This piece features an elderly woman. Her sorrowful face and frail shoulders bear the weight of years and grief, which Charlier represents with this long cloak with parallel folds that falls heavily to the ground. He was the first to employ a noble stone, such as marble, to symbolize low-status people. This choice is highly symbolic: he was able to elevate their subjects through the chosen material.
Marble is one of the most striking craft materials used in decoration and the art of stucco-marble is one of the most sophisticated manifestations of marble imitations. It comes from the hands of skilled artisans who combine gypsum, glue and pigments to create an infinity of fake coloured marbles in a varied range of shades. Further effects can be obtained by merging different marbles or inlay. This art was initiated at the beginning of the 16th century and had its culmination in the Baroque period. The first schools of this technique, then called Scagliola, developed in Austria, Bavaria and Italy.
Working with marble requires the highest level of precision; once you start, there is no turning back. The method entails using as much force as possible while swinging the hammer while keeping the chisel pointed at the stone. The energy of the hammer is transported along the length of the chisel and concentrated on a single spot on the block’s surface when it makes contact with the end of the tool, breaking the stone. It keeps moving forward in a line that follows the required contour. Although it might seem easy, mastering this takes months. By swinging the hammer in a larger arc, elevating the chisel in between blows to clear away any residual chips, and adjusting it for the next blow, a skilled stone craftsman may maintain a significantly longer rhythm of blows (approximately one per second). This makes it possible to remove more material at once while driving the bit deeply into the stone. Between hammer strikes, some stonemasons will also rotate the subbia between their fingers, applying a new portion of the bit to the stone. This lessens the chance of the bit breaking.
A master in marble shaping is the Italian Gaspare Cusenza who founded Cusenza Marmi fifty years ago. His works range from sculptures to furniture, through sacred art, the red line that connects them is the influence from the Sicilian Baroque, the care for the details, and the continuous research that have made Cusenza an Italian excellence.