If we are to believe the ancient writers, bronze was by far the most important medium of sculpture in classical antiquity. Bronzes covered a wide range of periods and cultures, depicting the hieratic and the comic, myths and scenes from daily life. This book contains the record of a symposium held in connection with the first international exhibition of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman bronze sculpture held at the Fogg Art Museum in 1967. The project was a joint endeavor of neighboring institutions Harvard and M.I.T. to meld the “two worlds” of art historian and technologist to such an extent that each might come to understand the basic methodologies of the other. The book is organized so that the m ore technical chapters precede those with an art-historical bent. Summaries of symposium discussions and introductions to each section have been carefully prepared by the editors in an attempt to interrelate the papers and to raise some broader questions for future study.
Arts is in intimate and continual contact with technology, writes Cyril Stanley Smith; technical examination of a work of art brings the viewer into contact with the object's background and with the shaping processes used by the artist. Arthur Steinberg points out that it is equally important to view a particular technology in its cultural context, to determine ancient industrial practices and the relation of the technology to ancient societies. The chapters in Part 1 discuss and summarize some of the most compelling problems encountered in the effort of scientists, art historians, and archaeologists to comprehend the technological context in which ancient bronzes – implements, vessels, armor, and large and small statues – were produced. Specific areas of investigation are bronze joining, chemical analysis of Greek and Roman statuary bronzes, the corrosion products of bronzes (patinas), the mechanics of corrosion, and the conservation of art objects. In a more general sense, these chapters illustrate the trend of co-operation of archaeologists with chemists, geologists, physicists, metallurgists, mineralogists, and conservators to analyze and interpret their finds.
Chapters in Part 2 are concerned with Oriental and Orientalizing bronzes. Contributors raise questions as to the transmission or diffusion of subjects as to the transmission of diffusion of subjects, motifs, and techniques from one culture to another; how these elements were passed on, by whom, and why.
Part 3 considers votive and decorative Roman and Etruscan bronzes, raising some complicated aesthetic and technological questions as to why these bronzes have been judged “second rate” adaptations of Greek prototypes. Chapters in this section reassess the bronzes in terms of their function, the market, and the workshop, suggesting that these pieces fulfilled certain specific requirements of the culture that produced them. The book's last section contains reflections on the decline, survival, and revival of ancient bronzes; why they are collected and how they may be authenticated.