Friday 26 October 2012


Bronze, at the Royal Academy of Arts.

A hugely ambitious project, Bronze tells the 6,000-year-old story of bronze as an artistic material: national treasures from the classical period to the present day, and from disparate cultures around the world, have been brought together comprising 177 works of art from 98 lenders. The earliest pieces in the show date from around 3,700 BC and the latest from 2012.

One of the many appeals of bronze to artists is that it can take exceptionally fine detail. Casting is not an easy process, but even so, by the 5th century BC bronze was already the preferred material for free-standing sculptures across the Greek world. They were made in huge numbers and yet very few remain: unlike marble statues, bronze ones were simply melted down and reused. Ironically, the best surviving bronzes are those that were lost at sea while being imported from Greece to Rome.

Dancing Satyr, believed to be the work of Praxiteles who was active in the second half of the 4th century BC

This is the first work you encounter, with a room all of its own, and is indisputably the star of the show.

The Satyr has his head thrown back in ecstasy - his alabaster eyes appear like two pinpoints of light in the dimly lit gallery. With only one limb intact, so that the satyr appears to be suspended in mid-air, the sculpture lay on the seabed for millennia and was recovered off the coast of Sicilly in 1998.

Perseus Standing on Top of Medusa at 12ft tall, this is the largest sculpture in the exhibition.

Head with Crown, 14/15th century, Ife, Nigeria

Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi, after Bernini, Damned Soul (Anima Damnata), 1705-07

Constantin Brancusi, Danaide, 1918

Ombra de la Sera, Etruscan Votive sculpture

I saw this from a distance and thought: Giacometti. But it is an Etruscan sculpture that dates back to the 2nd century BC and was the inspiration for most of Giacometti's work.

Alberto Giacometti, La Cage, 1950

Barbara Hepworth, Curved Form (Trevalgan), 1956

Henry Moore, Helmet Head, 1960

Louise Bourgeois, Spider

Tony Cragg, Points of View, 2007.


  1. I like the Hepworth, Moore and Giacometti, and the Etruscan sculpture is impressive. But the dancing Satyr is outstanding. Something special

    1. The Satyr is something special indeed and worth going to the exhibition just to see that.

      What was totally new for me was the wealth of Nigerian mediaeval bronzes that were exhibited - an amazing tradition that I knew nothing about.

  2. Yes, African art is largely ignored in conventional art history - as is African history in general.

  3. I notice you didn't publish the little willies...