Obelisk Art History

Invented for war, perfected by art

Bronze, MediumsChimera of Arezzo

The development of bronze was so significant to human history that its emergence in cultures around the world is referred to as the bronze age. Around 3500 BCE, smiths in western Asia smelted copper, which was soft and plentiful, with the much rarer and more brittle tin. The resulting fusion was more durable than any metal previously available to humans, and became sought-after for weapons and armor. By 2500 BCE bronze had spread to the Aegean world, and over the next 500 years travel throughout Europe. As with many technologies developed for war, bronze soon became adopted as an artistic medium. Sculptures in bronze have lasted millennia, and bronze is still used today for public art, either polished to a golden hue, or left to accrue a regal green patina.

Reed Enger, "Bronze, Invented for war, perfected by art," in Obelisk Art History, Published January 23, 2015; last modified May 25, 2021, http://arthistoryproject.com/mediums/bronze/.

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Head of a Ruler, Mesopotamia

Head of a Ruler

2300 BCE-2000 BCE
Lion of Mari, Mesopotamia

Lion of Mari

2000 BCE
Nebra Sky Disk, Bronze Age

Nebra Sky Disk

1600 BCE
Bronze Bull Leaping Figure, Aegean Civilizations

Bronze Bull Leaping Figure

1600 BCE-1450 BCE
Ritual wine warmer (Jia), Ancient China

Ritual wine warmer (Jia)

1400 BCE-1250 BCE
Hafted axe with dragons, Ancient China

Hafted axe with dragons

1200 BCE-1100 BCE
Minoan Bronze Tweezers, Aegean Civilizations

Minoan Bronze Tweezers

2900 BCE-1050 BCE
Ritual wine cup (Zhi), Ancient China

Ritual wine cup (Zhi)

1100 BCE-1000 BCE
Harness Trapping in the Shape of a Horse, Bronze Age

Harness Trapping in the Shape of a Horse

900 BCE
Iron Axe Head, Iron Age

Iron Axe Head

900 BCE
Ritual grain server (Gui), Ancient China

Ritual grain server (Gui)

1000 BCE-900 BCE
Master-of-Animals Standard, Iron Age

Master-of-Animals Standard

800 BCE
Circular “pilgrim” Flask, The Etruscans

Circular “pilgrim” Flask

750 BCE
Bronze Basin, Bronze Age

Bronze Basin

c. 700 BCE
Pair of Hands, The Etruscans

Pair of Hands

700 BCE
Kushite priest wearing leopard's head, Kingdom of Kush

Kushite priest wearing leopard's head

712 BCE-664 BCE
Falcon of Horus, Ancient Egypt

Falcon of Horus

663 BCE
Isis and Horus, Ancient Egypt

Isis and Horus

640 BCE
Bronze Etruscan Woman, The Etruscans

Bronze Etruscan Woman

600 BCE
Phoenician-style ewer, The Iberians

Phoenician-style ewer

600 BCE
Vix Krater, Ancient Greece

Vix Krater

530 BCE
Bronze Statuette of a Bull, Ancient Greece

Bronze Statuette of a Bull

500 BCE
Etruscan Mirror, The Etruscans

Etruscan Mirror

500 BCE
Mars de Todi, The Etruscans

Mars de Todi

500 BCE
Chimera of Arezzo, The Etruscans

Chimera of Arezzo

400 BCE
Cista Depicting a Dionysian Revel and Perseus with Medusa's Head, The Etruscans

Cista Depicting a Dionysian Revel and Perseus with Medusa's Head

400 BCE
Torc Celtic Necklace, The Celts

Torc Celtic Necklace

400 BCE
Etruscan Mirror, The Etruscans

Etruscan Mirror

350 BCE
Horse head Medici Riccardi, Ancient Greece

Horse head Medici Riccardi

325 BCE
Ombra Della Sera, The Etruscans

Ombra Della Sera

300 BCE
Liver of Piacenza, The Etruscans

Liver of Piacenza

200 BCE
Zhong Bell, 戰國秦 青銅鐘, Ancient China

Zhong Bell, 戰國秦 青銅鐘

400 BCE-200 BCE
Athletes, Ancient Greece


100 BCE
Boy with Thorn (Spinario), Ancient Greece

Boy with Thorn (Spinario)

100 BCE
The Orator, The Etruscans

The Orator

90 BCE
The Desborough Mirror, Iron Age

The Desborough Mirror

50 BCE
Waterloo Bridge Helmet, The Celts

Waterloo Bridge Helmet

150 BCE-50 BCE
Statue of Artemis Ephesus, Ancient Greece

Statue of Artemis Ephesus

Hercules of the Forum Boarium, Ancient Greece

Hercules of the Forum Boarium

1 CE
Hercules of the Theatre of Pompey, Ancient Greece

Hercules of the Theatre of Pompey

2 CE
The Battersea Shield, The Celts

The Battersea Shield

350 BCE-50 CE
Bronze Military Diploma, Ancient Rome

Bronze Military Diploma

113 CE-114 CE
Bronze Statuette of Jupiter, Ancient Rome

Bronze Statuette of Jupiter

200 CE
The Balmaclellan Mirror, Iron Age

The Balmaclellan Mirror

200 CE
Portrait of the emperor Caracalla, Ancient Rome

Portrait of the emperor Caracalla

212 CE-217 CE
Bronze Statue of the emperor Trebonianus Gallus, Ancient Rome

Bronze Statue of the emperor Trebonianus Gallus

251 CE
Late Gupta Period Buddha, Classical India

Late Gupta Period Buddha

700 CE
Seated Buddha, Classical India

Seated Buddha

700 CE
Enghøj Brooch, Viking Age

Enghøj Brooch

800 CE
Human face pendant, Igbo-Ukwu

Human face pendant

c. 800 CE-900 CE
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Terracotta, Mediums


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