Dr. Benjamin Martinez shared the following example that illustrates this dichotomy:

“Of all the kinds and colors of marble, the milky white Carrara is the rarest and most costly.  Sculptors who lived during the Golden Age of Tuscan Sculpture claimed that it was the purest substance God ever created, and they longed for the feel of it beneath their hands.  Any sculptor who was commissioned by a wealthy patron of the arts to create a statue of Carrara marble felt himself to be highly favored.

“Sculpting in marble was neither fast nor easy.  In addition to innate talent, it required both careful analysis and tedious, backbreaking work.  The artist would have to study the block of marble to determine its essential nature.  He would then need to discover the direction of the grain and ascertain the presence of any flaws.  He had to make careful and precise plans and drawings that were in accord with the structure of the marble itself.  Then, with consummate care, he would begin to chip off the superfluous marble, layer by layer, until he revealed the form he had envisioned.

“Any mistake could be disastrous.  If the sculptor went against the grain he could crack the marble; if he struck with a blow with too much force he could mash the crystals beneath the surface, creating holes and ruining the sculpture.  This seldom happened with the greatest of sculptors, who labored with infinite care and supreme sensitivity.  Those with lesser talent and little patience, however, would occasionally be confronted with such a disaster.  Rather than admit their blunder and lose their commission, some would resort to subterfuge.

“Soft, white wax, skillfully applied, could usually disguise the damage.  In outward appearance the sculpture appeared to be flawless and the defect was seldom discovered until well after the work had been accepted and the commission paid.  As the practice became more common, patrons of the arts became more discerning.  They refused to accept a piece of marble statuary until after a careful examination had been made to ensure that it was undamaged and contained no wax-covered flaws.  The highest standard of excellence for works of white Carrara marble came to include the distinction, sine cere, meaning without wax.

“Eventually these two words merged to become a single word, in Spanish “sincera” or in English “sincere” meaning pure, unadulterated, whole, intact, and uninjured.”  When the word was used to refer to marble works of art, the emphasis was on the fundamental wholeness of the statue, not just on its superficial appearance or outward appearance.  The statue was expected to be good, not just to look good.”


Establishing a Standard of Excellence for Building a Life of Happiness, Fulfillment, and Spiritual Growth

Elder Richard G. Maynes

Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional

November 11, 2008


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