Statue of Liberty, (formally Liberty Enlightening the World) New York Harbor, United States, by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi c.1886
Gommateshwara statue in India, one of the largest ancient monolithic statues in the world.[1]
Leshan Giant Buddha, c. 803, a stone statue carved out of a mountain face in Leshan, China
Urfa Man, in the Şanlıurfa Museum; sandstone, 1.80 metres (5 ft 11 in) c. 9,000 BC
Christ the Redeemer (1931), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A statue is a free-standing sculpture in which the realistic, full-length figures of persons or animals are carved or cast in a durable material such as wood, metal or stone. Typical statues are life-sized or close to life-size; a sculpture that represents persons or animals in full figure but that is small enough to lift and carry is a statuette or figurine, whilst one more than twice life-size is a colossal statue.[2]

Statues have been produced in many cultures from prehistory to the present; the oldest-known statue dating to about 30,000 years ago. Statues represent many different people and animals, real and mythical. Many statues are placed in public places as public art. The world's tallest statue, Statue of Unity, is 182 metres (597 ft) tall and is located near the Narmada dam in Gujarat, India.


Ancient statues often show the bare surface of the material of which they are made. For example, many people associate Greek classical art with white marble sculpture, but there is evidence that many statues were painted in bright colors.[3] Most of the color has weathered off over time; small remnants were removed during cleaning; in some cases small traces remained that could be identified.[3] A travelling exhibition of 20 coloured replicas of Greek and Roman works, alongside 35 original statues and reliefs, was held in Europe and the United States in 2008: Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity.[4] Details such as whether the paint was applied in one or two coats, how finely the pigments were ground or exactly which binding medium would have been used in each case—all elements that would affect the appearance of a finished piece—are not known. Richter goes so far as to say of classical Greek sculpture, "All stone sculpture, whether limestone or marble, was painted, either wholly or in part."[5]

Medieval statues were also usually painted, with some still retaining their original pigments. The coloring of statues ceased during the Renaissance, since excavated classical sculptures, which had lost their coloring, became regarded as the best models.

Historical periods


The Venus of Berekhat Ram, an anthropomorphic pebble found in northern Israel and dated to at least 230,000 years before present, is claimed to be the oldest known statuette. However, researchers are divided as to whether its shape is derived from natural erosion or was carved by an early human.[6] The Venus of Tan-Tan, a similar object of similar age found in Morocco, has also been claimed to be a statuette.[7]

The Löwenmensch figurine and the Venus of Hohle Fels, both from Germany, are the oldest confirmed statuettes in the world, dating to 35,000-40,000 years ago.[8][9][10]

The oldest known life-sized statue is Urfa Man found in Turkey which is dated to around 9,000 BC.



Throughout history, statues have been associated with cult images in many religious traditions, from Ancient Egypt, Ancient India, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome to the present. Egyptian statues showing kings as sphinxes have existed since the Old Kingdom, the oldest being for Djedefre (c. 2500 BC).[11] The oldest statue of a striding pharaoh dates from the reign of Senwosret I (c. 1950 BC) and is the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.[12] The Middle Kingdom of Egypt (starting around 2000 BC) witnessed the growth of block statues which then became the most popular form until the Ptolemaic period (c. 300 BC).[13]

The focal point of the cella or main interior space of a Roman or Greek temple was a statue of the deity it was dedicated to. In major temples these could be several times life-size. Other statues of deities might have subordinate positions along the side walls.

The oldest statue of a deity in Rome was the bronze statue of Ceres in 485 BC.[14][15] The oldest statue in Rome is now the statue of Diana on the Aventine.[16]


For a successful Greek or Roman politician or businessman (who donated considerable sums to public projects for the honour), having a public statue, preferably in the local forum or the grounds of a temple was an important confirmation of status, and these sites filled up with statues on plinths (mostly smaller than those of their 19th century equivalents). Fragments in Rome of a bronze colossus of Constantine and the marble colossus of Constantine show the enormous scale of some imperial statues; other examples are recorded, notably one of Nero.

The wonders of the world include several statues from antiquity, with the Colossus of Rhodes and the Statue of Zeus at Olympia among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Middle Ages

While sculpture generally flourished in European Medieval art, the single statue was not one of the most common types, except for figures of the Virgin Mary, usually with Child, and the corpus or body of Christ on crucifixes. Both of these appeared in all size up to life-size, and by the late Middle Ages many churches, even in villages, had a crucifixion group around a rood cross. The Gero Cross in Cologne is both one of the earliest and finest large figures of the crucified Christ. As yet, full-size standing statues of saints and rulers were uncommon, but tomb effigies, generally lying down, were very common for the wealthy from about the 14th century, having spread downwards from royal tombs in the centuries before.

While Byzantine art flourished in various forms, sculpture and statue making witnessed a general decline; although statues of emperors continued to appear.[17] An example was the statue of Justinian (6th century) which stood in the square across from the Hagia Sophia until the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century.[17] Part of the decline in statue making in the Byzantine period can be attributed to the mistrust the Church placed in the art form, given that it viewed sculpture in general as a method for making and worshiping idols.[17] While making statues was not subject to a general ban, it was hardly encouraged in this period.[17] Justinian was one of the last Emperors to have a full-size statue made, and secular statues of any size became virtually non-existent after iconoclasm; and the artistic skill for making statues was lost in the process.


Italian Renaissance art identified the standing statue as the key form of Roman art to survive, and there was a great revival of statues of both religious and secular figures, to which most of the leading figures contributed, led by Donatello and Michelangelo. The equestrian statue, a great technical challenge, was mastered again, and gradually statue groups.

These trends intensified in Baroque art, when every ruler wanted to have statues made of themself, and Catholic churches filled with crowds of statues of saints, although after the Protestant Reformation religious sculpture largely disappeared from Protestant churches, with some exceptions in large Lutheran German churches. In England, churches instead were filled with increasing elaborate tomb monuments, for which the ultimate models were continental extravagances such as the Papal tombs in Rome, those of the Doges of Venice, or the French royal family.

In the late 18th and 19th century there was a growth in public open air statues of public figures on plinths. As well as monarches, politicians, generals, landowners, and eventually artists and writers were commemorated. World War I saw the war memorial, previously uncommon, become very widespread, and these were often statues of generic soldiers.

Modern Era

Starting with the work of Maillol around 1900, the human figures embodied in statues began to move away from the various schools of realism that been followed for thousands of years. The Futurist and Cubist schools took this metamorphism even further until statues, often still nominally representing humans, had lost all but the most rudimentary relationship to the human form. By the 1920s and 1930s statues began to appear that were completely abstract in design and execution.[18]

The notion that the position of the hooves of horses in equestrian statues indicated the rider's cause of death has been disproved.[19][20]


See also


  1. ^ Zimmer, Heinrich (1953) [April 1952]. Campbell, Joseph (ed.). Philosophies Of India. London, E.C. 4: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. ISBN 978-81-208-0739-6.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  2. ^ Collins online dictionary: Colossal "2. (in figure sculpture) approximately twice life-size."; entry in the Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus® Online
  3. ^ a b "Archeological Institute of America: Carved in Living Color". 23 June 2008. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  4. ^ "Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity September 22, 2007 Through January 20, 2008, The Arthur M. Sackler Museum". 4 January 2009. Archived from the original on 4 January 2009. Retrieved 30 December 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ Richter, Gisela M. A., The Handbook of Greek Art: Architecture, Sculpture, Gems, Coins, Jewellery, Metalwork, Pottery and Vase Painting, Glass, Furniture, Textiles, Paintings and Mosaics, Phaidon Publishers Inc., New York, 1960 p. 46
  6. ^ Venus of Berekhat Ram (230-700,000 BCE)
  7. ^ Rincon, Paul (23 May 2003). "'Oldest sculpture' found in Morocco". BBC News. Retrieved 15 May 2009.
  8. ^ "Lion man takes pride of place as oldest statue" by Rex Dalton, Nature 425, 7 (4 September 2003) doi:10.1038/425007a also Nature News 4 September 2003
  9. ^ "Ice Age Lion Man is world’s earliest figurative sculpture" by Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper 31 January 2013
  10. ^ ""It must be a woman" - The female depictions from Hohle Fels date to 40,000 years ago..." Universität Tübingen. July 22, 2016. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  11. ^ The Egyptian Museum in Cairo by Abeer El-Shahawy and Farid Atiya (10 November 2005)ISBN 9771721836 page 117
  12. ^ The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt by Donald B. Redford (15 December 2000)ISBN 0195102347 page 230
  13. ^ Egyptian Statues by Gay Robins (4 March 2008)ISBN 0747805202 page 28
  14. ^ Famous Firsts in the Ancient Greek and Roman World by David Matz (Jun 2000)ISBN 0786405996 page 87
  15. ^ The Art of Rome c.753 B.C.-A.D. 337 by Jerome Jordan Pollitt (30 June 1983)ISBN 052127365X page 19
  16. ^ Samnium and the Samnites by E. T. Salmon (2 September 1967)ISBN 0521061857 page 181
  17. ^ a b c d Byzantine Art by Charles Bayet (1 October 2009)ISBN 1844846202 page 54
  18. ^ Giedion-Welcker, Carola, ‘’Contemporary Sculpture: An Evolution in Volume and Space, A revised and Enlarged Edition’’, Faber and Faber, London, 1961 pp. X to XX
  19. ^ Barbara Mikkelson (2 August 2007). "Statue of Limitations". Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  20. ^ Cecil Adams (6 October 1989). "In statues, does the number of feet the horse has off the ground indicate the fate of the rider?". The Straight Dope. Chicago Reader. Retrieved 9 June 2011.

External links

Media files used on this page

Statue of Unity in 2018.jpg
Author/Creator: Government of India. Uploaded by Abhinay6597., Licence: GODL-India
Sardar Vallabhai Patel Statue Of Unity
Venus de Milo Louvre Ma399 n4.jpg
So-called “Venus de Milo” (Aphrodite from Melos). Parian marble, ca. 130-100 BC? Found in Melos in 1820.
Ain Ghazal statue at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.png
Author/Creator: Dan Palraz, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Ain Ghazal statue at the Louvre Abu Dhabi
Balance of nature statue at VUDA Park Visakhapatnam.JPG
Author/Creator: Adityamadhav83, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Balance of nature statue near VUDA Park in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
RizalParkjf8388 17.JPG
Author/Creator: Ramon FVelasquez, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Upload Wizard photos of -- (general description of landmarks, town, church) - Rizal Park [1] Diorama of Rizal's Martyrdom. On an area north of Rizal monument stands a set of statues depicting Rizal's execution, situated on the spot where he was actually martyred, contrary to popular belief that the monument is the spot where he was executed. In the evenings, a Light & Sound presentation titled "The Martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal", features a multimedia dramatization of the last poignant minutes of the life of the national hero - Rizal Monument[2] - Flag of the Philippines[3]
Author/Creator: Ian Sewell, Licence: CC BY 2.5

Photo taken by Ian Sewell, July, 2006.

Ahu Tongariki on Easter Island. These moai were restored in the 1990's by a Japanese research team after a cyclone knocked them over in the 1960's.
The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin, in Victoria Tower Gardens, London, England.

Under French law no more than twelve casts of this piece were permitted after Rodin’s death. The London casting, purchased by the British Government in 1911, is one of those.

Rodin often duplicated parts of his statues. For example two of the heads on this grouping are identical and a third only slightly altered. Some of the hands are used twice.

Taken by Adrian Pingstone in November 2004 and released to the public domain.
Great Sphinx of Giza - 20080716a.jpg
Author/Creator: Taken by the uploader, w:es:Usuario:Barcex, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt.
Harriet Tubman Statue in Harlem.jpg
Author/Creator: Adjoajo, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
photo by Linda Fletcher
Lion man photo.jpg
Lionheaded figurine from Stadel im Hohlenstein cave in Germany
Laocoon Pio-Clementino Inv1059-1064-1067.jpg
Laocoön and his sons, also known as the Laocoön Group. Marble, copy after an Hellenistic original from ca. 200 BC. Found in the Baths of Trajan, 1506.
Author/Creator: RaminusFalcon, Licence: CC BY 3.0
The Charioteer of Delphi, 470s B.C. Bronze, 5ft.11in. high. Delphi Museum, Greece.
Egede nuuk.JPG
Egede statue Nuuk
Robert Burns, Union Terrace, Aberdeen, 1892 Henry Bain Smith, bronze, photo Jane Cartney 2010.jpg
Author/Creator: Jane Cartney, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Bronze statue of Robert Burns coated with angels & pigeon droppings, Union Terrace, Aberdeen, 1892 by local sculptor Henry Bain Smith, photo courtesy Jane Cartney,
The replica statue of Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, in the Piazza Campidoglio, Rome, Italy. The original is in the nearby Capitoline Museum.
Cristo Redentor - Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.jpg
Author/Creator: Nico Kaiser, Licence: CC BY 2.0
The statue of Cristo Redentor atop Corcovado - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Spring Temple Buddha picturing Vairocana, in Lushan County, Henan, China.png
Author/Creator: Zgpdszz, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Spring Temple Buddha, located in the Zhaocun township of Lushan County, Henan, China.
Lady Liberty under a blue sky (cropped).jpg
Author/Creator: User:Mcj1800, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
This photo was taken on a visit to the Statue of Liberty in October, 2015.
Millais statue 3.jpg
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
David von Michelangelo.jpg
Author/Creator: Rico Heil (User:Silmaril), Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Michelangelo’s David (original statue)
Batu caves Malaysia Murugan temple 03.JPG
Author/Creator: R Shanmuga Sundaram, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
மலேயாவில் பாட்டு குகையில் முருகன் கோயில்
La Valse.jpg
La Valse (The Waltzers): Created by Camille Claudel, protégé, muse and mistress of Rodin. Conceived in 1889 and cast in 1905 with the Foundry Mark "Eugene Blot". This is the first of these casts and is gilded.
Kamakura Budda Daibutsu front 1885.jpg
Author/Creator: Dirk Beyer, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Buddha Daibutsu, Kamakura, Japan. This statue of Amitabha Buddha, made of bronze, is 11.40 m high and weights 93 t.
USMC War Memorial Sunset Parade 2008-07-08.jpg
Ceremonial Marchers and Silent Drill Platoon of Marine Barracks Washington, Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial, Rosslyn (Arlington County), Virginia, USA.

Venus of Hohle Fels

Picture of Modigiliani statue, Standing Nude (1912).jpg
Author/Creator: Mathew Toll, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Picture of Amedeo Modigliani's Standing nude (c.1912) taken at Australian National Gallery in 2012.
Copenhagen - the little mermaid statue - 2013.jpg


, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0

Statue of the little mermaid in Copenhagen, 2013.

Musée Rodin 1.jpg
Author/Creator: CrisNYCa, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
This building is classé au titre des monuments historiques de la France. It is indexed in the base Mérimée, a database of architectural heritage maintained by the French Ministry of Culture, under the reference PA00088697 Wikidata-logo.svg.
Vestonicka venuse edit.jpg
Author/Creator: che
(Please credit as "Petr Novák, Wikipedia" in case you use this outside Wikimedia projects.)
guidance: Danny B., Licence: CC BY-SA 2.5
Věstonická venuše na výstavě Lovci mamutů v Národním muzeu v Praze
Venus von Willendorf 01.jpg
Author/Creator: User:MatthiasKabel, Licence: CC BY 2.5
Venus von Willendorf
Mount rushmore July 2017.jpg
Author/Creator: Winkelvi, Licence: CC BY 4.0
Mount Rushmore as seen from visitor area, July 2017.
Aristoteles der Stagirit.jpg
Author/Creator: Neptuul, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Statue of Aristotle in the Aristotlepark of Stagira
Shravanabelagola statue.jpg
Author/Creator: The original uploader was Shadows44 at French Wikipedia., Licence: CC BY-SA 1.0
Satue de Gomateshvara, à Shravanabelagola (ville du sud de l'inde)Photo personnelle prise en juin 2006. Statue considérée par certains comme le plus grand monolithe taillé du monde.
Leshan da fo Flickr feet-head modified.jpg
Author/Creator: Ken Marshall from Absecon, New Jersey, USA, Licence: CC BY 2.0
Leshan da fo/Leshan Giant Buddha feet to head, Flickr image, modified by Rbmk.
Hermes di Prassitele, at Olimpia, front.jpg
Author/Creator: Roccuz [1], Licence: CC BY-SA 2.5 it
Hermes bearing the good person by Praxiteles. Parian marble, H. 2.15 m (7 ft. ½ in.). Archaeological museum of ancient Olympia, Greece. From the German excavations of the Heraion at Olympia, 1877.
Urfa man.jpg
Author/Creator: Cobija, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Urfa man, also known as the "Balikligöl Statue", Pre-Pottery Neolithic.