A sculpture is a 3D object with mass. Sculptures are divided into two major categories: freestanding or relief. Freestanding sculptures are detached from any other surface and can be seen from all sides. Examples include statues, busts, and equestrian sculptures. Relief sculptures are carved onto a surface or project from a surface (such as a wall or alter or gravestone) and can be viewed only from the front and sides. Examples include incised, low and high relief. Incised, or intaglio, relief sculpture was used in Ancient Egypt. Low, or Bas, relief was used in Assyria (see the Palace of King Ashurnasirpal, for example). High relief was especially popular in Mycenae Greece, for example the “Lion’s Gate.” Carved doors and over-the-door- carvings from cathedrals (which we will study in the next Unit) are often examples of high relief, as well.
In Ancient Egypt, sculpture was used to represent gods and pharaohs (kings and queens). Massive statues were built to give eternal life to those revered by society. Ancient Egyptians had strict conventions when representing human life in sculpture, including rules that male statues were darker than female ones and that seated statues had to place hands on knees. There were also conventions regarding how gods were represented, including representing Horus with a falcon’s head and Anubis with a jackal’s head.
The most famous Ancient Greek Sculptors were Myron, Phidias, Polyclitus, Praxiteles, Scopas, and Lysippus. We do not have most of their work anymore, so we have learned about it from historical descriptions or from copies made by the Romans.
The Ancient Roman sculptors were mostly known for making copies of Greek sculptures such as the Apollo Belvedere and Barberini Faun. In part this was because many of the most ancient sculptures were damaged by age or by war, and the Romans could preserve them with materials better suited to stand the test of time. In part, this was because the Greeks were considered to be excellent artists and so one could learn through imitation. However, Roman sculptors contributed to the field all on their own, as well. One of those ways was with their focus on Portraiture, on depicting people in real ways. For instance, wrinkles and scars were considered a sign of character and these “physical imperfections” were depicted to show men of character and to be admired for their experiences.
The textbook does a good job explaining sculpture and its role in Ancient Humanities, so you should rely on it for details. You can also use it to help choose a sculpture to write about it. Another way to find sculptures is to visit museums online. A list of virtual museums is at the end of the assignment sheet.