High up in the Apuan Alps the mountains are made of marble. Not just any old marble but the finest sort of sedimentary carbonate rocks – Carrara marble. It is the sort of stuff that has made sculptors since the Renaissance drool with pleasure.
Michelangelo coaxed David from a huge lump of purest white marble, prised from the cliff face and carted miles across bumpy roads to his studio in Florence. Further afield one of London’s most famous landmarks, Marble Arch, was constructed from Carrara marble. The arch was part of the original design, by John Nash, of Buckingham Palace but was moved in 1850 to the North End of Hyde Park. It now sits rather forlornly on a large traffic island close to the tawdry bustle of Oxford Street.
The hills, though scarred by centuries of extraction, still provide a living for families of quarrymen and a fertile hunting ground for sculptors from across the world. One of these is Matt SimmondsÂ a British sculptor who has been coming to this quarry in the Frattiti basin for many years.
“The Carrara quarries offer one of the most memorable and breathtaking landscapes that I have seen anywhere, an almost lunar, other-worldly feel. At the same time it is heavily industrial. Trucks carry enormous cut blocks of marble down precarious dirt roads, and the crashes of falling blocks or scree echo off the mountains in a very distinctive way. Seeing the marble in this raw state has given me a new perspective on the material, and many of my pieces are influenced by this very special place.”