Sculpture through its Material Histories
Philippe Malgouyres - Coloured Stones, Sculpted Objects: Subjects for Sculpture 153
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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