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Marble Statues Aren’t Just for Museums Anymore

Turn any home into an art gallery with sculptures that even Michelangelo would approve.
Roxanne Robinson May 26, 2021
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If there’s one thing that never gets old when it comes to décor, it's the marble statue. Statues and sculptures have captivated mankind since ancient Mesopotamia, when crude models of animals were carved from marble. In ancient Egypt, artists favored limestone and granite. Nest Casa looks at this age-old art form and explores how it can add a modern but timeless touch to any home.

The History of Statues

As ancient civilizations developed into classical antiquity, the legacy of marble statues became truly established. The medium took off in Greece's archaic period (circa 700 to 480 B.C.) as the art form evolved with more realism displayed. It rose to prominence in Greece’s classical period (circa 500 to 323 B.C.) as achievements in naturalistic representations and attention to detail expanded, partly due to developed chiseling techniques that allowed for the advent of the draping effect. Further on, in the Hellenistic period (circa 323 to 30 B.C.), some of the most famous sculptures were created, such as: “Laocoön and His Sons,” “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” and “Venus de Milo.”

The Romans were also proficient sculptors, creating mainly busts and copies of Greek bronze statues. Their realistic portraits of scholars and military and political leaders during the republican era were like the Facebook of the day, capturing subjects true to size in everyday appearances. By the imperial period (circa 27 B.C. to 476 A.D.), marble reproductions of bronze sculptures became prevalent as Greek style influenced the Romans in the wake of the conquest of Greece.

Statues versus Sculptures

Before acquiring a marble, it's crucial to understand the different types of art pieces. First, a sculpture is a three-dimensional plastic art (or, one that requires physical manipulation). A statue is a type of sculpture that generally represents a free-standing recreation of a person or animal. It usually is full-length—unlike a bust, which depicts from the chest upward.

Types of Italian Marble

The most common type of marble is Carrara, which is typically white with gray streaks. Marble also comes in black, gray, green, red, pink, and even yellow. However, the most common for statues and sculptures is Statuario marble, which many sculptors prefer. Half of the world's marble comes from quarries in four places globally: Italy, China, India, and Spain. Other sourcing locations include Turkey, Greece, France, and the United States. 

In particular, Italy’s Pietrasanta is a mecca for marble sculpture past and present. Dubbed the “Athens of Italy,” this pleasant hamlet is nestled a few miles from the Versilia beaches of Tuscany and the Apuan Alps. Since the 16th century, when Michangelo came to contract marble he was using from the nearby alps, the town has been crucial to the creative arts, especially sculpture. The area is still bustling with marble and bronze workshops that produce as much as they did during the Renaissance. It attracts artists to make pilgrimages there in order to work with the skilled artisans of Pietrasanta.

Where to Source Marble Statues Today

If you decide that a marble statue is right for you, the next step is locating one. Nest Casa takes the guesswork out of finding one of these unique and ancient styles of art. From artists to marketplaces, this is the definitive list of today's top marble resources.

Artists:

Fabio Viale: The award-winning, Turin-based sculpture artist reimagines classical Greek and Roman statues by decorating them with modern tattoo art.

Michal Jackowski: This acclaimed Polish sculptor riffs on the classic with quirky details, such as a statue's head resembling a block puzzle or a text emerging on a tableau from behind another statue head.

Franco Cervietti: Following in his father's footsteps, Franco Cervietti took over the Pietrasanta workshop that produces more classically inspired statues with just the slightest touch of modernization. He especially excels at draping techniques.

Barry X Ball: The California-born (but New York–based) artist is world-renowned, working in several mediums. His Medardo Rosso series is a mix of abstract and realism, combined in one piece of sculpture.

Retail Sources

Chairish: Favored by design professionals as the ultimate destination for rare vintage, antique, and contemporary pieces of furnishings and art.

1stDibs:  The leader in the online flea market (as inspired by Parisian markets) is stocked with highly coveted vintage, antique, and contemporary furniture as well as home décor, art, fine jewelry, watches, and fashion.

Flair: A beloved marketplace in Italy’s Florence with a European aesthetic that’s stocked with mid-century design.

Flea Markets: Nest Casa especially loves the Marché aux Puces located at Porte de Clignancourt in Paris’ Saint-Ouen neighborhood.

The Round Top Antiques Show: A famous antique fair in a small town in the Texas countryside.

Roxanne Robinson
Roxanne Robinson is an award-winning Paris-based American journalist covering luxury and fashion industries with over 25 years of experience. I spent over 18 years at WWD, covering sportswear, accessories and fine jewelry. My career witnessed the shift from print media to the digital age. I gained expert knowledge of the design world, wholesale and retail markets as well as the marketing that supports them. I met endless creatives and business people who create luxury from inception to POS with the consumer. My work has appeared in Forbes.com, BoF, The Hollywood Reporter, CRFashionbook.com, The Jewelry Journal as well in-house publications and websites at Bally, Pomellato, Au Depart and Editorialist.com among others.
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