Enfilade

New Book | Painting in Stone: Architecture and the Poetics of Marble

Posted in books by Editor on February 18, 2021

From Yale UP:

Fabio Barry, Painting in Stone: Architecture and the Poetics of Marble from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020), 448 pages, ISBN: 978-0300248166, $65.

Spanning almost five millennia, Painting in Stone tells a new history of premodern architecture through the material of precious stone. Lavishly illustrated examples include the synthetic gems used to simulate Sumerian and Egyptian heavens; the marble temples and mansions of Greece and Rome; the painted palaces and polychrome marble chapels of early modern Italy; and the multimedia revival in 19th-century England. Poetry, the lens for understanding costly marbles as an artistic medium, summoned a spectrum of imaginative associations and responses, from princes and patriarchs to the populace. Three salient themes sustained this ‘lithic imagination’: marbles as images of their own elemental substance according to premodern concepts of matter and geology; the perceived indwelling of astral light in earthly stones; and the enduring belief that colored marbles exhibited a form of natural—or divine—painting, thanks to their vivacious veining, rainbow palette, and chance images.

Fabio Barry is assistant professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University.

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