Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Cliffs extrude from hairline cracks. Slurried sediments
recall clouds. Colours infiltrate and horizons
are pressed into being, forced flat.

Perspectives navigate blindly beneath towering cliffs,
strange enough for not being more strange. What place
is this that was not, yet might be?

Unknown birds wheel round the crags and turn
lost thoughts to pecked out eyes, marmorial silence.
Whoever lived up there emerged from clay

and came to imagine each thing in its Cartesian frame,
cut down and seen in relation to what it might be:
a hand that couldn't help restore a powdered sea.



The image above is not a painting but an example of 'Paesine', a sedimentary rock formed some 62 million years ago and quarried in Tuscany, Italy. The rock is a kind of marly limestone called "Calcari alberisi" in Italy which has been quarried since the 16th century. When the rock is broken open or sliced, images can be observed on the surface which recall natural landscapes such as cliffs, the sea, towers, steeples, ruined villages, blue skies and clouds. This unusual aspect is due to mineralisation brought about by water which circulates through the rocks underground, penetrating between the calcareous beds and through irregular fine cracks.

Image and text © Jonathan Wonham


Anonymous said...

I bought several pieces of paesine in the market at Ramatuelle, near where my parents used to live in the Var. And I had a go at writing a description of the landscape revealed. Yours does the trick much more effectively than my efforts did.

Jonathan Wonham said...

Thank you Dick. I had read on the internet that similar rocks occurred in the Var region.

Clare Dudman said...

Beautiful, Jonathan!

I'd not heard of those rocks - is it a different landscape each time? I suppose it must be.

Jonathan Wonham said...

The rock is slabbed into slices about 5mm thick. On the reverse side of the slab that I have, there is a suggestion that all the different colorations of the rock continue straight through, although the back is not polished and prepared in the same way as the front, so it is not so clear. I suspect therefore that there are other 'sister' slabs with a similar image taken from the same original larger piece of stone. The mineral dealer from whom I bought this stone had other examples of paesine for sale which looked quite different, often quite misty or dream-like landscapes. This piece was the most 'realistic' example he had.

Dave said...

That is totally far out. (Good poem, too.)