Definition, Types, Materials, World's Greatest/Tallest Sculpture.

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The Motherland Calls (1967)
Mamayev Kurgan, Stalingrad
(Volgagrad) By Yevgeny Vuchetich.
Height of Statue: 279 feet.
World's tallest non-religious statue.

Statues: Freestanding Sculptures


What is a Statue? Definition and Characteristics
Types of Statue
Composition and Materials
Religious Statuary
Non-Religious Statuary
A Form of Public Art
World's Tallest Statues
Greatest Statues Ever Made
- Ancient
- Classical
- Medieval
- Renaissance
- Baroque
- Neoclassical
- 19th Century
- 20th Century

Spring Temple Buddha (2002)
Lushan County, Henan, China.
Depicting Vairocana Buddha, this
is the world's tallest statue.
Height of Statue: 420 ft. 128m.
Under the sculpture is a Buddhist
monastery!! For more, see:
Chinese Buddhist Sculpture.

What is a Statue? Definition and Characteristics

A statue is a freestanding sculpture which depicts a person or group of people. An equestrian statue depicts a horse and rider, while an equine statue portrays only a horse. Essentially a work of representational art, a statue is typically made full-length or close to life-size: in contrast, a bust depicts only a head, or head and shoulders; while a statuette or figurine is a small-scale work that can be held by hand. Lastly, unlike relief sculpture, a statue is capable of being viewed from all sides; however, precisely because it is freestanding, a statue is considerably more restricted in the range of its subject matter than a relief. In particular, its weight must be carefully balanced, thus limiting, or at least restraining, its size and shape. As a result statues tend to depict single figures and limited groups, while reliefs are free to portray more complex pictorial subjects involving crowds, battle scenes, historical events, architectural backgrounds and so on.

The best sculptors of figurative statues include: Donatello (1386-1466), Veit Stoss (c.1447-1533), Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1460-1531), Michelangelo (1475-1564), Benvenuto Cellini (1500-71), Giambologna (1529-1608), Bernini (1598-1680), Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), Antonio Canova (1757-1822), Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Duane Hanson (1925-96) and others.

Aphrodite of Cnidus (c.350 BCE)
The first life-size female nude.
Original by Praxiteles.

Ludovisi Gaul killing himself and
his wife. National Museum of Rome.
A Roman copy of a Hellenistic
era original commissioned by
Attalus I of Pergamon after his
victory over the Gauls (220 BCE).
A wonderful example of the
Pergamene School of Hellenistic

Types of Statue

Being representational, a statue should not be wholly abstract, although it may be expressionist to the point of semi-abstraction (like Boccioni's Unique Forms of Continuity in Space). Statues may simply stand alone, or form part of an architectural structure (cathedral, altarpiece, tomb). Specific types of statue or statuette include:

Venus: type of prehistoric statuette.
Kouros: an early greek statue of a young man.
Kore: the female counterpart of the kouros.
Column statue: figure on architectural column.
Pieta: Virgin Mary mourning the dead Christ.
Madonna and Child: the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus.
Equestrian Statue: a sculpture of a person on a horse.
Monumental Statue: like The Statue of Liberty or Spring Temple Buddha.

Composition and Materials

The composition of statues varies enormously. They can be made from traditional materials like stone (Women's Titanic Memorial 1931), marble (The Marly Horse 1745), bronze (Burghers of Calais 1889), clay (Terracotta Army 208 BCE), wood (Holy Blood Altar 1504), or ivory (Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel), as well as from precious metals like gold (Broighter Boat 50 BCE), silver (Kneeling Bull with Vessel 3000 BCE), copper (Statue of Liberty 1886) or chryselephantine (Athena Parthenos 445 BCE). Other materials from which statues can be sculpted include: contemporary media such as scrap metal, plastic, aluminium, concrete or "found" items, although this latter form of junk art is usually limited to abstract rather than representational works.

As a general rule of thumb, stone sculpture is most popular for monumental works located outside and open to the elements. Marble sculpture along with bronze sculpture were the two favourite materials of Greek artists, while the Romans preferred marble. Wood carving was the favourite plastic art in Germany and Austria, especially during the era of Late Gothic sculpture, while ivory carving was especially popular in Byzantine art.

Religious Statuary

Before Christianity and Christian art, freestanding statues typically depicted gods or goddesses, but also secular fertility or totemic figures of various types. However, the vast majority of statues between the coming of Christ and the Age of Enlightenment (c.1700), were ecclesiastical in nature. Paid for by the Church, or by pious aristocrats, they illustrated figures from the Old/New Testaments of the Bible, or they commemorated Popes, Archbishops or other clerics. This type of religious art was especially common during the era of Romanesque sculpture (c.1000-1200) and Gothic sculpture (1150-1300), and can be seen in all the cathedrals of the time, notably Chartres, Notre Dame de Paris and Westminster Abbey. Renaissance sculpture (c.1250-1530) was also mostly Christian - see, for instance, David by Michelangelo - although, being a classical-based idiom, it also embraced secular works (Equestrian Statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni 1495), as did Mannerism (Rape of the Sabine Women 1583), Baroque sculpture (Pluto and Proserpina 1621), Neoclassicism (Voltaire 1781), and later types.

In the Far East, most statues were inspired by Buddhism. For more about the chronological evolution of sculpture and statues in China, see: Chinese Art Timeline (c.18,000 BCE - present).

Non-Religious Statuary

As societies became wealthier, they tended to create works of art (including statues) in order to appease their gods. In addition, as they became more confident, their leaders commissioned effigies of themselves - either as "living gods" (Egyptian Pharaohs, Alexander the Great, some Roman Emperors) (Statue of Claudius as Jupiter 41-54 CE) or simply as omnipotent Emperors (Emperor Augustus c.20-17 BCE). After the Dark Ages, this duality (Christian versus secular works) continued until about 1700, after which most statues were created to represent non-religious figures or themes. Post-1700 examples of non-religious statuary include: The Bronze Horseman 1778, Equestrian Statue of Joseph the Second 1806, Burghers of Calais 1889, End of the Trail 1915, The Destroyed City 1953 and the awesome Russian statue The Motherland Calls 1967.

A Form of Public Art

The nature, size, expense and - above all - impact of statues, makes them highly suitable for public display. In addition, the fact that, throughout the long history of sculpture, statues have been visible embodiments of religious and social values, means that they have always had a functional role to play, in inspiring the population at large. In short, statues are a natural form of public art, and have been for millennia. Nowadays, with mass communication taking place via television, video film, Facebook and YouTube, this situation has changed somewhat, although contemporary statues are still created for public display, notably in the Third World. A postmodernist example is Virgin Mother (2005) sculpted by Damien Hirst, which stands in the plaza of Lever House, New York City. Another example is Angel of the North (1998) a large work erected by Antony Gormley which overlooks a main road in Northern England. However, probably the three greatest public statues are The Motherland Calls (1967, situated on the Mamayev Kurgan, the heroic blood-soaked mound of Stalingrad, now Volgagrad); The Ushiku Daibutsu, Amitabha Buddha (1995, Japan); and The Spring Temple Buddha (2002, China).

Note About Sculpture Appreciation
See also: How to Appreciate Sculpture. For later works, please see: How to Appreciate Modern Sculpture.

World's Tallest Statues

420 Feet (128m) - Spring Temple Buddha (2002) Copper cast, Henan, China.
381 Feet (116m) - The Laykyun Setkyar (2008) Monywa, Myanmar/Burma.
360 Feet (110m) - Ushiku Daibutsu, Amitabha Buddha (1995) Ibaraki, Japan.
354 Feet (108m) - Guan Yin of the South Sea of Sanya (2005) Hainan, China.
348 Feet (106m) - Emperors Yan and Huang (2007) Henan province, China.
328 Feet (100m) - Sendai Daikannon (1991) Sendai, Japan.
325 Feet (99m) - Guishan Guanyin of Thousand Hands & Eyes (2009) China.
305 Feet (94m) - Peter the Great Statue (1997) Moscow. By Zurab Tsereteli.
305 Feet (93m) - Statue of Liberty (inc. plinth) (1886) New York Harbour.
279 Feet (85m) - The Motherland Calls (inc. plinth) (1967) Volgagrad.

Greatest Figurative Statues

Here is a short selection of the world's most beautiful figurative statuary, in bronze, marble and stone. Please note that dates are approximate. For a longer list, see: Greatest Sculptures Ever (c.35,000 BCE-Present).

Greatest Ancient Statues/Statuettes

- Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel (30,000 BCE) Ivory, Ulmer Museum, Ulm.
- Thinker of Cernavoda (5000 BCE) Terracotta, National Museum of Romania.
- Kneeling Bull with Vessel (c.3000) Silver, Metropolitan Museum, NY.
- Gold Bull of Maikop (2500) Gold, Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.
- Ram in a Thicket (c.2500) Gold leaf, copper, lapis, lazuli, British Museum.
- Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro (Indus Valley Civilization) (2000 BCE) Delhi.
- Statue of Akhenaten (c.1350) Sandstone, Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
- Winged Bull & Lion (859 BCE) Nimrud, see: Assyrian art (c.1500-612 BCE).
- Terracotta Army (246-208 BCE) Emperor Qin Shi's Tomb, Shaanxi, China.
- Broighter Boat (1st century BCE) Gold, National Museum of Ireland.
- Giant Buddha (c.713-803 CE) Leshan, Sichuan province.
- Monolithic Moai of Easter Island (1200-1500 CE) Tuff.

See: Prehistoric Sculpture (c.230,000-2,500 BCE); see also: Mesopotamian Sculpture (c.3000-500 BCE); Egyptian Sculpture. For "primitivist" statues, see: African Sculpture; and also the more dispersed Oceanic art.

Greatest Classical Statues

- "The Auxerre Kore" (c.630 BCE) Limestone, Louvre, Paris.
- The Farnese Heracles (5th Century) Marble, Archeological Museum, Naples.
- "The Apollo Parnopius" (450) Marble, State Museum, Kassel. By Phidias.
- Discobolus (450) Bronze originally, Museo Nazionale, Romano. By Myron.
- Athena Parthenos (c.447-5) Gold, Silver, Ivory. Parthenon. By Phidias.
- Doryphorus (440) National Museum, Naples. By Polykleitos.
- Aphrodite of Knidos (350-40) Marble, Museo Pio Clementino. By Praxiteles.
- Apollo Belvedere (330) Marble, Museo Pio Clementino. By Leochares.
- Colossus of Rhodes (280) one of the Seven Wonders of the World (280).
- Ludovisi Gaul killing himself and his wife (220 BCE) National Museum Rome.
- "The Farnese Bull" (2nd Century) Marble, Naples. By Apollonius of Tralles.
- The Three Graces (2nd Century) Marble, Louvre.
- "The Medici Venus" (150-100) Marble, Uffizi, Florence. By unknown artist.
- Venus de Milo (100) Marble, Louvre. By Andros of Antioch.
- Laocoon and His Sons (42-20 BCE) Vatican Museums, Rome.
- Emperor Augustus (20-17 BCE) Marble, Vatican Museums, Rome.
- Statue of Claudius as Jupiter (41-54 CE) Marble, Vatican Museums.
- The Tetrarchs: Diocletian, Maxentius, Chlorus, Galerius (350 CE) Porphyry.

See: Greek Sculpture (c.650-27 BCE).

Greatest Medieval Statues

Most statuary of the Middle Ages were produced in the form of column-statues decorating the exteriors of cathedrals (Chartres, Notre Dame de Paris, Reims, Cologne) during the Romanesque and Gothic eras.

See also: Medieval Sculpture (300-1000).

Greatest Renaissance and Mannerist Statues

- Il Zuccone (1423–35) Marble, Florence. By Donatello.
- David by Donatello (c.1440) Bronze, Bargello Museum, Florence.
- Equestrian Statue of the Gattamelata (1444-53) Bronze, Siena. Donatello.
- Equestrian Statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni (1480-95) Bronze, Del Verrocchio.
- Holy Blood Altar (1504) Linden-wood, Rothenburg. By Riemenschneider.
- Mary Magdalene (1500) Limewood, Louvre. By Gregor Erhart.
- David (1501-4) Marble, Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence. By Michelangelo.
- Perseus with Head of Medusa (1545-54) Florence. By Benvenuto Cellini.
- Rape of the Sabine Women (1581-3) Marble, Florence. By Giambologna.

See also: Renaissance Sculptors.

Greatest Baroque Statues

- Pluto and Proserpina (1621-2) Marble, Galleria Borghese, Rome. By Bernini.
- Apollo and Daphne (1622-5) Marble, Galleria Borghese, Rome. By Bernini.
- The Ecstasy of St. Teresa (1645-52) Marble/bronze, Rome. By Bernini.
- Milo of Crotona (1671-82) Marble, Louvre. By Pierre Puget.
- Statue of Friedrick William The Great (1708) Berlin. By Andreas Schluter.

See also: Baroque Sculpture (c.1600-1700)

Greatest Neoclassical Statues

- Apollo (1715) Marble, State Art Collection, Dresden. By Balthasar Permoser.
- "The Marly Horse" (1739-45) Marble, Louvre. By Guillaume Coustou.
- "The Bronze Horseman" (1778) Bronze, St Petersburg. By Falconet.
- Apollo Crowning Himself (1781) Marble, Getty Museum. By Antonio Canova.
- Voltaire (Seated) (1781) Marble, Paris. By Jean-Antoine Houdon.
- Psyche Awakened by Eros (1787-93) Marble, Louvre. By Antonio Canova.
- Equestrian Statue of Joseph the Second (1806) Vienna. By F.A. von Zauner.

See also: Neoclassical Sculpture (c.1750-1850).

Greatest 19th-Century Statues

- Tarcisius, Christian Martyr (1868) Marble, Musee d'Orsay. By Falguiere.
- The Thinker (1881) Bronze, Paris. By Auguste Rodin.
- Statue of Liberty (1886) Copper, New York. By Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi.
- Burghers of Calais (1889) Bronze, Paris. By Rodin.
- Robert Burns (1892) Bronze, Aberdeen. By Henry Bain Smith.
- Monument to Balzac (1898) Bronze, Paris. By Rodin.

See also: 19th Century Sculptors.

Greatest 20th Century Statues

- Standing Nude (1907) Stone, Pompidou Centre. By Andre Derain.
- Crouching Figure (1907) Museum of Modern Art, Vienna. Andre Derain.
- Kneeling Woman (1911) Museum of Modern Art, NY. By Wilhelm Lehmbruck.
- Red Stone Dancer (1913) Tate Gallery. By Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.
- Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913) Bronze, NYC. Umberto Boccioni.
- End of the Trail (1915) Bronze, Brookgreen Gardens. By James Earle Fraser.
- Seated Youth (1918) Stone, Frankfurt am Main. By Wilhelm Lehmbruck.
- Christ the Redeemer (1922-31) Soapstone, Rio de Janeiro. Paul Landowski.
- Women's Titanic Memorial (1931) Granite, Washington DC. By G. Whitney.
- Adam (1938) Alabaster, Harewood House, UK. By Jacob Epstein.
- Fighting Stallions (1950) Aluminium, S. Carolina. By Anna Hyatt Huntingdon.
- The Destroyed City (1953) Bronze, Rotterdam. By Ossip Zadkine.
- Walking Man (1960) Bronze, Various Museums. By Alberto Giacometti.
- The Motherland Calls (1967) Concrete, Volgagrad. By Yevgeny Vuchetich.
- Ushiku Daibutsu, Amitabha Buddha (1995) Stone/Bronze, Japan.
- The Famine (1996-7) Bronze, Custom House, Dublin. By Rowan Gillespie.
- Angel of the North (1998) Steel, Gateshead, UK. By Antony Gormley.
- Spring Temple Buddha (2002) Copper cast, Henan, China.
- Kailashnath Mahadev Statue (2004-11) Steel/Concrete, Bhaktapur, Nepal.

See also: 20th Century Sculptors.

• For more about freestanding statuary, see: Visual Arts Encyclopedia.

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