David’s eyes have pupils, as do all Michelangelo’s sculptures from then on, such as Moses and Brutus. I therefore decided it would be right to carve pupils into the eyes of the Mary, the Christ Child and Saint John, as I believed that it would make their expressions come alive.
Marble to Life
As soon as the Tondo arrived in my studio in Somerset the first thing I did was to draw a pupil on to one of Mary’s eyeballs, so I could see what a live eye would look like against a dead eye. The effect was miraculous. One eye looked out over my shoulder with a melancholy gaze while the other remained blind. I drew in the second pupil and was thrilled. Mary had come alive. I was convinced that I was doing the right thing and that Michelangelo would have condoned the change. After all he was the Master of bringing marble to life.
From Delphi to Easter Island
I couldn't help but think of other examples of eyes that I had seen around the world.
Firstly the Delphi Charioteer, dated around 475 B.C. one of the most famous of all Greek sculptures. The piercing gaze of the Charioteer captures the concentration we see in all athletes’ eyes while they wait for the Starter’s signal. Across the world on Easter Island are the giant Moai, thought to be around a 1000 years old. The Moai standing on the slopes of the Rano Raraku volcano quarries are blind. Only after the Moai have been transported and erected on the coast were they given sight by adding gigantic eyeballs made from colossal white clam shell with black volcanic glass pupils.
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Symbolic Sculpture - Website of Sculptor John Robinson