The sculpture of place

Sculpture of architecture cut from stone by Matthew Simmonds.

Sculpture of architecture cut from stone by Matthew Simmonds.

Here are shots of the work of Matthew Simmonds, a British sculptor who lives in Pietrasanta, Italy. Beautiful! (Here is his website.) Hats off to Roy Lewis, who sent photos to the TradArch list, eliciting more sent by others.

I wish I had an essay about the process of sculpting as revealing as the essay on painting by William Hazlitt that I posted a while back (“Hazlitt on painting“). Maybe someone will send me something I can run.

In the meantime, sculptor and stone carver Walter Arnold (here is his website) sent in some remarks about Simmonds, with whom he is acquainted. Walter says he runs into Simmonds on trips to Italy. [Cut away from green tint around gills of your correspondent.] I met Walter in Chicago a few years ago as we both marveled at a beautiful carving that was part of a staircase baluster at the Driehaus Museum there. Here are some comments by Walter Arnold in reply to a list member’s query about an aspect of Matthew Simmonds’s work:

The thinness just means he knows what he’s doing, has superb technical skills, is careful, and knows how to select his blocks of stone. The hard part is getting around corners and carving details and surfaces in deep places where you can’t reach directly with the chisel – that is, not carving directly in line to the chisel but rather perpendicular. There are techniques to do this, but its not easy.

Here Walter responds to a question from Roy Lewis about whether there is a rule of thumb regarding the cost and the price of carving:

No rule of thumb, because every carving, every project is different. I’ve done $5,000 fireplaces and I’ve done fireplaces that are well into the six figures. It would be like having a rule of thumb for how long it takes to draw a column capital, or a doorway, or a fireplace, without specifying whether it is Doric, Corinthian, Art Nouveau, Baroque, drawn in pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, cad, oil paint. Each takes a different amount of time. Even with things like a band of egg and dart there is no rule of thumb for time or cost per linear foot; I have books with dozens, perhaps hundreds of variations on egg and dart, each of which would take a different amount of time to carve.

Then, once a design is selected, even if, for example, it is specified as Indiana limestone, I’d have to look at which quarry and grade of limestone to determine a price. I’d also want to know where it is to be installed – interior, exterior in a mild climate, exterior in a harsh climate, viewed from five feet away or from 50 feet away, facing north, facing south. Each requires different detailing, under cutting, surface texture. With a good, complete set of drawings and clear specification of the type of stone, I can generally give a fixed price.

Very interesting. But now let’s cut to the photos!

Simmonds Basilica IV windows_99 11-Matthew-Simmonds-Sculptures-in-Marble-and-Stone-yatzer space_with_doric_columns_a trilogy_d chimneypiece chimneypiece_b

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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5 Responses to The sculpture of place

  1. Pingback: Matthew Simmonds,Arhitect și Sculptor,sculpturi arhitecturale în miniatură - Akan

  2. Pingback: Matthew Simmonds -Arhitect și sculptor-Sculpturi arhitecturale în miniatură sculptate în marmură și piatră – Apollo

  3. Cliff says:

    Very nice.


  4. has3436 says:

    Reblogged this on Architecutre, portfolio, sculpture, furniture, essays and commented:
    Just how? and may be, why?


  5. Jason says:

    Beautiful work – real artistry.


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