Obelisk Art History
Mediums

Marble
The stone that glows like human skin

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 August 03, 2022, http://arthistoryproject.com/mediums/marble/.

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Female figure, Neolithic

Female figure 4500 – 4000BCE

Cycladic Figure, Aegean Civilizations

Cycladic Figure 2800BCE

Early Cycladic female figure, Aegean Civilizations

Early Cycladic female figure 3200 – 2800BCE

Cycladic seated harp player, Aegean Civilizations

Cycladic seated harp player 2800 – 2700BCE

Cycladic female figure, Aegean Civilizations

Cycladic female figure 2300 – 2200BCE

Moschophoros (calf-bearer), Ancient Greece

Moschophoros (calf-bearer) 560BCE

Peplos Kore, Ancient Greece

Peplos Kore 530BCE

Warrior of Capestrano, Ancient Rome

Warrior of Capestrano 500BCE

Head of Plato, Ancient Greece

Head of Plato 370BCE

Dying Gaul, Ancient Rome

Dying Gaul 250BCE

Laocoön and His Sons, Ancient Greece

Laocoön and His Sons 200BCE

Philosopher, Ancient Greece

Philosopher 200BCE

Athena, Ancient Greece

Athena 100BCE

Nero's Bath, Ancient Rome

Nero's Bath 64CE

Young Hercules, Ancient Rome

Young Hercules 69 – 96CE

Portrait of Aristotle, Ancient Greece

Portrait of Aristotle 100CE

Statue of Aphrodite, Ancient Rome

Statue of Aphrodite 100CE

The Braschi Antinous, Ancient Rome

The Braschi Antinous 138CE

Emperor Antoninus Pius, Ancient Rome

Emperor Antoninus Pius 138 – 161CE

Apollo Seated With Lyre, Ancient Greece

Apollo Seated With Lyre 200CE

The Three Graces, Ancient Rome

The Three Graces 200CE

Daughter of Mousaios, Funerary Stele, Coptic Art

Daughter of Mousaios, Funerary Stele 250CE

Kneeling Male Attendant, Khmer Art

Kneeling Male Attendant 921 – 945CE

St. Mark, Donatello

St. Mark Donatello, 1411

St. John the Evangelist, Donatello

St. John the Evangelist Donatello, 1408 – 1415

Saint George, Donatello

Saint George Donatello, 1416 – 1417

Prophet Habbakuk, Donatello

Prophet Habbakuk Donatello, 1423 – 1426

Assumption of the Virgin, Donatello

Assumption of the Virgin Donatello, 1427

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

Delivery of the Keys to St Peter and the Ascension of Christ Donatello, 1425 – 1430

Herod's Banquet, Donatello

Herod's Banquet Donatello, 1435

Pietà, Michelangelo

Pietà Michelangelo, 1498 – 1499

David, Michelangelo

David Michelangelo, 1501 – 1504

Moses, Michelangelo

Moses Michelangelo, 1513 – 1515

The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun, Gian Lorenzo Bernini

The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1615

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1647 – 1652

Apollo and Daphne, Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Apollo and Daphne Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1622 – 1655

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss, Antonio Canova

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss Antonio Canova, 1787 – 1793

Hampstead Heath with Bathers, John Constable

Hampstead Heath with Bathers John Constable, 1821

Head of a Vestal Virgin, Antonio Canova

Head of a Vestal Virgin Antonio Canova, 1821 – 1822

Venus Italica, Antonio Canova

Venus Italica Antonio Canova, 1822 – 1823

Reclining Naiad, Antonio Canova

Reclining Naiad Antonio Canova, 1819 – 1824

Columbus, Mary Edmonia Lewis

Columbus Mary Edmonia Lewis, 1865 – 1867

Forever Free, Mary Edmonia Lewis

Forever Free Mary Edmonia Lewis, 1867

Bust of Dr. Dio Lewis, Mary Edmonia Lewis

Bust of Dr. Dio Lewis Mary Edmonia Lewis, 1868

Hiawatha's Marriage, Mary Edmonia Lewis

Hiawatha's Marriage Mary Edmonia Lewis, 1871

Hermione, Sarah Bernhardt

Hermione Sarah Bernhardt, 1875

After the Storm, Sarah Bernhardt

After the Storm Sarah Bernhardt, 1876

Ophelia, Sarah Bernhardt

Ophelia Sarah Bernhardt, 1880

Andromeda, François Auguste René Rodin

Andromeda François Auguste René Rodin, 1885 – 1886

Funerary Portrait of Jacques Damala, Sarah Bernhardt

Funerary Portrait of Jacques Damala Sarah Bernhardt, 1889

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