In the footsteps of Michelangelo: How does classical sculpture survive in the modern world?

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White marble from Carrara is synonymous with the Italian Renaissance. Donatello, Michelangelo and Raffaello created their masterpieces from Carrara marble, and Bernini and Borromini embodied their architectural concepts in it. The Roman Pantheon, “David” by Michelangelo and other Italian masterpieces were made of precisely this stone.

Not surprisingly, it was in Carrara in 1863 that Carlo Nicoli founded the Sculpture Academy Laboratori artistici Nicoli. Here Giovanni Dupre, Carlo Fontana, Francesco Dzherachi and Eugenio Baroni studied and taught, making the “laboratory” one of the most prestigious educational institutions for sculptors. 150 years after its foundation, the heiress of the dynasty and the director of the academy, Francesca Nicoli, preserves the age-old traditions. At a time when the whole world flooded plastic, and classical art faded into the background.

“The descendants of Carlo Nicoli continue the dynasty of sculptors. After two centuries of work, we have become part of the history of centuries-old Italian manufactories, ”says Francesca. Italians value their traditions and folk crafts, like no other nation in the world. True, heavy manual labor is increasingly being made by machines, and modern art is slowly replacing classical sculptures.

Among the latest works created at the academy are the Rebith sculpture for the UN headquarters in Geneva and the modern Itamarati marble palace, which the architect Oscar Niemeyer built for the foreign ministry in Brazil. Naomi Campbell made a cast of her body at the academy, and ordered the sculpture itself from black granite in Zimbabwe.

If the ancestors of Francesca created sculptures for the English Queen Victoria, today art dealers, collectors and representatives of ancient dynasties have become the main clients of the academy. “Museum institutions are, for the time being, the most interested clients in the restoration of stone sculptures and the creation of new ones,” says Francesca.

Carrara marble is one of the most valuable species in the world. He is inferior except to the Afghan lapis lazuli, whose reserves are not so much. “Giotto and Masaccio used lapis lazuli dust to create a blue sky on the frescoes. There, the color is particularly bright and vibrant, ”explains Francesca. Similarly, semiprecious stones such as onyx, green malachite and pink rhodonite from the Urals are valued.

As with any natural resources, there is a question of ecology.

“Returning to marble is a fight against plastic that has flooded art, architecture and the luxury segment,” says Francesca. – Marble reserves in Carrara are natural, but they have no limit. Of course, we must take care of the environment and protect it, combining economic needs with sustainability. It’s still non-renewable resources. ”

It usually takes several days or even months to process large blocks of marble for architecture, design or sculpture. “The creation time depends on the size and complexity of the work. The sculpture may be 50 centimeters in height, but have many details. I personally select each stone and order it directly at the quarries, ”says Francesca.

“Sometimes marble requires more than simple human labor. We use both modern machine technology and old technology that requires manual labor. ”

Like 150 years ago, the academy taught the classic craft. “People come from all over the world to spend time in our residence. Our students create masterpieces for parks, gardens, ancient castles and villas, ”says Francesca. But future sculptors are not limited to copies of Michelangelo, Bernini and Canova – they also work with objects of landscape design and modern design.

Despite the transformation in the world of art and the development of technology, according to Francesca, natural stones are increasingly in demand, and Italian sculpture has remained the benchmark since the Renaissance.

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