A POLISHED BEAUTY
Marble carries a certain weight in our minds because of its elegant associations. We think of marble as the eternal building blocks of some of our most-loved monuments, an ancient Greek temple crumbling on a cliff, the lunar domes of the Taj Mahal spring quickly to mind in all their weathered nobility. And then we associate marble with the solidity of rich homes – perhaps your first encounter with marble was as a child, crawling on cold marbled floors, swimming in marbled pools and washing in marbled sinks – a hard knock or two was a lesson in how cruelly hard this stone can be.
By then, as adults, we would have learnt to appreciate the smooth marble hardness as a sort of beauty, perhaps the rarest of all beauties. A certain icy hauteur indicates a marble heart, remote and unknowable; a ghostly pale skin is said to be marble-like in texture and temperature.
The poetry of marble is that it is both dead and ‘alive’. Marble has a unique translucence which comes from light entering its surface to produce a soft glow. This has made marble the favorite medium for Greek and Roman sculptors who brought galleries of models “to life”, and from them we have come to see marble as a symbol of refinement and art. Marble has the ability to take a very high polish, sanded to a high luster; After all, the word “marble” derives from the pre-Greek “crystalline rock, shining stone.”
Its varied and distinctive patterns make it decorative, and once you see it on a column in a renaissance palace, you will recognize it on Venetian paper, in a cupcake, a tub of ice-cream or a cake of eye-shadow. We are used to thinking of marble as being of a blinding white, but marble occurs naturally in a wide range of colours and can be green, yellow, orange, red and black, making it a perfect decorative material for architecture and interiors.
Despite its many qualities, Michelangelo describes marble’s mysterious magic best: “The marble not yet carved can hold the form of every thought the greatest artist has. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”