Matisse to Picasso: A compositional study of modern bronze sculptures

Marcus L. Young, Suzanne Schnepp, Francesca Casadio*, Andrew Lins, Melissa Meighan, Joseph B. Lambert, David C. Dunand

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) was used to determine the bulk metal elemental composition of 62 modern bronze sculptures cast in Paris in the first half of the twentieth century from the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As a result, a comprehensive survey of the alloy composition of the sculptures of many prominent European artists of the early twentieth century is presented here for the first time. The sculptures in this study consist of predominantly copper with two main alloying elements (zinc and tin). By plotting the concentrations of these two elements (zinc and tin) against each other for all the sculptures studied, three clusters of data become apparent: (A) high-zinc brass; (B) low-zinc brass; (C) tin bronze. These clusters correlate to specific foundries, which used specific casting methods (sand or lost wax) that were influenced by individual preferences and technical skills of the foundry masters. For instance, the high-zinc brass alloys (with the highest levels of tin and zinc and the lowest melting temperature) correspond to most of the Picasso sculptures, correlate with the Valsuani foundry, and are associated with the most recent sculptures (post-WWII) and with the lost-wax casting method. By expanding the ICP-OES database of objects studied, these material correlations may become useful for identifying, dating, or possibly even authenticating other bronzes that do not bear foundry marks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-184
Number of pages14
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Bronze sculpture
  • Modern bronze

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry

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