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Relief is a sculptural technique in which the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term ''
relief Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term ''wikt:relief, relief'' is from the Latin verb ''relevo'', to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the ...
'' is from the Latin verb ''relevo'', to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background
plane Plane or planes may refer to: * Airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine Early flying machines include all forms of aircraft studied ...
. What is actually performed when a relief is cut in from a flat surface of stone (relief sculpture) or wood (
relief carving carving of a Viking ship Image:Carving tools 2.jpg, 250px, Carving tools and a mallet Relief carving is a type of wood carving in which figures are carved in a flat panel of wood. The figures project only slightly from the background rather than s ...
) is a lowering of the field, leaving the unsculpted parts seemingly raised. The technique involves considerable chiselling away of the background, which is a time-consuming exercise. 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 or render is a construction material made of Construction aggregate, aggregates, a binder (material), binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as a decorative coating for walls and ceilings, ...
, ceramics or
papier-mâché papier-mâché masks, Haiti Papier-mâché (, ; , literally "paper-mash") is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper adhesive, wallp ...
the form can be just added to or raised up from the background, and monumental
bronze Bronze is an alloy An alloy is an admixture of metal A metal (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appear ...

bronze
reliefs are made by
casting Casting is a manufacturing Manufacturing is the creation or Production (economics), production of goods with the help of equipment, Work (human activity), labor, machines, tools, and chemical or biological processing or formulation. It is th ...

casting
. There are different degrees of relief depending on the degree of projection of the sculpted form from the field, for which the Italian and French terms are still sometimes used in English. The full range includes high relief (''alto-rilievo'', ''haut-relief''), 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 only very slightly lower than the sculpted elements. There is also sunk relief, which was mainly restricted to
Ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization  A civilization (or civilisation) is a that is characterized by , , a form of government, and systems of communication (such as ). Civilizations are intimately associated with additional char ...

Ancient Egypt
(see below). 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 Intaglio, the process of cutting a design into a surface, may refer to: * Intaglio, a type of engraved gem or metal signet ring * Intaglio (printmaking), a group of printmaking techniques, including engraving and etching * Intaglio (rock art) * Inta ...
, 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 The term monumental sculpture is often used in art history and Art criticism, 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 ...

monumental sculpture
. 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 The term monumental sculpture is often used in art history and Art criticism, 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 ...

monumental sculpture
, the work itself is "a relief". 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
arabesques 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. Another definition is "Folia ...
of
Islamic art About the concept of visual arts The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is any pigmented liquid, liquefiable, or solid mastic composition that, after application to a substr ...

Islamic art
, and may be of any subject.
Rock relief 320px, Two of the reliefs at the Abu Simbel temples, before relocation A rock relief or rock-cut relief is a relief sculpture Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the ...
s are those carved into solid rock in the open air (if inside caves, whether natural or man-made, they are more likely to be called "rock-cut"). This type is found in many cultures, in particular those of the
Ancient Near East The ancient Near East was the home of early civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban development, social stratification, a form of government, and symbol A symbol is a mark ...
and Buddhist countries. A
stele A stele ( ),Anglicized plural steles ( ); Greek plural stelai ( ), from Greek , ''stēlē''. The Greek plural is written , ''stēlai'', but this is only rarely encountered in English. or occasionally stela (plural ''stelas'' or ''stelæ''), ...

stele
is a single standing stone; many of these carry reliefs.


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 The Parthenon frieze is the high-relief Mount Pentelicus#Pentelic marble, Pentelic marble sculpture created to adorn the upper part of the Parthenon’s Cella, naos. It was sculpted between c. 443 and 437 BC, most likely under the direction of Ph ...
onwards, many single figures in large
monumental sculpture The term monumental sculpture is often used in art history and Art criticism, 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 ...

monumental sculpture
have heads in high relief, but their lower legs are in low relief. The slightly projecting figures created in this way work well in reliefs that are seen from below, and reflect that the heads of figures are usually of more interest to both artist and viewer than the legs or feet. 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).


Low relief or bas-relief

A 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. The term comes from the
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
basso rilievo via the French bas-relief (), both meaning "low relief". The former is now a very old-fashioned term in English, and the latter is becoming so. 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 Ancient Egyptian art refers to art produced in ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the c ...
,
Assyrian palace relief Assyrian sculpture is the sculpture of the ancient n states, especially the of 911 to 612 BC, which ruled modern , , and parts of . It forms a phase of the , differing in particular because of its much greater use of stone and for large sculptu ...
s, and other
ancient Near East The ancient Near East was the home of early civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban development, social stratification, a form of government, and symbol A symbol is a mark ...
ern and Asian cultures, a consistent very low relief was commonly used for the whole composition. These images would usually be painted after carving, which helped define the forms; today the paint has worn off in the great majority of surviving examples, but minute, invisible remains of paint can usually be discovered through chemical means. The
Ishtar Gate The Ishtar Gate ( ar, بوابة عشتار) was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon ''Bābili(m)'' * sux, 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 * arc, 𐡁𐡁𐡋 ''Bāḇel'' * syc, ܒܒܠ ''Bāḇel'' * grc-gre, Βαβυλών ''Babylṓn'' * he, ב ...

Ishtar Gate
of
Babylon Babylon was the capital city of the ancient Babylonian empire, which itself is a term referring to either of two separate empires in the Mesopotamian area in antiquity. These two empires achieved regional dominance between the 19th and 15th centu ...

Babylon
, now in Berlin, has low reliefs of large animals formed from moulded bricks, glazed in colour. Plaster, which made the technique far easier, was widely used in Egypt and the
Near East The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental ...
from antiquity into Islamic times (latterly for architectural decoration, as at the
Alhambra The Alhambra (, ; ar, الْحَمْرَاء, Al-Ḥamrāʾ, , ) is a palace and fortress complex located in , , . It was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 CE on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored unt ...

Alhambra
), Rome, and Europe from at least the Renaissance, as well as probably elsewhere. However, it needs very good conditions to survive long in unmaintained buildings – Roman decorative plasterwork is mainly known from
Pompeii Pompeii (, ) was an ancient city located in what is now the ''comune The (; plural: ) is a of , roughly equivalent to a or . Importance and function The provides essential public services: of births and deaths, , and maintenan ...

Pompeii
and other sites buried by ash from
Mount Vesuvius Mount Vesuvius ( ; it, Vesuvio ; nap, 'O Vesuvio , also or ; la, Vesuvius , also , or ) is a somma A somma volcano (also known as a sommian) is a volcano, volcanic caldera that has been partially filled by a new central volcanic cone, ...
. Low relief was relatively rare in Western medieval art, but may be found, for example in wooden figures or scenes on the insides of the folding wings of multi-panel
altarpiece An altarpiece is an artwork such as a painting, sculpture ''lamassu'' gate guardian from Khorsabad, circa 800–721 BCE 's ''Moses (Michelangelo), Moses'', (c. 1513–1515), San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, for the tomb of Pope Julius II Scul ...
s. The revival of low relief, which was seen as a classical style, begins early in the Renaissance; the
Tempio Malatestiano The Tempio Malatestiano is the unfinished cathedral A cathedral is a church (building), church that contains the ''cathedra'' () of a bishop, thus serving as the central church of a diocese, Annual Conference, conference, or episcopate. C ...
in
Rimini Rimini ( , ; rgn, Rémin; la, Ariminum) is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy and capital city of the Province of Rimini. It sprawls along the Adriatic Sea, on the coast between the rivers Marecchia (the ancient ''Ariminus ...

Rimini
, a pioneering classicist building, designed by
Leon Battista Alberti Leon Battista Alberti (; 14 February 1404 – 25 April 1472) was an Italian Renaissance humanist Renaissance humanism was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first Italian Renaissance, in Italy and then spreading across Western Eu ...

Leon Battista Alberti
around 1450, uses low reliefs by
Agostino di Duccio 200px, The marble façade of the Oratory of San Bernardino in Perugia. Agostino di Duccio (1418 – ) was an early Renaissance Italians, Italian sculptor. Born in Florence, he worked in Prato with Donatello and Michelozzo, who influenced him ...
inside and on the external walls. Since the Renaissance plaster has been very widely used for indoor
ornamentalOrnamental may refer to: * Ornamental grass, a type of grass grown as a decoration * Ornamental iron, mild steel that has been formed into decorative shapes, similar to wrought iron work *Ornamental plant, a plant that is grown for its ornamental qu ...
work such as
cornice In architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Arch ...

cornice
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 pavilions with Bess of Hardwick's initials "ES" (Elizabeth Shrewsbury) in openwork. Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire Derbyshire () is a county in the East Midlands of England. Much of the Peak District, Peak District National Park lies within ...

Hardwick Hall
. Shallow-relief, in Italian ''rilievo stiacciato'' or ''rilievo schicciato'' ("squashed relief"), is a very shallow relief, which merges into engraving in places, and can be hard to read in photographs. It is often used for the background areas of compositions with the main elements in low-relief, but its use over a whole (usually rather small) piece was perfected by the Italian Renaissance sculptor
Donatello Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi ( – 13 December 1466), better known as Donatello ( ), was a Republic of Florence, Florentine sculptor of the Renaissance period. Born in Republic of Florence, Florence, he studied classical sculpture and used ...

Donatello
. 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 is an activity where pieces of rough natural stone A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its chemical composition and the w ...

stone carving
and
metal casting In metalworking and jewelry making, casting is a process in which a liquid metal is delivered into a mold (usually by a crucible) that contains a negative impression (i.e., a three-dimensional negative image) of the intended shape. The metal i ...

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, sometimes referred to as Deco, is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France just before World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Gr ...

Art Deco
and related styles, which borrowed from the ancient low reliefs now available in museums. Some sculptors, including
Eric Gill Arthur Eric Rowton Gill (; 22 February 1882 – 17 November 1940) was an English sculptor, typography, typeface designer, and printmaking, printmaker, who was associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. His religious views and subject matter ...

Eric Gill
, have adopted the "squashed" depth of low relief in works that are actually free-standing. File:UnfinishedStele-NefertitiPouringWineIntoAkhenatensCup.png, "Blocked-out" unfinished low relief of Ahkenaten and
Nefertiti Neferneferuaten Nefertiti () ( – c. 1330 BC) was a queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the Great Royal Wife Great Royal Wife, or alternatively, Chief King's Wife (Ancient Egyptian language, Ancient Egyptian: ''ḥmt nswt wr ...

Nefertiti
; unfinished Greek and Persian high-reliefs show the same method of beginning a work. File:Nowruz Zoroastrian.jpg, Persian low or
bas-relief Relief is a sculptural technique in which the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term ''relief Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background o ...
in
Persepolis Persepolis (; peo, 𐎱𐎠𐎼𐎿, ; ) was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, , translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient based in foun ...

Persepolis
– a symbol of
Zoroastrian Zoroastrianism or Mazdayasna is an Iranian religion and one of the world's oldest continuously-practiced organized faiths, based on the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster Zoroaster (, ; el, Ζωροάστρης, ''Zōro ...
Nowruz – at the spring
equinox An equinox is traditionally defined as the time when the plane In mathematics, a plane is a flatness (mathematics), flat, two-dimensional surface (mathematics), surface that extends infinitely far. A plane is the two-dimensional space, two-di ...

equinox
the power of the bull (personifying
Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 70.8% is Water distribution on Earth, covered wi ...

Earth
) and lion (personifying the
Sun The Sun is the star A star is an astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma (physics), plasma held together by its own gravity. The List of nearest stars and brown dwarfs, nearest star to Earth is the Sun. Many othe ...

Sun
) are equal. File:Sculpted reliefs depicting Ashurbanipal, the last great Assyrian king, hunting lions, gypsum hall relief from the North Palace of Nineveh (Irak), c. 645-635 BC, British Museum (16722131531).jpg, Assyrian low relief, '''', North Palace,
Nineveh Nineveh (; ar, نَيْنَوَىٰ '; syr, ܢܝܼܢܘܹܐ, Nīnwē; akk, ) was an ancient Assyria Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a n kingdom and of the that existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25th ...
File:Atropos.jpg,
Atropos Atropos or Aisa (; grc, Ἄτροπος "without turn"), in Greek mythology, was one of the three Moirai, goddesses of wikt:fate, fate and destiny. Her Roman equivalent was Morta (mythology), Morta. Atropos was the oldest of the Moirai, Three F ...

Atropos
cutting the thread of life. Ancient Greek low relief File:Donatello, madonna col bambino a un parapetto, davanti a un arco rotto, 1435 circa - National Gallery of Art, Washington - DSC08597.JPG,
Donatello Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi ( – 13 December 1466), better known as Donatello ( ), was a Republic of Florence, Florentine sculptor of the Renaissance period. Born in Republic of Florence, Florence, he studied classical sculpture and used ...

Donatello
, Madonna and Child in ''rilievo stiacciato'' or shallow relief File:Henri Lebrand 2.jpg, French 20th-century low relief


Mid-relief

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. Mid-relief is probably the most common type of relief found in the
Hindu Hindus (; ) are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism.Jeffery D. Long (2007), A Vision for Hinduism, IB Tauris, , pages 35–37 Historically, the term has also been used as ...

Hindu
and
Buddhist art Buddhist art is the art, artistic practices that are influenced by Buddhism. It includes art media which depict Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other entities; notable Buddhist figures, both historical and mythical; narrative scenes from the lives of a ...
of
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...

India
and
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions ...

Southeast Asia
. The low to mid-reliefs of 2nd-century BCE to 6th-century CE
Ajanta Caves The Ajanta Caves are approximately 30 which date from the 2nd century to about 480 CE in of state of . The caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of , particularly expressive pain ...

Ajanta Caves
and 5th to 10th-century
Ellora Caves Ellora (\e-ˈlȯr-ə\, IAST: ) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Aurangabad District, Maharashtra, Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India. It is one of the largest rock-cut Hindu temple cave complexes in the world, featuring B ...

Ellora Caves
in India are rock reliefs. Most of these reliefs are used to narrate sacred scriptures, such as the 1,460 panels of the 9th-century
Borobudur Borobudur, also transcribed Barabudur ( id, Candi Borobudur, jv, ꦕꦤ꧀ꦝꦶꦧꦫꦧꦸꦝꦸꦂ, Candhi Barabudhur) is a 7th-century Mahayana Mahāyāna (; "Great Vehicle") is a term for a broad group of Buddhist traditions, texts, phil ...

Borobudur
temple in
Central Java Central Java ( id, Jawa Tengah) is a province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provincia'', which was the major territorial and administrative unit o ...
,
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is t ...

Indonesia
, narrating the
Jataka tales The Jataka tales are a voluminous body of literature native to India concerning the previous births of Gautama Buddha in both human and animal form. The future Buddha may appear as a king, an outcast, a god, an elephant—but, in whatever form, ...
or lives of the
Buddha Gautama Buddha, popularly known as the Buddha (also known as Siddhattha Gotama or Siddhārtha Gautama or Buddha Shakyamuni), was an ascetic Asceticism (; from the el, ἄσκησις ''áskesis'', "exercise, training") is a lifestyle ...

Buddha
. Other examples are low reliefs narrating the
Ramayana ''Rāmāyana'' (; sa, रामायणम्, ) is one of the two major Sanskrit literature, Sanskrit Indian epic poetry, epics of ancient India and important text of Hinduism, the other being the ''Mahabharata, Mahābhārata''. The epi ...

Ramayana
Hindu epic in
Prambanan Prambanan or Rara Jonggrang ( jv, ꦫꦫꦗꦺꦴꦁꦒꦿꦁ, Rara Jonggrang) is an 8th-century Hindu temple A Hindu temple or mandir or Devasthana is a symbolic house, seat and body of divinity for Hindus. It is a structure designed to bri ...

Prambanan
temple, also in Java, in
Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ពុជា, ), officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is in area, bordered by Thailand to Cambodia–T ...

Cambodia
, the temples of
Angkor Angkor ( km, អង្គរ , ''capital city''), also known as Yasodharapura ( km, យសោធរបុរៈ; )Headly, Robert K.; Chhor, Kylin; Lim, Lam Kheng; Kheang, Lim Hak; Chun, Chen. 1977. ''Cambodian-English Dictionary''. Bureau of ...

Angkor
, with scenes including the
Samudra manthan The Samudra Manthana ( sa, समुद्रमन्थन, lit. ''churning of the ocean of milk'') is one of the best-known episodes in the Hindu history Hindus () are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiou ...

Samudra manthan
or "Churning the Ocean of Milk" at the 12th-century
Angkor Wat Angkor Wat (; km, អង្គរវត្ត "Temple city/city of temples") is the largest religious structure (temple complex) in the world by land area, measuring , located in Cambodia. Originally constructed as a personal mausoleum for t ...

Angkor Wat
, and reliefs of
apsaras An apsara, also spelled as apsaras (respective plurals apsaras and apsarases), is a type of female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu Hindus () are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering ...

apsaras
. At
Bayon The Bayon ( km, ប្រាសាទបាយ័ន, Prasat Bayon) is a richly decorated Khmer Buddhist temple at Angkor in Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ពុជា, ), officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a cou ...

Bayon
temple in
Angkor Thom Angkor Thom ( km, អង្គរធំ ; literally: "Great City"), (alternative name: Nokor Thom, ) located in present-day Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ពុជា, ), officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a countr ...

Angkor Thom
there are scenes of daily life in the
Khmer Empire The Khmer Empire ( km, ចក្រភពខ្មែរ), or the Angkorian Empire ( km, ចក្រភពអង្គរ, link=no), are the terms that historians use to refer to Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ព ...

Khmer Empire
.


High relief

High relief (or ''altorilievo'', from
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

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 The term monumental sculpture is often used in art history and Art criticism, 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 ...

monumental sculpture
and architecture. Most of the many grand figure reliefs in
Ancient Greek sculpture The sculpture of ancient Greece is the main surviving type of fine ancient Greek art as, with the exception of painted ancient Greek pottery, almost no ancient Greek painting survives. Modern scholarship identifies three major stages in monumental ...
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 The metopes of the Parthenon are the surviving set of what were originally 92 square carved plaques of Pentelic marble originally located above the columns of the Parthenon peristyle on the Acropolis of Athens. If they were made by several artists, ...
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 The Hellenistic period spans the period of Mediterranean history The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western Europe, We ...

Hellenistic
and Roman
sarcophagus A sarcophagus (plural sarcophagi or sarcophaguses) is a box-like receptacle for a , most commonly carved in stone, and usually displayed above ground, though it may also be buried. The word ''sarcophagus'' comes from the ' meaning "flesh", ...

sarcophagus
reliefs were cut with a drill rather than
chisel A chisel is a tool A tool is an object that can extend an individual's ability to modify features of the surrounding environment. Although many animals use simple tools, only human beings, whose use of stone tool A stone tool is, in the ...

chisel
s, enabling and encouraging compositions extremely crowded with figures, like the
Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus upright=1.5, Relief panel of the Great Ludovisi sarcophagus The Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus or "Great" Ludovisi sarcophagus is an ancient Roman sarcophagus dating to around AD 250–260, found in 1621 in the Vigna Bernusconi, a tomb near the Porta ...
(250–260 CE). These are also seen in the enormous strips of reliefs that wound around Roman
triumphal column A victory column, or monumental column or triumphal column, is a monument in the form of a column A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a structural element that transmits, through compression (physical), compressio ...
s. The
sarcophagi , Minerva Minerva (; ett, Menrva) is the Roman goddess Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the It ...

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 The study of Roman sculpture is complicated by its relation to Greek sculpture. Many examples of even the most famous Greek sculptures, such as the Apollo Belvedere The ''Apollo Belvedere'' (also called the ''Pythian Apollo or Apollo of the Belved ...
, 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 , d. 1450 File:Istanbul - Süleymaniye camii - Türbe di Roxellana - Foto G. Dall'Orto 28-5-2006.jpg, upright=1.4, Türbe of Roxelana (d. 1558), Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul Funerary art is any work of art forming, or placed in, a repository for ...
and later on
Neoclassical Neoclassical or neo-classical may refer to: * Neoclassicism or New Classicism, any of a number of movements in the fine arts, literature, theatre, music, language, and architecture beginning in the 17th century ** Neoclassical architecture, an arc ...
pediment Pediments are gablesGables may refer to: * The plural of gable, portion of walls between the lines of sloping roofs * Ken Gables (1919-1960), Major League Baseball pitcher * Gables, Nebraska, an unincorporated community in the United States * Ga ...

pediment
s and public monuments. In the Buddhist and Hindu art of India and Southeast Asia, high relief can also be found, although it is not as common as low to mid-reliefs. Famous examples of Indian high reliefs can be found at the
Khajuraho Khajuraho is a city in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh Madhya Pradesh (, ; meaning ''Central Province'') is a state in central India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the ...

Khajuraho
temples, with voluptuous, twisting figures that often illustrate the erotic
Kamasutra The ''Kama Sutra'' (; sa, कामसूत्र, , ; ) is an ancient Indian Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to th ...
positions. In the 9th-century
Prambanan Prambanan or Rara Jonggrang ( jv, ꦫꦫꦗꦺꦴꦁꦒꦿꦁ, Rara Jonggrang) is an 8th-century Hindu temple A Hindu temple or mandir or Devasthana is a symbolic house, seat and body of divinity for Hindus. It is a structure designed to bri ...

Prambanan
temple, Central
Java Java ( id, Jawa, ; jv, ꦗꦮ; su, ) is one of the Greater Sunda Islands in Indonesia. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the south and the Java Sea to the north. With a population of 147.7 million people, Java is the world's List of ...

Java
, high reliefs of
Lokapala Lokapala devata, the guardians of the directions, on the wall of Shiva Shiva (; sa, शिव , , ISO: , , ), also known as Mahadeva (), is one of the principal deities of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharm ...

Lokapala
devata ''Devata'' (pl: ''devatas;'' meaning the gods) (Devanagari Devanagari ( ; , , Sanskrit pronunciation: ), also called Nagari (),Kathleen Kuiper (2010), The Culture of India, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, , page 83 is a left-to-ri ...
s, the guardians of deities of the directions, are found. The largest high relief sculpture in the world is the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial in the U.S. state of
Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country), a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia * Georgia (U.S. state), one of the states of the United States of America Georgia may also refer to: Historical states and entities * Democratic Republ ...
, which was cut 42 feet deep into the mountain, and measures 90 feet in height, 190 feet in width, and lies 400 feet above the ground.


Sunk relief

Sunk or sunken relief is largely restricted to the
art of Ancient Egypt Ancient Egyptian art refers to art produced in ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the c ...
where it is very common, becoming after the
Amarna period The Amarna Period was an era of History of Ancient Egypt, Egyptian history during the later half of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, Eighteenth Dynasty when the royal residence of the pharaoh and his queen was shifted to Akhetaten ('Horizon of the A ...
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
hieroglyph A hieroglyph (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximat ...
s and
cartouche Image:Birth and Throne cartouches of pharaoh Seti I, from KV17 at the Valley of the Kings, Egypt. Neues Museum.jpg, upalt=A stone face carved with coloured hieroglyphics. Two cartouches - ovoid shapes with hieroglyphics inside - are visible at the ...

cartouche
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 modeled 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. It is also used for carving letters (typically ''
om mani padme hum ' ( sa, ॐ मणि पद्मे हूँ, ) is the six-syllabled Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan la ...

om mani padme hum
'') in the
mani stone Mani stones are stone plates, rocks and/or pebbles, carved or inscribed with the six syllabled mantra of Avalokiteshvara (''Om mani padme hum'', hence the name "Mani stone"), as a form of prayer Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks t ...

mani stone
s of
Tibetan Buddhism Tibetan Buddhism (also referred to as Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Himalayan Buddhism, and Northern Buddhism) is the form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet and Bhutan, where it is the dominant religion. It also has adherents in the regions surrounding ...
.


Counter-relief

Sunk relief technique is not to be confused with "counter-relief" or intaglio as seen on
engraved gem An engraved gem, frequently referred to as an intaglio, is a small and usually semi-precious gemstone that has been carved, in the Western tradition normally with images or inscriptions only on one face. The engraving of gemstones was a major lux ...
seals Seals may refer to: * Pinniped Pinnipeds (pronounced ), commonly known as seals, are a widely and diverse of , -footed, , mostly s. They comprise the (whose only living member is the ), (the eared seals: s and s), and (the earless sea ...
—where an image is fully modeled in a "negative" manner. The image goes into the surface, so that when impressed on wax it gives an impression in normal relief. However many engraved gems were carved in
cameo Cameo or CAMEO may refer to: * Cameo appearance, a brief appearance of a known figure in a film or television show * Cameo (carving), a method of carving, making use of layers of different colours, or an item made with such a method Music * Ca ...
or normal relief. A few very late
Hellenistic The Hellenistic period spans the period of Mediterranean history The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western Europe, We ...

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 is a hard, white material from the tusk Tusks are elongated, continuously growing front teeth A tooth (plural teeth) is a hard, calcification, calcified structure found in the jaws (or mouths) of many vertebrates and used to Masticat ...
, wood, and wax. Reliefs are often found in
decorative arts ] The decorative arts are arts or crafts whose object is the design A design is a plan or specification for the construction of an object or system or for the implementation of an activity or process, or the result of that plan or specification ...

decorative arts
such as ceramic art, ceramics and metalwork; these are less often described as "reliefs" than as "in relief". Small bronze reliefs are often in the form of "plaques" or plaquettes, which may be set in furniture or framed, or just kept as they are, a popular form for European collectors, especially in the Renaissance. Various modelling techniques are used, such repoussé ("pushed-back") in metalwork, where a thin metal plate is shaped from behind using various metal or wood punches, producing a relief image. Casting has also been widely used in
bronze Bronze is an alloy An alloy is an admixture of metal A metal (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appear ...

bronze
and other metals. Casting and repoussé are often used in concert in to speed up production and add greater detail to the final relief. In stone, as well as engraved gems, larger hardstone carvings in semi-precious stones have been highly prestigious since ancient times in many Eurasian cultures. Reliefs in wax were produced at least from the Renaissance. Ivory carving, Carved ivory reliefs have been used since ancient times, and because the material, though expensive, cannot usually be reused, they have a relatively high survival rate, and for example consular diptychs represent a large proportion of the survivals of portable secular art from Late Antiquity. In the Gothic art, Gothic period the carving of ivory reliefs became a considerable Luxury goods, luxury industry in Paris and other centres. As well as small diptychs and triptychs with densely packed religious scenes, usually from the New Testament, secular objects, usually in a lower relief, were also produced. These were often round mirror-cases, combs, handles, and other small items, but included a few larger caskets like the Casket with Scenes of Romances (Walters 71264) in Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States. Originally they were very often painted in bright colours. 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 of Ancient Roman pottery. Decorative reliefs in plaster or
stucco Stucco or render is a construction material made of Construction aggregate, aggregates, a binder (material), binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as a decorative coating for walls and ceilings, ...
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.


Gallery

File:Göbekli Tepe reliefs of animals.jpg, Low relief from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe, believed to represent a bull, a fox, and a Crane (bird), crane, c. 9,000 BC File:Warka_vase_(background_retouched).jpg, The Warka Vase of Sumer, a very early survival works of narrative relief, c. 3200–3000 BC. Alabaster. National Museum of Iraq. File:Luxor temple 15.jpg, Sunk relief as low relief within a sunk outline, from the Luxor Temple in Egypt, carved in very hard granite File:Luxor Temple 9544.JPG, low relief within a sunk outline, linear sunk relief in the
hieroglyph A hieroglyph (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximat ...
s, and high relief (right), from Luxor File:Borobudur Relief Panel I.b119, 0972.jpg, Low to mid-relief, 9th century,
Borobudur Borobudur, also transcribed Barabudur ( id, Candi Borobudur, jv, ꦕꦤ꧀ꦝꦶꦧꦫꦧꦸꦝꦸꦂ, Candhi Barabudhur) is a 7th-century Mahayana Mahāyāna (; "Great Vehicle") is a term for a broad group of Buddhist traditions, texts, phil ...

Borobudur
. The temple has 1,460 panels of reliefs narrating Buddhist scriptures. File:Qajari relief.jpg, A Persian Empire, Persian mid-relief (''mezzo-rilievo'') from the Qajar dynasty, Qajar era, at Tangeh Savashi in Iran, which might also be described as two stages of low relief This is a rock relief carved into a cliff. File:Rilievo funerario dei vibii, fine del I secolo ac..JPG, Roman funerary relief with frame at original level, but not sunk relief File:Warren Cup BM GR 1999.4-26.1 n2.jpg, The Roman Warren Cup, silver repoussé work File:Yaxchilan Lintel 24.jpg, Yaxchilan Lintel (architecture), Lintel 24, a Maya art, Mayan carving depicting a blood sacrifice File:Naghsh-e rostam, Irán, 2016-09-24, DD 12.jpg,
Rock relief 320px, Two of the reliefs at the Abu Simbel temples, before relocation A rock relief or rock-cut relief is a relief sculpture Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the ...
at Naqsh-e Rustam; the Persian Sassanian emperor Shapur I (on horseback) with Roman emperors submitting to him File:Abadia de Saint-Pierre de Moissac - Portalada Sud de Moissac.JPG, The 12th century Romanesque art, Romanesque portal of ''Christ in Majesty'' at Moissac Abbey moves between low and high relief in a single figure. File:Triptych Harbaville Louvre OA3247 recto.jpg, Harbaville Triptych, Byzantine ivory File:Relief-side view.jpg, Side view of mid-relief: ''Madonna and Child'', marble of /1510 by an unknown north Italian sculptor File:Fontainebleau escalier roi5.jpg, The elaborate
stucco Stucco or render is a construction material made of Construction aggregate, aggregates, a binder (material), binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as a decorative coating for walls and ceilings, ...
(plaster) reliefs decorating the Chateau de Fontainebleau were hugely influential. Low-relief decorative frieze above File:Adorazione dei pastori - Francesco Grassia.jpg, Baroque marble high-relief by Francesco Grassia, 1670, Rome File:St GaudensShaw Mem.jpg, Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, 1897, Boston, combining free-standing elements with high and low relief File:Relief on building in Bishopsgate, London 2.JPG, A relatively modern high relief (depicting shipbuilding) in Bishopsgate, London. Note that some elements jut out of the frame of the image. File:Bas relief at Ryerson University.jpg, Elizabeth Wyn Wood's Bas-relief at Ryerson University in Toronto File:Unakoti group of bas-relief sculptures, Tripura, India.jpg, Colossal Hindu rock reliefs at Unakoti, Tripura, India


Reliefs by modern artists

Modern art , Modern artists such as Paul Gauguin, Ernst Barlach, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore up to Ewald Matare have created reliefs, in contemporary art, for example, Ingo Kühl should be mentioned.


Notable reliefs

Notable examples of monumental reliefs include: * Ancient Egypt: Most Egyptian temples, e.g. the Temple of Karnak * Assyria: A famous collection is in the British Museum, Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III * Ancient Persia:
Persepolis Persepolis (; peo, 𐎱𐎠𐎼𐎿, ; ) was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, , translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient based in foun ...

Persepolis
, and rock-face reliefs at Naqsh-e Rustam and Naqsh-e Rajab * Ancient Greece: The Parthenon Marbles, Bassae Frieze, Great Altar of Pergamon, Ludovisi Throne * Mesopotamia:
Ishtar Gate The Ishtar Gate ( ar, بوابة عشتار) was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon ''Bābili(m)'' * sux, 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 * arc, 𐡁𐡁𐡋 ''Bāḇel'' * syc, ܒܒܠ ''Bāḇel'' * grc-gre, Βαβυλών ''Babylṓn'' * he, ב ...

Ishtar Gate
of
Babylon Babylon was the capital city of the ancient Babylonian empire, which itself is a term referring to either of two separate empires in the Mesopotamian area in antiquity. These two empires achieved regional dominance between the 19th and 15th centu ...

Babylon
* Ancient Rome: Ara Pacis, Trajan's Column, Column of Marcus Aurelius, triumphal arches, Portonaccio sarcophagus * Medieval Europe: Many cathedrals and other churches, such as Chartres Cathedral and Bourges Cathedral * India: Sanchi, base of the Lion Capital of Asoka, the rock-cut Elephanta Caves and
Ellora Caves Ellora (\e-ˈlȯr-ə\, IAST: ) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Aurangabad District, Maharashtra, Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India. It is one of the largest rock-cut Hindu temple cave complexes in the world, featuring B ...

Ellora Caves
, Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Khajuraho temples, Mahabalipuram with the ''Descent of the Ganges (Mahabalipuram), Descent of the Ganges'', and many South Indian temples, Unakoti group of sculptures (bas-relief) at Kailashahar, Unakoti District, Tripura, India * South-East Asia: Borobodur in
Java Java ( id, Jawa, ; jv, ꦗꦮ; su, ) is one of the Greater Sunda Islands in Indonesia. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the south and the Java Sea to the north. With a population of 147.7 million people, Java is the world's List of ...

Java
,
Angkor Wat Angkor Wat (; km, អង្គរវត្ត "Temple city/city of temples") is the largest religious structure (temple complex) in the world by land area, measuring , located in Cambodia. Originally constructed as a personal mausoleum for t ...

Angkor Wat
in Cambodia, * Glyphs, Mayan stelae and other reliefs of the Maya art, Maya and Aztec civilizations * United States: Stone Mountain, Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, Boston, Mount Rushmore National Memorial * UK: Base panels of Nelson's Column, Frieze of Parnassus Smaller-scale reliefs: * Ivory: Nimrud ivories from much of the Near East, Late Antique Consular diptychs, the Byzantine Harbaville Triptych and Veroli Casket, the Anglo-Saxon art, Anglo-Saxon Franks Casket, Cloisters Cross. * Silver: Warren Cup, Gundestrup cauldron, Mildenhall Treasure, Berthouville Treasure, Missorium of Theodosius I, Lomellini Ewer and Basin. * Gold: Berlin Gold Hat, Bimaran casket, Panagyurishte Treasure * Glass: Portland Vase, Lycurgus Cup


See also

*
Rock relief 320px, Two of the reliefs at the Abu Simbel temples, before relocation A rock relief or rock-cut relief is a relief sculpture Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the ...
* Multidimensional art * Pargetting – English exterior plaster reliefs * Relief printing – a different concept * Repoussé and chasing – a metalworking technique


Notes


References

* Avery, Charles, in
Relief sculpture
. Grove Art Online. Retrieved April 7, 2011.


External links

* Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
"American Relief Sculpture"
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. {{Authority control Sculpture techniques Sculpture terms Types of sculpture Reliefs,