Any material that have the right to be shaped in three dimensions deserve to be offered sculpturally. Certain materials, through virtue of your structural and also aesthetic properties and also their availability, have proved particularly suitable. The most necessary of these room stone, wood, metal, clay, ivory, and plaster. Over there are additionally a variety of materials that have actually only recently come right into use.

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Throughout history, rock has to be the principal product of monumental sculpture. There are handy reasons for this: many varieties of rock are extremely resistant come the weather and therefore an ideal for external use; stone is accessible in all components of the world and also can be derived in large blocks; numerous stones have actually a reasonably homogeneous texture and a uniform hardness the make them suitable for carving; stone has to be the chief product used because that the monumental architecture with i m sorry so lot sculpture has been associated.


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Jade steed head, Chinese, Han empire (206 bce–220 ce); in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Height 19 cm.
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Thunderbird totem pole, replica of a house write-up carved by Charlie James, early on 20th century; in Stanley Park, Vancouver, british Columbia, Canada.

In the 20th century, wood was offered by countless sculptors together a medium for construction as well as for carving. Laminated timbers, chipboards, and timber in block and plank kind can be glued, jointed, screwed, or bolted together, and also given a range of finishes.

Wherever steel technologies have been developed, metals have actually been supplied for sculpture. The quantity of steel sculpture that has actually survived indigenous the old world walk not appropriately reflect the level to which it to be used, for substantial quantities have been plundered and melted down. Countless old metal sculptures have actually been lost in this way, as has virtually all the goldwork that pre-Columbian American Indians.

The metal most offered for sculpture is bronze, which is basically an alloy of copper and also tin; but gold, silver, aluminum, copper, brass, lead, and also iron have additionally been commonly used. Most steels are very strong, hard, and also durable, through a tensile toughness that permits a much greater flexibility of architecture than is feasible in either rock or wood. A life-size bronze number that is steady attached come a base demands no support various other than its own feet and may even be poised top top one foot. Significant attenuation of kind is also feasible without threat of fracture.


Greek Warrior, one of two copper statues discovered in the Mediterranean Sea turn off Riace, Italy, fifth century bce; in the National archaeological Museum, Reggio di Calabria, Italy.

The colour, excellent lustre, and reflectivity of metal surfaces have been highly valued and also made complete use the in sculpture although, because the Renaissance, fabricated patinas have usually been preferred as finishes because that bronze.

Metals deserve to be functioned in a variety of methods in stimulate to create sculpture. They have the right to be cast—that is, melted and poured right into molds; squeezed under pressure right into dies, together in coin making; or functioned directly—for example, by hammering, bending, cutting, welding, and repoussé (hammered or pressed in relief).

Important heritages of bronze sculpture space Greek, Roman, Indian (especially Chola), african (Bini and also Yoruba), Italian Renaissance, and Chinese. Gold was used to an excellent effect for small-scale functions in pre-Columbian America and medieval Europe. A reasonably recent discovery, aluminum has actually been provided a good deal by modern sculptors. Iron has not been used lot as a casting material, but in recent years it has end up being a famous material for direct working through techniques similar to those the the blacksmith. Sheet metal is one of the principal materials used recently for constructional sculpture. Stainless stole in sheet type has to be used successfully by the American sculptor David Smith.

Clay is among the many common and easily obtainable of every materials. Supplied for modeling animal and also human numbers long prior to men discovered how to fire pots, that has been among the sculptor’s chef materials ever since.

Clay has four properties the account because that its prevalent use: when moist, it is just one of the many plastic of every substances, easily modeled and capable of registering the most comprehensive impressions; when partially dried the end to a leather-hard state or completely dried, it deserve to be carved and scraped; when combined with enough water, it i do not care a creamy liquid known as slip, which might be poured right into molds and permitted to dry; when fired to temperatures of in between 700 and 1,400 °C (1,300 and 2,600 °F), it experience irreversible structural changes that make it permanently hard and extremely durable.

Sculptors use clay as a product for working out ideas; because that preliminary models that space subsequently cast in such materials as plaster, metal, and concrete or sculpted in stone; and also for pottery sculpture.

Depending ~ above the nature of the clay body itself and also the temperature in ~ which that is fired, a finished pottery product is claimed to it is in earthenware, i beg your pardon is opaque, fairly soft, and porous; stoneware, i m sorry is hard, nonporous, and an ext or less vitrified; or porcelain, which is fine-textured, vitrified, and also translucent. Every three types of pottery are offered for sculpture. Sculpture do in low-fired clays, specifically buff and also red clays, is recognized as terra-cotta (baked earth). This term is provided inconsistently, however, and also is often prolonged to sheathe all forms of pottery sculpture.

Unglazed clay bodies have the right to be smooth or outlet in texture and may be coloured white, gray, buff, brown, pink, or red. Pottery sculpture have the right to be decorated with any of the techniques created by potters and also coated through a selection of beautiful glazes.

Paleolithic sculptors produced relief and in-the-round occupational in unfired clay. The old Chinese, specifically during the tang (618–907 ce) and also Song (960–1279 ce) dynasties, do superb pottery sculpture, including large-scale person figures. The best-known Greek works space the intimate small-scale figures and groups indigenous Tanagra. Mexican and also Maya sculptor-potters developed vigorous, straight modeled figures. During the Renaissance, pottery was offered in Italy for significant sculptural projects, consisting of the massive glazed and coloured sculptures that Luca della Robbia and also his family, i m sorry are among the finest works in the medium. Among the most popular uses of the ceramic medium has been because that the to produce of figurines—at Staffordshire, Meissen, and also Sèvres, because that example.


Jaina pottery figurine, Late classic Maya style, indigenous Campeche, Mexico; in the repertoire of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. Elevation 15.5 cm.

The main source of ivory is elephant tusks; however walrus, hippopotamus, narwhal (an Arctic aquatic animal), and, in Paleolithic times, mammoth tusks also were used for sculpture. Ivory is dense, hard, and an overwhelming to work. Its colour is creamy white, which typically yellows through age; and also it will certainly take a high polish. A tusk might be sawed right into panels for relief carving or right into blocks because that carving in the round; or the form of the tusk itself might be used. The physics properties that the product invite the most delicate, thorough carving, and also displays the virtuosity are common.

Ivory was used extensively in antiquity in the Middle and also Far East and the Mediterranean. An virtually unbroken Christian heritage of ivory carving reaches native Rome and also Byzantium to the finish of the middle Ages. Transparent this time, ivory was used greatly in relief, regularly in connect with priceless metals, enamels, and also precious stones to create the most splendid effects. Few of its main sculptural offers were because that devotional diptychs, portable altars, book covers, retables (raised shelves over altars), caskets, and crucifixes. The Baroque period, too, is rich in ivories, particularly in Germany. A fine heritage of cream color carving also existed in Benin, a previous kingdom the West Africa.


Queen mom Pendant Mask: Iyoba, ivory, iron, and possibly copper pendant mask, by the Edo peoples, kingdom of Benin, 16th century; in the urban Museum of Art, brand-new York City. Height 23.8 cm.
The metropolitan Museum of Art, new York,The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial arsenal of Primitive Art, gift that Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1972, (1978.412.323), www.metmuseum.org

Related to ivory, horn and also bone have actually been used since Paleolithic times for small-scale sculpture. Caribou horn and walrus tusks were 2 of the Inupiaq and Inuit carver’s most important materials. One of the finest of all medieval “ivories” is a carving in whalebone, The Adoration that the Magi.

Plaster of paris (sulfate the lime) is especially helpful for the production of molds, casts, and preliminary models. That was offered by Egyptian and also Greek sculptors together a spreading medium and is today the many versatile product in the sculptor’s workshop.

When combined with water, plaster will in a quick time recrystallize, or set—that is, come to be hard and also inert—and that is volume will boost slightly. When set, that is reasonably fragile and also lacking in character and is thus of limited use for finished work. Plaster have the right to be poured as a liquid, modeled directly when that a suitable consistency, or easily carved after it has set. Other materials have the right to be included to it to slacken that is setting, to rise its hardness or resistance to heat, to readjust its colour, or to reinforce it.

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The main sculptural usage of plaster in the past was because that molding and casting clay models as a stage in the production of cast metal sculpture. Countless sculptors today omit the clay-modeling stage and also model straight in plaster. Together a mold product in the casting of concrete and also fibreglass sculpture, plaster is extensively used. It has good value as a material for reproducing currently sculpture; many museums, for example, use such casts for study purposes.