Marble Is Life: The Quarries of Carrara, Tuscany

By Gani, Martin | The World and I, May 2004 | Go to article overview

Marble Is Life: The Quarries of Carrara, Tuscany


Gani, Martin, The World and I


Martin Gani is a freelance writer based in Como, Italy.

From a distance, it seems as if avalanches of snow have slipped down the hillsides of Tuscany's Apuan Alps. Seen at closer range, the image solidifies into marble quarries that surround the city of Carrara. Closer still, I find myself squinting from the glare reflected off tall piles of pure white stone in the valley of Fantiscritti. One of Carrara's three arteries, the valley is laden with top-quality marble that has made the city famous around the world. Nearby is an open-air museum tracing the history of marble quarrying in the area. Augusto Danesi, a sculptor and the museum's curator, agrees to guide me through this fascinating world.

"My father, the founder of this museum, used to say, 'Marble is life,' " begins Danesi, whose family has been in marble excavation and sculpturing for generations. "Although in recent years the actual number of people directly working in the quarries has gone down to about a thousand, for each quarryman there are probably no fewer than a thousand others who work in the transportation, transformation, and commercialization of Carrara marble."

Contemporary sculptors no longer turn up at the quarries to select the raw material for potential masterpieces; instead, they put in orders through intermediaries. Today, the United States and the European Union alone absorb half of all the marble exported from Carrara. Historically, Danesi explains, "Some of the most famous sculptors, from Michelangelo to Antonio Canova to Henry Moore, have all used our marble to execute masterpieces. Many twenty-first-century sculptors continue asking for Carrara marble, keeping the demand high."

From mountain to masterpiece

Marble is limestone containing the mineral calcite that has recrystallized under heat and pressure. Carrara's famed ivory white statuary marble is 98 percent calcite. However, there are several other types of Carrara marble, notable bianco (ordinary white), venato (white- gray with gray veins), arabesco (bearing gray arabesques), and cipollino (literally, onion, with gray and green striations). Embedded impurities have produced many other types of colored, veined, and variegated marble. As its name implies, statuary is the marble of choice for statues because of its uniformly fine grain and luminous whiteness, qualities created by light that penetrates the first inch or two of the surface and is reflected by the underlying layers.

One of the earliest references to Carrara marble was made by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, writing in the first century a.d. "Sculptors employed only white marble from the island of Paros [Greece]. ... Subsequently many other varieties of white marble have been found, some indeed very recently in the quarries of Luni [Luna]." Luni was a city founded in the second century b.c. by the Romans in the vicinity of Carrara. Pliny goes on to quote a Roman historian, Cornelius Nepos (99-- 24 b.c.), informing us that a certain noble, Mamurra, "was the first to build a house where all the columns were made out of marble imported from Caristo or Luni."

Apuan marble, primarily a decorative material, was largely ignored by the local populations that inhabited the area before the Romans. Before the first century b.c., Romans imported marble from Greece and Asia Minor to build villas, monuments, temples for their gods, and statues. When Luni emerged as an urban center, the Romans began exploiting the valley's marble source. The quality of Luni marble matched that of Paros Island, the Attica Mountains near Athens, and Marmara Island of Turkey. Slabs were transported by sea and along the Tiber River to reach the heart of Rome.

After the Romans were defeated by the Visigoths in the fifth century, quarrying in the Luni region came to an abrupt end. It restarted some six hundred years later. The construction of religious buildings, such as the eleventh-century Modena Cathedral, utilized white marble from Carrara. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Marble Is Life: The Quarries of Carrara, Tuscany
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.