Archive | 2019
Casting Light on 20th-Century Parisian Artistic Bronze: Insights from Compositional Studies of Sculptures Using Hand-Held X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Paris was home to scores of bronze foundries making it the primary European center for the production of artistic bronzes, or bronzes d’art. These foundries were competitive, employing different casting methods—either lost-wax or sand casting—as well as closely guarded alloy and patina recipes. Recent studies have demonstrated that accurate measurements of the metal composition of these casts can provide art historians of early 20th-century bronze sculpture with a richer understanding of an object’s biography, and help answer questions about provenance and authenticity. In this paper, data from 171 20th-century bronzes from Parisian foundries are presented revealing diachronic aspects of foundry production, such as varying compositional ranges for sand casting and lost-wax casting. This new detailed knowledge of alloy composition is most illuminating when the interpretation of the data focuses on casts by a single artist and is embedded within a specific historical context. As a case study, compositional analyses were undertaken on a group of 20th-century posthumous bronze casts of painted, unbaked clay caricature portrait busts by Honore-Victorin Daumier (1808–1879).