skip to content

Experimental reconstruction requires a skilled bronze-founder with an understanding of Renaissance practices to recreate replicas in bronze using as historically-accurate as possible materials for the inner core, bronze alloy and outer investment (based on information supplied by scientistific data) and in a Renaissance-style reverberatory furnace to see how the reconstructions compare with the original. The advantage of experimental reconstructions is that when scientific uncertainties exist (as was the case with the Rothschild bronzes) a number of alternative hypotheses can be tested by altering variables in the casting process to see which reproduction is closest to the original. Furthermore, the reconstructions can be examined and analysed in a way that the originals cannot.

Professor Mark Williams and his team from Warwick Manufacturing Group, Warwick University, took accurate 3D laser scans of the bronze figure in order for a 3D print to be made.




Expert model-makers based at Propshop in the Pinewood Film Studios, used these 3D laser scans to make 3D prints of the older Rothschild nude: one print was produced at 1:1 scale; another was made at a greatly reduced scale for use in certain experiments moulds taken from a 3D print obtained by laser scans of the original to ensure absolute accuracy.




Andrew Lacey, a professional sculptor, bronze-caster and archaeo-metallurgist who has collaborated with museums world-wide, was commissioned to create various reconstructions of the older, bearded nude (the more successful of the two figures). Andrew took moulds from the 3D prints to create 100% accurate replicas in wax.




These were used in various casting experiments to establish how the statue was prepared for casting (i.e. how it was likely sprued up, the position of the pouring cup, the recipe of the outer investment).




He also undertook controlled pours at the Engineering Department of Birmingham University, in order to record via real-time 3D X-ray videography how the molten bronze flowed through the mould (commonly used in heavy industry but a new technique for the study of sculpture).




As a result of his experiments, Andrew was able to confirm many aspects about the production of the Rothschild bronzes, namely that the original models were made in clay, with figures and animals worked on simultaneously. These clay models were translated into bronze by a foundryman with little experience of fine art casting, most likely a bell-maker, who tried to ensure a successful casting by using the indirect method of lost wax casting and using very thick-walled wax casting models. Despite these precautions, the founder’s inexperience led to a flawed casting, due to a top-feed with few sprues only to the back (which led to a turbulent cast), and an incorrect investment material (which led to it getting attached to the outer surface of the bronze, resulting in a pitted surface, that despite hammering over could not be rectified). These findings and conclusions all point to an early sixteenth-century date of casting.