Art of Indian Bronzes – Past and Future

We continue to hear people lamenting the art of bronze casting is lost and things are not as good as they used to be.

In my view, it is a fallacy. When it comes to art, what we see and remember are some of the best works from the last 2-3 millennia. To expect that every generation will match and exceed all those great works is presumptuous. Every generation does produce its sparks and lasting works of art. This blog is about one such spark.

The Ganesha below is in the Ashmolean Museum. It is a class work. People have asked me where they would get a similar one. Wouldn’t we all. The Vigraha is from the sixteenth century and it is about 11 cm in height. One of the outstanding features of Odisha bronzes is the treatment of hair. The Ashmolean Ganesha is a testament to that.

I was pleasantly surprised when one of my friends, Gaurav, a dealer/bronze castor sent me a set of photos of a new bronze along with the source of inspiration. It is a recreation of the Ashmolean Ganesha bronze. It is about 25 cm in height, more than twice that of Ash Molean Ganesha. Let me share it with you.

The photos show the Ashmolean bronze, the wax model and the finished Ganesha.

When you look at the newly created bronze and compare it with the Ashmolean bronze, keep in mind the Ashmolean Ganesha is an antique. Ashmolean Ganesha has acquired patina (of different shades) and lustre, features are softened due to ritual cleaning and it exudes the aura that comes from centuries of regular worship.

When you discount the effect of an antique, ‘unsee’ them and compare the two on technical execution, you can see the tremendous skills the craftsman has exhibited in creating the new bronze.

Of course, there are differences, some minor and some improvisation. The major differences are in the posture and the proportions. It may be a result of the craftsman in Tamil Nadu trying to recreate an Odisha image under the guidance of an art dealer from Gujarat. That apart, the result is outstanding. A heirloom bronze for sure. As the creators mentioned ‘The next one will be even better’.

Just to reiterate this new Ganesha was created with the benefit of photos only and was made using the traditional ‘lost wax’ method.

A wonderful effort to ‘recreate the past for the future’ and it is a spark.

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