Bronze gilt statue of Avalokitesvara, Nepalese, 1771-1830.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Statue of Avalokitesvara, the Buddhist Creator of the Universe, referred to as the 'All Pitying Lord'. He supposedly had eleven heads and 1000 arms, but in this gilded bronze statue he only has 130 arms. Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, melts at a moderate temperature and becomes very liquid, making it suitable for casting into statuary. Here, intricate surface detail was modelled in clay by the sculptor and has been faithfully reproduced in metal, but no other details have been chased in subsequently. Such pieces are cast hollow to save material. Bronze is one of the earliest metal alloys known, and was used widely by early people in the period known as the Bronze Age (about 5000-1200 BC in the Middle East and about 2000-500 BC in Europe).