Relief

Relief

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Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief
Relief (disambiguation)
The word relief comes from the Latin verb levo, to raise, lift up, elevate, with the addition of the Latin inseparable preposition re-, which has three distinct meanings: back, against and again. The Latin composite verb relevo results....

is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane. What is actually performed when a relief is cut in from a flat surface of stone or wood is a lowering of the field, leaving the unsculpted parts seemingly raised. The technique thus involves considerable chiselling away of the background, which is a time-consuming exercise with little artistic effect if the lowered background is left plain, as is often the case. On the other hand, a relief saves forming the rear of a subject, and is less fragile and more securely fixed than a sculpture in the round, especially one of a standing figure where the ankles are a potential weak point, especially in stone. In other materials such as metal, clay, plaster stucco
Stucco
Stucco or render is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as decorative coating for walls and ceilings and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture...

, ceramics or papier-mache
Papier-mâché
Papier-mâché , alternatively, paper-mache, is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste....

 the form can be just added to or raised up from the background, and monumental bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 reliefs are made by casting
Casting
In metalworking, casting involves pouring liquid metal into a mold, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowing it to cool and solidify. The solidified part is also known as a casting, which is ejected or broken out of the mold to complete the process...

.

There are different degrees of relief depending on the degree of projection of the sculpted form from the field, for which the Italian appellations are still sometimes used. The full range includes high relief (alto-rilievo), where more than 50% of the depth is shown and there may be undercut areas, mid-relief (mezzo-rilievo), low-relief (basso-rilievo, or French: bas-relief), and shallow-relief or rilievo schiacciato, where the plane is scarcely more than scratched in order to remove background material. There is also sunk relief, which was mainly restricted to Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

. However the distinction between high relief and low relief is the clearest and most important, and these two are generally the only terms used to discuss most work. The definition of these terms is somewhat variable, and many works combine areas in more than one of them, sometimes sliding between them in a single figure; accordingly some writers prefer to avoid all distinctions. The opposite of relief sculpture is counter-relief, intaglio, or cavo-rilievo, where the form is cut into the field or background rather than rising from it; this is very rare in monumental sculpture
Monumental sculpture
The term monumental sculpture is often used in art history and criticism, but not always consistently. It combines two concepts, one of function, and one of size, and may include an element of a third more subjective concept. It is often used for all sculptures that are large...

.

Reliefs are common throughout the world on the walls of buildings and a variety of smaller settings, and a sequence of several panels or sections of relief may represent an extended narrative. Relief is more suitable for depicting complicated subjects with many figures and very active poses, such as battles, than free-standing "sculpture in the round". Most ancient architectural reliefs were originally painted, which helped to define forms in low relief. The subject of reliefs is for convenient reference assumed in this article to be usually figures, but sculpture in relief often depicts decorative geometrical or foliage patterns, as in the arabesque
Arabesque
The arabesque is a form of artistic decoration consisting of "surface decorations based on rhythmic linear patterns of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils" or plain lines, often combined with other elements...

s of Islamic art
Islamic art
Islamic art encompasses the visual arts produced from the 7th century onwards by people who lived within the territory that was inhabited by or ruled by culturally Islamic populations...

, and may be of any subject.

Types


The distinction between high and low relief is somewhat subjective, and the two are very often combined in a single work. In particular, most later "high reliefs" contain sections in low relief, usually in the background. From the Parthenon Frieze
Parthenon Frieze
The Parthenon frieze is the low relief, pentelic marble sculpture created to adorn the upper part of the Parthenon’s naos. It was sculpted between ca. 443 and 438 BC, most likely under the direction of Pheidias. Of the of the original frieze, survives—some 80 percent...

 onwards, many single figures have heads in high relief, but their lower legs are in in low relief; the slightly projecting figures created in this way work well in reliefs that are seen from below (see Moissac portal in gallery). As unfinished examples from various periods show, raised reliefs, whether high or low, were normally "blocked out" by marking the outline of the figure and reducing the background areas to the new background level, work no doubt performed by apprentices (see gallery).

Hyphens may or may not be used in all these terms, though they are rarely seen in "sunk relief" and are usual in "bas-relief" and "counter-relief". Works in the technique are described as "in relief", and, especially in monumental sculpture
Monumental sculpture
The term monumental sculpture is often used in art history and criticism, but not always consistently. It combines two concepts, one of function, and one of size, and may include an element of a third more subjective concept. It is often used for all sculptures that are large...

, the work itself is "a relief".

Bas-relief or low relief


A bas-relief ("low relief", baʁəljɛf, from the Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 basso rilievo) or low relief is a projecting image with a shallow overall depth, for example used on coins, on which all images are in low relief. In the lowest reliefs the relative depth of the elements shown is completely distorted, and if seen from the side the image makes no sense, but from the front the small variations in depth register as a three-dimensional image. Other versions distort depth much less. It is a technique which requires less work, and is therefore cheaper to produce, as less of the background needs to be removed in a carving, or less modelling is required. In the art of Ancient Egypt
Art of Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptian art is the painting, sculpture, architecture and other arts produced by the civilization in the lower Nile Valley from 5000 BC to 300 AD. Ancient Egyptian art reached a high level in painting and sculpture, and was both highly stylized and symbolic...

 and other ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

ern and Asian cultures, and also Meso-America, a very low relief was commonly used for the whole composition. These images would all be painted after carving, which helped to define the forms.

The Ishtar Gate
Ishtar Gate
The Ishtar Gate was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon. It was constructed in about 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II on the north side of the city....

 of Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, now in Berlin, has low reliefs of large animals formed from moulded bricks, glazed in colour. Plaster was sometimes used in Egypt and Rome, and probably elsewhere, but needs very good conditions to survive - Roman decorative plasterwork is mainly known from Pompeii
Pompeii
The city of Pompeii is a partially buried Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the comune of Pompei. Along with Herculaneum, Pompeii was destroyed and completely buried during a long catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning...

 and other sites buried by ash from Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius is a stratovolcano in the Gulf of Naples, Italy, about east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years, although it is not currently erupting...

. Low relief was relatively rare in Western medieval art
Medieval art
The medieval art of the Western world covers a vast scope of time and place, over 1000 years of art history in Europe, and at times the Middle East and North Africa...

, but may be found, for example in wooden figures or scenes on the insides of the folding wings of multi-panel altarpiece
Altarpiece
An altarpiece is a picture or relief representing a religious subject and suspended in a frame behind the altar of a church. The altarpiece is often made up of two or more separate panels created using a technique known as panel painting. It is then called a diptych, triptych or polyptych for two,...

s.

The revival of low relief, which was seen as a classical style, begins early in the Renaissance; the Tempio Malatestiano
Tempio Malatestiano
The Tempio Malatestiano is the cathedral church of Rimini, Italy. Officially named for St. Francis, it takes the popular name from Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, who commissioned its reconstruction by the famous Renaissance theorist and architect Leon Battista Alberti around 1450.-History:San...

 in Rimini
Rimini
Rimini is a medium-sized city of 142,579 inhabitants in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and capital city of the Province of Rimini. It is located on the Adriatic Sea, on the coast between the rivers Marecchia and Ausa...

, a pioneering classicist building, designed by Leon Battista Alberti around 1450, uses low reliefs by Agostino di Duccio
Agostino di Duccio
Agostino di Duccio was an Italian early Renaissance sculptor.Born in Florence, he worked in Prato with Donatello and Michelozzo, who influenced him greatly. In 1441, he was accused of stealing precious materials from a monastery in Florence and was banished from his native city as a result...

 inside and on the external walls. Since the Renaissance plaster has been very widely used for indoor ornamental work such as cornice
Cornice
Cornice molding is generally any horizontal decorative molding that crowns any building or furniture element: the cornice over a door or window, for instance, or the cornice around the edge of a pedestal. A simple cornice may be formed just with a crown molding.The function of the projecting...

s and ceilings, but in the 16th century it was used for large figures (many also using high relief) at the Chateau of Fontainebleau, which were imitated more crudely elsewhere, for example in the Elizabethan Hardwick Hall
Hardwick Hall
Hardwick Hall , in Derbyshire, is one of the most significant Elizabethan country houses in England. In common with its architect Robert Smythson's other works at both Longleat House and Wollaton Hall, Hardwick Hall is one of the earliest examples of the English interpretation of the Renaissance...

.

In later Western art, until a 20th century revival, low relief was used mostly for smaller works or combined with higher relief to convey a sense of distance, or to give depth to the composition, especially for scenes with many figures and a landscape or architectural background, in the same way that lighter colours are used for the same purpose in painting. Thus figures in the foreground are sculpted in high-relief, those in the background in low-relief. Low relief may use any medium or technique of sculpture, stone carving
Stone carving
Stone carving is an ancient activity where pieces of rough natural stone are shaped by the controlled removal of stone. Owing to the permanence of the material, evidence can be found that even the earliest societies indulged in some form of stone work....

 and metal casting being most common. Large architectural compositions all in low relief saw a revival in the 20th century, being popular on buildings in Art Deco
Art Deco
Art deco , or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and...

 and related styles, which borrowed from the ancient low reliefs now available in museums. Some sculptors, including Eric Gill
Eric Gill
Arthur Eric Rowton Gill was a British sculptor, typeface designer, stonecutter and printmaker, who was associated with the Arts and Crafts movement...

, have adopted the "squashed" depth of low relief in works that are actually free-standing.

Mid-relief, "half-relief" or mezzo-rilievo is somewhat imprecisely defined, and the term is not often used in English, the works usually being described as low relief instead. The typical traditional definition is that only up to half of the subject projects, and no elements are undercut or fully disengaged from the background field. The depth of the elements shown is normally somewhat distorted. Shallow-relief or rilievo stiacciato, used for the background areas of compositions with the main elements in low-relief, was perfected by the Italian Renaissance sculptor Donatello
Donatello
Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi , also known as Donatello, was an early Renaissance Italian artist and sculptor from Florence...

. It is a very shallow relief, which merges into engraving in places, and can be hard to read in photographs.

High relief



High relief (or alto rilievo, from Italian) is where in general more than half the mass of the sculpted figure projects from the background, indeed the most prominent elements of the composition, especially heads and limbs, are often completely undercut, detaching them from the field. The parts of the subject that are seen are normally depicted at their full depth, unlike low relief where the elements seen are "squashed" flatter. High-relief thus uses essentially the same style and techniques as free-standing sculpture, and in the case of a single figure gives largely the same view as a person standing directly in front of a free-standing statue would have. All cultures and periods in which large sculptures were created used this technique in monumental sculpture
Monumental sculpture
The term monumental sculpture is often used in art history and criticism, but not always consistently. It combines two concepts, one of function, and one of size, and may include an element of a third more subjective concept. It is often used for all sculptures that are large...

 and architecture.

Most of the many grand figure reliefs in Ancient Greek sculpture
Ancient Greek sculpture
Ancient Greek sculpture is the sculpture of Ancient Greece. Modern scholarship identifies three major stages. They were used to depict the battles, mythology, and rulers of the land known as Ancient Greece.-Geometric:...

 used a very "high" version of high-relief, with elements often fully free of the background, and parts of figures crossing over each other to indicate depth. The metopes of the Parthenon
Metopes of the Parthenon
The Metopes of the Parthenon are a series of marble panels, originally 92 in number, on the outside walls of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, forming part of the Doric frieze...

 have largely lost their fully rounded elements, except for heads, showing the advantages of relief in terms of durability. High relief has remained the dominant form for reliefs with figures in Western sculpture, also being common in Indian temple sculpture. Smaller Greek sculptures such as private tombs, and smaller decorative areas such as friezes on large buildings, more often used low relief. Hellenistic and Roman sarcophagus
Sarcophagus
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

 reliefs were largely cut with a drill rather than chisel
Chisel
A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or wood with a sharp edge in it.In use, the chisel is forced into the material...

s, enabling and encouraging compositions extremely crowded with figures, which are also seen in the enormous strips of reliefs that wound round Roman triumphal columns. The sarcophagi in particular exerted a huge influence on later Western sculpture. The European Middle Ages tended to use high relief for all purposes in stone, though like Ancient Roman sculpture their reliefs were typically not as high as in Ancient Greece. Very high relief re-emerged in the Renaissance, and was especially used in wall-mounted funerary art
Funerary art
Funerary art is any work of art forming, or placed in, a repository for the remains of the dead. Tomb is a general term for the repository, while grave goods are objects—other than the primary human remains—which have been placed inside...

 and later on Neo-classical
Neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...

 pediment
Pediment
A pediment is a classical architectural element consisting of the triangular section found above the horizontal structure , typically supported by columns. The gable end of the pediment is surrounded by the cornice moulding...

s and public monuments.

Sunk relief


Sunk or sunken relief is largely restricted to the art of Ancient Egypt
Art of Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptian art is the painting, sculpture, architecture and other arts produced by the civilization in the lower Nile Valley from 5000 BC to 300 AD. Ancient Egyptian art reached a high level in painting and sculpture, and was both highly stylized and symbolic...

 where it is very common, becoming after the Amarna period
Amarna Period
The Amarna Period was an era of Egyptian history during the latter half of the Eighteenth Dynasty when the royal residence of the pharaoh and his queen was shifted to Akhetaten in what is now modern-day Amarna...

 of Ahkenaten the dominant type used, as opposed to low relief. It had been used earlier, but mainly for large reliefs on external walls, and for hieroglyphs and cartouche
Cartouche
In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an ellipse with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name, coming into use during the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty under Pharaoh Sneferu, replacing the earlier serekh...

s. The image is made by cutting the relief sculpture itself into a flat surface. In a simpler form the images are usually mostly linear in nature, like hieroglyphs, but in most cases the figure itself is in low relief, but set within a sunken area shaped round the image, so that the relief never rises beyond the original flat surface. In some cases the figures and other elements are in a very low relief that does not rise to the original surface, but others are modelled more fully, with some areas rising to the original surface. This method minimizes the work removing the background, while allowing normal relief modelling. The technique is most successful with strong sunlight to emphasise the outlines and forms by shadow, as no attempt was made to soften the edge of the sunk area, leaving a face at a right-angle to the surface all around it. Some reliefs, especially funerary monuments with heads or busts from ancient Rome and later Western art, leave a "frame" at the original level around the edge of the relief, or place a head in a hemispherical recess in the block (see Roman example in gallery). Though essentially very similar to Egyptian sunk relief, but with a background space at the lower level around the figure, the term would not normally be used of such works.

Counter-relief


Sunk relief technique is not to be confused with "counter-relief" or intaglio as seen on engraved gem seals where an image is fully modelled in a "negative" manner, going into the surface, so that when impressed on wax it gives an impression in normal relief. However many engraved gems were carved in cameo or normal relief. A few very late Hellenistic monumental carvings in Egypt use full "negative" modelling as though on a gem seal, perhaps as sculptors trained in the Greek tradition attempted to use traditional Egyptian conventions.

Small objects


Small-scale reliefs have been carved in various materials, notably ivory
Ivory carving
Ivory carving is the carving of ivory, that is to say animal tooth or tusk, by using sharp cutting tools, either mechanically or manually. The ancient craft has now virtually ceased, as since CITES it is illegal under most circumstances throughout the world....

, wood, and wax. Reliefs are often found in decorative arts such as ceramics and metalwork; these are less often described as "reliefs" than as "in relief". Small bronze reliefs are often in the form of "plaques", which may be set in furniture or framed. Various modelling techniques are used, such repoussé ("pushed-back") in metalwork, where a thin metal plate is hammered from behind, sometimes with a stamp bearing a design, automatically producing a relief. Casting
Casting
In metalworking, casting involves pouring liquid metal into a mold, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowing it to cool and solidify. The solidified part is also known as a casting, which is ejected or broken out of the mold to complete the process...

 has also been widely used in bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 and other metals. Reliefs can be impressed by stamps onto clay, or the clay pressed into a mould bearing the design, as was usual with the mass-produced terra sigillata
Terra sigillata
Terra sigillata is a term with at least three distinct meanings: as a description of medieval medicinal earth; in archaeology, as a general term for some of the fine red Ancient Roman pottery with glossy surface slips made in specific areas of the Roman Empire; and more recently, as a description...

of Ancient Roman pottery
Ancient Roman pottery
Pottery was produced in enormous quantities in ancient Rome, mostly for utilitarian purposes. It is found all over the former Roman Empire and beyond...

. Decorative reliefs in plaster
Plaster
Plaster is a building material used for coating walls and ceilings. Plaster starts as a dry powder similar to mortar or cement and like those materials it is mixed with water to form a paste which liberates heat and then hardens. Unlike mortar and cement, plaster remains quite soft after setting,...

 or stucco
Stucco
Stucco or render is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as decorative coating for walls and ceilings and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture...

 may be much larger; this form of architectural decoration is found in many styles of interiors in the post-Renaissance West, and in Islamic architecture
Islamic architecture
Islamic architecture encompasses a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day, influencing the design and construction of buildings and structures in Islamic culture....

.

Notable reliefs


Notable examples of monumental reliefs include:
  • Ancient Egypt: Most Egyptian temple
    Egyptian temple
    Egyptian temples were built for the official worship of the gods and commemoration of pharaohs in Ancient Egypt and in regions under Egyptian control. These temples were seen as houses for the gods or kings to whom they were dedicated...

    s, e.g. the Temple of Karnak
  • Assyria: A famous collection is in the British Museum
    British Museum
    The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

    , Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III
  • Ancient Persia: Persepolis
    Persepolis
    Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

    , and rock-face reliefs at Naqsh-e Rustam
    Naqsh-e Rustam
    Naqsh-e Rustam also referred to as Necropolis is an archaeological site located about 12 km northwest of Persepolis, in Fars province, Iran. Naqsh-e Rustam lies a few hundred meters from Naqsh-e Rajab....

     and Naqsh-e Rajab
    Naqsh-e Rajab
    Naqsh-e Rajab is an archaeological site just east of Istakhr and about 12 km north of Persepolis.Together with Naqsh-e Rustam, which lies less than a kilometer away, the site is part of the Marvdasht cultural complex...

  • Ancient Greece: The Parthenon Marbles, Bassae Frieze
    Bassae Frieze
    The Bassae Frieze is the high relief marble sculpture in 23 panels, 31m long by 0.63m high, made to decorate the interior of the cella of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae. It was discovered in 1811 by Carl Haller and Charles Cockerell, and excavated the following year by an expedition of...

    , Great Altar of Pergamon, Ludovisi Throne
    Ludovisi Throne
    The Ludovisi Throne is an ancient sculpted block of white marble hollowed at the back and carved with bas-reliefs on the three outer faces. Its authenticity is debated; the majority, who accept it, place it as Western Greek, from Magna Graecia, and date it–; from the Severe style it manifests,...

  • Mesopotamia
    Mesopotamia
    Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

    : Ishtar Gate
    Ishtar Gate
    The Ishtar Gate was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon. It was constructed in about 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II on the north side of the city....

     of Babylon
    Babylon
    Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

  • Ancient Rome: Ara Pacis
    Ara Pacis
    The Ara Pacis Augustae is an altar to Peace, envisioned as a Roman goddess...

    , Trajan's Column
    Trajan's Column
    Trajan's Column is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, which commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near...

    , Column of Marcus Aurelius
    Column of Marcus Aurelius
    The Column of Marcus Aurelius is a Roman victory column in Piazza Colonna, Rome, Italy. It is a Doric column featuring a spiral relief: it was built in honour of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and modeled on Trajan's Column.- Construction :...

    , triumphal arch
    Triumphal arch
    A triumphal arch is a monumental structure in the shape of an archway with one or more arched passageways, often designed to span a road. In its simplest form a triumphal arch consists of two massive piers connected by an arch, crowned with a flat entablature or attic on which a statue might be...

    es, Portonaccio sarcophagus
    Portonaccio sarcophagus
    The Portonaccio sarcophagus was a 2nd century ancient Roman sarcophagus found in the Portonaccio quarter of Rome and now held at the Museo Nazionale Romano . Dating to between 190 and 200, it was used for the burial of a Roman general involved in the campaigns of Marcus Aurelius and shows...

  • Medieval Europe: Many cathedrals and other churches, such as Chartres Cathedral and Bourges Cathedral
  • India: Sanchi
    Sanchi
    Sanchi is a small village in Raisen District of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India, it is located 46 km north east of Bhopal, and 10 km from Besnagar and Vidisha in the central part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the location of several Buddhist monuments dating from the 3rd...

    , base of the Lion Capital of Asoka
    Lion Capital of Asoka
    The Lion capital of Ashoka is a sculpture of four "Indian lions" standing back to back. It was originally placed atop the Aśoka pillar at Sarnath, now in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India by Emperor Ashoka circa 250 BC. The pillar, sometimes called the Aśoka Column is still in its original...

    , the rock-cut Elephanta Caves
    Elephanta Caves
    The Elephanta Caves are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri in Mumbai Harbour, to the east of the city of Mumbai in the Indian state of Maharashtra...

     and Ellora Caves
    Ellora Caves
    Ellora is an archaeological site, from the city of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra built by the Rashtrakuta dynasty . Well-known for its monumental caves, Ellora is a World Heritage Site. Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 "caves" – actually...

    , Khajuraho temples, Mahabalipuram with the Descent of the Ganges
    Descent of the Ganges (Mahabalipuram)
    Descent of the Ganges at Mahabalipuram, in the Tamil Nadu state India, is one of a group of monuments that were designated as a World Heritage Site since 1984. Measuring long by high, it is a giant open-air relief carved of the a monolithic rock. The monuments and sanctuaries were built by the...

    , and many South Indian temples,
  • South-East Asia: Borobodur in Java
    Java
    Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

    , Angkor Wat
    Angkor Wat
    Angkor Wat is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu,...

     in Cambodia,
  • Glyphs, Mayan stelae and other reliefs of the Maya
    Maya art
    Maya art, here taken to mean the visual arts, is the artistic style typical of the Maya civilization, that took shape in the course the Preclassic period , and grew greater during the Classic period Maya art, here taken to mean the visual arts, is the artistic style typical of the Maya...

     and Aztec
    Aztec
    The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

     civilizations
  • United States: Stone Mountain
    Stone Mountain
    Stone Mountain is a quartz monzonite dome monadnock in Stone Mountain, Georgia, United States. At its summit, the elevation is 1,686 feet amsl and 825 feet above the surrounding area. Stone Mountain granite extends underground at its longest point into Gwinnett County...

    , Robert Gould Shaw
    Robert Gould Shaw
    Robert Gould Shaw was an American officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War. As colonel, he commanded the all-black 54th Regiment, which entered the war in 1863. He was killed in the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, near Charleston, South Carolina...

     Memorial, Boston, Mount Rushmore National Memorial,
  • UK: Base panels of Nelson's Column
    Nelson's Column
    Nelson's Column is a monument in Trafalgar Square in central London built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The monument was constructed between 1840 and 1843 to a design by William Railton at a cost of £47,000. It is a column of the Corinthian...

    , Frieze of Parnassus
    Frieze of Parnassus
    The Frieze of Parnassus is a large sculpted stone frieze encircling the podium, or base, of the Albert Memorial in London, England. The Albert Memorial was constructed in the 1860s in memory of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria....



Smaller-scale reliefs:
  • Ivory: Nimrud ivories
    Nimrud ivories
    The Nimrud ivories are carved ivory plaques and figures dating from the 9th to the 7th centuries BC that were excavated from the Assyrian city of Nimrud during the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of the ivories were taken to the United Kingdom and were deposited in the British Museum...

     from much of the Near East, Late Antique Consular diptych
    Consular diptych
    In Late Antiquity a consular diptych was a particular type of diptych which could function as a writing tablet but was also intended as a deluxe commemorative object, commissioned by a consul ordinarius and then distributed to reward those who had supported his candidature as...

    s, the Byzantine Harbaville Triptych
    Harbaville Triptych
    The Harbaville Triptych is a Byzantine ivory triptych of the middle of the 10th century AD with a Deesis and other saints, now in the Louvre. Traces of colouring can still be seen on some figures...

     and Veroli Casket
    Veroli casket
    The Veroli Casket is an ivory and metal casket, made in Constantinople in the late tenth or early eleventh century, and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It is thought to have been made for a person close to the Imperial Court of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire,...

    , the Anglo-Saxon
    Anglo-Saxon art
    Anglo-Saxon art covers art produced within the Anglo-Saxon period of English history, beginning with the Migration period style that the Anglo-Saxons brought with them from the continent in the 5th century, and ending in 1066 with the Norman Conquest of a large Anglo-Saxon nation-state whose...

     Franks Casket
    Franks Casket
    The Franks Casket is a small Anglo-Saxon whalebone chest from the seventh century, now in the British Museum. The casket is densely decorated with knife-cut narrative scenes in flat two-dimensional low-relief and with inscriptions mostly in Anglo-Saxon runes...

    , Cloisters Cross
    Cloisters Cross
    The Cloisters Cross, also referred to as the Bury St. Edmunds Cross, is an unusually complex 12th century ivory Romanesque altar cross in The Cloisters, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The cross is carved from walrus ivory and measures 22 5/8 x 14 1/4 in...

    .
  • Silver: Warren Cup
    Warren Cup
    The Warren Cup is an ancient Roman silver drinking cup decorated in relief with two images of homosexual acts. The cup is named after its first modern owner, the collector and writer Edward Perry Warren, and was acquired by the British Museum in 1999...

    , Gundestrup cauldron
    Gundestrup cauldron
    The Gundestrup cauldron is a richly-decorated silver vessel, thought to date to the 1st century BC, placing it into the late La Tène period. It was found in 1891 in a peat bog near the hamlet of Gundestrup, in the Aars parish in Himmerland, Denmark...

    , Mildenhall Treasure
    Mildenhall Treasure
    The West Row Treasure is a major hoard of highly decorated Roman silver tableware from the fourth-century AD, found at West Row, near Mildenhall in the English county of Suffolk...

    , Berthouville Treasure
    Berthouville Treasure
    The Berthouville treasure is a hoard of Roman silver uncovered by ploughing in March 1830 at the hamlet of Villeret in the commune of Berthouville in the Eure département of Normandy, northern France...

    , Missorium of Theodosius I
    Missorium of Theodosius I
    The Missorium of Theodosius I is a large ceremonial silver dish preserved in the Real Academia de la Historia, in Madrid, Spain. It was probably made in Constantinople for the tenth anniversary in 388 of the reign of the Emperor Theodosius I, the last Emperor to rule both the Eastern and Western...

    , Lomellini Ewer and Basin
    Lomellini Ewer and Basin
    This silver ewer and basin was originally part of a set of six. They were made in 1621 to 1622 and are decorated with episodes from the life of Giovanni Grimaldi, who was a member of one of the most important aristocratic families in 17th century Genoa...

    .
  • Gold: Berlin Gold Hat
    Berlin Gold Hat
    The Berlin Gold Hat or Berlin Golden Hat is a Late Bronze Age artefact made of thin gold leaf. It served as the external covering on a long conical brimmed headdress, probably of an organic material...

    , Bimaran casket
    Bimaran casket
    The Bimaran casket is a small gold reliquary for Buddhist relics that was found inside the stupa no.2 at Bimaran, near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan....

    , Panagyurishte Treasure
    Panagyurishte treasure
    The Panagyurishte Treasure is a Thracian treasure excavated on December 8, 1949 by three brothers, Pavel, Petko and Michail Deikov who worked together at the region of “Merul” tile factory near the town of Panagyurishte, Bulgaria. It consists of a phiale, an amphora and seven rhytons with total...

  • Glass: Portland Vase
    Portland Vase
    The Portland Vase is a Roman cameo glass vase, currently dated to between AD 5 and AD 25, which served as an inspiration to many glass and porcelain makers from about the beginning of the 18th century onwards. Since 1810 the vase has been kept almost continuously in the British Museum in London...

    , Lycurgus Cup
    Lycurgus cup
    The Lycurgus Cup is a Roman glass cage cup now in the British Museum, made of a dichroic glass, which shows a different colour depending on whether or not light is passing through it; red when lit from behind and green when lit from in front...


See also

  • Repoussé and chasing
    Repoussé and chasing
    Repoussé or repoussage is a metalworking technique in which a malleable metal is ornamented or shaped by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief. There are few techniques that offer such diversity of expression while still being relatively economical...

  • Relief printing - a different concept.
  • Pargetting - English exterior plaster reliefs

External links


  • Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, "American Relief Sculpture", Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
    New York
    New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

    .
  • Melissa Hardiman, "Bas-Relief Pathfinder"