What Is a Marble Sculpture?

What Is a Marble Sculpture?

What Is a Marble Sculpture?

Probably the most popular material used in sculpture, Marble's translucency and durability has made it the medium of choice for all the greatest sculptors, including Greek artists like Phidias, Myron, Polykleitos, and Praxiteles, as well as their successors Donatello, Michelangelo, Bernini, Canova, and Rodin. 

Marble has been used equally for relief sculpture and friezes, as well as the free-standing statue. 

Ever since the invention of metal tools during the Bronze Age, sculptors and architects alike have highly prized marble stone. 

During the Renaissance, Michelangelo (1475-1564) famously described stone sculpture as the slow release of a form as it emerged out of the block. 

He said that his role as an artist was to liberate the human form trapped inside the block by gradually chipping away at the stone surface. 

Famous examples of marble sculpture include masterpieces like the Parthenon Reliefs (446-430 BCE), The Apollo Belvedere (330 BCE), Venus de Milo (100 BCE), Trajan's Column reliefs (113 CE), David by Michelangelo (1501-4), Giambologna's Rape of the Sabine Women (1581-3), Canova's Apollo Crowning Himself (1781), Rodin's The Kiss (1888-9) and Daniel Chester French's Statue of Lincoln (1922).

The stone we call marble is a metamorphic rock (mostly composed of calcite, a type of calcium carbonate) formed due to changes brought about in the structure of sedimentary or igneous rocks by extreme pressure or heat. 

Sculptors like marble because, while relatively soft and easy to work when first quarried, it becomes extremely hard and dense with age and is also available in various shades and patterns. 

White marbles are especially prized for fine art sculpture because of their relative isotropy and homogeneity and resistance to shattering. In addition, the low refractory index of refraction of calcite permits light to penetrate the stone (as it does the human skin), resulting in the typical "waxy" look, which gives the stone a human appearance. 

Marble can also be highly polished, making it ideal for decorative work. Compared to the next best alternative stone, limestone, Marble possesses a much finer grain, making it much easier for the sculptor to render minute detail. Marble is also more weather resistant.

There are drawbacks, however. Marble is rarer, therefore, more expensive than several other types of rock used in stone sculpture. It is also extremely heavy, making transportation difficult. Also, Marble has a lower tensile strength compared to bronze and is vulnerable to cracking when extended (ballet-style) poses are attempted. Finally, it is significantly less weather-resistant than granite and does not handle well as it absorbs skin oils, causing staining.

How To Make A Marble Sculpture

Are you passionate about the world of sculpture? Would you like to create your pieces and produce your pieces of art just like Michelangelo himself? 

Great! As you can see, this is an art that we are passionate about, and our objective is simple: provide artists with all the best sculpture tools they could need. And it is precisely for this reason that today we would like to give you a step-by-step explanation of how to make a marble sculpture. Shall we get started?

Today's artists still use the same techniques used by one of the world's most famous sculptors, who we have already mentioned in this post: Michelangelo. 

It is important to note that, before starting any sculpture, it is essential to have a good visual concept and a plan. Do you have this ready? Perfect, well, now we can move on to the next steps. Let's go!

Step 1: The Mould

The first thing an artist should do is make a mould from clay or plaster, which they will use to model the concept or figure. 

This material is ideal because it allows you to add all the details you need for your final sculpture. 

The clay or plaster model plays a very similar role to a sketch for painters because it allows the artist to make or undo changes that wouldn't be possible when sculpting stone, as once the stone has been carved, it cannot be undone.

Step 2: Extracting The Material

In this case, we want to know how to make sculptures from Marble, so that is the material we'll be focusing on in this post. 

First, Marble is extracted from a quarry, where large blocks are cut and cleaned, and a supervisor will indicate how the material should be cut to be prepared for the sculpture. Wow! Sounds interesting, right? It is then cut into the appropriate dimensions so the sculptor can work with it easily.

Step 3: Proportions Of The Marble Sculpture

The resulting block of Marble is moved to the studio, alongside the clay or plaster version of the sculpture that the artist wants to make. What for? 

Quite simply so that the artist can measure the proportions and transfer the measurements of the plaster version to the marble block. This will allow them to mark out the main mass of material and the limits of the shape being sculpted.

Step 4: Roughing Out And Sculpting

The fourth step involves removing large material areas from the block being sculpted, moulding it to end up with the approximate shape and size that the artist wants to work with. For this step, the marks made in the previous step to outline the shape will help avoid removing too much material.

Step 5: The Details

Once you have achieved the general form of your sculpture, you can start to add details and perfect your work of art. 

Once again, you will need to add all the measurements from your previous version to ensure that all the details of your marble sculpture are on the correct scale. For this step, you will mostly be using chisels, rifflers and rasps.

Step 6: The Finishing Touches

Once you have completed the sculpture, you can finish it by rubbing it with oxalic acid to seal it and protect it from possible staining. 

The oxalic acid will also give it a shiny and transparent finish, adding more visual depth to the sculpture. And that's it!

Why Is Marble Used For Sculpture?

Marble is formed from limestone by heat and pressure in the earth's crust. These forces cause the limestone to change in texture and makeup. 

This process is called recrystallization. Fossilized materials in the limestone and its original carbonate minerals recrystallize and form large, coarse grains of calcite. Impurities present in the limestone during recrystallization affect the mineral composition of the Marble that forms. 

At relatively low temperatures, silica impurities in the carbonate minerals form masses of chert or crystals of quartz. At higher temperatures, the silica reacts with the carbonates to produce diopside and forsterite.

marble-statue

At extremely high temperatures, rarer calcium minerals, such as larnite, monticellite, and rankinite, form in the Marble. 

If water is present, serpentine, talc and certain other hydrous minerals may be produced. The presence of iron, alumina, and silica may result in the formation of hematite and magnetite.

The minerals that result from impurities give Marble a wide variety of colours. The purest calcite marble is white. Marble containing hematite has a reddish colour. A marble that has limonite is yellow, and a marble with serpentine is green. 

Pure white Marble is the result of the metamorphism of very pure limestones. The characteristic swirls and veins of many coloured marble varieties are usually due to mineral impurities such as clay, silt, sand, iron oxides, or chert which were originally present as grains or layers in the limestone.

Green colouration is often due to serpentine resulting from originally high magnesium limestone or dolostone with silica impurities. These various impurities have been mobilized and recrystallized by the intense pressure and heat of the metamorphism.

Marble does not split easily into sheets of equal size and must be mined carefully. The rock may shatter if explosives are used. 

Blocks of Marble are mined with channelling machines, which cut grooves and holes in the rock. Miners outline a block of Marble with rows of grooves and holes. They then drive wedges into the openings and separate the block from the surrounding rock. The blocks are cut with saws to the desired shape and size.

The visible crystals in Marble give it a characteristic granular surface and appearance, but other properties are used to identify the rock.

Marble is considered a strong, hard stone, even though its primary mineral, calcite, only has a Mohs hardness of Marble can be scratched with a metal blade.

Marble tends to be light in colour. The purest Marble is white. A marble that contains a lot of bituminous material, maybe black. Most Marble is pale grey, pink, brown, green, yellow, or blue.

The Properties of Marble and Its Uses

Very few rocks have as many uses as Marble:

  1. It is used for its beauty in architecture and sculpture.
  2. It is used for its chemical properties in pharmaceuticals and agriculture.
  3. It is used for its optical properties in cosmetics, paint, and paper.
  4. It is used because it is an abundant, low-cost commodity in crushed stone prepared for construction projects.

Marble has many unique properties that make it a valuable rock in many different industries. The photographs and captions below illustrate just a few of their varied uses.

Many Colors of Marble

Marble occurs in a very wide range of colours. The Marble formed from the purest limestones is white. Iron oxide impurities in the limestone will produce a yellow, orange, pink or red colour. 

Clay minerals can produce grey colours that often occur in bands after the compositional stratification of the original limestone. 

Abundant bituminous materials can produce dark grey to black Marble. A marble that contains serpentine often has a green colour.

Supreme Court Building

The Supreme Court building was constructed between 1932 and 1935 using several different types of Marble.

Vermont marble was used extensively in the exterior. In addition, the inner courtyards were made using bright white Marble from Georgia, and the interior corridors and entrance halls were made from creamy white Marble from Alabama. 

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument was built of Marble between 1848 and 1884. Initial work on the structure was done using Marble from a quarry located near Texas, Maryland. The project was then delayed for nearly 30 years due to a lack of funds. 

When construction resumed in 1876, similar stone from the Texas quarry was not available, so stone from the Sheffield quarry near Sheffield, Massachusetts, was used. Unfortunately, the Sheffield quarry had problems delivering stone in a timely manner, and in 1880 their contract was cancelled. 

A new contract then went to the Cockeysville Quarry near Baltimore, Maryland, which supplied a slightly darker dolomitic marble. These different stone sources can be seen in the monument as labelled in the photo above.

Marble Stair Treads, Risers, Floor Tile

Marble is a material used in prestigious architecture and interior design. This photo shows stair treads and risers made from brecciated Marble and floor tiles made from Marble in various colours. 

Bust of Artemis

Marble is a translucent stone that allows light to enter and produce a soft "glow." It also can take a very high polish. 

These properties make it a beautiful stone for producing sculptures. In addition, it is soft, making it easy to sculpt, and when it is fine-grained, it has uniform properties in all directions. Some of the world's most famous sculptures have been produced from Marble. This bust of the Greek goddess Artemis is a copy of an original Greek work. 

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial was built between 1914 and 1922. Many different stones were used in the memorial. The terrace walls and lower steps were made of granite from Massachusetts. The upper steps, columns, and outside facades were made using Marble from Colorado. 

The interior walls are Indiana limestone (called "Indiana Marble" by many architects).

The floor was made using pink Marble from Tennessee, and the statue of Lincoln is made from a very bright white marble from Georgia. Each type of stone was selected for its properties, along with an effort to utilize stone from many parts of the United States.

Cemetery Markers

Marble is often used as a cemetery marker. It is a very attractive stone.

In addition, it is economical because it is relatively easy to cut and engrave. However, rocks like granite are not as resistant to acid precipitation and tend to lose edges and detail over time.

Whiting

Marble of exceptionally white colour is sometimes used to produce a product known as "whiting," a white powder used as a pigment, brightener, and filler in paint, paper and other products. 

Cutting Marble

A large-diameter diamond saw cuts a block of Marble into dimension stone at a factory. Slabs and marble blocks are used for stair treads, floor tiles, facing stones, cemetery stones, window sills, ashlars, sculptures, benches, paving stones and many other uses.

Agricultural Lime

Some marble is heated in a kiln to drive off the carbon dioxide contained within the calcite.

marble-buddha

What remains after kiln treatment is the calcium oxide - known as "lime." Lime is used as an agricultural soil treatment to reduce the acidity in the soil. 

When applied in combination with fertilizer, it can increase the yield of soil. This test plot shows a portion of a cornfield where no lime and no fertilizer were applied. The plants in that plot are struggling to survive. 

Marble Dimension Stone

Marble cut into blocks and slabs of specific size is known as "dimension stone." 

Marble Quarry

Equipment working in a marble quarry near Madrid, Spain. In this quarry, the Marble is being sawn into blocks for the production of dimension stone. 

Acid Neutralization

Marble is composed of calcium carbonate. 

That makes it very effective at neutralizing acids. The highest purity marble is often crushed to a powder, processed to remove impurities, and then used to make products such as Tums and Alka-Seltzer used to treat acid indigestion.

Crushed Marble is also used to reduce the acid content of soils, the acid levels of streams, and as an acid-neutralizing material in the chemical industry. 

Crushed Stone - Construction Aggregate

Some marble is mined, crushed, sized and sold as a construction aggregate. It can be used as fill, subbase, landscape stone and other uses where soundness and abrasion resistance are not critical.

Because Marble is composed of calcite, it cleaves more readily than limestone and does not have granite's strength, soundness, and abrasion resistance and other more competent rocks. 

Soft Abrasive

Marble is composed of calcite, a mineral with a Mohs hardness of three. It is softer than most bathroom and kitchen surfaces and can be used as a scrubbing agent without producing scratches or other damage.

Calcium Feed Supplement

Dairy cows and chickens need a steady supply of calcium to produce milk and eggs. Therefore, farms that raise these animals often use animal feeds that have been supplemented with additional calcium.

Powdered limestone and Marble are used to produce these supplements because they are softer than the animal's teeth, soluble, and rich in calcium. 

Uses Of Marble In Home Design

Marble is a fan favourite for home design because it is such a versatile stone. While commonly thought of as being used as countertops, there are plenty of ways to use Marble in home design.

From kitchens to basements, Marble can be used in literally every room of the house.

You can choose to get a "Wow" moment from your Marble by making statement uses of the stone. Or, you can keep your Marble feeling fresh and current by using it in small doses.

Accent marble can make an even bigger statement than a whole wall of stone.

Here are some of our favourite ways to use Marble in home design for a timeless and trendy look.

Pillars

Marble has been used in design for thousands of years and was a favourite of Mesopotamian cultures. One of the favoured uses of Marble that is still being used today is building columns. Columns can be used for load-bearing purposes but are mostly built for decoration. So give your hope a European ambience with beautiful marble pillars.

Marble Walls

Whether you're using this natural stone as an accent wall or a backsplash, a marble wall is a beautiful statement piece to any home. Marble walls give a fresh feeling to your space that reads cleanly.

Marble walls can read warm or cool depending on what slab you choose. Something like our Statuario Marble is perfect for a chic and cool palette, where our Bamboo grey polished marble is perfect for warm and comforting spaces.

Countertops

Marble countertops are a popular choice for kitchens and bathrooms.

Carrara marble is a great choice for marble countertops as they are an affordable stone that brings a bright elegance to your space.

Be sure to clean and seal your countertops to protect them from stains and keep them in tip-top shape.

Fireplace Backsplash

Your fireplace is already the focal point of your room, so why not make it a visual feast by using marble tile as its backsplash?

Customize the colour of your Marble to compliment your room and give it the warmth that a fireplace deserves.

Marble Flooring

Marble flooring gives off a grand appearance that will take your breath away.

Be sure all of your Marble comes from the same batch when installing it for your flooring. This will ensure all of your pieces match and flow seamlessly.

Marble Furniture

A wonderful way to add Marble into your home in a way that is both stylish and cost-effective is by using marble furniture and accessories.

Consider such items as a marble coffee table, marble cutting boards, marble bedside lamps, and marble coasters to bring just a splash of visual interest into your room.

These are just some of the more popular uses of Marble. While Marble is heavily utilized within different industries; however, it is still very popular in the construction industry.

For example, suppose you want to use this material yourself for your flooring needs. You can use our materials to grace your floorings, create partitions, and even use our precast materials that will best compliment your desired space.

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