Among the most famous sculptures in the world, these are some of the best preserved. The quality of a sculpture is defined by the viewer’s ability to see more than the form and expression, but to feel what the artist was attempting to evoke in sculpting the piece. The artist’s purposes for creating these works of stone were dependent on the demands of their cultural influences during that time, and the stylized work is extremely evident of where it came from in history. Who it came from is a different matter entirely, because the influences of some of their own lives inspired a visible passion for their work.
So, here is AIA’s picks for the Most Famous Sculptures from Around the world:
David by Michelangelo – 1501 – 1504; Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, Italy
David was commissioned to Michelangelo at the age of 26, after he had convinced the Operai, the overseers of the office of work in Florence Cathedral, that he deserved the work. Unlike the work of Donatello and Verrocchio, who depicted the hero standing over the head of Goliath, Michelangelo presented David before the great battle. The intense expression, coupled with the subtle strain in his posture was intended to represent his making the decision to fight, and what the choice meant to him. In addition to the story it tells, the sculpture is also supposed to be a visual of youthful beauty.
The Thinker by Auguste Rodin – 1902; Musée Rodin, Paris, France
Although there have been many recreations of the famous sculpture, the piece was originally commissioned for a doorway surround called The Gates of Hell. Rodin’s inspiration for the piece came from Dante’s epic poem; The Devine Comedy. It is thought that the pose is intended to give viewers the impression that the man is pondering poetry, as he was placed in front of a visual representation of a poem. There have been 28 life size castings of the famous sculpture, but the original stands today in the Rodin Museum in France.
Winged Victory of Samothrace – Louvre, Paris, France
Discovered in 1863, the piece was dated to have been sculpted around 200 – 190 BC. It is presented as the winged Goddess, Nike, and displays a scene of triumph during a battle at sea. Crafted out of marble, the drapery flows beautifully over her form, enhancing the effect of her commanding pose. The sculpture is considered to be one of the greatest works to have been recovered from the Hellenistic period, which adds to the stunning visual itself.
Bust of Nefertiti – The Egyptian Museum of Berlin, Germany
Found in 1912 by Ludwig Borchardt, the limestone bust is estimated to have been created in 1345 BC. Credit is given to the sculptor, Thutmose, as it was found in his workshop in Amarna, Egypt. Nefertiti was the great royal wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, and has become a cultural icon of beauty in the art world. The painted stone has been well preserved for thousands of years, but what sets it apart even more so, is that it is painted in layers of stucco plaster. This obviously helped in the level of preservation, but the concept that it was painted differently from other ancient portraits has raised questions about our understanding of ancient Egyptian art as a whole.
Abraham Lincoln Statue by Daniel Chester – 1920; Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., USA
The 170 ton statue was created by Daniel Chester, who was commissioned by the Lincoln Memorial Committee. He was selected for his previous memorial of the president which stands in Lincoln, Nebraska. There were several miniature clay moldings made in preparation, and French made subtle alterations with each edition before choosing a final model. The piece was dedicated in 1922, and the public was able to view the towering figure of Lincoln with his expression cast downwards, as though looking upon the people of the nation itself.
Capitoline Wolf – Musei Capitolini, Rome, Italy
The bronze sculpture is intended to represent the legend of the founding of Rome. The infants are the twins; Romulus and Remus, who were said to have been thrown in the river Tiber after their grandfather Numitor was overthrown. The she-wolf saved and nurtured the twins until a herdsman came upon them and raised them as his own. Although there is a great deal of controversy over the date in which the sculpture was made, we have gained clues through medieval references that mention a wolf and twins.
The Monument to the Discoveries – 1960; Lisbon, Portugal
The structure was designed by Cottinelli Telmo, who was replaced after his death by the primary architect; António Pardal Monteiro. Located on the bank of the Tagus River, the celebratory project was inaugurated in August of 1960. The sculpture represents the age of exploration, and stands as a monument to the discoveries of the great minds of the world. 33 historical figures are present, representing a number of different professions and backgrounds. They are all poised towards the open river, which symbolizes the unknown sea.
The Kiss by Auguste Rodin – 1889; Rodin Museum, Paris, France
Another work of Rodin’s that was intended to be an installation to The Gates of Hell, an entirely sculpted depiction of Dante’s Inferno. The piece presents an Italian noble woman who has fallen in love with her husband’s younger brother, which ultimately ends with the lovers being discovered and killed by the husband. Their lips don’t actually touch in the sculpture, implying that they were found before they ever had the chance to kiss.
Moses by Michelangelo – 1515; San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, Italy
The figure of the ancient prophet sitting on a marble throne, glaring off to the side with a firm and serious expression. The whole body is tense with anger, but contrasted with the soft folds of cloth draped over it. The piece is thought to be “unequaled by any modern work,” and has been studied by scholars and art historians over the centuries, all of them attempting to contemplate the emotional effect of the sculpture.
The Dying Gaul – Capitoline Museums, Rome, Italy
The marble sculpture is thought to be a Roman copy of a Hellenistic bronze piece that was created near the end of the 3rd century BC. The figure is depicted as a fallen Celtic soldier, slumped over his shield in battle. The piece has been endlessly copied by artists attempting to mimic the same level of emotion apparent in the expression and form. It has become widely known as a perfect emotional portrayal of the acceptance of death in a soldier, and the tragic reality of war.