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Video transcript

[Music] stone carving which i think is very hard to imagine without power tools and also the process of getting the stone from a quarry this is one of the marble quarries in Carrara Italy which is where most of the finest marble for sculpture especially in the Renaissance comes came from and still as you can see they do quarry marble from this area and didn't Michelangelo get his marble from that's right this is where Michelangelo liked to get his marble because of its very pure white qualities and you can see today they do use some power tools and electric things like a bulldozer but at the time the way it would work is that the very first step would be to get a to dislodge a block of marble from the marble in the mountain and that would be done by creating cracks in the area that you wanted to get the block from and then inserting wooden wedges that were soaked in water and as the water would cause the wood to expand that is actually strong enough to crack the marble and it would dislodge a large marble block right so you have this wooden peg that's going into a crack and being saturated with water that makes the crack open more right right and so you put a whole series of pegs along a line and that'll create a large crack that will dislodge the block and then removing that block from the cliff right and then somehow getting it to Florida well actually some of the first work in terms of shaping the stone might actually be done at the quarry Wow and so that way you're not transporting extra weight since it's of course very hard to move your your you might shape it down block it down to its general shape and then you might transport it in that way and for this reason sometimes sculptors like Michelangelo actually started doing the work on the sculpture in the quarry or in the town where the quarry was and was this transported by my River that's right they usually tried to transport these things by boat rivers and canals because of course via the blocks being so heavy it was easier to do it that way than overland so let's talk about the process and some of the tools that would be used as we said you first step is you get a block out of the mountain but then the next step is that you want to shape the block down to the general shape of the sculpture that you're making and here's the tools these are modern tools but they're essentially the same as the tools that were used in the Renaissance and the first step as I said is to just get the shape of the figure and for that you're going to use the tool that looks just like a giant pick which is this one right here you're going to use that with a large mallet a sledgehammer and all you're doing is cutting away the extra marble that you're not going to use you're just getting the general shape of the sculpture what would happen if you hacked at it and something cracked in the way and took off a big slice that you didn't want then generally you would start again there's no going backwards with marble carving as since it is a reductive process so you do need to be very very careful and so as I said you start by getting the general shape and then once you've got the general shape of the figure or whatever it is that you're carving then you'll switch down to these chisels that have teeth starting with a larger one like you see here and that you then use with much more delicate taps and a smaller hammer that gives you more control to get the more details that you want from the figure and as you need more and more details you move to finer finer and finer chisel so a very good example of what this looks like since we already started talking about Michelangelo we can use this example this is Michelangelo's incomplete figure of the waking or awakening slave one of the figures that was planned for the tomb of Pope Julius the second and this dates from around 1530 here you can see the block that the figure is being carved from and what you can see especially in some details is that the very large rough area surrounding the figure that's what Michelangelo had started to chop away he's just using a pin and a hammer and you can see these marks in here are not made with a refined chisel he's basically just whacking away not this marble because he just wants it to go away I imagine Michelangelo had big muscles his arms that's very very strong I have to do this kind of thing and then what's really nice is especially in this image if we look at the detail for instance in the what's the left arm of the figure on our right you can see here he's shifted to one of those chisels that has teeth because now he's not just trying to get rid of the marble he's actually trying to shape it and to give it some kind of form if you look at the chest you can see those kinds of teeth marks there but they're a little fainter and a little smaller because there he's getting more detail and so he's switched to which is all with finer teeth here's a detail of the face and again you can see the same different kinds of chisel marks that we were talking about a minute ago these which are just made with the pick to get rid of the marble and then here where it looks like it's been scratched with a fork those are the kinds of areas where he's using a chisel with teeth to shape the figure some more so I'm reminded of Leonardo saying that sculpture was inferior because you could get on you had to get all messy there's miss you sweat you get covered in dust it's a very kind of sloppy process car haired - exactly and it takes a lot of exertion compared to painting and of course a block of marble is very expensive absolutely that's right and it's important when we're talking about marble in terms of sculpture to think that marble costs 10 times more than wood in terms of what the finished product will cost I also want to look at this detail again because this besides talking about marble carving in general this incomplete figure gives us a window into Michelangelo's particular approach to sculpture because he said that in his writings he discusses how when he's making a marble figure he looks at the block as soon as it's come out of the quarry before he's even touched it with any chisel and he visualizes the figure trapped inside the marble and essentially he says all I'm doing is releasing the figure from inside the stone it's already there its pre-existing in the stone itself and all I'm doing is setting it free taking away all the marble that surrounds it so you can sort of see the figure trapped inside me and so this particular example gives us a really good illustration of that idea because in a way it looks like the figure is already all there and all he's doing is letting it out getting rid of all that dead material to let a living figure free that's right and now of course as we said these are this is an incomplete figure that's this is not a finished sculpture by Michelangelo but and you did that a lot there's a lot of smoke but you can sort of see given the process why one would leave them incomplete it's so difficult they would take so long George I need patrons making so many demands many different demands that's right but luckily in a way we have figures different sculptures and a lot of different stages of in completion and so we can really see how he progressed along the way to switch to a different sculpture this is the so called donut undoh from about 1505 and here again you can see the different kinds of chisel marks for instance rougher coarser ones here on the chest much finer ones on the face where he started to get much more detail and what I really want to emphasize though is that when Michelangelo sculptures were actually complete in other words when they were signed and on public display like the famous pietà in Rome from the 1490s they had an incredibly high polish there were no more chisel marks at all because you progress through the finer and finer chisels but then the last stages are going to be that you've sanded down and then also that you polish it with leather and so it gets this kind of very very pristine glossy smooth finish and when you're looking at something like this it's hard to imagine even that it was carved with the handling tools look at the flash for the fabric on her head and it seems to transcend the medium so they're really two kinds of sculpting processes one is an additive process right that's right sculpting from clay or wax and this would be a subtractive process of taking away but and these examples that we've looked at have given us a really good idea of how you progress from the mountain [Music]