During his trip to the Middle East, Secretary of State Alexander Haig presented foreign heads of state with three bronze sculptures created by Laszlo Ispanky. This gesture of American esteem was also an eloquent statement of the reawakened interest in bronze as a venerable medium of artistic expression and, specifically, in the work of Ispanky.
Bronze, an alloy of copper, is rooted in antiquity. It has been said that civilization was "born" with the coming of the Bronze Age (2500-1800 B.C.), when this valued metal was used for tools and weapons. Later, ancient Greeks excelled in casting bronze statuary, and during Renaissance years, Michaelangelo lauded Ghiberti's magnificent bronze doors at the Baptistry of San Giovanni in Florence, Italy, by calling them "the Gates of Paradise."
For some time, however, many 20th-century sculptors have preferred to work with welded steel, Plexiglas, cast cement, painted aluminum, and even tin cans. These lesser materials have been deemed appropriate for "modern living" for which the old-fashioned and traditional look of bronze was shunned. The current resurgence of regard for the traditional in government and life styles has nurtured the growing sophisticated return to an appreciation of fine art. It also has refocused attention on the enduring beauty and adaptability of bronze as an art medium.
Sculptor Ispanky has joined a growing list of contemporary sculptors who are working with bronze. Recently, the Hamilton Gallery in New York City recognized this revival of interest in bronze by mounting an exhibition of bronze pieces executed by 15 contemporary sculptors.
Ispanky, a master in many mediums -- porcelain, wood, stone, and bronze -- in 1956 fled the restrictions of his native Hungary, where he was an established Budapest sculptor, and came to the United States to enjoy freedom in the pursuit of his career. He feels that bronze permits him a highly desirable domension of freedom of expression and allows an expansion of his creativity. He responded to the spreading use of bronze by creating many biblical, historical, and other representations.
For the creation of his biblically oriented bronzes, he draws deeply from his extensive knowledge of both the Old and New Testament of the Bible. And his powerfully rendered pieces range from a sensitive portrayal of John the Baptist to a grouping entitled "Exodus," in arrestingly poignant firm sculptural statement depicting the resolute and enduring Israelites under the leadership of Moses.
Currently, Ispanky is associated with the Pegasus Mint, Pennington, N.J., which distributes his one-of-a- kind and limited edition bronzes.
Often called "the Master," Ispanky has been internationally acclaimed by numerous knowledgeable historians, art critics, and museum curators as the world's finest living artist. His large-scale monuments and fountains stand in Budapest, Amsterdam, London, and Vatican City.
David Foglia of Torrington, Conn. -- a young art entrepreneur, whose reproduction of the Tiffany scarab lamp has been recently exhibited and sold at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City -- is a representative of Ispanky's sculpture for the Pegasus Mint. He points out that, unlike most sculptors, Ispanky creates without the use of models. As an appreciative artist , Mr. Foglia says, "Laszlo Ispanky's ability to execute with such detailed authenticity without the use of a model is truly the work of a genius."
Mr. Foglia believes that of all Ispanky's bronze sculptures sold by Pegasus Mint, "Let There Be Light" (a patriarchal figure gracefully posed on his side and holding aloft the sun in one hand and the moon in the other) most accurately translates the dynamic spirit of the sculptor, whom he describes as "highly likeable" and "compassionate."
Some of Ispanky's sculpture is no more than 10 or 11 inches tall, and can be used either singly or with his somewhat larger pieces in a home of contemporary or traditional decor. His spirited "Pegasus" (an unlimited edition item) is 10 inches tall and costs $500. most of his bronzes range from $1,500 upward.
In the antiques world during the past 10 years or so, well-executed bronze sculpture has been steadily rising in price as more and more collectors recognize the value and beauty of bronzes that not too long ago were ignored.
Mr. Haig's presentation of Ispanky's bronze sculpture to foreign heads of state was not the first time that Ispanky's work has been given to those in "high places." His porcelain sculpture was presented to Pope Paul VI for the Vatican.
Royalty, too, has a penchant for Ispanky's porcelain sculpture. It is in the collections of Prince Philip of England, Princess Grace of Monaco, and Princess Christina of Sweden.
The regenerated respect for bronze as an art medium, along with Ispanky's powerful bronze sculpture, may be "putting it all together" for those of us who have found little of inspiration in smashed automobile fenders, piles of timber, and other such miscellany that have been cluttering museums as contemporary sculptural offerings.