University Federico II
of Naples, Italy
European Chemistry
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From rocks to statues

Natural rocks with layered structure
A marble quarry in "Alpi Apuane", Italy, where marbles widely used for manufacturing art statues are drawn out

Since ancient times man extracted, from rocks in the earth crust, workable and durable materials suitable to make artifacts of high historical, cultural and artistic value.

The Sphinx, an effigy of King Khephren
This gigantic lion with human face was carved from a natural rock in situ

The stones extracted from quarries are usually moved to a sculptor workshop and carved there. Sometimes the rocks are carved in situ to obtain very large artworks.

Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh, India
Stone sculptures carved in situ in the rocks

Stone artifacts, exposed to weathering by chemical, physical and biological processes, undergo deterioration. Such effects can be clearly seen in the pictures reported in this page. In order to preserve witness of the history and culture of mankind, the problem of conservation arises, requiring suitable treatments.

Stone sculpture in Qasr al-Abd (Palace of the Slave)
west of Amman, Jordan - II century b.C.

For conservation of stone artifacts, deep knowledge about:
  • chemical and mineralogical composition
  • physical properties
  • structure, morphology and genesis
of rocks and their components (see link) are needed.

A decorated marble panel fragment from Bet Guvrin, Israel
Israel Antiquities Authority
Byzantine age 324-640 a.D.

The main factors of stone degradation (discussed in the link) are hereafter listed:

Detail of a stone statue in the facade of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, XVIII century - Uggiano, Italy

Chemistry makes many procedures and materials available for consolidation and protection of stone artifacts.