Carrara's white marble is famous throughout the world, as is the craftsmanship with which the artists and artisans from the Apuan area work it.Visitors and artists came from all over the world to learn about marble and how to carve it in the studios of Carrara .
The “White Gold” of the Apuan heritage
With Canova and the Neoclassical period, white statuary marble from this area became THE material in which to sculpt magnificent works of art.Suffice it to recall the work of the Franzoni and Giovanni Andrei, from Carrara, on the construction of the American Capitol in Washington in the early years of the 19thC or the completion of the Campidoglio many years later by their fellow countrymen.Artists, artisans and marble traders for centuries travelled the world, exporting both worked and finished stone for architecture, decorative and architectural sculpture and great pieces of sculpture.
Some of them left the Apuan area to emigrate, some for brief periods, others permanently, taking their knowledge with them. In particular, in the late 19thC when work was scarce and Anarchism was being repressed in the Apuan-Lunigiani area, many emigrated to North or South America. Places like Barre or Proctor in Vermont
the quarries of Nueva Carrara in Uruguay where the stone carvers applied their skills to both marble and granite, became a “home from home” where tightknit communities recreated their working and social lives, often amidst great difficulties and with the ever present threat of silicosis waiting to undermine their health.
Whole families, like the Piccirilli from Massa , emigrated (first to England, then to New York)where they met with great success. However, for all the Piccirillis, there were thousands of anonymous stone carvers who practised a more humble trade.
The Apuan studios were full of commissions to execute the works of famous sculptors, both Italian and foreign. Other artisans left their homeland to toil untiringly (and without recognition) in the studios of famous sculptors abroad.
Some Apuan sculptors enjoyed a certain success on the British market and, encouraged by this, emigrated there. Yet it was exceedingly hard to break through the protectionism of the British artistic class to “break through the glass ceiling” from Artisan to Sculptor.
Two artists from Carrara: Giovanni Fontana...
...and Ceccardo Fucigna , were amongst the few to do so. One of the principal outlets for Carrara marble in the 19thC was Great Britain and her extended Empire.
Many of the marble quarries were exploited by British owned companies or by joint British/Italian ventures which worked to their mutual benefit.
Britain, and London in particular, were full of marble importers from Carrara, the most important of whom were the Fabbricotti family who supplied the marble for the Albert Memorial
...and for the architectural part of the Monument to Queen Victoria outside Buckingham Palace .
There was a true “boom” in the marble trade as not just the aristocracy, but also the expanding middle classes, desired to embellish their homes with a material reminiscent of the glories of Antiquity. Soon, coloured marbles, worked and or imported by Italian companies, became equally or even more popular, though white statuary marble still dominated in the field of sculpture.It was used to decorate the interior of their homes:
A trend followed by the growing middle classes , adapted according to their means.
To beautify their churches
To celebrate illustrious citizens in monuments
To make fountains and statues brighten their parks and gardens
To remember their dead, both in peace...
All trends that were imitated in the Empire where public sculpture, whether in , beginning of the 20thC marble or bronze, was used as an instrument to display the dominance of Great Britain , especially in India.
As the Empire spread, so too did the exportation of the marble trade to countries as distant as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.