Art Appreciation

How to Appreciate Sculpture
Essay on Plastic Art Appreciation (Prehistory-1850).
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David
by Michelangelo (1501-4)
The greatest statue of the
Italian High Renaissance, inspired
by the Sculpture of Ancient
Greece .

MEANING OF ART
For more about the different types,
and styles of traditional art, see:
Definition of Art .

How to Appreciate Sculpture

Contents

• Art Appreciation
• Stone Age Sculpture (to 2,000 BCE)
• Greek Sculpture (c.600-30 BCE)
• Roman Sculpture (c.200 BCE – c.200 CE)
• Gothic Sculpture (c.1150-1300)
• Italian Renaissance (c.1400-1530)
• Mannerist (c.1530-1600)
• Baroque (c.1600-1700)
• Neoclassical (c.1790-1830)

Additional Resources

• How
to Appreciate Modern Sculpture
• Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate
Art
• Greatest Sculptures Ever
• Greatest Sculptors



Cupid and Psyche (1786-93, Louvre)
By Antonio Canova (1757-1822).

Art Education Series

This essay on sculpture
appreciation, written by
our Editor Neil Collins, is
designed for students
and art schools as part
of our ongoing series on
fine art education.

TYPES OF SCULPTURE
For bronzes – statues and reliefs,
see: Bronze Sculpture .
For forms of rock carving, see:
Stone Sculpture .
For Pentelic, Carrara, Parian
stone, see: Marble Sculpture .
For sculptures in wood,
see: Wood Carving .

Art Appreciation

Like painting, sculpture
is first and foremost a visual art ,
so the more we see, the more our eyes become acquainted with the medium,
and the faster our appreciation. To help you learn (or teach students)
how to appreciate the wonderful plastic
art of sculpture, this webpage contains explanations of most of the
major schools, from the Stone Age to the present day. It includes references
to the aesthetics of the movement
and to important sculptors and their works, with individual explanations
where appropriate. No educational article however can compare with a visit
to a sculpture gallery, garden or museum, where you can walk around the
exhibits and study them from different angles. So check out our list of
the best art museums . After all, sculpture,
unlike painting, is a three-dimensional art, and can only be appreciated
properly in the flesh.

 

How to Appreciate
Stone Age Sculpture

Prehistoric
sculpture first appears in the Paleolithic era (up to 10,000 BCE),
in the form of two primitive effigies: the basaltic figurine known as
the Venus of Berekhat
Ram
and the quartzite figurine we know as the Venus
of Tan-Tan
. Both have been carbon-dated to 200,000 BCE, or earlier.
Unfortunately, neither looks very lifelike.

Coinciding with the replacement of Neanderthal
Man
by anatomically modern humans such as Cro-Magnon Man, from
40,000 BCE onwards, art blossoms throughout Europe. The earliest lifelike
sculptures are the Paleolithic ivory
carvings of the Swabian Jura – featuring birds, animals, and therianthropic
figures, discovered in the caves of Hohle Fels, Vogelherd, and Hohlenstein-Stadel.
These simple but beautiful works date from 35,000-30,000 BCE.

At the same time, a diverse assortment
of small, obese, female-shaped sculptures, known as " venus
figurines " are made, which archeologists have since unearthed
at Stone Age settlement sites all over Europe, from Russia to Gibraltar.
Believed to have been used as fertility symbols, and carved from a variety
of materials including mammoth bone, bone ash, ceramic clay, oolitic limestone,
steatite, serpentine, or volcanic rock, these venus figures have been
located in sites across Europe, from Russia to Spain. In addition to the
extreme old age of these artifacts (the Venus
of Hohle Fels
[38-33,000 BCE] is the earliest ivory
carving and the oldest known figurative sculpture, while the extraordinary
Venus of Dolni Vestonice
[26,000 BCE] is the oldest known clay sculpture in the world), the most
extraordinary thing is the relative similarity of these figures.

From the era of Neolithic
art , the most extraordinary piece of 3-D art is the Romanian terracotta
sculpture known as the Thinker
of Cernavoda
(c.5,000 BCE), a small figure who sits deep in thought.
Highlights from the Neolithic era include the Maikop Gold Bull
(c.2500 BCE) a wonderful gold sculpture made in the North Caucasus region
using the lost-Wax casting method; and the dazzling Dancing Girl of
Mohenjo-Daro
(c.2500 BCE), a masterpiece of early Indian
sculpture from the Harappan Culture of the Indus
Valley Civilization (3,300-1300 BCE).

Note: Techniques of Egyptian
sculpture were highly influential on many Greek sculptors of antiquity,
and also on later African
sculpture from sub-Saharan Africa.

Study Questions/Issues

• Why did sculpture begin in the Stone
Age? Answer: a combination of factors including: social organization;
better security (more caves available); climate; greater demand for symbolic,
ritualistic, objects.
• Why did bronze sculpture begin during the Neolithic era? Answer:
more secure settlements permitted smelting and metallurgy; greater demand
for items of personal jewellery as well as larger precious objects.
• During this period of prehistory, watch out for the gradual move
from functional artifacts to "art for art’s sake".

 

 

How to Appreciate
Greek Sculpture

Greek
Sculpture Made Simple spans The Archaic Period (c.750-500 BCE), The
Classical Period (c.500-323 BCE), and The Hellenistic Period (c.323-100
BCE). Explaining how to evaluate Greek Sculpture would consume a whole
website, so here are a few selected comments about how this unique art
form developed, and what therefore to watch for.

Greek sculptors learned many of the basics
during the Geometric era, although their figurative statues remained quite
rigid. Figures were typically depicted in the nude (the male kouros),
or semi-clothed (the female kore). During the era of Archaic
sculpture , as the country opened up to influences from the Black Sea,
the Levant and Egypt, they learned how to infuse their human figures with
greater fluidity and a greater sense of life. In addition, they began
to develop the "archaic smile", along with a more realistic
articulation of the body. Then came a truly extraordinary climax.

During the era of Greek
Classical Sculpture , notably the fifth century BCE, Greek sculpture
experienced an unparalleled surge in creativity, exemplified by the
works on the Parthenon (447-422
BCE). These Classical innovations shaped the stylistic evolution of
sculpture for thousands of years to come. The posture of the standing
figure became more subtle, more lifelike and, overall, much more naturalistic.
Other features of Classical Greek statues include, an air of supreme
calmness, coupled with a noticeable dynamic equilibrium of movement,
producing a great sense of harmony and proportion. The leading Classical
sculptors of Ancient Greece included Polykleitos
(5th century BCE), Phidias (488-431)
and Myron (Active 480-444).

During the fourth century BCE, the second
part of the Classical era, sculptors like Praxiteles
and Lysippos softened the human form,
while imbuing it with an aura of nonchalant grace. The Greek Gods of mythology
were humanized, while their movements and expressions were made more elegant.
Composition and layout became more complex: limbs protrude into the viewer’s
space, sculptural groups are arranged more dynamically, while spectators
are able to walk around them and obtain a variety of views.

The Hellenistic era witnessed the development
of two basic styles: the "severe" style – typified by the Venus
de Milo
(c.100 BCE) or the more dramatic "Baroque" style,
exemplified by the Pergamon Zeus
Altar (c.166-56 BCE) and Laocoon and
His Sons (150-50 BCE). For more, please see the Pergamene
School of Hellenistic Sculpture (241-133 BCE). In most cases, details
were rendered with extreme realism. Sculptors from the High Renaissance
era (Michelangelo) and Baroque era (Bernini) would be strongly influenced
by Hellenistic
Greek sculpture , as would neoclassicist art critics like the German
historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann
(1717-68).

For more about professional critics,
such as John Ruskin and others,
see: Art Critics: Criticism of Visual Arts
(1750-present).

Greek Sculptures to Evaluate

• Discobolus (c.450 BCE) Museo
Nazionale Romano, Rome. By Myron.
• The Farnese Heracles (5th Century) Museo Archeologico Nazionale,
Naples.
• Zeus or Poseidon (c.460 BCE) National Archaeological
Museum, Athens.
• Wounded Amazon (440-30 BCE) Musei Capitolini, Rome. By Polykleitos.
• Youth of Antikythera (4th Century) National Archaeological
Museum, Athens.
• Apollo Sauroktonos (4th Century) Museo Pio Clementino. By
Praxiteles.
• Capitoline Colonna Venus (350-40 BCE) Musei Capitolini,
Rome. By Praxiteles.
• The Barberini Faun (c.220 BCE) Marble, Glyptothek, Munich.
• Dying Gaul (c.240 BCE) Marble copy, Musei Capitolini, Rome.
• Nike of Samothrace (c.190 BCE) Marble, Louvre, Paris.
• Laocoon and His Sons
(150-50 BCE) By Hagesandrus/Athenodoros/Polydorus.
• The Farnese Bull (150 BCE) By Apollonius of Tralles.
• The Three Graces (2nd Century BCE) Marble copy, Louvre Paris.
• Venus de Milo
(Aphrodite of Melos) (c.100 BCE) By Alexandros of Antioch.

How to Appreciate
Roman Sculpture (c.200 BCE – c.200 CE)

Roman artists remained very intimidated
by their Greek counterparts, and sought to imitate them at every opportunity.
Greek master craftsmen were encouraged to leave Greece and work in Rome.
Even so, Roman sculpture did
develop its own modes of expression. During the period 200-50 BCE, when
Republican government held sway, artists developed a particularly "Roman"
look in their statues and portrait
busts – a look of great moral character, accompanied by a sense of
wisdom and determination. During the reign of Augustus (31 BCE to 14 CE)
a new form of idealisation appeared in Roman art, exemplified in the harmonious
proportions of the marble relief sculptures on the Ara
Pacis Augustae
. The marble statue of Augustus – the Augustus
Prima Porta
– is another such example: the standing figure has the
Greek-style contrapposto (weight-shift) pose and youthful idealism,
but its armoured breastplate and cloak drapery displays a strictly Roman
realism. Indeed, for the duration of the Roman empire, sculptors were
torn between idealism and realism, which according to many art historians
was the critical aesthetic struggle of the time. However, it’s worth pointing
out that by far the bulk of all sculpture produced in Ancient Rome was
portrait busts of the Emperor, and that the principal rationale for almost
all art was to glorify the majesty of Rome. So idealism may have been
an important theoretical option, but in practice realism ruled, both in
motive and medium.

Perhaps the greatest single contribution
of Roman sculptors to the art of sculpture, and certainly the medium of
the public monument, was the historical relief. Trajan’s
Column
, for instance, located north of the Roman Forum, is renowned
for its magnificent, detailed spiral bas relief
sculpture , which winds around the shaft of the monument 23 times,
narrating Emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars. The shaft itself
is 30 metres tall and 4 metres wide, and is constructed from 20 massive
blocks of carrara marble, each weighing 40 tons. The Arch of Titus
is another wonderful example of the historical relief genre.

Finally, no appreciation of Roman sculpture
would be complete without mentioning the role of Roman artists in the
replication of original Greek statues, most of which have disappeared.
Without these copies, Greek art would hardly
have received the appreciation it deserved, and the Italian Renaissance
(and thus the history of Western art along with it) would have been very
different.

Roman Sculptures to Evaluate

• Augustus Prima Porta (50
BCE), Marble, Vatican Museums.
• Altar of Peace (Ara Pacis) (9 BCE) Marble, Ara Pacis Museum,
Rome.
• Emperor Claudius as Jupiter (41-54 CE) Marble, Museo Pio
Clementino.
• The Tiber (90-140 CE) Marble, Louvre, Paris.
• Trajan’s Column (113 CE) Marble, Rome.
• The Lansdowne Heracles (c.125 CE) Marble, J Paul Getty Museum,
CA, USA.
• Centaur being Ridden by Cupid (c.150 CE) Marble, Louvre.
• "The Borghese Dancers" (2nd Century CE) Marble,
Louvre.
• Atalanta (2nd Century CE) Marble, Louvre.
• Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus (251 CE) Museo Nazionale, Rome.
• The San Marco Basilica (300 CE) Venice.
• Colossal Head of Emperor Constantine the Great (324 CE)
Musei Capitolini.

How to Appreciate
Gothic Sculpture (c.1150-1300) (to c.1500 Germany)

Gothic
art was the first style to integrate the arts of sculpture, stained
glass and architecture – notably, in the great cathedrals of Chartres,
Amiens, Reims and Notre Dame de Paris. The solidity of the previous Romanesque
art was replaced by a new focus on line, and Gothic’s soaring arches
and buttresses enabled the opening up of walls for unprecedently huge
windows filled with beautifully translucent pictures, far surpassing anything
yet seen. And indeed, the development of Gothic
scupture was inextricably linked to the rise of new forms in architecture .
Christian Church authorities were building lots of Gothic
cathedrals , all of which needed to be decorated with appropriate Christian
art . Externally, this involved sculptural reliefs and column statues;
internally, it meant carved fonts, pulpits, statues, relief sculptures).
Around portals and doorways, sculptors chiseled clusters of Apostles,
Prophets and Saints, along with members of the Holy Family. Stylistically,
figurative Gothic sculpture was softer, more realistic and overall more
human than the stiff Romanesque sculpture .
For example, the body of Christ over the main doorway at Chartres cathedral
is incredibly supple and real, making him seem sensitive and forgiving.

The High Gothic
style of sculpture also began in France from where it radiated to
Italy, Germany, the Low Countries and elsewhere. Using a more florid style,
most Late Gothic sculptors applied themselves not to architectural sculptures
but to private tombs and monuments. See for instance the range of funerary
sculpture in Westminster Abbey, where monuments (in purbeck, bronze, alabaster,
and freestone) are enhanced by the floors and tombs executed by Italian
mosaic craftsmen recruited by King Henry III. The Late Gothic idiom was
given a classical emphasis in Italy, where sculptors used Greek/Roman
models, and a more emotional emphasis in Germany, where sculptors like
Veit Stoss and Tilman
Riemenschneider focused on the suffering of Christ rather than conventions
of form (see for instance, the Rottgen Pieta, 1300, Rheinisches
Landesmuseum, Bonn). In addition, it’s worth noting that it was during
the Gothic era that sculptors managed to achieve individual recognition.

Important Gothic sculpture can be seen
at Chartres Cathedral
(1194-1250); Notre-Dame Cathedral
Paris (1163-1345); Reims Cathedral (1211-1275); Amiens Cathedral (1220-1270);
Burgos Cathedral Spain, begun around 1221; Cologne
Cathedral begun in 1248 but not completed until 1880; as well as the
cathedrals at Santiago de Compostela, Magdeburg, Trier, Strasbourg, Freiburg,
Naumburg, Canterbury, Salisbury, Exeter, Winchester and Westminster Abbey,
among many others.

Gothic Sculptures to Evaluate

In addition to studying the vast amount
of cathedral architectural sculpture, the following items may also be
appreciated.

• The Last Judgment (c.1210)
South Trancept, Notre Dame (Paris).
• Western Facade of Wells Cathedral (c.1230) Wells, UK.
• Beam of Glory (after 1242) Dom St Stephanus und Sixtus,
Halberstadt.
• Portal of the Western Jube (c.1250) Naumburg Cathedral,
Naumburg.
• Marble Pulpit (1265-8) Duomo, Siena. By Nicola Pisano.
• Triptych of the Glorious Virgin (c.1290) Museum of the Middle
Ages, Paris.
• Virgin of Jeanne d’Evreux (1324-39) Silver, enamel, gold
and pearls, Louvre.
• St Mary Altarpiece (1477-89) St Mary’s Church, Krakow, Poland.
By Stoss.
• Holy Blood Altar (1504) St Jakob’s Church, Rothenburg. By
Riemenschneider.

Famous Gothic Sculptors

Nicola Pisano (c.1206-1278); Giovanni Pisano
(c.1250-1314); Arnolfo di Cambio (c.1240–1310); Giovanni di Balduccio
(c.1290–1339); Andrea Pisano (1295-1348); Filippo Calendario (pre-1315-1355);
Andre Beauneveu (c.1335-1400); Claus Sluter (c.1340-1406); Veit Stoss
(c.1447-1533); Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531). For biographies of
important Gothic sculptors, see: Greatest
Sculptors .

 

How to Appreciate
Renaissance Sculpture (c.1400-1600)

Renaissance
art , especially sculpture, was based on a new surge of respect for
Greek art. Although consisting largely of religious works, Renaissance
sculptors were greatly inspired by a strong belief in Humanism and
the nobility of Man. Thus the human form, particularly the Male
Nude , was a favoured subject. In order to best appreciate Italian
Renaissance sculpture , however, one should be aware that many Italian
artists were strongly influenced by the craftsmanship, the realism and
emotionalism of Gothic works. Even so, Early Renaissance sculptors achieved
notable improvements: for instance, they infused their statues with deeper
emotion (see Donatello’s David, 1440-3, Museo Nazionale del Bargello,
Florence) and imbued them with new energy and thought. They were the first
to reintroduce the equestrian
statue . The top five Early Renaissance sculptors to study, are Jacopo
della Quercia (c.1374-1438), Lorenzo
Ghiberti (1378-1455), Donatello
(1386-1466), Antonio Pollaiuolo
(1432-98), and Andrea del
Verrocchio (1435-88). In particular, look for the vigorous – even
brutal nature – of Donatello’s figures, which are also quite rough
and inchoate. But see also: David
by Donatello . See also Verrocchio’s Equestrian Statue of Bartolomeo
Colleoni
(1495, Campo di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice). The goldsmith-trained
Pollaiuolo was heir to Donatello’s wiry expressionism: see, for instance,
his Heracles and Antaeus (1470, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence).

Sculpture during the High
Renaissance was dominated and personnified by Michelangelo
(1475-1564). According to the learned art historian Anthony Blunt, Michelangelo’s
figurative works such as Pieta
(1497-9, St Peters
Basilica , Rome), David (1501-4, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence)
and Dying Slave (1513-16, Louvre) not only possessed a "superhuman
quality" but also "a feeling of sombre disquiet… [reflecting]
the tragedy of human destiny." Michelangelo’s marble statues have
a flawless beauty, reflecting his absolute technical mastery. In the medium
of the heroic male nude he remains the ultimate artist. It’s worth noting
that by the time he reached 29 years of age, he had already created two
of the greatest works in the history of
sculpture . Other important stone-carvers of the High Renaissance include
the Venetian Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570) and the Florentine Baccio Bandinelli
(1493-1560). North of the Alps, important sculptors included: Hans Multscher
(c.1400-67); Giorgio da Sebenico (1410-73); Michel Colombe (c.1430-1512);
Gregor Erhart (c.1460-1540), as well as Stoss and Riemenschneider, referred
to, above. For biographies of important Renaissance sculptors, see: Greatest
Sculptors .

Other Renaissance Sculptures to Evaluate

• St Mark (1411) Orsanmichele,
Florence. By Donatello.
• Habakkuk (1426) Museo della’Opera del Duomo, Florence. By
Donatello.
• The Gates of Paradise (1425-52) Florence Baptistery. By
Lorenzo Ghiberti.
• Equestrian Statue of the Gattamelata (1444-53) Siena. By
Donatello.
• Mary Magadalene (c.1455) Museo Nazionale del Bargello. By
Donatello.
• Deploration of the Dead Christ (1463) Bologna. By Niccolo
Dell’Arca.
• Heracles & Antaeus (1470) Museo Nazionale del Bargello.
Antonio Pollaiuolo.
• David (c.1475) Museo Nazionale del Bargello. By Andrea del
Verrocchio.
• The Incredulity of St Thomas (1483) Orsanmichele. Andrea
del Verrocchio.
• Venus and Cupid (c.1550) Getty Museum, CA. By Jacopo Sansovino.

How to Appreciate
Mannerist Sculpture (1530-1600)

Compared to the harmony and balance of
High Renaissance works, Mannerist sculpture was far more exaggerated and
expressive, reflecting to some extent the uncertainty of a Europe racked
by religious division. The differing artistic impulses of Mannerism
are best exemplified by Giambologna
(1529-1608), whose immortal work The
Rape of the Sabine Women
(1581-3, Piazza della Signora, Florence)
has a truly awesome expressiveness; and by Benvenuto
Cellini (1500-71) – see for instance his Perseus (1545-54,
Piazza della Signora, Florence). However, compare the quiet expressiveness
of the recumbent Saint Cecilia (1600, Trastevere, Rome) by Stefano
Maderno (1576-1636). Other Mannerist sculptors worth studying are
Juan de Juni (1507-1577) and Alonso
Berruguete (c.1486-1561) who introduced Renaissance and Mannerist
ideas into Spain, and Francesco
Primaticcio (1504-1570) who did the same for France at the Fontainebleau
School established under Francis I. For the best French sculptors
of the period, see: Jean Goujon (c.1510-68), Germain Pilon (1529-1590),
Barthelemy Prieur (1536-1611) and Adriaen de Vries (1560-1626). For biographies
of important Mannerist sculptors, see: Greatest
Sculptors .

Other Mannerist Sculptures to Evaluate

• Entombment (1541-44) Museo de Escultura, Valladolid. Juan
de Juni.
• Salt Cellar of Francis I (1543) Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Benvenuto Cellini.
• Room of the Duchess d’Etampes (1544) Chateau Fontainebleau.
Primaticcio.
• Fountain of Neptune (1559-75) Pizza della Signora. Bartolommeo
Ammanati.
• Mercury (1564-80) Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.
Giambologna.
• Mater Dolorosa (1585) Louvre, Paris. Germain Pilon.
• Mercury and Psyche (1593) Louvre, Paris. Adriaen de Vries.
• Rearing Horse (1615) Getty Museum, CA. Adriaen de Vries.

How to Appreciate
Baroque Sculpture (c.1600-1700)

The Baroque era was dominated by religious
art . Part of the Catholic Counter-Reformation propaganda campaign,
Baroque sculpture was designed
to inspire viewers with illustrations from the Catholic liturgy, and thus
encourage worshippers to return to the one true Church. To best appreciate
Baroque art , take a close look
at the work of Bernini (1598-1680),
the greatest exponent of his day. Among his finest works are The Ecstasy
of St Teresa
(1647-52, Capella Cornaro, Rome); Pluto and Proserpina
(1621-2, Galleria Borghese, Rome); Apollo and Daphne (1622-5) Galleria
Borghese, Rome; and Death of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni (1671-4,
San Francesco a Ripa, Rome). Note how Bernini’s figures and drapery seem
to float in the air, and how he treats the unyielding materials of sculpture
as if they were completely malleable. Other important Baroque
sculptors included the more restrained Alessandro
Algardi (1598-1654), favourite of Pope Innocent X, and the Flemish
sculptor Francois Duquesnoy
(1594-1643), whose classical works were the complete antithesis of Bernini’s
dynamic intensity. In France, the idiom was well represented by the Algardi-like
Francois Girardon (1628-1715),
the more free-flowing Antoine
Coysevox (1640-1720), and the less consistent but occasionally more
brilliant Pierre Puget (1620-94).
In Spain, sculptors worth studying include Juan
Martines Montanes (1568-1649) and Alonso
Cano (Granada, 1601-67), while in Germany, take a look at works by
Andreas Schluter (1664-1714).

Baroque Sculptures to Evaluate

• St Sebastian (1600) San Salvatore,
Venice. Alessandro Vittoria.
• Angel Annunciate (1608) Orvieto. Francesco Mochi.
• Altar of the Virgin (1616) Uberlingen Church, Germany. Jorg
Zurn .
• St Suzanna (1633) Santa Maria di Loreto, Rome. Francois
Duquesnoy.
• Funeral Monument for Pope Leo XI (1634-44), St Peter’s,
Rome. Algardi.
• The Ecstasy of Saint Philip Neri (1638), Santa Maria in
Vallicella. Algardi.
• Pope Leo Driving Attila from the Gates of Rome (1653), St
Peter’s. Algardi.
• The Penitent Mary Magdalene (1664) Valladolid, Spain. Pedro
de Mena.
• Apollo Tended by Nymphs of Thetis (1666-72) Versailles.
Francois Girardon.
• Fountain of Apollo (1671), Chateau de Versailles. Jean Baptiste
Tuby.
• Milo of Crotona (1671-82), Louvre, Paris. Pierre Puget.
• Equestrian Statue of Frederick the Great (1708) Andreas
Schluter.
• Pluto Abducting Proserpine (1710) Getty Museum, CA. Francois
Girardon.

Whimsical Rococo Sculpture (c.1700-1789)
came and went, exemplified by Guillaume
Coustou (1677-1746), Jean-Baptiste
Pigalle (1714-85), a favourite of Madame de Pompadour, and his main
rival Etienne-Maurice
Falconet (1716-91) who specialized in erotic figures with a somewhat
spurious link to Hellenistic Greek sculpture. German Rococo sculpture
was epitomized by the Dresden sculptor Balthazar
Permoser (1651-1732). In the late 1780s decadent Rococo was swept
away by the ideals of the French Revolution which set the scene for
the more earnest and sterner style of Neoclassicism.

How to Appreciate
Neoclassical Sculpture (Flourished c.1790-1830)

Neoclassical
sculpture re-emphasized the virtues of heroicism, duty and gravitas.
In order to best appreciate Neoclassicism, take note that the eminent
German art historian Johann Winckelmann (1717-68) stated that it avoided
extreme passions and expressiveness and was instead a model of noble restraint.
Undoubtedly the greatest and most influential neoclassical sculptor was
Antonio Canova (1757-1822),
whose clients included Napoleon Bonaparte, Catherine the Great, and Austrian
Emperor Francis II. His most celebrated sculpture was probably his monumental
nude statue of Napoleon (1802-6) – see either the original marble
(Wellington Museum, London), or the bronze copy in the Brera, Milan. Also
take a close look at Theseus and the Minotaur (1781-3, Victoria
& Albert Museum, London), and his portrait Pauline Napoleon/Borghese
as Venus
(1807, Borghese Gallery, Rome).

Other Neoclassical
sculptors worth evaluating, include: the Austrian portraitist Franz
Xaver Messerschmidt (1736-1783), noted for his caricature busts known
as "Character Heads"; the French realist Jean-Antoine
Houdon (1741-1828); the light-hearted French smale-scale sculptor
Clodion (1738-1814); as well as the important English artists Joseph
Nollekens (1737-1823), John Flaxman
(1755-1826), and Sir Richard Westmacott (1775-1856). Towards the end of
the 18th century the Danish sculptor Bertel
Thorwaldsen (1770-1844) showed himself to be a worthy successor to
Canova, in his reverence for Greek forms. For the stirrings of 3-D art
in Ireland, see: Irish Sculpture: History,
Sculptors .

Other Neoclassical Sculptures to Evaluate

• Venus (1773) Getty Museum,
Los Angeles. Joseph Nollekens.
• Portrait of Voltaire (1781) Comedie-Francaise. Jean-Antoine
Houdon.
• Apollo Crowning Himself (1781) Getty Museum, CA. Antonio
Canova.
• The Hanged Man (1770-83) Vienna. Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.
• The Fury of Athamas (1790) Ickworth, UK. John Flaxman.
• Psyche Awakened by Eros (1787-93) Louvre, Paris. Antonio
Canova.
• Penitent Magdalene (1796) Palazzo Bianco, Genoa. Antonio
Canova.
• Perseus and the Head of Medusa (1797-1801) Vatican Museums.
Canova.
• Equestrian Statue of Joseph II (1795-1806) Franz Anton von
Zauner.
• Alexander the Great Entering Babylon (1812) Bertel Thorvaldsen.
• Jason with the Golden Fleece (1828) Copenhagen. Bertel Thorvaldsen.
• Christ and the Twelve Apostles (1838) Copenhagen. Bertel
Thorvaldsen.

• For more about how to appreciate
sculpture, see: Homepage .


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How to Appreciate Sculpture
Essay on Plastic Art Appreciation (Prehistory-1850).
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David
by Michelangelo (1501-4)
The greatest statue of the
Italian High Renaissance, inspired
by the Sculpture of Ancient
Greece .

MEANING OF ART
For more about the different types,
and styles of traditional art, see:
Definition of Art .

How to Appreciate Sculpture

Contents

• Art Appreciation
• Stone Age Sculpture (to 2,000 BCE)
• Greek Sculpture (c.600-30 BCE)
• Roman Sculpture (c.200 BCE – c.200 CE)
• Gothic Sculpture (c.1150-1300)
• Italian Renaissance (c.1400-1530)
• Mannerist (c.1530-1600)
• Baroque (c.1600-1700)
• Neoclassical (c.1790-1830)

Additional Resources

• How
to Appreciate Modern Sculpture
• Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate
Art
• Greatest Sculptures Ever
• Greatest Sculptors



Cupid and Psyche (1786-93, Louvre)
By Antonio Canova (1757-1822).

Art Education Series

This essay on sculpture
appreciation, written by
our Editor Neil Collins, is
designed for students
and art schools as part
of our ongoing series on
fine art education.

TYPES OF SCULPTURE
For bronzes – statues and reliefs,
see: Bronze Sculpture .
For forms of rock carving, see:
Stone Sculpture .
For Pentelic, Carrara, Parian
stone, see: Marble Sculpture .
For sculptures in wood,
see: Wood Carving .

Art Appreciation

Like painting, sculpture
is first and foremost a visual art ,
so the more we see, the more our eyes become acquainted with the medium,
and the faster our appreciation. To help you learn (or teach students)
how to appreciate the wonderful plastic
art of sculpture, this webpage contains explanations of most of the
major schools, from the Stone Age to the present day. It includes references
to the aesthetics of the movement
and to important sculptors and their works, with individual explanations
where appropriate. No educational article however can compare with a visit
to a sculpture gallery, garden or museum, where you can walk around the
exhibits and study them from different angles. So check out our list of
the best art museums . After all, sculpture,
unlike painting, is a three-dimensional art, and can only be appreciated
properly in the flesh.

 

How to Appreciate
Stone Age Sculpture

Prehistoric
sculpture first appears in the Paleolithic era (up to 10,000 BCE),
in the form of two primitive effigies: the basaltic figurine known as
the Venus of Berekhat
Ram
and the quartzite figurine we know as the Venus
of Tan-Tan
. Both have been carbon-dated to 200,000 BCE, or earlier.
Unfortunately, neither looks very lifelike.

Coinciding with the replacement of Neanderthal
Man
by anatomically modern humans such as Cro-Magnon Man, from
40,000 BCE onwards, art blossoms throughout Europe. The earliest lifelike
sculptures are the Paleolithic ivory
carvings of the Swabian Jura – featuring birds, animals, and therianthropic
figures, discovered in the caves of Hohle Fels, Vogelherd, and Hohlenstein-Stadel.
These simple but beautiful works date from 35,000-30,000 BCE.

At the same time, a diverse assortment
of small, obese, female-shaped sculptures, known as " venus
figurines " are made, which archeologists have since unearthed
at Stone Age settlement sites all over Europe, from Russia to Gibraltar.
Believed to have been used as fertility symbols, and carved from a variety
of materials including mammoth bone, bone ash, ceramic clay, oolitic limestone,
steatite, serpentine, or volcanic rock, these venus figures have been
located in sites across Europe, from Russia to Spain. In addition to the
extreme old age of these artifacts (the Venus
of Hohle Fels
[38-33,000 BCE] is the earliest ivory
carving and the oldest known figurative sculpture, while the extraordinary
Venus of Dolni Vestonice
[26,000 BCE] is the oldest known clay sculpture in the world), the most
extraordinary thing is the relative similarity of these figures.

From the era of Neolithic
art , the most extraordinary piece of 3-D art is the Romanian terracotta
sculpture known as the Thinker
of Cernavoda
(c.5,000 BCE), a small figure who sits deep in thought.
Highlights from the Neolithic era include the Maikop Gold Bull
(c.2500 BCE) a wonderful gold sculpture made in the North Caucasus region
using the lost-Wax casting method; and the dazzling Dancing Girl of
Mohenjo-Daro
(c.2500 BCE), a masterpiece of early Indian
sculpture from the Harappan Culture of the Indus
Valley Civilization (3,300-1300 BCE).

Note: Techniques of Egyptian
sculpture were highly influential on many Greek sculptors of antiquity,
and also on later African
sculpture from sub-Saharan Africa.

Study Questions/Issues

• Why did sculpture begin in the Stone
Age? Answer: a combination of factors including: social organization;
better security (more caves available); climate; greater demand for symbolic,
ritualistic, objects.
• Why did bronze sculpture begin during the Neolithic era? Answer:
more secure settlements permitted smelting and metallurgy; greater demand
for items of personal jewellery as well as larger precious objects.
• During this period of prehistory, watch out for the gradual move
from functional artifacts to "art for art’s sake".

 

 

How to Appreciate
Greek Sculpture

Greek
Sculpture Made Simple spans The Archaic Period (c.750-500 BCE), The
Classical Period (c.500-323 BCE), and The Hellenistic Period (c.323-100
BCE). Explaining how to evaluate Greek Sculpture would consume a whole
website, so here are a few selected comments about how this unique art
form developed, and what therefore to watch for.

Greek sculptors learned many of the basics
during the Geometric era, although their figurative statues remained quite
rigid. Figures were typically depicted in the nude (the male kouros),
or semi-clothed (the female kore). During the era of Archaic
sculpture , as the country opened up to influences from the Black Sea,
the Levant and Egypt, they learned how to infuse their human figures with
greater fluidity and a greater sense of life. In addition, they began
to develop the "archaic smile", along with a more realistic
articulation of the body. Then came a truly extraordinary climax.

During the era of Greek
Classical Sculpture , notably the fifth century BCE, Greek sculpture
experienced an unparalleled surge in creativity, exemplified by the
works on the Parthenon (447-422
BCE). These Classical innovations shaped the stylistic evolution of
sculpture for thousands of years to come. The posture of the standing
figure became more subtle, more lifelike and, overall, much more naturalistic.
Other features of Classical Greek statues include, an air of supreme
calmness, coupled with a noticeable dynamic equilibrium of movement,
producing a great sense of harmony and proportion. The leading Classical
sculptors of Ancient Greece included Polykleitos
(5th century BCE), Phidias (488-431)
and Myron (Active 480-444).

During the fourth century BCE, the second
part of the Classical era, sculptors like Praxiteles
and Lysippos softened the human form,
while imbuing it with an aura of nonchalant grace. The Greek Gods of mythology
were humanized, while their movements and expressions were made more elegant.
Composition and layout became more complex: limbs protrude into the viewer’s
space, sculptural groups are arranged more dynamically, while spectators
are able to walk around them and obtain a variety of views.

The Hellenistic era witnessed the development
of two basic styles: the "severe" style – typified by the Venus
de Milo
(c.100 BCE) or the more dramatic "Baroque" style,
exemplified by the Pergamon Zeus
Altar (c.166-56 BCE) and Laocoon and
His Sons (150-50 BCE). For more, please see the Pergamene
School of Hellenistic Sculpture (241-133 BCE). In most cases, details
were rendered with extreme realism. Sculptors from the High Renaissance
era (Michelangelo) and Baroque era (Bernini) would be strongly influenced
by Hellenistic
Greek sculpture , as would neoclassicist art critics like the German
historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann
(1717-68).

For more about professional critics,
such as John Ruskin and others,
see: Art Critics: Criticism of Visual Arts
(1750-present).

Greek Sculptures to Evaluate

• Discobolus (c.450 BCE) Museo
Nazionale Romano, Rome. By Myron.
• The Farnese Heracles (5th Century) Museo Archeologico Nazionale,
Naples.
• Zeus or Poseidon (c.460 BCE) National Archaeological
Museum, Athens.
• Wounded Amazon (440-30 BCE) Musei Capitolini, Rome. By Polykleitos.
• Youth of Antikythera (4th Century) National Archaeological
Museum, Athens.
• Apollo Sauroktonos (4th Century) Museo Pio Clementino. By
Praxiteles.
• Capitoline Colonna Venus (350-40 BCE) Musei Capitolini,
Rome. By Praxiteles.
• The Barberini Faun (c.220 BCE) Marble, Glyptothek, Munich.
• Dying Gaul (c.240 BCE) Marble copy, Musei Capitolini, Rome.
• Nike of Samothrace (c.190 BCE) Marble, Louvre, Paris.
• Laocoon and His Sons
(150-50 BCE) By Hagesandrus/Athenodoros/Polydorus.
• The Farnese Bull (150 BCE) By Apollonius of Tralles.
• The Three Graces (2nd Century BCE) Marble copy, Louvre Paris.
• Venus de Milo
(Aphrodite of Melos) (c.100 BCE) By Alexandros of Antioch.

How to Appreciate
Roman Sculpture (c.200 BCE – c.200 CE)

Roman artists remained very intimidated
by their Greek counterparts, and sought to imitate them at every opportunity.
Greek master craftsmen were encouraged to leave Greece and work in Rome.
Even so, Roman sculpture did
develop its own modes of expression. During the period 200-50 BCE, when
Republican government held sway, artists developed a particularly "Roman"
look in their statues and portrait
busts – a look of great moral character, accompanied by a sense of
wisdom and determination. During the reign of Augustus (31 BCE to 14 CE)
a new form of idealisation appeared in Roman art, exemplified in the harmonious
proportions of the marble relief sculptures on the Ara
Pacis Augustae
. The marble statue of Augustus – the Augustus
Prima Porta
– is another such example: the standing figure has the
Greek-style contrapposto (weight-shift) pose and youthful idealism,
but its armoured breastplate and cloak drapery displays a strictly Roman
realism. Indeed, for the duration of the Roman empire, sculptors were
torn between idealism and realism, which according to many art historians
was the critical aesthetic struggle of the time. However, it’s worth pointing
out that by far the bulk of all sculpture produced in Ancient Rome was
portrait busts of the Emperor, and that the principal rationale for almost
all art was to glorify the majesty of Rome. So idealism may have been
an important theoretical option, but in practice realism ruled, both in
motive and medium.

Perhaps the greatest single contribution
of Roman sculptors to the art of sculpture, and certainly the medium of
the public monument, was the historical relief. Trajan’s
Column
, for instance, located north of the Roman Forum, is renowned
for its magnificent, detailed spiral bas relief
sculpture , which winds around the shaft of the monument 23 times,
narrating Emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars. The shaft itself
is 30 metres tall and 4 metres wide, and is constructed from 20 massive
blocks of carrara marble, each weighing 40 tons. The Arch of Titus
is another wonderful example of the historical relief genre.

Finally, no appreciation of Roman sculpture
would be complete without mentioning the role of Roman artists in the
replication of original Greek statues, most of which have disappeared.
Without these copies, Greek art would hardly
have received the appreciation it deserved, and the Italian Renaissance
(and thus the history of Western art along with it) would have been very
different.

Roman Sculptures to Evaluate

• Augustus Prima Porta (50
BCE), Marble, Vatican Museums.
• Altar of Peace (Ara Pacis) (9 BCE) Marble, Ara Pacis Museum,
Rome.
• Emperor Claudius as Jupiter (41-54 CE) Marble, Museo Pio
Clementino.
• The Tiber (90-140 CE) Marble, Louvre, Paris.
• Trajan’s Column (113 CE) Marble, Rome.
• The Lansdowne Heracles (c.125 CE) Marble, J Paul Getty Museum,
CA, USA.
• Centaur being Ridden by Cupid (c.150 CE) Marble, Louvre.
• "The Borghese Dancers" (2nd Century CE) Marble,
Louvre.
• Atalanta (2nd Century CE) Marble, Louvre.
• Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus (251 CE) Museo Nazionale, Rome.
• The San Marco Basilica (300 CE) Venice.
• Colossal Head of Emperor Constantine the Great (324 CE)
Musei Capitolini.

How to Appreciate
Gothic Sculpture (c.1150-1300) (to c.1500 Germany)

Gothic
art was the first style to integrate the arts of sculpture, stained
glass and architecture – notably, in the great cathedrals of Chartres,
Amiens, Reims and Notre Dame de Paris. The solidity of the previous Romanesque
art was replaced by a new focus on line, and Gothic’s soaring arches
and buttresses enabled the opening up of walls for unprecedently huge
windows filled with beautifully translucent pictures, far surpassing anything
yet seen. And indeed, the development of Gothic
scupture was inextricably linked to the rise of new forms in architecture .
Christian Church authorities were building lots of Gothic
cathedrals , all of which needed to be decorated with appropriate Christian
art . Externally, this involved sculptural reliefs and column statues;
internally, it meant carved fonts, pulpits, statues, relief sculptures).
Around portals and doorways, sculptors chiseled clusters of Apostles,
Prophets and Saints, along with members of the Holy Family. Stylistically,
figurative Gothic sculpture was softer, more realistic and overall more
human than the stiff Romanesque sculpture .
For example, the body of Christ over the main doorway at Chartres cathedral
is incredibly supple and real, making him seem sensitive and forgiving.

The High Gothic
style of sculpture also began in France from where it radiated to
Italy, Germany, the Low Countries and elsewhere. Using a more florid style,
most Late Gothic sculptors applied themselves not to architectural sculptures
but to private tombs and monuments. See for instance the range of funerary
sculpture in Westminster Abbey, where monuments (in purbeck, bronze, alabaster,
and freestone) are enhanced by the floors and tombs executed by Italian
mosaic craftsmen recruited by King Henry III. The Late Gothic idiom was
given a classical emphasis in Italy, where sculptors used Greek/Roman
models, and a more emotional emphasis in Germany, where sculptors like
Veit Stoss and Tilman
Riemenschneider focused on the suffering of Christ rather than conventions
of form (see for instance, the Rottgen Pieta, 1300, Rheinisches
Landesmuseum, Bonn). In addition, it’s worth noting that it was during
the Gothic era that sculptors managed to achieve individual recognition.

Important Gothic sculpture can be seen
at Chartres Cathedral
(1194-1250); Notre-Dame Cathedral
Paris (1163-1345); Reims Cathedral (1211-1275); Amiens Cathedral (1220-1270);
Burgos Cathedral Spain, begun around 1221; Cologne
Cathedral begun in 1248 but not completed until 1880; as well as the
cathedrals at Santiago de Compostela, Magdeburg, Trier, Strasbourg, Freiburg,
Naumburg, Canterbury, Salisbury, Exeter, Winchester and Westminster Abbey,
among many others.

Gothic Sculptures to Evaluate

In addition to studying the vast amount
of cathedral architectural sculpture, the following items may also be
appreciated.

• The Last Judgment (c.1210)
South Trancept, Notre Dame (Paris).
• Western Facade of Wells Cathedral (c.1230) Wells, UK.
• Beam of Glory (after 1242) Dom St Stephanus und Sixtus,
Halberstadt.
• Portal of the Western Jube (c.1250) Naumburg Cathedral,
Naumburg.
• Marble Pulpit (1265-8) Duomo, Siena. By Nicola Pisano.
• Triptych of the Glorious Virgin (c.1290) Museum of the Middle
Ages, Paris.
• Virgin of Jeanne d’Evreux (1324-39) Silver, enamel, gold
and pearls, Louvre.
• St Mary Altarpiece (1477-89) St Mary’s Church, Krakow, Poland.
By Stoss.
• Holy Blood Altar (1504) St Jakob’s Church, Rothenburg. By
Riemenschneider.

Famous Gothic Sculptors

Nicola Pisano (c.1206-1278); Giovanni Pisano
(c.1250-1314); Arnolfo di Cambio (c.1240–1310); Giovanni di Balduccio
(c.1290–1339); Andrea Pisano (1295-1348); Filippo Calendario (pre-1315-1355);
Andre Beauneveu (c.1335-1400); Claus Sluter (c.1340-1406); Veit Stoss
(c.1447-1533); Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531). For biographies of
important Gothic sculptors, see: Greatest
Sculptors .

 

How to Appreciate
Renaissance Sculpture (c.1400-1600)

Renaissance
art , especially sculpture, was based on a new surge of respect for
Greek art. Although consisting largely of religious works, Renaissance
sculptors were greatly inspired by a strong belief in Humanism and
the nobility of Man. Thus the human form, particularly the Male
Nude , was a favoured subject. In order to best appreciate Italian
Renaissance sculpture , however, one should be aware that many Italian
artists were strongly influenced by the craftsmanship, the realism and
emotionalism of Gothic works. Even so, Early Renaissance sculptors achieved
notable improvements: for instance, they infused their statues with deeper
emotion (see Donatello’s David, 1440-3, Museo Nazionale del Bargello,
Florence) and imbued them with new energy and thought. They were the first
to reintroduce the equestrian
statue . The top five Early Renaissance sculptors to study, are Jacopo
della Quercia (c.1374-1438), Lorenzo
Ghiberti (1378-1455), Donatello
(1386-1466), Antonio Pollaiuolo
(1432-98), and Andrea del
Verrocchio (1435-88). In particular, look for the vigorous – even
brutal nature – of Donatello’s figures, which are also quite rough
and inchoate. But see also: David
by Donatello . See also Verrocchio’s Equestrian Statue of Bartolomeo
Colleoni
(1495, Campo di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice). The goldsmith-trained
Pollaiuolo was heir to Donatello’s wiry expressionism: see, for instance,
his Heracles and Antaeus (1470, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence).

Sculpture during the High
Renaissance was dominated and personnified by Michelangelo
(1475-1564). According to the learned art historian Anthony Blunt, Michelangelo’s
figurative works such as Pieta
(1497-9, St Peters
Basilica , Rome), David (1501-4, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence)
and Dying Slave (1513-16, Louvre) not only possessed a "superhuman
quality" but also "a feeling of sombre disquiet… [reflecting]
the tragedy of human destiny." Michelangelo’s marble statues have
a flawless beauty, reflecting his absolute technical mastery. In the medium
of the heroic male nude he remains the ultimate artist. It’s worth noting
that by the time he reached 29 years of age, he had already created two
of the greatest works in the history of
sculpture . Other important stone-carvers of the High Renaissance include
the Venetian Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570) and the Florentine Baccio Bandinelli
(1493-1560). North of the Alps, important sculptors included: Hans Multscher
(c.1400-67); Giorgio da Sebenico (1410-73); Michel Colombe (c.1430-1512);
Gregor Erhart (c.1460-1540), as well as Stoss and Riemenschneider, referred
to, above. For biographies of important Renaissance sculptors, see: Greatest
Sculptors .

Other Renaissance Sculptures to Evaluate

• St Mark (1411) Orsanmichele,
Florence. By Donatello.
• Habakkuk (1426) Museo della’Opera del Duomo, Florence. By
Donatello.
• The Gates of Paradise (1425-52) Florence Baptistery. By
Lorenzo Ghiberti.
• Equestrian Statue of the Gattamelata (1444-53) Siena. By
Donatello.
• Mary Magadalene (c.1455) Museo Nazionale del Bargello. By
Donatello.
• Deploration of the Dead Christ (1463) Bologna. By Niccolo
Dell’Arca.
• Heracles & Antaeus (1470) Museo Nazionale del Bargello.
Antonio Pollaiuolo.
• David (c.1475) Museo Nazionale del Bargello. By Andrea del
Verrocchio.
• The Incredulity of St Thomas (1483) Orsanmichele. Andrea
del Verrocchio.
• Venus and Cupid (c.1550) Getty Museum, CA. By Jacopo Sansovino.

How to Appreciate
Mannerist Sculpture (1530-1600)

Compared to the harmony and balance of
High Renaissance works, Mannerist sculpture was far more exaggerated and
expressive, reflecting to some extent the uncertainty of a Europe racked
by religious division. The differing artistic impulses of Mannerism
are best exemplified by Giambologna
(1529-1608), whose immortal work The
Rape of the Sabine Women
(1581-3, Piazza della Signora, Florence)
has a truly awesome expressiveness; and by Benvenuto
Cellini (1500-71) – see for instance his Perseus (1545-54,
Piazza della Signora, Florence). However, compare the quiet expressiveness
of the recumbent Saint Cecilia (1600, Trastevere, Rome) by Stefano
Maderno (1576-1636). Other Mannerist sculptors worth studying are
Juan de Juni (1507-1577) and Alonso
Berruguete (c.1486-1561) who introduced Renaissance and Mannerist
ideas into Spain, and Francesco
Primaticcio (1504-1570) who did the same for France at the Fontainebleau
School established under Francis I. For the best French sculptors
of the period, see: Jean Goujon (c.1510-68), Germain Pilon (1529-1590),
Barthelemy Prieur (1536-1611) and Adriaen de Vries (1560-1626). For biographies
of important Mannerist sculptors, see: Greatest
Sculptors .

Other Mannerist Sculptures to Evaluate

• Entombment (1541-44) Museo de Escultura, Valladolid. Juan
de Juni.
• Salt Cellar of Francis I (1543) Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Benvenuto Cellini.
• Room of the Duchess d’Etampes (1544) Chateau Fontainebleau.
Primaticcio.
• Fountain of Neptune (1559-75) Pizza della Signora. Bartolommeo
Ammanati.
• Mercury (1564-80) Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.
Giambologna.
• Mater Dolorosa (1585) Louvre, Paris. Germain Pilon.
• Mercury and Psyche (1593) Louvre, Paris. Adriaen de Vries.
• Rearing Horse (1615) Getty Museum, CA. Adriaen de Vries.

How to Appreciate
Baroque Sculpture (c.1600-1700)

The Baroque era was dominated by religious
art . Part of the Catholic Counter-Reformation propaganda campaign,
Baroque sculpture was designed
to inspire viewers with illustrations from the Catholic liturgy, and thus
encourage worshippers to return to the one true Church. To best appreciate
Baroque art , take a close look
at the work of Bernini (1598-1680),
the greatest exponent of his day. Among his finest works are The Ecstasy
of St Teresa
(1647-52, Capella Cornaro, Rome); Pluto and Proserpina
(1621-2, Galleria Borghese, Rome); Apollo and Daphne (1622-5) Galleria
Borghese, Rome; and Death of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni (1671-4,
San Francesco a Ripa, Rome). Note how Bernini’s figures and drapery seem
to float in the air, and how he treats the unyielding materials of sculpture
as if they were completely malleable. Other important Baroque
sculptors included the more restrained Alessandro
Algardi (1598-1654), favourite of Pope Innocent X, and the Flemish
sculptor Francois Duquesnoy
(1594-1643), whose classical works were the complete antithesis of Bernini’s
dynamic intensity. In France, the idiom was well represented by the Algardi-like
Francois Girardon (1628-1715),
the more free-flowing Antoine
Coysevox (1640-1720), and the less consistent but occasionally more
brilliant Pierre Puget (1620-94).
In Spain, sculptors worth studying include Juan
Martines Montanes (1568-1649) and Alonso
Cano (Granada, 1601-67), while in Germany, take a look at works by
Andreas Schluter (1664-1714).

Baroque Sculptures to Evaluate

• St Sebastian (1600) San Salvatore,
Venice. Alessandro Vittoria.
• Angel Annunciate (1608) Orvieto. Francesco Mochi.
• Altar of the Virgin (1616) Uberlingen Church, Germany. Jorg
Zurn .
• St Suzanna (1633) Santa Maria di Loreto, Rome. Francois
Duquesnoy.
• Funeral Monument for Pope Leo XI (1634-44), St Peter’s,
Rome. Algardi.
• The Ecstasy of Saint Philip Neri (1638), Santa Maria in
Vallicella. Algardi.
• Pope Leo Driving Attila from the Gates of Rome (1653), St
Peter’s. Algardi.
• The Penitent Mary Magdalene (1664) Valladolid, Spain. Pedro
de Mena.
• Apollo Tended by Nymphs of Thetis (1666-72) Versailles.
Francois Girardon.
• Fountain of Apollo (1671), Chateau de Versailles. Jean Baptiste
Tuby.
• Milo of Crotona (1671-82), Louvre, Paris. Pierre Puget.
• Equestrian Statue of Frederick the Great (1708) Andreas
Schluter.
• Pluto Abducting Proserpine (1710) Getty Museum, CA. Francois
Girardon.

Whimsical Rococo Sculpture (c.1700-1789)
came and went, exemplified by Guillaume
Coustou (1677-1746), Jean-Baptiste
Pigalle (1714-85), a favourite of Madame de Pompadour, and his main
rival Etienne-Maurice
Falconet (1716-91) who specialized in erotic figures with a somewhat
spurious link to Hellenistic Greek sculpture. German Rococo sculpture
was epitomized by the Dresden sculptor Balthazar
Permoser (1651-1732). In the late 1780s decadent Rococo was swept
away by the ideals of the French Revolution which set the scene for
the more earnest and sterner style of Neoclassicism.

How to Appreciate
Neoclassical Sculpture (Flourished c.1790-1830)

Neoclassical
sculpture re-emphasized the virtues of heroicism, duty and gravitas.
In order to best appreciate Neoclassicism, take note that the eminent
German art historian Johann Winckelmann (1717-68) stated that it avoided
extreme passions and expressiveness and was instead a model of noble restraint.
Undoubtedly the greatest and most influential neoclassical sculptor was
Antonio Canova (1757-1822),
whose clients included Napoleon Bonaparte, Catherine the Great, and Austrian
Emperor Francis II. His most celebrated sculpture was probably his monumental
nude statue of Napoleon (1802-6) – see either the original marble
(Wellington Museum, London), or the bronze copy in the Brera, Milan. Also
take a close look at Theseus and the Minotaur (1781-3, Victoria
& Albert Museum, London), and his portrait Pauline Napoleon/Borghese
as Venus
(1807, Borghese Gallery, Rome).

Other Neoclassical
sculptors worth evaluating, include: the Austrian portraitist Franz
Xaver Messerschmidt (1736-1783), noted for his caricature busts known
as "Character Heads"; the French realist Jean-Antoine
Houdon (1741-1828); the light-hearted French smale-scale sculptor
Clodion (1738-1814); as well as the important English artists Joseph
Nollekens (1737-1823), John Flaxman
(1755-1826), and Sir Richard Westmacott (1775-1856). Towards the end of
the 18th century the Danish sculptor Bertel
Thorwaldsen (1770-1844) showed himself to be a worthy successor to
Canova, in his reverence for Greek forms. For the stirrings of 3-D art
in Ireland, see: Irish Sculpture: History,
Sculptors .

Other Neoclassical Sculptures to Evaluate

• Venus (1773) Getty Museum,
Los Angeles. Joseph Nollekens.
• Portrait of Voltaire (1781) Comedie-Francaise. Jean-Antoine
Houdon.
• Apollo Crowning Himself (1781) Getty Museum, CA. Antonio
Canova.
• The Hanged Man (1770-83) Vienna. Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.
• The Fury of Athamas (1790) Ickworth, UK. John Flaxman.
• Psyche Awakened by Eros (1787-93) Louvre, Paris. Antonio
Canova.
• Penitent Magdalene (1796) Palazzo Bianco, Genoa. Antonio
Canova.
• Perseus and the Head of Medusa (1797-1801) Vatican Museums.
Canova.
• Equestrian Statue of Joseph II (1795-1806) Franz Anton von
Zauner.
• Alexander the Great Entering Babylon (1812) Bertel Thorvaldsen.
• Jason with the Golden Fleece (1828) Copenhagen. Bertel Thorvaldsen.
• Christ and the Twelve Apostles (1838) Copenhagen. Bertel
Thorvaldsen.

• For more about how to appreciate
sculpture, see: Homepage .


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