“This is the greatest day of my life,” said acclaimed sculptor Marton Varo just before making the first strike on a 12-ton block of Carrara marble that will form part of a bas relief depicting The Annunciation on the front of the oratory. Mr. Varo then took hammer to chisel and chipped out the first block of marble from the portion of the sculpture that will include the face of Mary.
AMU president Nick Healy, calling the $3-million project the “first in a series of public art at Ave Maria,” told a group of a few hundred people gathered around the worksite that hopes the sculpture will be finished by the Feast of the Annunciation in 2010. Mr. Varo will be working in the open, where anyone can watch the massive work take shape. When completed, it will be 35 feet high and 31 feet wide. It will be carved from 19 blocks of marble and will weigh more than 50 tons. All the work on the Annunciation sculpture will take place on the university campus although Mr. Varo will go to Italy during the summer to carve two smaller reliefs of angels that will be on either side of the main work.
“We want to foster great architecture and great art,” said university Chancellor Tom Monaghan in his opening remarks.
Mr. Healy said that the university received more than a dozen proposals from various artists and organizations to create the sculpture of The Annunciation and chose the one submitted by Michael Windfeldt of Galerie du Soleil in Naples to have Mr. Varo as the artist. Mr. Varo is considered one of the premier stone sculptors of the modern era. A native of Transylvania in what is now Romania he learned his craft from master carvers there.
The marble for the Annunciation relief was extracted from the marble quarries in Carrara, Italy called “Cave Michelangelo,” where the marble was quarried for Michelangelo’s works Pieta and the David. Mr. Varo personally chose all the marble to ensure it would yield a visually seamless integration when assembled on the front of the oratory.
When completed, according to University Marketing Director Forrest Wallace, it is believed that the sculpture will be the largest depiction of the Virgin Mary in a bas relief.