The Materials of Sculpture

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Nicholas Penny

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This beautiful book surveys the sculpture of many civilizations—from ancient Egypt, Greece, and China to fifteenth-century Italy, nineteenth-century France, and twentieth-century North America. It provides a basic introduction to the nature of the materials used by sculptors, examining how these were regarded as well as how they were worked in different periods and in different cultures.

The book begins with the hardest stones that are worked with abrasives, goes on to discuss marble and softer stones and organic materials, such as wood and ivory, considers plastic materials (clay, stucco, gesso, and wax), both as molded materials and modeled ones, and then describes the casting and tooling of metal. Each chapter defines the limitations and challenges special to the material, examining, for example, its availability, value, durability, versatility, size, and color. Considering the ways in which artists have transferred techniques from one medium to another and striven to imitate in one material effects associated with another—how, for example, ivory carving has influenced porcelain models and pieced wooden sculpture has influenced marble carving—Nicholas Penny questions and qualifies the most powerful idea in the education of the sculptor in this century—the relation of truth to material.

Full of facts drawn from rare and obscure publications and taking account of newer research (some carried out at the author's own request), the book combines useful information with stimulating speculation. It will be welcomed by sculpture lovers everywhere and provides an essential guide for students.

Nicholas Penny is Clore Curator of Renaissance Art at the National Gallery, London. He is also the author of Church Monuments in Romantic England and co author of Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture and Raphael

"An unusual and very interesting book. . . . Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"Anyone seriously interested in sculpture should own this remarkable book. It is not only fascinating to read, it is an invaluable sourcebook about how sculpture has been made in virtually all periods of history and in all parts of the world. . .. [Penny] writes eloquently about his subject, demonstrating a keen sensitivity to the art of sculpture as well as a scholarly approach to his subject. . . . A comprehensive and authoritative overview of how sculptors have worked with their materials throughout the ages."—David Finn, Sculpture Review

"Nicholas Penny writes readably as well as authoritatively; he manages to pack in an extraordinary amount of information about the physical properties of the materials and about the techniques used to work them. He is also a master of concise, but telling, visual analysis."—Peter Humfrey, Country Life

"Once again Nicholas Penny has put us all in his debt. . . . He has given us a book on an aspect of sculptural history that will prove enormously helpful to our understanding of the métier as a whole. . . . Highly recommended."—Eric Shanes, Art Book

"To read The Materials of Sculpture is to receive a first-rate tour of some of the most brilliant works of art in the world's museums. . . . A work of profound learning, . . . The Materials of Sculpture is a labour of love, to be savoured and put to good use."—Susan Walker, British Museum Magazine

"This remarkable volume . . . contains facts galore, quirky aperçus on every page, as well as some unexpectedly poetic passages of description. I cannot imagine anyone else having the chutzpah to attempt a book on this subject."—David Ekserdjian, Spectator

"This account of technical processes forms a welcome addition to the somewhat patchy literature on sculpture techniques."—Malcolm Baker, Burlington Magazine

"This dimension of sculpture, neglected in the past, has rarely been addressed with such geographical breadth. . . . Penny's study is the mature fruit of a long-standing scholarly enthusiasm for sculpture and its materials."—Suzanne B. Butters, The Times Literary Supplement

ISBN: 9780300065817
Publication Date: September 10, 1996
328 pages, 8 1/4 x 10 1/4
70 b/w + 130 color illus.

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