Fabio Barry, Assistant Professor, Stanford University & author of Painting in Stone
Thomas Greenaway, Pietra Dura specialist and conservator
Dr Tessa Murdoch, Research Curator, Gilbert Collection, V&A
Davide Sestieri, Art Consultant
Moderator: Anna Somers Cocks, Journalist, editor, publisher and collector
Whether they are aware of it or not, when scholars dismiss the use of precious marbles and stones to decorate a building as merely a desire to show off the status of the patron, they are expressing a moralising Marxist interpretation of art history. Fabio Barry, author of a very exciting but deeply scholarly book, Painting in Stone: Architecture and the Poetics of Marble from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (YUP 2020), debunks this by revealing what it actually meant, from ancient Mesopotamia to the 18th century. What he reveals is infinitely more interesting, not just for art or architectural historians, but for anyone interested in pre-Enlightenment science, cosmology and religion.
In this discussion, Barry will explain his main revelations. Thomas Greenaway, who is the only artist in the UK to practise pietra dura (hardstone) inlay, the technique used by the ancient Romans and revived in Florence in the 16th century, will talk about the remarkable commission he executed, the coat of arms for the tomb in Leicester Cathedral of the rediscovered remains of King Richard III.
Tessa Murdoch will talk about a different category of illusionism, the "paintings" made in micro-mosaics, artistic descendants of both mosaics and pietra dura work, while David Sestieri will talk about how far interest is reviving in "making" - in the "materiality" of works of art - after a century or so in which craftsmanship and precious materials have been subordinate to belief in the conceptual.