Care of Your Bronze Sculpture
Patina refers to the colors of the surface of a bronze. The sculptor creates this color by applying chemicals on the sculpture with heat. Patina is also the natural reaction of bronze to atmospheric conditions, such as chemicals and humidity. To deter change in the patina, the artist or the foundry will protect the patina with coats of wax or a laquer. Because atmospheric elements constantly work on bronze surfaces after leaving the foundry, certain steps can be taken by the owner to preserve the original patina.
Care and Cleaning
The first caution is to do no harm. Display your bronze sculpture in a location that will best preserve it. Bronzes should be displayed in ventilated areas away from excessive heat and humidity. Attics and basements should be avoided. Keep your sculpture clean by dusting it with a soft cloth, soft shoe brush, toothbrush or the nozzle brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner. If de-greasing or heavier cleaning is required, test a small area first, cleaning it with a mild soap and distilled water. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry thoroughly.
Instead of using waxes or polishes that may contain cleaning agents, foundries recommend Johnson’s Traffic Wax, Mohawk Blue Label Paste Wax or Renaissance wax which is inert and will not yellow over time. A very thin, even coat of wax should be applied with a soft brush and buffed with a rag or soft bristle brush. Highly humid areas may call for more frequent applications. Allow the wax to sit and dry from six to twelve hours before polishing. A second coat of wax will add additional gloss if desired. There is no harm in waxing a sculpture more frequently.
Cleaning and Care Cautions
If, in the cleaning process you find special coatings or unusual varied patinas, take care to not alter the surface or remove coloring that could damage the future value of the bronze sculpture. Don’t use abrasive polishes, brushes or chemicals which could scratch the metal surface.
Some bronze owners prefer to let the wax coating wear thin and enjoy the natural reaction and aging process of the patina.
Bronze is an extremely hardy, durable metal, lasting for centuries! The patina is the most delicate part of your bronze. Contact a reputable gallery, foundry or professional conservator concerning significant changes to your bronze’s patina. In the meantime, enjoy your bronze as a beautiful work of art.
by Cynthia McBride