Bronze, the metal alloy – and the eponymous exhibition that celebrates its use in art, from antiquity to modern times – is a sheer wonder to behold. 150 works from Africa, Asia and Europe, spanning 6000 years are featured in the show at the Royal Academy in London.  The Chimera of Arezzo and the Sun-chariot of Trundholm, among other highly regarded treasures from antiquity are on exhibit together (!) alongside works by Adriaen de Vries, Loiuse Bourgeois … and apparently Leonado da Vinci, in what appears – despite the hype – to be a brazen attempt at being a truly landmark exhibition. The show, which is curated by David Ekserdjian, (a specialist in Italian Renaissance paintings…) will feature a large section devoted to working with bronze, and how it is made.

Ekserdjian tells the Guardian that “There is nobody in the world who has seen all of these things in the show” …  We, as lovers of all things Etruscan, have seen the Chimera – but some of the remarkable works from museums far far away, and some have been only recently discovered, like the severed head of King Seuthes III, which was unearthed just eight years ago. While European Bronzes – such as Giovanni Francesco Rustici’s ensemble of  “St John the Baptist preaching to a Levite and a Pharisee” (attributed by Vasari to Leonardo, in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects,) and the Hellenistic “Dancing Satyr,”  show off their shiny mettle, with raw power – more than half of the works in the exhibition come from Asia and Africa. The show, which has been accused, by some, of lacking a focus.  of being a bit of a mish-mash of works from here and there, also features famous modern works by Louise Bourgeois and Jasper Johns, in playful puns alongside the ancient pieces – we find the whole idea inspiring, really. Whatever the show may lack in cohesion it makes up for in sheer impact. Wikilpedia looks at the name’s origin:

The word bronze is borrowed from French: bronze, itself borrowed from Italian: bronzo(compare Medieval Latin: bronzium), whose origin is unclear. It might be connected withVenetian: bronza “glowing coals”, or German: Brunst “fire”, but it could equally go back to, or be influenced by, the Latin name Brundisium of the city of Brindisi (aes Brundusinum, meaning “copper of Brindisi”, is attested in Pliny). However, perhaps it is ultimately taken from the Persian word for brass, birinj.[2]

Mix soft copper and tin and get the tougher bronze, the first alloy of prehistoric man, Mix a bold curatorial stance with unique treasures from around the world, over 6000 years, and get Bronze, a celebration of the varied uses of the material from Classical antiquity to today. It’s an epic encounter with one of the metals that shaped humanity – and often delineate the boundries of man’s own idea of himself and his place in the world. We post a few more of the works on display, and invite you to share with us your opinion on the show.

We link to a BBC History Magazine photogallery with more pictures here.

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Bronze
Royal Academy of the Arts
From the 15 September until the 9th of December, 2012
Call for more info: 020 7300 8000
and visit the RA site to buy tickets.

royalacademy.org.uk

 

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