Magnetic Attraction | Lunder Conservation Center Audio Tour

When looking at a bronze, we’ll often dangle a magnet near the sculpture to learn more about its internal structure. When doing this with the Theseus and Ariadne sculpture by Paul Manship, the interior showed no magnetic attraction, but I was shocked to find that the magnet closely hugged the exterior surface. Notice the dark brown colored patina on the exterior of this sculpture. This patina is totally absent from the interior. Because bronzes do not typically exhibit magnetism and there isn't an iron alloy, armature, or pins present, we believe it’s the patina creating this effect. Some possible reasons for the magnetism may be that an iron salt solution was used to create this coloration or the surface was finished with a coating containing iron particles. Or perhaps it’s a combination of both!

Discover how magnets are used as a conservation research tool.