If you didn’t already know, Matmatch is based in Munich. So we decided to look into the history and construction of the statue, focusing (unsurprisingly) on the materials it is made from. We hope this article inspires you to start thinking about the materials used in other everyday objects and landmarks!
With a wreath of oak leaf held high in her left hand, in her right hand a sword, and a majestic lion at her side; the 18.52 meter (60 ft. 9 in.) Bavaria statue stands proud. The famous figure is located at the front of the ‘Hall of Fame’, over the open space of the Theresienwiese located in Munich, Germany. The colossal statue depicts the symbolic female figure and secular patroness of the federal state of Bavaria. It’s the epitome and face of its homeland and represents its strength and glory.
The making of the statue was ordered by King Ludwig I of Bavaria. He supported the metal founder Johann Baptist Stiglmaier to set up a new foundry, along with his nephew, Ferdinand von Miller. Both lived in the city of Munich. The project of the statue – from design and plaster modelling, to foundry and assembly – took 13 years to complete. Work started on May 28, 1837 and it was unveiled on October 9, 1850. The completion of the statue was planned for the celebration of the Oktoberfest.
What material is it made from?
The Bavaria statue is made of bronze and was constructed in four main parts (head, hips, bust, lower half with lion) by sand-casting. Later it was assembled with other smaller parts in the site where it stands today. For its immense size and beauty, the Bavaria statue is considered a technological and artistic masterpiece.
Bronzes and their changes
Bronzes are alloys of copper and tin, with copper being the most abundant material. But they may also incorporate other metals, such as aluminium and nickel, or even non-metals, such as phosphorus or silicon.
The percentage of each material in the alloy affects its properties (hardness, ease to cast, resistance to corrosion, machinability, colour, etc.). The addition of new elements to the matrix of copper alters its microscopic structure thus changing its properties and reaction to external conditions. The composition of the Bavaria Statue is 92% copper, 5% zinc, 2% tin, and 1% lead.
Reactions to the atmosphere over time
It is widely known that the colour of pure copper is its characteristic reddish brown. Nevertheless, many famous statues that are made of copper alloys like the Buddha Kamakura Daihatsu, Gautama Buddha, and the renowned Statue of Liberty in New York are actually greenish blue. Copper forms a multitude of compounds of different oxidation states which all vary in color.
The copper present in the bronze tends to form the stable copper(II) oxide, which is brown. Under other atmospheric conditions with the presence of acids, the oxides of the copper tend to form copper(II) acetate, a green substance also known as verdigris.
The difference between the conditions of the greenish Statue of Liberty and the Bavaria Statue is that in New York there is more air pollution. This results in acid rain which tends to form the verdigris on the surface of the statue. In Munich, the presence of acid rain is not an issue; consequently, the Bavaria Statue changed from its original reddish colour to a more stable brown of the copper(II) oxide. Nonetheless, we can observe some slightly blue or green tones on the Munich icon. This may also be due to the verdigris since acidic conditions can also appear by microbiological activity, but in less magnitude compared to acid rain.
Costs, manufacture, and challenges of the Bavaria Statue
The project was financed privately by the King, and it is said to have cost 286,346 guilders – the equivalent today of approximately £15,542,872.09 (€17,756,903.59/$20,642,799.28).
As mentioned above, the creation of the Bavaria Statue was done through sand-casting. This method consists of the use of sand, mixed with plaster, and a small amount of water. It is moulded to the desired form using a plaster model, which would have taken the same form and dimensions of the statue figure. In this process, molten material is then poured into the mould, which of course in the case of metals is generally at very high temperatures – 930°C for bronze! After it sets and cools, it solidifies and creates part of the statue. With the implementation of this technique, practically any shape can be obtained.
The Bavaria Statue weighs a whopping 87.36 tons. To melt this amount of material, it is necessary to invest 55,000,000 KJ of energy. This is enough energy to power a typical London household for 2 years!
As the cast pieces of the Statue were so large, it was necessary to construct special carts to move them to the assembly site. Each cart was pulled by 20 horses.
The Bavaria Statue is without a doubt a landmark and for its immense size and beauty is considered a technological and artistic masterpiece.
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