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Through the Eyes of the Sculptor

It has been said that “a sculpture comes alive in clay, dies in plaster, and is reborn again in marble.” However, the intense process that precedes a sculptor’s taking a hammer and chisel to stone has rarely been documented. Through the Eyes of the Sculptor examines the intricate and creative process behind this ancient art form via its documentation of master sculptor Emmanuel Fillion's creation of a new piece.

Raised amid the limestone quarries in the small town of Emerville, France, Fillion was inspired to carve at a young age. He was educated as a restoration artist, and walked in the footsteps of the master carvers by restoring many of the country’s top historical monuments, including Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre. Fillion’s work on these monuments inspired him to sculpt his own statues and figures.

Fillion’s background gives him special insight into one of the country’s current restoration projects: the Pont Neuf, a 17th-century Parisian bridge straddling the river Seine. He details examples of the carving process that a restoration artist must follow in order to stay true to the original work of art.

Upon completion of the plaster model of his own new piece, Fillion travels to northern Italy to the stone-carving villages of Pietrasanta and legendary marble mountains of Carrara. Pietrasanta, considered a mecca for sculptors, is home to the “artigiano” or master artisans. They continue a time-honored tradition of sculpting that dates back centuries and their unique skills are highly prized. It is here that Fillion assembles the team that will assist him during the process of sculpting his work.

First, however, he must locate the perfect block of marble. For this, he turns to one of the largest marble quarries in Carrara. Michelangelo supervised the quarrying of his own stone from this region’s mountains, and Fillion’s exploration of their tunnels and massive caves highlights the methods sculptors must use to track down the perfect piece of stone.

Along the way, professionals extract the stone from enormous quarries to reveal how marble is cut, transported and exported. The program explores this dangerous work, a point driven home by the stories from quarrymen who once moved the massive pieces of marble with only ropes, pulleys, soap and wood.