vs. Small Bronze Sculpture

Artisans use unique techniques to create either large or small bronze sculptures. If you are wondering how bronze sculptures are made, the process differs depending on the size. For a large sculpture, an artist may need to create several small models to perfect the design and proportions. The artist may also need to make a larger intermediate model before creating the full-sized sculpture.

Keep in mind that bronze sculptures can appear smaller in person than in photographs or sketches because bronze is a darker material. Experts recommend adding 10% – 20% to the original size to retain the large appearance if you want a life-sized or large bronze sculpture to add to your collection.

Commissioning a bronze statue is a more detailed process than mere window shopping. Approaching the project with patience and willingness to work with an expert will help bring the sculpture of your dreams to fruition. For more information, contact us. We welcome inquiries on projects for commercial, public, and private sculptures.

How to Clean a Bronze Statue

There are several recommended ways to cleanse a bronze statue:

Coconut Oil

Polishing with an oil rich in natural fatty acids, like coconut oil, can help bronze retain its natural luster. Simply dab the oil on a clean cloth and polish your statue. This natural oil does not tarnish or discolor bronze.

Dish Soap

Prepare a solution of 2.0 cups distilled water and 1.0 tablespoon dish soap to remove dirt and grime from the statue lightly.

Dusting

Use a dry washcloth to dust the statue once a week. You can also use a soft-bristle brush on more intricate sculptures.

Lemon

Dip a lemon-half in salt and use it to rub the tarnished areas of a statue. Use a dry cloth to remove the remaining residue.

Vinegar Paste

Blend 1.0 tablespoon of vinegar, flour, and salt to create a small paste. Use the paste to clean tarnished portions of the bronze figure. Let sit for at least five minutes, and then wipe the mixture away with a damp washcloth. You can also use a dry cloth to polish the statue afterward.

Get Your Own Custom Quote

Find out how to get your own museum quality bronze sculpture from our premier artist.