Marble Sculpture is the art of creating three-dimensional forms from marble and it is among the oldest of the arts when humans formed shapes from stone. This was being done prior to paintings/drawing on cave walls. From these beginnings, artifacts have evolved to their current complexity.
Marble is a metamorphic rock derived from limestone, composed mostly of calcite (a crystalline form of calcium carbonate). Marble is formed when the limestone is transformed by heat and pressure and the finest marbles for sculpture have no or few stains.
White marble has been prized for its use in sculptures. This preference has to do with its softness, which made it easier to carve, and resistant to shattering. Because of the low index of refraction of calcite, it allows light to penetrate several millimeters into the stone before being scattered out, resulting in the characteristic waxy look which gives life like qualities to marble sculptures of any kind.
Frequently the sculptor would begin by forming a model in clay or wax, and then copying this in stone by measuring with calipers. Some sculptors use the stone itself as inspiration.
When the sculptor is ready to carve, they begin by knocking off portions of unwanted stone. The sculptor places the point of the chisel against a selected part of the stone, then swings the mallet with a controlled stroke, carefully striking the end of the tool accurately; the smallest miscalculation can damage the stone. Most sculptors work rhythmically, turning the tool with each blow. This is called the roughing out stage.
Once the general shape of the statue has been determined, the sculptor uses other tools to refine the figure. A toothed chisel or claw chisel are generally used to add texture to the figure and rasps and rifflers are used to enhance the shape into its final form
The final stage of the carving process is polishing. The first step in the polishing process involves sandpaper. Emery, a stone that is harder and rougher than the sculpture media, is also used in the finishing process. This wearing away will bring out the color of the stone, revealing patterns in the surface and also adding a sheen.