Sculpture (sculpture from sculpture, from sculpo – carving, carving) – sculpture, plastic – a kind of fine art whose works are of three-dimensional form and are made of hard or plastic materials – in the broad sense of the word, art is made of clay, wax, stone, metal , Wood, bone and other materials the image of man, animals and other objects of nature in tactile, bodily forms.

An artist who has devoted himself to the art of sculpture is called a sculptor, or sculptor. Its main task is the transfer of a human figure in a real or idealized form, animals play a secondary role in his work, and other objects are only in the meaning of the subordinate or are processed exclusively for ornamental purposes.

The word sculpture, in addition to the art itself, also means every single work of art

Types of sculpture

The main genres of sculpture are portrait, historical, mythological, everyday, symbolic, allegorical images, animalistic genre (depiction of animals). Artistic and expressive means of sculpture – the construction of a volumetric form, plastic modeling (molding), the development of a silhouette, texture, in some cases also color.

There is a round sculpture (statue, group, statuette, bust (sculpture of the head with part of the chest)), viewed from different directions and surrounded by free space; And relief. With relief sculpture, the figure appears partly submerged in a flat background and protruding from it less than or more than half its thickness (in the first case – bas-relief, in the second – high relief). Monumental sculpture (monuments, monuments) is associated with the architectural environment, is distinguished by the significance of ideas, a high degree of generalization, large dimensions; Monumental and decorative sculpture includes all types of decoration of architectural structures and complexes (atlantes, caryatids, friezes, pediment, fountain, garden and park sculpture); Easel sculpture, independent of the environment, has dimensions close to nature or smaller, and a specific in-depth content.

Concerning the material and the way of performing the image, the sculpture, in the broad sense of the word, breaks up into several branches: sculpting, sculpting, or modeling – the art of working from a soft substance, such as wax and clay; Foundry, or toreutics – the art of making a sculpture of molten metal; Glyptic, or sculpture in the narrow sense – the art of cutting out an image of stone, metal, wood and generally solids; To the branches of sculpture, you can, in addition, include sculptural carvings on hard and precious stones and the manufacture of stamps for coins and medals (medallion art).

Sculpture of small forms

Main article: Miniature Sculpture
The height and length of the work can be brought up to 80 centimeters and a meter. It can be replicated industrially, which is not typical for easel sculpture. Decorative and applied art and sculpture of small forms form a symbiosis with each other, like the architecture of a building with a round sculpture decorating it making up a single ensemble. Sculpture of small forms develops in two directions – as the art of mass things and as the art of unique, individual works. Genres and directions of a small sculpture – a portrait, genre compositions, a still-life, a landscape. Small, spatially – volumetric forms, landscape design, and kinetic sculpture.

Other types of sculpture

Kinetic sculpture is a kind of kinetic art, in which the effects of real movement are played out. Ice sculpture is an artistic composition made of ice. Sand sculpture is an art composition made of sand. Materials of the sculpture – metal, stone, clay, wood, gypsum, sand, ice, etc .; Methods of their processing – molding, carving, artistic casting, forging, chasing, etc.

Technique of execution

In undertaking any work, the sculptor, first of all, makes a drawing or photograph, then performs a mathematical calculation of the work (determines the center of gravity of the product, calculates proportions); Then sculpts in a small form of a wax or wet clay mock-up, conveying the idea of ​​his future work. Sometimes, especially when the conceived statue must be large and complex, the artist has to make another, larger and more detailed model. Then, guided by a model or a model, he begins to work on the work itself. If the statue is to be executed, then a board is taken for its foot, and on it a steel frame is arched, curved and fitted so that not a single part of it will go beyond the future figure, and he himself served as a skeleton for it; In addition, in those places where the body of the figure must have a considerable thickness, wooden crosses are attached to the frame with steel wire; In the same parts of the figure that are exposed to the air, for example, in the fingers of hands, hair, overhanging folds of clothing, wooden crosses are replaced with twisted wire or hemp, oiled and rolled up in the form of bundles. By placing such a skeleton of a statue on a tripod, fixed or horizontally rotating machine, called a mare, the artist begins to coat the framework with stucco molding so that a figure similar in general to the model is obtained; Then, removing in one place excessively superimposed clay, adding in another its lack and finishing in the figure part after part, it gradually brings it to the desired resemblance to nature. For this work, he uses palm or steel tools of various shapes, called stacks, but even more fingers of his own hands. In all the continuation of the molding, it is necessary, in order to avoid the appearance of cracks in the drying clay, to constantly maintain its moisture and for this, from time to time, wet or sprinkle the figure with water, and, interrupting the work until the next day, envelop it with a wet canvas. Similar techniques are used in the production of reliefs of considerable size, with the only difference being that instead of a frame, large steel nails and bolts are used instead of the carcass, which are driven into the shield or a shallow box serving as the base of the relief. Completely finished sculpting, the sculptor cares about making an exact picture from his work from a material more durable than clay, and with this purpose resorts to the help of a moulder. This latter removes from the clay original the so-called black form (á creux perdu) from alabaster, and casts a plaster cast of the work on it. If the artist wishes to have a cast in not one but several copies, then they are cast in the so-called pure form (à bon creux), the making of which is much more complicated than the previous one (see Formovka).

Without the preliminary modeling of the clay masterpiece and casting of its plaster cast, it is not possible to create any more or less large sculpture – whether it is stone or metal. True, there were sculptors, such as Michelangelo, who worked directly from marble; But imitation of their example requires the artist of extraordinary technical experience, and yet he runs the risk of such daring work at every step into irreparable mistakes.

With the production of a plaster cast, an essential part of the artistic task of the sculptor can be considered finished: it remains only to reproduce the impression, if desired, in stone (marble, sandstone, volcanic tuff, etc.) or in metal (bronze, zinc, steel, .), Which is already semi-ruled work. When making a marble and generally stone sculpture, the surface of the plaster original is covered with a whole network of points which, with the help of a circular, plumb and ruler, are repeated on a block to be finished. Guided by this punctuation, the artist’s assistants, under his supervision, remove unnecessary parts of the lump by means of a chisel, chisel and hammer; In some cases they use in this case a so-called dotted frame, in which mutually intersecting threads indicate the parts that should be repulsed. Thus, from the unfinished block, a general form of the statue appears little by little; It is getting thinner and thinner under the hands of experienced workers until, finally, the artist himself gives it the last finish, and polishing with pumice does not impart to the various parts of the surface of the work a possible resemblance to what the nature itself represents in this respect. In order to get closer to it optically, the ancient Greeks and Romans rubbed their marble statues with wax and even lightly colored them and gilded them (see Polychrome).

Use of materials


The most important material for sculptures, along with marble, is bronze; Marble is most suitable for reproduction of gentle, ideal, mostly feminine forms; Bronze – to transfer forms of courageous, energetic. Moreover, it is a particularly convenient substance when the work is colossal or depicts a strong movement: figures animated by this movement, when executed from bronze, do not need support for the legs, hands and other parts that are necessary in such figures, cut down From a fragile stone. Finally, for works assigned to stand outdoors, especially in the northern climate, bronze is preferred because not only does it not deteriorate from atmospheric influence, but also, due to its oxidation, gets a greenish or dark coating on its surface, called patina, pleasant to the eye. The bronze statue is executed either by casting molten metal into a previously prepared form, or knocked out with a hammer from metal plates.

One of the ways of producing bronze sculptures is the method of hollow bronze casting. The secret of it is that the original form under the statuette is made in wax, then apply a clay layer and heat the wax. And only then they pour the metal. Bronze casting is the cumulative name of the whole process.

As for the knockout work (the so-called work of the reputation), it consists of the following: a sheet of metal is taken, it is softened by heating on fire and, striking the inside of the sheet with a hammer, informs him of the required convexity, first in rough form, and then, Gradual continuation of the same work, with all the details, according to the model available. This technique, for which the artist must possess special dexterity and long experience, is used mainly in the execution of bas-reliefs of not particularly large size; While making large and complex works, statues, groups and high reliefs, it is resorted to now only when it is necessary that they have a relatively low weight. In these cases, the work is knocked out in parts, which are then joined together by screws and bolts into one. Since the XIX century knockout work and casting in many cases are replaced by the deposition of metal in molds with the help of electroforming.


The tree, as a material for sculptures, was used in ancient times; But wooden sculpture was especially respected in the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Renaissance in Germany, providing temples with painted and gilded statues of saints, intricate altar ornaments, figure jubes, chairs and seats for choirs. For such handicrafts, a soft, lime or beech tree that is easy to be cut with a cutter is used.

Precious materials

Noble metals, as well as ivory, are used, due to their high cost, exclusively for small sculptures. However, ivory in the flourishing period of ancient Greek art found its application in large, even colossal works – in the so-called chrisoelephantine sculptures. Finally, with respect to hard stones, it should be noted that they have played an important role in the fine plastic works since ancient times, such as cameos and gems. For such works, onyx is taken most often, allowing the artist to get very picturesque effects due to the varicoloured color of the layers of this stone.

Artificial stone

At the present stage of development, an artificial stone or decorative concrete has acquired great importance for the manufacture of sculptures. A lot of sculptures of the Soviet era are made of it. The most grandiose vocation from concrete is the Motherland on Mamayev Kurgan. One of the features of works of artificial stone is their durability (in the absence of acts of vandalism and proper maintenance), besides the master has the ability to imitate expensive natural materials (granite, marble, limestone, etc.).


Ancient world

The first manifestations of artistic creativity in the field of sculpture lie in the gloom of prehistoric times; However, it is doubtful that they were caused, as they were called, and later by the young tribes, by the need of a person who has not yet emerged from the wild state, to express with a sensuous sign the idea of ​​a deity or to preserve the memory of dear people. This reason is hinted by the poetic legend of the ancient Greeks about the invention of plastics, a legend according to which Cora, the daughter of Corinthian Wootada, wishing, with her lover, to save his image for memory, outlined the contour of his head in the shadow cast by the sun, and her The father filled this silhouette with clay. What were the initial experiences of sculpture in the prehistoric era – this allows us to judge the idols found by European travelers on the first visit to the islands of the Pacific Ocean, for example, in the Hawaiian Islands. These are simple pillars with weak, monstrous allusions to human faces and limbs. The history of sculpture begins about thirty centuries BC. E., From the oldest of the cultural peoples of the ancient world, the Egyptians.

Ancient Egypt

The sculpture of Egypt, throughout the continuation of its historical life, remained an inseparable companion of architecture, obeying its principles and serving to beautify its structures with the images of gods, kings, fantastic creatures and plastic paintings corresponding to the purpose of the building. In the beginning (in the Memphis period), under the influence of the people’s notion of the afterlife, she showed a strong inclination to realism (portrait statues in mastaba and funerary caves, a statue of Pharaoh Khafre and “Sheikh El Beled” of the Egyptian Cairo Museum, “Scribe” .), But then froze in conventional, once established forms, almost unchanged until the fall of the Egyptian kingdom. Amazing patience and agility in overcoming technical difficulties in the processing of such solid materials as diorite, basalt and granite, characteristic reproduction of the tribal type, majesty, achieved through colossal and giving symmetrically symmetrical forms and solemn calmness to strictly proportional figures – such are the distinctive qualities of the Egyptian statues of the Fijian and Saiss Periods, suffering, however, the lack of expression of an individual character and real life (the huge figures of Ramses II in Abu Simbel, the statue of Memnon, etc.). Very skillfully able Egyptian sculptors, with the depiction of the gods, to connect human forms with the forms of the animal world, but even more skilfully reproduced the figures of animals (a pair of lions on the ladder of the Capitol in Rome). Reliefs, colored with different colors, covered abundantly, like carpets, the walls of Egyptian buildings, depicting feats of the pharaohs and memorable events of Russian history – in temples and palaces, episodes from everyday life and honoring the gods – in funerary buildings. The way of execution of these reliefs was special: the figures in them either slightly protruded on a deeper background (flat-convex reliefs, koilanaglyphs), or, conversely, they went a little deeper into the background (flat-hollow reliefs). The lack of perspective, the conventionality of composition and drawing, and other shortcomings do not prevent these images from being a detailed narrative about the way of life, beliefs and history of the people.


Excavations made in Mesopotamia, in areas where Babylon and Nineveh once reigned, acquainted the learned world with the Chaldean-Assyrian sculpture (1000-600 BC). And here this branch of art was in close connection with architecture, even in the strongest, than among the Egyptians. Her main vocation was to increase the brilliance of the royal palaces. Sculptural monuments found in the ruins of the palaces in Nimrud, Khorsabad and Kuyundzhik consist of wall reliefs depicting various episodes from the life of kings, military incidents, hunting scenes. The distinguishing features of these works are a rather significant convexity of the relief, the severity of the concept, an exaggerated expression of physical strength in dense, muscular figures and the absence of an individual character and spiritual life in them. These figures are much inferior to the image of animals, which Mesopotamian art reproduced with some understanding of nature. As regards religious sculpture, we find almost exclusively small bronze and terracotta figurines of benevolent and evil demons among the Chaldeans and Assyrians, representing sometimes a successful, sometimes monstrous combination of human forms and forms of animals. Of the large works of this kind, one can only point to winged bulls and lions with a bearded human head crowned with a tiara – colossal half-stories, half-reliefs standing in pairs as if on guard at the entrances to the royal dwellings.

Ancient Persia

The art of Assyria passed along with its power to the Medes and through them to the Persians (560-330 BC), inheriting from it both the use of sculpture for the decoration of royal palaces, and its form and content. The monuments of sculpture found in the ruins of the royal residences in Persepolis and Susa consist in reliefs with images referring mainly to the tsar and to court life, and in fantastic palace gatekeepers – winged animals with a human head. It can not be said, however, that Persian plastics made a significant step forward in comparison with the Assyrian: on the contrary, instead of the energetic, full movement of shapes and shapes that we saw in this latter, here are figures lifeless and listless, repeated in complex scenes with tedious monotony , In the same guises and poses; In one only the Persian sculptors show some success, namely in understanding the importance of folds of draperies for designating the forms of the human body and its movements; But their folds are dry, sharp, as if starched.

Ancient India

Religious views of ancient Indians were strongly reflected in their sculpture, the oldest monuments of which date back to the middle of the third century BC. E. This branch of art and on the banks of the Indus stood in direct connection with architecture: mystery, mysticism, found expression in tops, cave temples and pagodas, were even more clearly manifested in the plastic personifications of the gods and images of their symbolic exploits sculpted by relief on the pillars at cornices and Niches of these sanctuaries. But the notion of Indian deities arose not from clear, purely human representations, but from dreamy and fantastic; So the images of the gods and the story of their destinies, their deep fear of the unknown, were embodied in the Indians in a dark cycle of bizarre images, in exaggerated poses and restless movements of figures, with a strong touch of passion and sensuality (especially in female figures), in a bizarre pile of heads, hands and Generally members of the body, or in a strange combination of human and animal forms. Technically, such works testify to the considerable skill of their performers.

Sculpture, as a kind of fine arts updated: March 16, 2017 by author: Rollin