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Australovenator wintonensis

Original Bronzes by Nelson Maniscalco
1:10 scale: L 500, H 215, W 85 (mm)
1:15th scale:  L 330, H 150, W 80 (mm)

Welded bronze alloys
15–20+ separate cast parts
Wood base, brass identification plaque
Australovenator is a very special animal. Not only is it the largest, fastest, and most deadly dinosaur ever discovered in Australia, it’s also an animal I know first-hand.
From 2009 to 2011 I was Chief of Operations at Australian Age of Dinosaurs (AAOD). During that time the fossil remains of the holotype specimen of Australovenator (a specimen known as ‘Banjo’) were our pride and joy. Many of Banjo’s bones were prepared and described during my tenure.

When I joined AAOD there was no skeletal reconstruction of Australovenator. We had most of the arms and legs, some jaw and teeth along with a brilliant reconstruction of a skull by my good friend and AAOD paleoartist Travis Tischler. The animal is an Allosaurid, so I was able to create the first full skeleton reconstruction as a collage made from photos I took of extant material, including the skull, arm and foot 

reconstructions made by Travis along with original fossil material (tibia heads, some toe bones and gastralia). For the missing axial skeleton I used my rebuilt Ants Allosaurus model: I warped the image in Photoshop to match the proportions of the fossil material, painted-in the missing scleral rings (eyes) and furcula (wishbone). The result is shown below. It formed the basis for subsequent representations.

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Original 2009 photo-collage reconstruction of Australovenator wintonensis that I created for Australian Age of Dinosaurs.
The middle hand claw has since been discovered and is larger than shown here.
From my first days working for AAOD I wanted to produce a scale model skeleton of Australovenator as a product for the museum shop. It needed to be a model small enough to be sold commercially and scientifically accurate enough to appeal to even the pickiest collector (like me)!

A milestone for AAOD was fast approaching by mid 2010; an amazing new museum building was under construction and I really wanted a worthy new product to launch at the opening. There was no easy answer; it had to be stunning, scientifically correct, and unique. A fully-finished mounted skeleton of Banjo would be perfect. But a mounted skeleton is delicate. It had to be robust—it would be no good if it were as fragile as others in my collection! I also didn't want a kit product that only diehards like me could be bothered assembling. Pretty tall order I know. So what to do?

In fact I knew exactly what I wanted, it had to be the best in the world and I knew only one person who could create it. Well, sort of. I'd seen fantastic miniature bronze skeleton models being sold through Maxilla and Mandible in New York (now closed unfortunately), but I had no idea who the sculptor was.

I visited Maxilla and Mandible once in 2008 and saw a miniature bronze Smilodon skeleton in the window. I forget the price but it was more than I could afford at the time (I lost count of how many times I wish I'd bought it anyway—so close and I let it get away). Getting a custom bronze Australovenator skeleton by that same artist was exactly what I was after!

One thing in my favor was this website and the people I've met because of it. One of my contacts, Horst Bruckmann in Germany, sent me a package of photocopies and images from his own collection and amongst it was an article in a Japanese magazine about the artist Nelson Maniscalco. It was him—there was the Smilodon bronze and and it even showed him making one! That article eventually allowed me to track down and contact him.

Well, it turned out Nelson is not only the best there is, he's was also very gracious and supportive of the AAOD project. He agreed to produce a miniature bronze to sell at the new AAOD museum. I was thrilled! I sent him all the reference material I could muster and he produced an amazingly accurate bronze! He was good to his word and had bronzes ready for the museum opening in April 2012.
Further, Nelson made a smaller, more affordable version on request from David and Judy Elliott, the founders of AAOD. It is also beautiful and looks like a perfect juvenile specimen when standing alongside the larger original.

I don't know how many will be produced, hopefully enough to satisfy demand. Each is cast in custom bronze alloys of varying hardness to suit the structure and hand-soldered to create each mount. Every one is truly an individual hand-made work of art! Nelson has been refining his bronze skeleton miniatures for many years and developed not only the expertise in creating them but also a great knowledge of dinosaur anatomy—he just knows how to get it right.

So this project and the bronze skeleton miniatures that resulted from it are very satisfying to me. I've no doubt AAOD got the best possible outcome. Truly a work of art and a fitting and historic tribute to Australia's most exciting dinosaur discovery.

My examples were kind gifts—the larger from AAOD in recognition of my contributions to the project and the smaller from Nelson himself. Both are prize possessions!

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Large and small versions of Nelson Maniscalco's bronze
Australovenator side-by-side show relative scale
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