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Revival and Invention

Sculpture through its Material Histories

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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Philippe Malgouyres - Coloured Stones, Sculpted Objects: Subjects for Sculpture 153

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Philippe Malgouyres Coloured Stones, Sculpted Objects: Subjects for Sculpture For the majority of European stone sculpture created after the Renaissance, the idealized white colour of antique statuary seems to have forbidden the use of colour. Polychrome sculpture could still be found in certain geo- graphical areas, or in certain specific categories (such as devotional images), but in these works colour is added to the sculpture afterwards, through paint. This essay concentrates on the introduction of colour through mate- rials, in particular the combination of a variety of coloured stones within a single work of art. The technique, which dates back to antiquity, enjoyed a revival from the late sixteenth century onwards. It was driven not by simple mimesis, where coloured stone was used to imitate the natural colours of the represented object, but was founded upon a more complex dialectic, where the features of the materials themselves played a leading part. Given this relationship, we may wonder about the raison d’être of these sculptures: was not their main purpose to display the beauty of the stone, a feature celebrated by the Florentine Agostino del Riccio in his Istoria delle Pietre at the end of the sixteenth century?1 I would like to discuss several issues raised by these works, often neglected by art historians, without theorizing the practice of sculpture in coloured stone, which remained mainly intuitive. In fact, the technique is based on a direct, sensual relationship with the materials: Filippo Juvarra (1678–1736), giving instructions as to...

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