Statue vs Sculpture

Hi everyone and welcome back to Exploring Art, this is Alessandro. In this short video I want to talk about something that may be sound obvious, but probably it’s not, like the difference between “statue” and “sculpture”.

In the previous videos we learnt a lot about them: we discovered Apollo and Daphne, the Laocoon, David(s), the prehistoric Lion-man of Hohlenstein-Stadel and many others. You can find all the links in the description, but first let’s dive in today’s topic.

David of Michelangelo, Florence, Renaissance
Michelangelo's David

Statue and Sculpture definitions

A statue is a three-dimensional representation of a person, animal or object that is typically created out of materials such as marble, bronze or other metals. A sculpture, on the other hand, is a more general term that encompasses a wide range of three-dimensional art forms, including statues, but also other forms such as reliefs, assemblages, and even installations.

Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus
Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus

In other words, sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions carving or modelling any sort of materials. When a sculpture is not attached to any other surface (except possibly at the base) we have a statue.


Another important difference between statues and sculptures is their purpose. Statues are often created as a means of commemorating or honoring an individual or a significant event. They are typically placed in public spaces such as parks, squares or government buildings and are meant to be viewed from all angles. Sculptures, on the other hand, are created for a wider range of purposes, from artistic expression and experimentation to social and political motivations. They can be found in a variety of settings: museums, any kind of buildings, galleries and may not necessarily be meant to be viewed from all angles.

Augustus of Prima Porta, Ancient Roman Art
Augustus of Prima Porta


In terms of their form, statues are often highly detailed and realistic, with a focus on capturing the likeness of the subject in a lifelike manner. Sculptures, instead, can take a wide range of forms, from abstract and non-representational to realistic and detailed. That allows artists to feel free to explore different styles and techniques.

Apollo and Daphne_faces detail
Apollo and Daphne - Bernini


And that bring us to a last important difference: the materials used. Statues are typically made out of materials such as marble, bronze and other metals, which are durable and can withstand the elements. There are in fact wood statues, but they are less common and of course just a few of them survived until our days. Sculptures, on the other hand, can be made out of a wide range of materials, including metal, wood, stone, clay and even bones or glass, allowing artists to have a wide range of options.

Christus Triumphans by Maestro Guglielmo - Romanesque art detail
Christus Triumphans - Maestro Guglielmo

I hope you enjoyed it! Please leave your comments and don’t miss the next post.

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