Sculpture Journal

A ‘milky mass’ and ‘uniform material’: white marble in eighteenth-century French discourses on sculpture and geology

Sculpture Journal (2021), 30, (2), 215–225.

Abstract

Knowledge of the materiality of stone during the Enlightenment expanded following the exploration of mineralogical structure, to alter ideas about taxonomy and challenge the role of rocks in the history of the earth. Close studies of the material of marble sculpture generated expertise on grain size, surface varieties and stone deposits. This mode of reception became intertwined with contemporary controversies about the age of the earth. This article focuses on both French sculpture and geological discourses of the eighteenth century to reveal an international and interdisciplinary network centring on protagonists such as Denis Diderot, Paul-Henri Thiry d’Holbach and Étienne-Maurice Falconet; through these figures, debates can be connected concerning both geology and art theory. Within these contexts, the article discusses the translation processes between these artistic and geological interests.

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Author details

Kretzschmar, Marthe