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Characteristics of Marble as a Sculptural Material

May. 12, 2023

Classic and timeless, marble has the unique cachet and elegance that no other building material has. Marble slabs and blocks can be used for both interior and exterior and sculpture. Used in all periods and across many genres of design, marble material can be a wonderful addition to most any home.  

Marble as a Sculptural Material


What is Marble?


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


Typical marbles occupy about half of the same size granite and are very soft. The very old and popular sandstone is lighter and softer than marble, but it is less durable and very easy to wear and tear when exposed to elements.


Certain quarries are well known for the quality of the marble they produce, like Carrarra marble from Italy. Other marble is darker, and takes a high polish, which makes it popular for architectural uses. It has the strength of stone, but it is easier to work than other stones, so decorative carving can be added which would be difficult with other stones.


Advantages of Marble


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 a variety of shades and patterns. Compared to other stones such as granite and siliceous, the marble gives the desired shape and is convenient for producing complex details. 

There are many reasons why marble is an excellent stone for sculpture.White marbles are especially prized for fine art sculpture because of their relative isotropy and homogeneity, and resistance to shattering. 

It is relatively soft and easy to create by carving smooth curves and shapes very difficult in stiff tones like granite. The most frequently used sculptural material to sculpt human form tends to be translucent, not opaque. Therefore, it seems to be almost shining when it is very light. It shows the sculptures made from marble to be more vivid than hard luster.

In addition, the low refractory index of refraction of calcite permits light to penetrate into the stone (as it does the human skin), resulting in the typical "waxy" look which gives the stone a human appearance. 

Hardness and weight are primary reason marble has been used across many civilization.They are easy to quarry, shape, and polish compared to other popular stone type of ancient, making them ideal for decorative work. 

Marble was just about right density to handle, curve, and shiny when polished, and it was easier to leaf or paint on marble, so it was useful for religious sculptures. One of the oldest gold leaf were used around 1200 B.C in egypt applying gold leaf on marble has been around for long time.

Compared to the next best alternative stone, limestone, marble possesses a much finer grain, which makes it much easier for the sculptor to render minute detail. Marble is also more weather resistant. 



Disadvantages of Marble

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, compared to bronze, marble has a lower tensile strength and is vulnerable to cracking when extended (ballet-style) poses are attempted. It is significantly less weather-resistant than granite, and does not handle well as it absorbs skin oils, causing staining


Marble, like limestone and travertine, will develop a patina over time due to use and chemical reactions. Oils, acids and many minerals in particular react with the calcium carbonate inherent in the stone to cause this patina.



If you are interested in or want to know more about or want to custom made marble carving sculpture,please contact with us !

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