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Metalworking: Roman Figurines

Ratna Drost (NL)

The small bronze, terracotta or clay figures were mostly made for ritual of religious purposes. However, some of them were used as toys for children, even when not specifically made for that purpose. Most of the figures were made in quite large numbers using molds. Like the more monumental sculptures, they were painted in bright colors. The pigments were applied after firing and rarely survived burial, except in small and faded patches. In some northern provinces, such as Gaul and Germany, there was no native Iron Age tradition of making terracotta, clay or bronze figurines, but new industries developed under Roman influence, manufacturing mold-made figures in fine white pipe clay. The instructions are usable for a bronze figurine.

Requirements: 
Bronze
Wax
Mould made of plaster or clay
Oven
Paint

Instruction for a Roman bronze figurine:
1. By far the fastest way of making a bronze figurine, is using the lost-wax method. This means that the first version of the figurine is moulded from wax. Working with wax, offers you the possibility to make great details.
2. Use whatever you want to make details.
3. Enclose your wax model in a clay mantle, leaving several tiny holes. Leave it to dry.
4. Pour molten bronze through a hole on top of your clay mantle. The bronze will melt the wax, which will leave through the holes, to be replaced by the bronze.
5. Let the bronze cool down, before breaking your mould.
6. Finish off your figurine by removing any residual bronze. Polish your figurine with a file when required.
7. Paint your figurine.

The instruction above, doesn’t allow you to reuse your mould. If you want to use your mould again, you have to make sure you make a two piece clay mantle. This will enable you to open up the mould to remove the wax. Now you can tie them together to fill them with bronze. When cooled down, you can open up the mould, and reuse is more easily.

Era(s): 

Images

1st century AD figure, from Pompeii, of...
Woman holding a theatrical mask. Terracotta...
Roman bronze figurine of Pan. 1st – early...
Bronze figurine of a gladiator, Roman...