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Saturday, 13 October 2012

Exhibitions - Bronze - Royal Academy of Arts, London

Star rating - 9/10

This dazzling new exhibition at the Royal Academy is full of an eclectic mix of works from many ages and continents with one thing in common - they are made from bronze. And although not all if them are to my taste, those that are are so spectacular in their beauty to really merit the too oft used description - truly breathtaking. 

The rooms are arranged in different themes including the human figure, animals and gods. In fact my only quibble with the excellent curation is that you actually walk into the most exquisite pieces of human form first, when it could easily have been kept as the gold, or should that be bronze, at the end of this particular rainbow. 

There is also a interesting explanation of why bronze as a medium has been so favoured and enduring a material for artists throughout the centuries, with its particular alloy mix making it tough and resistant to work with. But it's not the theory or method behind the works that fascinates me - it's the pure joy of the pieces themselves with their beauty and artistic brilliance. 

Particular favourites of mine include a wonderful gargoyle shaped door knocker from the majestic Durham Cathedral; a pair of intricately detailed miniature sixteenth century leopards from Benin; and a miniature statue of the goddess Venus elegantly removing a thorn from her toe.

But it's the statues that get me every time. Wonderful works are featured by Rodin, Donatello, and a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci himself, Giovan Francesco Rustici. And of the statues, it is always the Greek ones with their adoration, understanding, and appreciation of the human form, coupled with their spectacular talent for revealing every sinew and line, that I love the most. 

The first room you enter is a wonderful shade of deep blue, and houses a now incomplete but still utterly perfect figure of the Dancing Satyr, which was discovered off the Sicilian coast by fishermen in 1998. What a picture their faces must have been when this sculpture of indescribable beauty got caught up in their nets. If the exhibition consisted of this one piece alone it would be worth a visit, but as it is, there are many, many more beautiful bronze pieces to marvel at. Sheer joy.

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