Stunning vase carved on biolithite, a carbonate rock.3 gazelles are carved on the vase and their head relived and horns touching the rim.
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Stone sculpturing Stone carving is an ancient activity where pieces of rough natural stone are shaped by the controlled removal of stone. Owing to the permanence of the material, stone work has survived which was created during our prehistory.
The carving begins with the chiseling away of large chunks of redundant rock (a process known as "roughing out", "pitching", or "knocking off"), using a point chisel and a wedge-shaped pitching chisel, together with a masons driving hammer. Once a rough figure emerges, more precise markings are made with charcoal, pencil or crayon on the stone, and the sculptor then uses basic hammer and point work technique to create more definition. Other specific tools (like a toothed chisel, claw chisel, rasps and rifflers) are used to create the final figure.
In the past time the main tools for a sculptors would include: a set of including flat, pointed, round-ended, toothed, and splitting chisels; a mallet used to strike the chisel. As well as this, the sculptor would use several different hammers - to strike the edge-tools like the chisels and also the stone itself.
In addition to these traditional tools, 20th-century sculptors had access to pneumatic hammers, as well as other power tools like a diamond-bladed angle-grinder, and numerous hand drills. Today, in keeping with the principles of postmodernist art, stone carvers may use even more sophisticated equipment, such as oxy-acetylene torches, lasers and jet heat torches. The latter was used to create the granite Crazy Horse Memorial at Mount Rushmore.
Types of stones
Stone comes in many different varieties, giving artists plenty of choice in respect of color, quality and hardness. The hardest and most weatherproof stone is igneous rock, formed by the cooling of molten rock, such as granite, diorite and basalt. Sedimentary stones like alabaster (gypsum) may also be used, although they contain noticeable strata. Metamorphic stones, formed by changes to igneous and sedimentary rock caused by extreme temperature or pressure, are very popular with sculptors: the best example being the different types of marble.
In general, the softer the stone, the easier it is to carve. According to the MOHS Scale of Mineral Hardness, invented by the German geologist Carl Friedrich Mohs (1773-1839), Soapstone, with a MOHS hardness of about 2, is one of the easiest stones to work. Next, comes Alabaster, and softer kinds of serpentine, all with a MOHS value of about 3. Stones that have a value of 4 include Limestone and sandstone. Harder stone, with a MOHS value of 6, includes travertine, marble, and onyx, with granite and ultimately basalt (both 8) being the most durable but the most difficult to carve.
The most famous stone carving in the history of Iran can be seen in Perspolis and Tage-bostan.
The first Taq-e Bostan relief (Taq-i Bustan I), and apparently the oldest, is a rock relief of the crowning ceremony of Ardashir II (379-383 AD) by his predecessor Shapur II or Ahura Mazda. Researchers long debated the identities of the figures in this relief but is now ascertained that Ardashir II receives the beribboned ring - symbol of royal investiture - from his predecessor Shapur II or Ahura Mazda. There may be a deliberate mixture of the iconography of both identities. The two main figures are standing on the fallen Roman emperor Julianus Apostata (361-363 AD). Ardashir played an important role in his defeat during the reign of Shapur II (309-379 AD). Exceptional within Sasanian art is the fact that this is a portrait, based on the image of Julianus Apostata as it appears on Roman coins. Ardashir II was installed as interim ruler, awaiting the coming of age of the royal heir Shapur III (383-388 AD). The fourth figure is the god Mithra who holds a barsum in his hands and stands on a lotus flower. He is the protector of oaths and is witness to this pact. Local beliefs and Persian folk tale interpreted the scene as the victory of the first Sasanian kings on Artabanus IV, the last king of the Parthian dynasty. The Mithra figure became the visual inspiration for representations of the prophet Zoroaster.
Apadana Palace, Persepolis, Built by Darius the Great around 515 B.C., the palace must have been a wonder to behold. Massive columns—of which thirteen remained standing by the twentieth century—supported the roof. The staircases were embellished with rows of reliefs that displayed successions of delegates, soldiers, guards, and chariots carrying presents and offerings to honor the king. The front walls of the palace were carved with images of the Immortals of 300 fame—the Persian Kings’ noble guard.