From my father, Bernard Rosenthal’s memoirs - “Ezra has the money.How nice it was when I heard the words, Ezra has the money.Ezra was one of my father’s larger works, about a foot high.He was the priest and scribe who led the people back from Babylon to Jerusalem in 539 B.C. to rebuild the temple, bringing with him silver and gold and wheat and wine.In 1934, in our apartment, his sitting form was heavy, cast in bronze.We kept him on the floor, used him mostly as a door stop, and a place to hide things.In 539 B.C. he worried all the way to Jerusalem that he would be robbed of the five thousand gold and silver items he and the people with him were carrying.In 1934, I would tilt him to one side, pick up 75 cents or perhaps 1.25, pat him on the head, thank him, and head for the store”.
Retyped below is a handwritten note from my father, Bernard, which details the process of watching his father work - casting wax into bronze. I have also attached the original handwritten note with illustrations as a pdf file (below).
Casting Wax to Bronze
To ensure that a cast would come out, my father would attach a wax sprue here and there with a minuscule drop of wax - the hot knife itself could not touch the piece, or it would melt away a hand - or an arm.
The metal cylinder was then placed over the figure and filled with investment - a porous plaster, which allowed the air to escape when the hot metal was forced in.
The cylinder was then placed on the edge of a pan, to catch the wax, and heated, so that the wax would melt and drip out of the investment.
The cylinder was then reversed, with the base of the figure at the top. Air pressure was pumped into the 1918 dental casting equipment he used. A piece of bronze was placed on the cylinder, and then my father would light up his torch - which was hooked to a tank of gas and oxygen.
When I was a kid, my father would stand me in a corner as far away as possible - heat the metal red hot - then white hot - and when it was melted - and the exact color he wanted - he would yell "stand back" and slam down the handle. The top of the old equipment did not meet the cylinder perfectly and the released air pressure would push bronze down into the investment, but also in a shower of hot sparks everywhere. His smocks were full of burn holes.
Then we would go to lunch. After lunch he would ask for extra pennies in the change, study them, give me a few, and put the ones he needed in his pocket.
We would then return to the studio - take the cooled down cylinder from the casting equipment - chip away the investment - wash off the bronze, and then came the moment of truth!
If a sprue was in the wrong place, an arm would be missing. If the copper pennies were from the wrong year, there would be air pockets in the metal. He would curse quietly under his breath, and throw the piece on his pile of bronze to be melted down again. Two weeks work down the drain.
If the piece looked good however, the little metal saws would come out to remove the sprues. Little files would remove the trace of where they had been. The torch would be re-lit to heat the figure red hot - and then it would be dipped into acids and mixtures of colors to oxidize it and give it the black or brown or sienna patina he was looking for.
None of this has anything to do with the imaginative, artistic mind which created this (photo below) expression of "Happiness" - but since the Gorham Company in New York which cast his larger works could not cast his miniatures, he had to do it himself. - written by Bernard Rosenthal, (son of Louis Rosenthal)