Renaissance Casting Technology: New Paper out! - archaeometallurgy | archaeometallurgy

Renaissance Casting Technology: New Paper out!

Bastian Asmus

A new paper on Renaissance Casting Technology was just published. It looks both, into the chemical composition of the utilised alloys, as well as into the primary sources concerning the manufacture of the cenotaph of Emperor Maximilian I.

Reconstruction of Renaissance casting techniques. This Image of  the calculated wall thickness of the of Theoderic the great, based on the mass of the statue.
For the Reconstruction of Renaissance casting techniques the wall thickness of the of Theoderic the Great was calculated, based on the mass of the statue.

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The 28 “Schwarze Mander” (Black Men) are undoubtedly amongst the most magnificent monumental brass statues of the Renaissance. Commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I for his funeral monument at the beginning of the 16th century, they were completed more than 30 years after the Emperor’s death and are now part of his cenotaph in the Hofkirche in Innsbruck. Revising the original manuscripts and letters exchanged between Maximilian I and the various artists sheds light on the manufacturing process and the challenges the artists encountered whilst producing the statues. Moreover, the alloys used in the manufacture of the statues, now all blackened due to patination processes, were identified through non-invasive chemical analysis of all the statues.


The 28 Schwarze Mander are without a doubt amongst the most stunning brass statues of the Renaissance period. They were commissioned by Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, for his funeral monument in the early 16th century but took over 30 years to complete after his death. Originally, the emperor wanted 40 statues of ancestors and saints of the Habsburg family and 100 statuettes of other saints associated with the House of Habsburg, as well as a sarcophagus for the emperor himself. In the end, 28 statues (Table 1), 23 statuettes and 34 busts of emperors (of which only 21 have survived) were created. The sarcophagus was replaced by a cenotaph with the kneeling statue of Maximilian I, the four virtues and 24 marble reliefs. Maximilian I, at the end, was buried in Wiener Neustadt.

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Mödlinger, M., Asmus, B. and Ghiara, G. (2024) ‘The “Schwarze Mander” of the Court Church in Innsbruck, Austria: Manufacture and Production of Monumental Brass Statues in the Renaissance’, International Journal of Metalcasting [Preprint]. Available at:

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