The art of sculpture is rediscovered by every child who plays with plasticine. Its appeal probably lies, deeper than that of painting or drawing because by it we can represent things as they really are, not on the flat surface of paper or canvas, but in the actual forms they have in space. Almost certainly the first sculptors were imitators, making copies of things in nature; later came the idea of decorative sculpture with the carving of bone-handles of weapons, the trunks of trees, the walls of caves. More-advanced examples of the art were adornments of tombs and dwellings, monuments of people and events, and ornaments for parks and gardens. Many kinds of material have been used but the most common have been clay and wax, which can be shaped without using cutting-tools; wood, ivory, and stone, which must be cut; and bronze which when hot can be moulded to the shape of a pattern of clay or similar substance.
It is no uncommon sight to see a stone-carver at work, for wherever we five in this country we can find a monumental mason not far away. This method of carving is very simple, but not easy. The greatest sculptors who have worked with hard materials have used the same basic tools as the ordinary stone-carver. But have you wondered how statues in bronze are made?
Bronze Statues. The most primitive method of making them, and the one most used throughout the centuries, is known as the “cire perdue,” or “lost wax,” process. First of all the form of the statue (or other object to be produced) is made in plaster and thoroughly dried. This is called the “core,” and upon it the artist places a layer of wax which he shapes with his tools until it looks exactly as he intends the finished statue to appear. Metal rods protrude from the core through the wax and a little beyond. When the artist is satisfied with the wax figure, an outer covering is applied over the wax to form the “mould.” This is applied as a liquid, formed of clay and plaster sufficiently thin to find its way into every detail of the wax model. Several coatings of the liquid are applied and allowed to harden. The result is a solid outer casing and a solid inner core, held together by the metal rods, with the artist’s wax model between. The whole is then heated until the wax melts and runs out; then molten bronze is poured in and occupies every detail which the wax had filled. When cool, the outer casing is carefully broken away, the core is raked out as far as possible, the projecting rods are removed, and the statue which was modelled in wax appears in bronze. The artist anxiously examines the finished casting, because if anything has gone wrong in the process he must start all over again; his model on which he worked for so many hours is now “lost wax.” There are other, more modern, methods which are not so heart-rending for the patient sculptor!
This method of casting was probably used for making the most famous of all bronze statues, the largest known in antiquity.
The Colossus of Rhodes. This enormous figure, at the entrance of Rhodes Harbour, was the only one of the Seven Wonders which stood on an island. Rhodes Island lies in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, between Crete and the coast of Asia Minor. It was besieged in the 4th century B.C., and the heroic resistance of the islanders earned for them great renown, which was celebrated by the construction of the Colossus from the spoils left by the attackers. At the height of its prosperity the city of Rhodes was one of the finest in the world. It was a mighty fortress encircled by triple walls and moats, set against the imposing background of the mountainous island. Over 3,000 statues graced the gardens and buildings of the city. The Colossus was designed by the sculptor to represent Apollo, Greek god of the sun. It was more than 100 feet high, and its thumbs were thicker than the span of a man’s hand. A flaming beacon, held in one of its hands, guided ships entering the harbour. According to a popular tradition its feet rested on two piers which formed the mouth of the harbour, and ships passed between its legs. Shakespeare had this in mind when he wrote of Julius Caesar: –
“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world Like a Colossus, and we petty men Walk under his huge legs … .” (Cassius to Brutus). This giant figure took 12 years to build, and when it was completed in B.C. 280 it had cost 300 talents, or something like £100,000. After only 56 years an earthquake brought it crashing down, and it lay where it had fallen for nearly nine centuries until the Island of Rhodes was conquered by the Saracens in 656 A.D. They sold the remains as scrap metal to a man who used 900 camels to carry the pieces away.
The Character of Christ. Historians are unable to prove whether the Colossus stood at one side of the harbour or straddled the entrance, but it is agreed that it dominated the port. In like manner men have reasoned and debated about the Person of Christ, but, far above the level of all disputes, that Figure towers to the throne of God. Yet He is not remote from us, the subject of sublimely-worded creeds. There is a danger that we may think of the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the Resurrection, as merely things to be believed, and lose the full, warm reality of the character of the Living Christ. It was this that inspired John Oxenham to write: –
“Not what, but Whom, I do believe,
That in my darkest hour of need,
Hath comfort that no mortal creed To mortal man may give:
Not what, but Whom!
For Christ is more than all the creeds,
And His full life of gentle deeds Shall all the creeds outlive.”
Above all the figures that move across the pages of history, He is an age-long challenge to the moral and spiritual lives of all subsequent generations of mankind. But it is not enough that, looking back, we perceive Christ as the centre of history, the key to the Bible, the secret of the purposes of God; each one of us must fall at His feet, accept His forgiveness of our sins, and own Him as Lord of our lives.
The Christian Character.1 Man was first made in the image of God, but that original form was marred by sin. Redemption by Christ means that the spoilt form is “renewed … after the image of Him that created him” (Col. 3. 10). Wax in the hand of a sculptor is a vivid example of complete mastery over material, and illustrates how we should be in the hand of Christ. As the years pass on, the impressionable wax of our characters is shaped by the various forces to which we submit. Life seems singularly adapted to the moulding of character. For all other purposes, for the securing of fortune, or health, or happiness, life is not suited. The changes and uncertainty that make these ends elusive, are the very conditions that form character. In this discipline our high aim should be increasing conformity to the image of Christ, “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4. 13), like the true Church of which all true Christians are members “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but … holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5. 27). The character moulded in the wax of our earthly selves will determine the form of the enduring bronze – the image we shall bear in the life to come. In the transition our bodies will be “fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Phil. 3. 21), but our spirits will never lose the impress received here and now.
1. For the germ of this paragraph the writer is indebted to The Fact of Christ by P. Carnegie Simpson.
This article concludes Mr. Bond’s series. We are very grateful to him for so interesting and instructive a set.