Relief Sculpture

In many cultures*, artworks created from sheets of gold, silver, and other metals are symbols* of important ideas or beliefs.

[* marks a link to that word's definition, which often includes illustrations]

In your own pocket right now may be some relief* sculptures bearing symbols important to Americans. The presidents, eagles, and monuments on our coins are relief sculptures. See if you can find some right now. Take a close look at them, and then close your eyes and carefully feel them. Even better perhaps, look at and touch the sole of a tennis shoe. Can you picture what designs they'd leave in soft earth or snow?


Below are some examples of relief sculptures produced by artists from various cultures using a variety of materials.










see thumbnail to rightAugustus Saint-Gaudens (American, 1848-1907), Amor Caritas, 1880-98, this cast 1918, gilded-bronze relief, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.










see thumbnail to leftAugustus Saint-Gaudens, Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial, 1897-1900, high relief* in patinated* plaster*, National Gallery, Washington, DC. The subject of this sculpture is also that of the 1989 movie Glory [link to a still from the movie] directed by Edward Zwick.











see thumbnail to rightAndrea Briosco known as Riccio (Italian, 1470-1532), Paradise, made 1516-1521, bronze* relief with brown patina*, 37 x 49 cm, Louvre, Paris.

This is a shallow or low relief (also called a bas-relief), which is one of a series of eight. It was made to be placed on a tomb in a church in Verona. The tomb was constructed by Riccio, a famous Paduan sculptor, in honour of a man and his son, both physicians.





All of these artworks have symmetrical balance*. Your eyes and mind find similar relationships on the left and right sides of the artwork. Artists in many cultures use this kind of balance to express a feeling of order, respect, and strength.

Most of these works were created with specifically located sites* in mind. In other words, the artists each knew in advance where their works would be placed, and created the works thinking about what might make them work better in those places.

You can explore related ideas in the making of a relief sculpture.




1st: Relief Sculpture, Art Production and Criticism

2nd: Relief Sculpture, Art History






General References:

where you'll find information on these art vocabulary:





Sculpture Unit Introductory Page.