Petroglyphs is the world’s oldest art, however stone sculpture is the oldest portable art. As an example, the Stone Age sculptural effigies known as the Venus of Berekhat Ram (basalt) and the Venus of Tan-Tan (quartzite) are at least 200,000 years old, while the limestone figurine known as The Venus of Willendorf dates from around 30,000 BCE. We know about these stone sculptures of prehistoric art, because they were fashioned out of a weather-resistant material like stone. Wood carving is equally traditional, but wood is too perishable. As well as being relatively easy to obtain, stone is easy to carve and very durable, without having (like bronze) any great intrinsic value. This is the reason stone sculptures have been popular for thousands of years.
Marble is much rarer and far more expensive than limestone or sandstone. Up until the 20th century, most of the greatest sculptors would have practiced stone carving before progressing onto marble or bronze sculpture. Despite its decline, stone sculpting, along with steel, remains the foremost medium for large-scale outdoor works today.
Leaving aside the earlier but more controversial effigies, and the flat engravings seen in paleolithic rock art, the first prehistoric stone sculpture was the series of Venus figurines, which began appearing across Europe from 30,000 BCE. Neolithic stone sculpture has also been discovered in various parts of Central and Eastern Europe, including Turkey and Serbia.
The direct method of stone sculpture carving usually begins with the selection of a stone for carving. The qualities will influence the artist’s choices in the design process. The artist will often use sketches but eschews the use of a physical model. The fully dimensional figure is created for the first time in the stone itself. The artist will then remove the material, sketches on the block of stone, and will proceed to develop the work.
Using the indirect method, the sculptor begins with a defined model to be copied in stone. The models, usually made of plaster or modelling clay, may be the full size of the sculpture and has all details. Once the model is finished, the right stone must be found to fit the intended design. The model is then copied in stone by measuring with calipers or a pointing machine. Artists use this method to create beautiful stone sculpture art.
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