Notebook, 1993-


Marble - Granite - Limestone - Soapstone


(From Greek marmaros: a crystalline rock; root from marmaierein: to sparkle.)

Marble is a word loosely applied among masons and in the building trade to any hard limestone which can be sawn into thin slabs and will take a good polish so that it is suitable for decorative work, and in a stricter sense to metamorphosed limestones whose structure has been recrystallized by heat or pressure. Marbles are widely disseminated and occur in a great variety of colours and patterns, but certain types have been particularly prized by sculptors. The most famous of Greek white marbles in the ancient world was the close-grained Pentelic , which was quarried at Mt. Pentelicon in Attica. The Elgin Marbles are carved in Pentelic. Widely used also were the somewhat coarser-grained translucent white marbles from the Aegean islands of Paros and Naxos. Parian marble was used for the celebrated Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.

The pure white Carrara marble, quarried at Massa, Carrara, and Pietra Santa in Tuscany from the 3rd cent. BC, is the most famous of all sculptor's stones. It was used for Trajan's Column and the Apollo Belvedere , and was much favoured in the Renaissance, particularly by Michelangelo, who often visited the quarries to select material for his work. Neoclassical sculptors, such as Canova, also favoured it because of its ability to take a smooth, sleek surface.

[Chilvers, Ian, Harold Osborne, and Dennis Farr, eds. Oxford Dictionary Of Art. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.]



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