Michele Celeste’s Griffins

Ascoli Satriano is a small city located in the North of Puglia, in the province of Foggia, founded by the ancient people of the Dauni and subsequently included in the group of cities of the Magna Graecia ruled by the city of Taranto.

Its history is full of events but in 1978 a group of clandestine archeological finders, the so-called “tombaroli”, discovered in the countryside of Ascoli Satriano, a hypogeal (underground) tomb with a very important set of funeral furnishings.
The tomb certainly belonged to one of the hegemonic noble families of the area, during the 4th century BC, probably of Macedonian or Epirot origins.

Among the magnificent fundings, the most important one, was a wonderful sculptural group of coloured Aphrodisia marble, a complex triangular sculpture of polychrome marble consisting of a table support (trapezophoros) with two griffins biting a deer.
The tomb also contained a ritual basin (podanipter), portraying the scene of the transportation of the weapons, forged by the god Hephaestus for Achilles, a pair of shelves and a large marble crater which retains traces of polychromy.

Michele Celeste's Griffins

The extraordinary sculpture, used as a bracket for a ritual table, is 95 cm high, 148 cm long and consists of a pair of “GRIFFINS” with the body of a lion and the head of a eagle with a purple-red crest on the head and blue wings spread upwards.
The two figures are represented in hunting action while they block on the ground with their claws a doe, whose face emerges, with its front legs bent and the rear ones fully extended.

After many vicissitudes, the stolen artifacts ended up being exhibited in the Getty Museum at Los Angeles and finally in 2010, the entire sculptural group returned home to find its natural location in the Archaeological Museum of Ascoli Satriano thus becomes the “City of Griffins” and to give greater prominence to this extraordinary novelty, a competition was launched to equip the main square of the town with a new monument replacing the existing one.
Michele Celeste, a young sculptor, won the competition with a project that aimed to reproduce, in bronze with his personal and innovative style, the extraordinary Griffins as the characterizing element of the new monument destined to be the highlight of the new square.

Michele Celeste's Griffins

After modelling the sculpture in clay in his laboratory at Rome, he thus move to Pietrasanta, where it is made reproduced in plaster and silico rubber, by Alessandro Petrucci. Then came into contact with Mariani Artistic Foundry to bring his work to life.
In this process it was certainly crucial the meeting of Michele Celeste with Adolfo and Nicola Agolini, who, having seen the project and assessing its effectiveness and expressive power, declare themselves very happy to contribute to its realization.

Michele Celeste's Griffins

It was then proceeded to model the sculpture in clay with dimensions fully corresponding to the Greek model, while the base was raised about 2 cm in view of its placement on a column, as requested by the client.
The geometries and details of the work, such as the number of feathers and wing feathers, were duly respected as well as the dimensions H 97 cm, W 155 cm, D 25 cm at the base and 40 cm at the chest of the Griffins.

The bronze sculpture had a total weight of 250 kg and it was chosen to give a greenish patina obtained by the copper oxide applied to dark bronze.

But the real turning point was the special formula studied by Nicola Agolini, to facilitate the casting of the piece, a formula that was more suitable to the nature of the sculpture and its peculiar characteristics.

The touching up was performed with chisel and mechanical tools, to enhance the details and the geometrical finishes, allowing the light to flow on the surfaces without encountering unwanted roughness or deformations of the surfaces.

The creative process saw the clay model broken down into different parts, like the wings, which were created and shaped separately.

Michele Celeste's Griffins

The artist worked personally on the finishing up of the waxes and the subsequent assembly of the pieces, in strict cooperation with the Foundry, obtaining two separate blocks to be cast.

After the lost wax casting with the Shell method, or ceramic mold, the bronzes obtained from the process, were sandblasted.

Michele Celeste's Griffins

Some details were made in full bronze due to their load-bearing function.

The weldings were carried out in bronze with Tig technology, while the more complicated areas were worked on with silver welding.

Michele Celeste's Griffins

Mechanical tools and chisels were used to clean up the welds.

The long and complex finishing up of the piece, occurred respecting the methods of the ancient Greek sculptural tradition, which involves a process very close to goldsmithing, which makes it possible to obtain a smooth and well-defined surface, through the skilful use of chisels, goldsmith’s files, burins and abrasive papers.

Michele Celeste's Griffins

After that, some steel bars were welded into the base of the sculpture to create an anchoring frame, on which threads have been made and placed on the column capital by steel pins.

The last step saw the patina being applied by the artists and the artisans working as a unique nucleus and after the material cooling off, neutral wax was applied to the bronze to protect the patina and give the sculpture a great shining look.

Michele Celeste's Griffins

Michele Celeste’s Griffins


For all images #photocreditMicheleCeleste
Sculpture made by: Michele Celeste
Contacts: celestem@alice.it tel: +39 3279088658

What is chisel and how we do it

a chiseled welding work in progress, at the bottom the welding before chiseling , at the top the welding after the chiseling. to the left side some chisels.

Chisel is a word that identify a complex set of techniques to make textures on a metal sculptures and also the tools to realize them. What happen if you must make invisible a welding on a complex surface, or if you have to engrave a free hand signature of an artist ? obviously machines cannot help you so much , so you must be good at chisel. And is a thing you can do only by hand.

Roberto & Marco studying the right technics to apply

First of all you must learn how to make a steel chisel on the anvil , shaping it with a hammer from a steel bar and tempering it in the right way. You must know how to make the tool for fine textures, the one to engrave, the one to mark straight and curve lines and so on.  Each and every one of our workers in the finishing department have a special place on his desk dedicated to a bunch of little steel chisels. There is not a standard set , and except for two or three kinds that everybody must have is the need that determines the type and amounts. also they tend to be accumulated, so some workers have forty to fifty chisels !

 

Roberto chiseling

But making a tool is not enough, so you have to identify which kind of surface you have to reproduce and ind which way. Chisel in practice is a little sculpture in the sculpture, but in the end all is done to make this work as invisible as possible ! In fact all must be in harmony with the project and the work of the sculptor, as we cannot add or subtract nothing from the sculpture.

best regards

Nicola Agolini

 

 

FINISH !

Marco between the branches of a bronze tree

Finishing of the bronze is one of the part of the process that need , at least for the first time, the presence of the sculptor. Its is important to know , in fact, what is the final result that the author want to reach in therm of superficial look. Some surface can be reached only in the finishing part, so only the customer can give you advices. As we told before that can be done also via web, if necessary.

Luca shoeing a bronze horse

We always suggest to the new customers to begin with a little piece, little but typical of his/her needs. With a little piece we can understand each other , know each other and see if we match in therms of work. In general there are two extremes in the look of a surface: polished and rough. Between this two extremes we have an infinity of shading, and often the surface of the model is different from the result that the author want to reach ; how we can know what kind of surface the customer need if we don’t see it?

Romano taking care of a delicate surface

We have a long tradition in working side by side with sculptors , sometime we can reach a good result even if we don’t understand each other language (with obvious hilarious misunderstandings in between). By the way here summer has exploded with long 38°C days, I hope to reach alive the winter because for me warm is really nothing good, but i’m lucky enough to be invited to a birthday party in Denmark on the 2nd week of august so for this time i will send you some fresh post from the northern Europe.

best regards

Nicola Agolini

 

 

casting oddities

bronze pouring

When most people asks us for a visit in our company the asks generally “can i come see a pouring?”.  Pouring is identified as the main process in a foundry and also, because of its visual appearance and its situation of danger , the most spectacular. For me is , for sure, the most technical part of the process. To obtain a good casting you have to pay attention to a lot of little particulars and even if you do so you are not sure of the results until you have crashed all the  ceramic, some hours after the pouring.

our worker Ivano checking the ceramic moulds befor the cooking

First you have to be sure of the temperature you cook the ceramic and that after the cooking nothing is left inside and the ceramic is not cracked. Than you have to check the humidity of the place, the temperature of the bronze, the quality of the flame of the melting furnace, the quantity of aspiration of the vacuum pump and many other things. you know, checking all this numbers tend to erase the feeling of the moment. The moment of the pouring is surely spectacular, even for one like me that see six to twelve pouring per week. Here we have a proverb:”is the habit that ruin the surprise” , well, this is not the case.

Massimo and Giacomo cleaning a piece from ceramic after the casting

You have to wait until the bronze is completely solid and cool (it takes some hours) and finally you will see if all this effort did its work. For most of the people the most poetical part is the pouring, for me is the crashing of the ceramic, in search of the perfect casting.

best regards

Nicola

 

waxing the wax

our artisan Matteo on work with a wax model 

Wax retouching is the first step , in the process of artistic foundry, in which the artist can work side by side with artisans . After the wax is created , it must be retouched to erase the little defect that come from the mould. In fact even if the mould is perfect it creates some unavoidable errors. For example the line of junction between the different parts of the mould. If the mould is old the situation is generally worse, but anyway what is on the wax will be on the bronze, so you have to work with wax and warm tools to correct.

by the way  you can do your model directly in wax. sometime that can be useful if the piece is an experiment and you want to use the advantage of the wax as a working material ; you can easy make structures and modify them in wax, cut , bend, joint, liquify and obtain interesting solution on  the surface. then you can make a mould out of it or, if you want to take a little risk , cast it directly .

Now, our wax have a particular characteristic: it is hollow inside. I mean that , using the shell casting process, we don’t need to put refractory inside in phase of retouch . So if the artist want to modify  the wax substantially ( bend an arm, substitute a hand or the head or a part) with our help he/she can do it. We can also assemble some middle-size waxes to show the general outlook of to the final result of the bronze.

waxes models ready to be retouched

Naturally we can also do all the process by ourselves, but in this phase, especially if is the the first time we work with an artist, we really appreciate the presence of the author that can suggest us what kind of surface, what kind of style of retouch we have to do to satisfy him .

That have the collateral effect to create a personal relationship between the artist and the artisan, and sometime funny things happens when the language are different….. but we will discuss about that in a specific post.

There is a third option that is useful sometime: with the help of technology we can put on a web check  (skype, facetime, viber or simply HD pictures via Dropbox), but that can be done for each phase of the process.

best regards

Nicola

in death of Romano Cosci

Of him we remember the smile and the great capacity of a painter and sculptor that understand deeply the work of the artisans . A person of high artistic and human culture. I personally think of him as a friend and i will remember forever the many moments passed talking about art, politics and our city that he loved deeply, Pietrasanta. His sculptures and paintings will remain to remember his perfect and accomplished capacity of reproduce and interpretate the many  aspects of human nature.

romano cosci at work

romano cosci at work

 

1939-2014