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Revival and Invention

Sculpture through its Material Histories

Edited By Sébastien Clerbois and Martina Droth

Materials may seem to be sculpture’s most obvious aspect. Traditionally seen as a means to an end, and frequently studied in terms of technical procedures, their intrinsic meaning often remains unquestioned. Yet materials comprise a field rich in meaning, bringing into play a wide range of issues crucial to our understanding of sculpture. This book places materials at the centre of our approach to sculpture, examining their symbolic and aesthetic language, their abstract and philosophical associations, and the ways in which they reveal the political, economic and social contexts of sculptural practice. Spanning a chronology from antiquity through to the end of the nineteenth century, the essays collected in this book uncover material properties as fundamental to artistic intentionality.


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Michael Cole - The Cult of Materials 1


Michael Cole The Cult of Materials Few topics in the history of sculpture have seen as much success in recent years as those relating to ‘materials’ and ‘materiality’. Looking over the literature of the last two decades, in fact, it is easy to come away with the impression that the subject of the present volume, along with the conference that occasioned it, have entered the very centre of the field. And nowhere is this more true than in studies that focus on Renaissance objects. In recent years, Francesca Bewer, Frits Scholten, Thomas Raf f, Norberto Gramaccini, and Edgar Lein, among others, have given us chapters on the significance of copper and bronze.1 There is a substantial new literature on founders and the small library of recent catalogues not only on coins, medals, and figures, large and small, but also on bells, mortars, and holy water pails and fonts – topics nearly ignored before 1990, and where the interest is driven at least in part by a fascination with bronze per se.2 Daniela di Castro, James Mundy and Suzanne Butters have written on the significance of porphyry; Joachim Strupp and Fabio Barry of other marbles and colored stones; John Paoletti of wood; Paola Venturelli, Martha McCrory, and Denise Allen of gems; Christine Goettler, Megan Holmes, and Jay Bernstein of wax.3 It is not even unheard of in recent years for monographic works on artists who worked in dif ferent media to be arranged by materials rather than by chronology – witness Charles Avery’s...

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