A sculpture acquired from a good gallery should require almost no maintenance to keep in pristine condition in near perpetuity. It was already likely waxed and sealed. Keeping it free of dirt and dusting periodically is all that is necessary to maintain this. A few Q-tips, a soft toothbrush and a lint-free cotton cloth will keep the bronze in perfect condition. If the sculpture is dusted regularly, this can be a very quick process. It should be lightly polished with a lint-free cloth to keep the dust from binding with the wax or building up, but other than that it really needs nothing as long as a few principals are observed:
- Keep the sculpture indoors. Caring for outdoor and garden statuary is its own topic
- Maintain humidity as low as possible. Bronze reacts with moisture, even when protected with wax, so maintaining a consistent low humidity is crucial. We like to strive for under 50% relative humidity, though in some climates this may be impractical.
- Place the sculpture in a place where sunlight won’t alter the patina - this may be achieved with UV filtering on windows or by simply placing them out of the sunlight.
- If the wax has been worn down or dulling, a very minimal amount of beeswax can be used to restore luster and protect the patina. Similar to waxing a pair of shoes, a little wax goes a long way and as little as possible should be applied to the surface. Leave for 20 minutes before buffing into a brilliant shine. We prefer two brands of wax, both of which are relatively easy to find: Liberon's Black Bison "Clear" Wax and Renaissance Wax. For more details on how to wax your sculpture, take a look at our article on how to safely clean a bronze sculpture.
More severe filthiness may require a more involved approach to cleaning the bronze sculpture.
What not to do when cleaning your bronze?
- Don't use any kind of "cleaner" on the surface. Many household cleaners and polishes contain silicone or harsh chemicals that can permanently damage the patina.
- Never repair damage to your sculpture. Consult a professional.
- Don't "wash" your sculpture or use tap water on a bronze - and definitely do not submerse the sculpture in water.
- We have seen recommendations for using gun or watch oil to keep your sculpture looking "wet" and attractive. As long as the oil is natural and not synthetic, there is probably no real harm in this technique, but we do not recommend this as the sheen is relatively short-lived and it tends to gather dust or become sticky over time.
What about storing bronze sculpture? Is there anything that should be considered?
The most important consideration is what is touching the surface of the bronze. Is it being stored in bubble wrap and boxed? If so, you will want to make sure the plastic is not in direct contact with the bronze - it would be wise to instead wrap it in wax paper prior to wrapping it in bubble wrap, fabric, foam, etc. Over time, anything with a texture can make impressions on the wax surface of the sculpture - particularly if there is heat or moisture ever present in the air. We have seen some pretty depressing scenarios where the beautiful surface is marred by checker marks from a mover’s blanket the piece was wrapped in - and these are very difficult to remove without professional assistance. The sculpture should then be double boxed with three inches between the sculpture and the inner carton, then three inches on all sides between the inner carton and the outer carton. The innermost carton with the sculpture should have some moisture removal packets tossed in with it to keep humidity to an absolute minimum.