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1 Alabaster as a Sculpture Material

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Chapter Summary

In order fully to understand the formal attributes of works in alabaster we need to be aware of its physical qualities as a material and of how the sculptor works in it. The term 'alabaster' was used in the past to describe two different types of stone, one gypsum and one limestone. The most widespread in Europe, and that used by the Southern Netherlandish cleynstek-ers - 'true' alabaster - is hydrated calcium sulphate (CaSÜ4 • 2H2O), a fine-grained form of mineral gypsum. The word 'alabastron' was also used to describe a flask for fragrances made originally from calcite alabaster, though later also from clay or bronze. The various types of alabaster also differ in the forms and colours of their veining and clouding. Gypsum alabaster can be worked using either stonecutting or woodcarving tools. Another domain in which the term 'alabaster' was discussed was theology.

Keywords: alabaster; cleynstek-ers; Southern Netherlands; theology; woodcarving



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