A bust is a sculpted or cast representation of the upper part of the human figure, depicting a person's head and neck, and usually part of the chest and shoulders. The bust is an ancient form of portraiture dating back to classical antiquity, and it has continued to be a popular genre in the visual arts. Here are some points about this unique form of art:
- History: The tradition of creating busts originated in ancient Egypt and Greece, where they were often used as funeral monuments or commemorative pieces for important figures. The Romans further popularized the form, with busts of emperors and other notable figures being common.
- Style: While early busts aimed for a high level of realism, styles have varied greatly over time. During the Renaissance, artists like Donatello and Michelangelo created lifelike busts, whereas modern and contemporary artists have often reinterpreted the bust in abstract or conceptual ways.
- Famous Busts: Some of the most famous busts in art history include the "Bust of Nefertiti," an ancient Egyptian artwork renowned for its beauty; the "Bust of Louis XIV," a grandiose representation of the French king by Gian Lorenzo Bernini; and the "David" bust by Michelangelo.
- Material: Busts can be made from a variety of materials. Marble and bronze are traditional choices, but artists have also used wood, terracotta, plaster, and even more unconventional materials like resin or found objects.
- Function: Traditionally, busts were used to commemorate important individuals or to pay homage to gods and goddesses. Today, while they can still serve these functions, they are also used more broadly as a form of artistic expression.
- Modern and Contemporary Busts: In the 20th and 21st centuries, artists have pushed the boundaries of what a bust can be. For example, contemporary artist Janine Antoni's "Lick and Lather" features two self-portrait busts, one made of chocolate and one of soap, which she altered by licking and washing.
- Market Value: Busts, especially those by notable artists or of significant historical figures, can fetch high prices in the art market. For instance, a marble bust of Napoleon by the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova was sold for $27.4 million at auction in 2018.
In sum, the bust is a form of sculpture with a long and storied history, from the masterpieces of antiquity and the Renaissance to varied and innovative contemporary works. Despite changes in style and substance over the centuries, the bust remains a potent symbol of human identity and a compelling subject for artistic exploration.