Marble sculpture is the art of creating three dimensional forms from marble. Sculpture is among the oldest of the arts. Even before painting cave walls, early humans fashioned shapes from stone. From these beginnings, artifacts have evolved to their current complexity. The point at which they became art is for the beholder to decide. In any case, sculptures place among the greatest of human achievements.
How To - The Basics of Knocking Marble
In its simplest concept, sculpture is simply the art of breaking stone or other material into a specific shape. And breaking it is accomplished by hitting it with tools. In practice however, adhering strictly to these simple instructions will rarely result in an aesthetically pleasing product. Even the geniuses among us need to know which tools to use and how to use them.
The Italian terms for the tools of sculpture are given here, and where possible the English terms have been included.
- La Mazza - The mallet. This is used to strike the chisels, sometimes your own hand, and, in moments of frustration, the stone itself.
- I Scalpelli - The chisels. These come in various types:
- La Subbia - a pointed chisel or punch
- L'Unghietto - Literally, "little fingernail"
- La Gradina - a chisel with multiple teeth
- Lo Scalpello - a flat chisel
- Lo Scapezzatore - a hefty chisel with a broad blunt edge, for splitting.
- Il Martello Pneumatico - Air hammer
- Il Flessibile - an angle grinder, fitted with an electrolysis-applied diamond studded blade
- Hand Drill
Good old-fashioned, hammer and point work is the most brutal technique used in working stone and the oldest: in use since Pygmalion. It consists of holding the pointed chisel against the stone and swinging the hammer at it as hard as possible. When the hammer connects with the striking end of the chisel, its energy is transferred down the length and concentrates on a single point on the surface of the block, breaking the stone all around. This is continued in a line following the desired contour. It may sound simple but many months are required to attain competence in this, with more than a few smashed fingers along the way. Most beginners instinctively hit the chisel with short quick blows, it produces a satisfactory-looking result and it is easier to hit the end of the chisel accurately. However this novices' technique is inefficient and will tire you out while digging shallow lines. A good stone worker can maintain a rhythm of relatively longer blows (about one per second), swinging the hammer in a wider arc, lifting the chisel between blows to flick out any chips that remain in the way, and repositioning it for the next blow. This way, one can drive the point deeper into the stone and remove more material at a time. Some stoneworkers also spin the subbia in their fingers between hammer blows, thus applying with each blow a different part of the point to the stone. This helps prevent the point from breaking.
List of marble sculptures
- Elgin Marbles, in the British Museum, London
- David by Michelangelo, in Florence
- Laocoon and his Sons by Agesander , in the Vatican Museums, Vatican City
- Moses by Michaelangelo, in Rome
- Pieta by Michaelangelo, in the Vatican
- Winged Victory of Samothrace, in the Louvre, Paris