Perhaps no material is as closely tied to an era as marble is to the classical world. Marble is a pale, metamorphic rock derived from limestone, and though it has been used to make art since before written language, marble is most commonly associated with the heroic, idealized, beautiful sculptures of the human form created at the height of the Greek and Roman empires. The sculptors of these cultures not only developed an unparalleled naturallism in their rendering, but took advantage of marble’s most unique characteristic, a property called subsurface scattering. Marble’s composition leaves it slightly transparent, allowing light to sink into marble in the same way that it plays across and through human skin, giving human forms captured in marble an etherial, lifelike quality.

Reed Enger, "Marble, The stone that glows like human skin," in Obelisk Art History, Published January 23, 2015; last modified July 20, 2019,

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Female figure

4500 BCE-4000 BCE

Cycladic Figure

2800 BCE

Early Cycladic female figure

3200 BCE-2800 BCE

Cycladic seated harp player

2800 BCE-2700 BCE

Cycladic female figure

2300 BCE-2200 BCE

Moschophoros (calf-bearer)

560 BCE

Peplos Kore

530 BCE

Warrior of Capestrano

500 BCE

Head of Plato

370 BCE

Dying Gaul

250 BCE

Laocoön and His Sons

200 BCE


200 BCE


100 BCE

Nero's Bath

64 CE

Young Hercules

69 CE-96 CE

Portrait of Aristotle

100 CE

Statue of Aphrodite

100 CE

The Braschi Antinous

138 CE

Emperor Antoninus Pius

138 CE-161 CE

Apollo Seated With Lyre

200 CE

The Three Graces

200 CE

Daughter of Mousaios, Funerary Stele

250 CE

Kneeling Male Attendant

921 CE-945 CE

St. Mark

Donatello, 1411

St. John the Evangelist

Donatello, 1408-1415

Saint George

Donatello, c. 1416-1417

Prophet Habbakuk

Donatello, 1423-1426

Assumption of the Virgin

Donatello, 1427

Delivery of the Keys to St Peter and the Ascension of Christ

Donatello, 1425-1430

Herod's Banquet

Donatello, c. 1435


Michelangelo, 1498-1499


Michelangelo, 1501-1504


Michelangelo, 1513-1515

The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1615

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1647-1652

Apollo and Daphne

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1622-1655

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss

Antonio Canova, 1787-1793

Hampstead Heath with Bathers

John Constable, 1821

Head of a Vestal Virgin

Antonio Canova, 1821-1822

Venus Italica

Antonio Canova, 1822-1823

Reclining Naiad

Antonio Canova, 1819-1824


Mary Edmonia Lewis, 1865-1867

Forever Free

Mary Edmonia Lewis, 1867

Bust of Dr. Dio Lewis

Mary Edmonia Lewis, 1868

Hiawatha's Marriage

Mary Edmonia Lewis, 1871


Sarah Bernhardt, 1875

After the Storm

Sarah Bernhardt, 1876


Sarah Bernhardt, 1880


François Auguste René Rodin, 1885-1886

Funerary Portrait of Jacques Damala

Sarah Bernhardt, 1889
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