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Marble Sculpture

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 rank among the greatest of human achievements.

Tools for Creating Marble Sculptures
The Italian terms for the basic carving tools of stone sculpture are given here, and where possible the English terms have been included.

  • La Mazza - The mallet used to strike the chisel
  • Gli Scalpelli - The chisels. These come in various types:
    • La Subbia - (the Point) a pointed chisel or punch
    • L'Unghietto - (Round or Rondel Chisel) Literally, "little fingernail"
    • La Gradina - (Toothed Chisel or Claw) a chisel with multiple teeth
    • Lo Scalpello - a flat chisel
    • Lo Scapezzatore - (Pitcher or Pitching Tool) 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

In addition to those hand tools listed above, the marble sculptor would use a variety of hammers - both for the striking of edge tools (chisels and hand drills) and for striking the stone directly (Bocciarda a Martello in Italian, Boucharde in French, Bush Hammer in English). Following the work of the hammer and chisel, the sculptor will sometimes refine the form further through the use of Rasps, Files and Abrasive Rubbing Stones and/or Sandpaper to smooth the surface contours of the form. To achieve a high-lustre polish on marble a very fine abrasive, tin oxide, is used following the use of pumice or finer grits of sandpaper.

Techniques for Creating Marble Sculptures
Hammer and point work is the technique used in working stone, 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. This is continued in a line following the desired contour. It may sound simple but many months are required to attain competency. 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.

 
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