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Gallery Blog

Caring for Bronze Statue

I asked Georgia Gerber to share with me some pointers about caring for bronze statutes.

All of my bronzes have a patina and simple wax finish. There are many opinions on how to best care for these over the years. There are a couple books on bronze care I have seen in case you are interested in further detail, but in general the information is simple. It would be good if outdoor sculptures received at least a yearly washing and new wax application. Indoors, pieces may last many years without need of wax, though they can be enhanced at any time with new wax and buffing. 

Bronze Sculptures can be cleaned with soft brushes and cloths, using water and perhaps a little dishwashing soap such as Ivory Liquid. A simple hose spray or very light pressure washing would be fine and a good way to get into undercuts and crevices. Paintbrushes also work well in crevices, but be careful since the metal ferrules can scratch the surface.

Make sure the sculpture is thoroughly dry, even down in all the crevices – a fan, hair dryer, compressed air, or the sun can speed things up. Apply a light coat of wax. We use Johnson's Floor Paste Wax, Trewax, or a similar product by Minnwax.  These products are in the familiar squat round can and are generally available at hardware stores and even some grocery stores. Do not use car waxes, especially the creamy or liquid varieties, as they are meant for smooth painted surfaces only.

It is best, but not necessary, to do this waxing outside on a sunny day when the bronze is warm.  Apply the wax with a brush, again being careful not to scratch the surface with the metal ferrule. Rub out the wax after only a few minutes – if you wait too long it can get amazingly hard and difficult to rub out. Though the wax applies best when the piece is warm, it may not cool enough to set for some time. If possible, you can move the sculpture to the shade. If not, you will need to wait until the piece cools enough to buff out the wax.

If the sculpture is so warm that the wax melts and runs, the wax can go on too thick and sometimes pool in crevices – so keep it light and remove any pools that may gather by dabbing with the brush. Sometimes thick areas of wax turn milky as they cool. Try re-heating these areas with a hair dryer or torch. As the wax quickly melts remove the excess with a brush or cloth.

Some conservators feel that it is ideal to do this twice a year on outdoor sculptures.  However, the reality is that very few bronzes get such treatment and stand up pretty well - though a washing and waxing will always restore depth to the patina and help protect it.

Gallery Mack