A statue is a free-standing sculpture in which realistic, full-length figures of persons or animals or non-representational forms are carved or cast in a durable material such as wood, metal, or stone. Statues have been produced in many cultures throughout history, with the earliest known statue dating back to about 30,000 BCE.
Statues are typically life-sized or larger; when a sculpture is smaller than life-size, it is usually referred to as a statuette or figurine. Some statues gain fame in their own right, separate from the person or concept they represent, as with the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
Statues serve various purposes, including:
- Religious: Statues have historically been used for religious purposes, from Ancient Egyptian statues of their deities to Christian statues of saints and the Buddha statues of Buddhism.
- Commemorative: Many statues are erected to commemorate a historical event, or the life of an influential person. Often, they are placed in a significant spot, like the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Washington D.C.
- Artistic: Some statues are created purely as works of art, meant for public or private enjoyment. These may be abstract or representational.
- Political: Statues can also have political significance, representing national heroes, ideologies, or serving as symbols of a state or nation.
In terms of materials, marble and bronze have been favored materials for statues throughout much of Western art history. Marble is appreciated for its smoothness, translucency, and the ease with which it can be worked, while bronze is valued for its strength and the fact that it expands slightly just before it sets, allowing for the creation of fine detail.
Methods for creating statues have varied throughout history. The ancient Greeks, for example, primarily used stone carving and bronze casting to create their works. In contrast, modern artists have a range of techniques and materials at their disposal, from traditional stone carving to contemporary methods like 3D printing.
Maintenance of outdoor statues can be a significant task, as they are often subject to the weather and pollution. This can lead to natural phenomena such as patination or deliberate acts of vandalism. Restoration and preservation efforts are a key part of maintaining these pieces of public art for future generations to enjoy.
From a cultural perspective, statues play a significant role in society. They serve not just as works of art, but also as pieces of historical record, revealing much about the people and periods that produced them.