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PEDIGREE & PROVENANCE--art words and terms.

Frances Jetter sculpture with 24K gold patina


(pa teen' a)

What is it?

As a general term, patina refers to the change in an object's surface resulting from natural aging. (Patina preservation is the reason to avoid all but very superficial cleaning of old objects.) In bronze sculpture, patina specifically refers to the surface of the bronze itself often altered by the sculptor with acid or the application of other chemicals.

Frances Jetter sculpture Dress
Bronze with 24K Gold Patina

Why does patina matter on a bronze?

Artfully applied, a surface patina highlights the modeling of the bronze and therefore enhances its beauty and value. Famed British 20th century sculptor Henry Moore once said that he used a patina the opposite of the way a woman used face powder: to amplify contours rather than to minimize them.

Are patinas always an enhancement to a sculpture?

Alas, no. One has only to compare patinas on Rodin bronzes. Look through the patinas of the fine photos in this Boston College Online Rodin Exhibition, then study some of the newer Rodin bronzes on the auction block. The patinas on these later metal re-casts are often times as subtle as black shoe polish.

What about colorful patinas?

A light touch is key: Some sculptors of the American West employ tinted highlights, and certain contemporary bronze sculptors use high color. Unless these accents truly reinforce the intent and plasticity of the piece, color patinas can degrade into kitsch.

Carol Bruns small bronze figure Lion
View contemporary bronze sculpture by
Nancy Azara, Carol Bruns, Harry Gordon, and Frances Jetter in
BIDDINGTON'S Contemporary Art Gallery

Carol Bruns sculpture Lion
Bronze with Golden Brown Patina

P&P: Abstract Expressionism
P&P: Ash Can School
P&P: bronze patina
P&P: citrine
P&P: Colorfield painting
P&P: Greek columns
P&P: Conceptual Art
P&P: coromandel
P&P: depression glass
P&P: enamel
P&P: encaustic
P&P: etching
P&P: faux
P&P: foreshortening
P&P: gouache
P&P: Iconography & Iconology
P&P: New Image painting
P&P: Newcomb pottery
P&P: parfleche
P&P: Pop Art
P&P: porcelain
P&P: Senufo
P&P: Surrealism
P&P: turquoise


In the art & antiques world, experts bandy about arcane words as though they were part of everyone's standard vocabulary. To a fledgling collector, this practice can be maddening. In PEDIGREE & PROVENANCE, BIDDINGTON'S picks a word or phrase and gives it a good, hard going over: defining it, explaining it and showing how to use it.

Glance regularly at PEDIGREE & PROVENANCE, and soon you'll be able to toss those obscure phrases back at the experts with confidence and agility and be fully prepared to bid on items at BIDDINGTON'S upmarket, online art & antiques auctions.

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