Bronze is the most popular metal for cast metal sculptures, often it is simply called a bronze.
Common bronze alloys have the desirable property of expanding slightly just before they set, filling the finest details of a mold. As the bronze cools, it shrinks a little, making it easier to separate it from its mold. Strength and lack of brittleness is an advantage when figures in action are to be created. These qualities allow the creation of extended figures.
But the value of the bronze for uses other than making statues is one of the largest disadvantages to the preservation of these sculptures. Very few large ancient bronzes have survived, as many were melted down to make weapons or ammunition in times of war or to create new sculptures commemorating the victors. Many life sized bronze sculptures by John Waddell were stolen, probably due to the value of the metal after the work had been melted.
For large sculptures, the artist will usually prepare small study models until the pose and proportions are determined. An intermediate-sized model is then constructed with all of the final details. Finally, plaster, clay or other material is used to form the full-size model, from which a mold may be constructed. Welding allows a large sculpture to be cast in pieces, then joined. Prior to modern welding techniques, large sculptures were generally cast in one piece with a single pour.
There is another form of sculptural art that uses bronze, called ormolu, it casts a soft bronze that is coated with gold to produce a matte gold finish. Ormolu was popularized in the 18th century in France and is often found in wall sconces, ink stands, and clocks.