On July 13th, 2022, TIC (Treasure Investments Corp) unveiled the world’s largest pure silver sculpture to the world! The masterpiece was revealed at The Mirage in Las Vegas during the opening ceremony of Freedom Fest – an independent annual festival where people from all walks of life celebrate ideas, art, books, and thinkers. The presence of hundreds of art fanatics made the event perfect for unveiling this record-setting piece of art – Michelangelo’s famed “Pieta” in the form of a pure silver sculpture. Let’s get into the details of the sculpture, who commissioned it, and how it was cast.
What Is “Pieta Michelangelo?”
Pieta Michelangelo is a marble sculpture made by the Italian artist Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1499. The work depicts the body of Jesus Christ being held by the Virgin Mary after his crucifixion. The title comes from the Italian word pietà, which means “pity” or “compassion.”
Pieta Michelangelo is one of the most well-known and iconic works of art in the world. It is also one of Michelangelo’s most personal works, as he was deeply religious and felt a great connection to the biblical story of Christ’s suffering. The Pieta Michelangelo is located in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It is on display behind bullet-proof glass and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world.
Details Of The Artwork (Largest Pure Silver Sculpture)
Using over 18000 ounces of 0.999 purity silver, the Pieta Michelangelo pure silver sculpture was cast at Firebird Bronze Foundry as a one-of-one original. This means the size of the silver sculpture exactly matches the original marble Pieta sculpture. The dimensions of both the original marble sculpture and the silver sculpture are as follows: 174 cm × 195 cm (68.5 in × 76.8 in). But how did they do it? The mold for the largest pure silver sculpture was prepared directly from Michelangelo’s original masterpiece, so there was no room for error. Credit goes to Treasure Investments Corp for going to such length and investing valuable resources in the art space to create this fine piece of art. Speaking of investments, let’s shed some light on the project details and how Treasure Investments Corporation pulled off the largest silver casting at Firebird Bronze Foundry.
Who Commissioned It?
Treasure Investment Corps – a philanthropy-centric fine art company – commissioned the project for the world’s largest pure silver sculpture. Through their charity auction program, TIC pledges valuable assets to charity reserved for donations towards nonprofits, fundraising events, and charity auctions. Founded by Mark Russo, Treasure Investments Corporation (TIC) dba, Foundry Michelangelo creates stunning sculptures cast in solid gold, pure silver, bronze, and other metals. Their sculpture collection includes hundreds of art pieces belonging to legendary artists. Notable figures such as President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II have bought artworks from TIC. This speaks volumes about the quality and fine craftsmanship employed while casting all of their sculptures.
Since 1998, TIC has displayed its sculptures in more than 50,000 charity auctions. In doing so, the company has raised tens of millions of dollars to play its part in making positive efforts and impactful changes to various social causes.
Lately, the company has been making efforts to expand and innovate its fine art business, and Pieta Michelangelo was the first step toward those endeavors.
However, this didn’t come easy, and it took a good 18-years time to complete the project from start to finish. Besides the continuous struggle of team members and partners, it took millions of dollars as the company faced issues finding the right foundry to do the job accurately and effectively.
The company acquired one foundry in Italy but later had to sell it due to technical challenges and capacity issues. Then, after more than 20 trips to and from Europe, TIC executives finally discovered the foundry that went on to carry out the largest silver casting – Firebird Bronze foundry.
Read on to learn more about Firebird Bronze.
The Foundry That Did It – Firebird Bronze
Firebird Bronze is a full-service foundry specializing in custom fine art foundry casting, lost wax casting, mold making, sand cast plaques, bases, bronze art crating and packaging, and so much more. With decades of combined experience, sculpting knowledge, and various casting styles, Firebird Bronze artisans provide a one-stop solution for all bronze art needs. In fact, they are equally qualified to deal in precious ferrous metals – that is exactly why Treasure Investments Corporation chose them for their largest silver casting ever.
Rip Cawell is the mastermind behind this talented group of people. He owns Caswell Sculpture, Caswell Sculpture Garden, and Firebird Bronze Foundry. Rip is recognized as one of America’s finest bronze sculptors and an expert public artist. He specializes in creating realistic pieces in multiple genres, including classical, wildlife, and figurative. Rip uses the lost wax casting method to create detailed and realistic sculptures in bronze. His artworks can be seen in private galleries and public spaces throughout the United States and abroad, including New York, Washington DC, and England.
In 2020, Rip was selected as a Sculptor for National Geographic, where he traveled the world to make a difference in wildlife conservation. Given his exceptional skill and illustrious sculpting career, there’s no doubt why Firebird Bronze Foundry was awarded this significant task of casting the world’s largest pure silver sculpture. Rip was excited and proud to have completed the project. He said:
“So proud of the hard work of the Firebird Bronze team. Making history with the largest silver cast ever made 20,000 ounces of pure silver. Over a thousand pounds! We are all tired and proud of the accomplishment.“
It was indeed a monumental project and definitely a big win for Firebird Bronze. But, it wasn’t the first time that they created legendary artwork. Let’s look at other notable art pieces that Rip and his team created.
Rip Caswell and Firebird Bronze’s Notable Artworks
Besides the largest silver casting of Pieta Michelangelo, here are some other momentous sculptures cast at Firebird Bronze foundry.
Baptism Of Christ
This project was part of the renovation and remodeling of the Epiphany Catholic Church in Normal, Illinois. The project’s Patron wanted a site-specific sculpture depicting John baptizing the Christ.
As with every project, Rip started with deep research of Jesus’ baptism. This research involved a lot of self-learning plus detailed discussions with representatives from the church, where Rip asked many questions to understand their wishes and the theme of the required artwork.
As a result, Rip created a masterpiece with fantastic details on individual features like the clothes, the olive branch, camel skin, and rocks from the Jordan River.
This is how the Epiphany Church commented on Rip’s sensational sculpting:
“Everyone who lays eyes on it in our baptistery lights up and is in awe of the composition, the detail, the expressions, and the exquisite workmanship. I cannot say enough in praise and appreciation of Rip’s ability as an ecclesiastical artist” – Monsignor Eric Powell,The Epiphany Catholic Church.
Chester William Nimitz was a fleet admiral of the United States Navy. He played a significant role in the naval history of World War II. He commanded Allied air, land, and sea forces as Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet, and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas. Such a legendary historical figure’s sculpture needed the hands of an extraordinary artist. The Naval Order of the United States spent almost 18 months trying to find the best man for the job, and the search ended with Rip Caswell.
The Commander General and Director of the Naval Order of the United States personally visited Caswell Sculptures and Firebird Bronze as part of the lengthy selection process with detailed background checks. Rip took up the job and, as always, dove deep into history to gather as much information about Admiral Nimitz as he could. He studied WWII and interviewed those who knew Nimitz.
After he had what he wanted, Rip created the sculpture that depicts the 5-Star Fleet Admiral in a moment of reflection as if Nimitz was thinking of those lost in the war. Surprisingly, the Admiral is wearing Navy khakis instead of his uniform as a symbol of his strong connection and respect for the people who served him. Everyone loved the artwork. Treasurer at the Naval Order of the United States, Captain Al Serafini (Ret.), said, “Thank you for your hard work and fabulous results. God has blessed you with great talent, and we are all beneficiaries of it.“
Governor Tom McCall
Thomas Lawson McCall was the 30th governor of the Oregon State from 1967 to 1975. Among a list of achievements, he is known chiefly for striving towards environmental cleanup, the famous “bottle bill,” and public ownership of beaches.
McCall had several items and places named after him for his outstanding service to the nation. Some of the most famous are:
- Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland,
- Tom McCall East Upper Elementary School in Forest Grove,
- Tom McCall Elementary School in Redmond.
- Tom McCall Nature Preserve in Wasco County, Oregon
When the Tom McCall Memorial Committee decided to further honor his name and build a 20 feet tall portrait of the former governor, Rip seemed the most reliable choice. Caswell Sculpture was commissioned to prepare McCall’s bronze sculpture, and the team did an excellent job as expected.
The sculpture depicts McCall wading through the Umpqua river with a fly rod in one hand and the “catch” in the other. Rip used McCall’s original waders and fly rod to recreate that true-to-life masterpiece.
Tad McCall, Tom McCall’s son, and the committee members loved the sculpture’s great attention to detail and realistic features. Tad McCall said:
“Your sculpture stands alone at the pinnacle of expressive and beautiful art. My father lives in the statue and his spirit radiates with a vibrant humanity that belies the metallic fabric. I think you capture the person Tom McCall, and honor the medium simultaneously.”
These are just a few of the memorable sculptures created by Rip Caswell. His long list of famous artworks includes:
- The Oregon Duck at the University of Oregon
- Guardian Spirit at the Eagle Landing Development
- Tommy Tucker at the Friendship Park in Madras, Oregon
- Martin Luther King Sculpture
- They Bred Good Horses at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum in Amarillo, Texas
As for the Firebird Bronze, it has had some huge names as clients for foundry services. The names include Nike, National Geographic, Disneyland, Nintendo, Oregon Zoo, and many others.
Moreover, the foundry is trusted by hundreds of individual artists from around the world!