A portrait made of marble

After nearly two years of training here in Spilimbergo, with Roman peacocks, indirectly made birds and Byzantine hellfire, one of the so far most beautiful stages has started: We are working on mosaic portraits, surely the subject that makes this school so special.

Now we know what the many hours making copies of ancient mosaics and cutting complicated forms for rovescio di carta after Giandomenico Facchina was for: We obtained the confidence in the use of materials and tools that now allows us to focus entirely on the choice of colors and best matching material.

My portrait is an interpretation of Vittorio Matteo Corcos Sogni of 1869. It shows a young lady sitting on a bank, whose dreamy look is directed to her observer, with one arm placed on the armrest, and one on her knee, her chin nestling in the palm of her hand. I wanted her from the first moment I saw the range of portraits, because of her blue and expressive eyes, framed by an equally blue silk scarf and brown hair. I like the way the bourgeois and obviously well educated young lady from the bright Belle Epoque is casually sitting on the bench, next to her books, hat and umbrella, with legs crossed. I like her purplish skin and hair, which contrasts with the yellow brickwork behind her.

I started my work at the brightest point of the image to immediately set the gradients until the darkest point and deduce all other shades. In the marble, the beautifully shaded Sasso Americano and the other hodgepodge that is available to us, I’m searching for the right colors for the skin tones of the lady like a gold digger. The palette goes from lemon yellow to raspberry shades and dark purple color variations. Sometimes it is only two tiny dabs of yellow that make a piece of Travertino Rosso the perfect choice, sometimes it is a piece of old rusty brown brick with yellow sprinkles.

What is interesting is how everyone actually implements his own portrait in a different way. Not only in terms of the material (some only work with smalts, some mix glass with natural materials) but also in terms of technique. Just as in painting, everyone puts their own personality in the mosaic. So while some create perfectly flat surfaces that nearly have any joint, some create wilder compositions that allow the integration of unusual shapes and materials.

During my first visit to the school, I stopped in front of a mosaic portrait with mouth open, fascinated by the light and shadow that appeared so real to me and I couldn’t believe were really made of stone. Now I’m doing such a portrait on my own. Seeing it grow every day, first the eyes, then the nose, and soon the mouth, trying to make it as realistic as possible, to recreate the curvature of the cheeks, all this makes me really happy.

I cannot wait to finish the face and make the hair, the fabric of the dress and the background, and I already have some ideas for the choice of material. The result of the work follows as usual in a few weeks!

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  • How exciting. And thank you so much for the lovely description of selecting your individual tesserae. I’m sure this is going to be a knock out. Can’t wait to watch! Cheers.

  • I can’t wait to see this Finished. I just love your blog, thank you for sharing all the wonderful work. ☺

  • Hi,

    Excellent work in progress ! How lucky to have so many material to choose from ! What’s the source of the stones? :-)

    I’m curious to know if the main andamento lines are made by each student or not, it would be great to see how the same portrait is also interpretated with different main andamento lines.

    Thanks for being so nice to share your mosaic passion !

    • Hey Josep,

      yes we are lucky to use all those different types of marbles. And I am using as many of them as I can, also because the more you mix colors the more the whole thing gets interesting and looks real.

      We get the marbles from a local “marmista” mostly, but I guess it’s stuff the school collects a bit everywhere and over the years.

      Good question the one about andamenti :-) We got this one prepared already, but we have classes about drawing andamenti regularly, and it is really necessary because you have to get used to interpreting the lines of a face (and forms in general). Maybe I will post something about different drawings of the same subject soon. In fact, even every teacher has his own view on how to draw and that is only right I think, because it makes the outcome get personal.

      It is a pleasure to share my experiences with you! Nice that you enjoy following my blog!

      Best regards

  • Hola, la verdad es un maravilloso trabajo! me gustaría verlo finalizado. También pregunarte como comienzas cual es tu técnica para marcar la líneas a seguir por todo el rostro. Muchas gracias

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