Sculptures have been a crucial part of society for centuries. They provide insight into ancient culture and history. Whether portrait busts of revered leaders or figures of the past or symbolic representations of ethical principles, there is no shortage of famous sculptures.
Below are 13 famous sculptures that have captured the imagination worldwide. The sculptures in this list are not only famous, but also groundbreaking and beautiful. Most importantly, they have stood the test of time.
1. David (Sculptor – Michelangelo, Year – 1504)
David is undoubtedly one of the most famous Renaissance sculptures of all time. Michelangelo began work on the statue in 1501 and completed it in 1504.
The marble statue is 5 meters high and represents David – the biblical hero, just before his famous fight with Goliath. The statue is currently in Florence, Italy (Galleria Dell Accademia).
2. The Thinker (Sculptor – Auguste Rodin, Year – 1904)
This statue also deserves to be on the list of the most famous sculptures of all time. Auguste Rodin worked on this statue in 1904 and immediately created a symbol of contemplation and introspection.
As the name suggests, The Thinker features a man « thinking » in what appears to be the « trademark pose » of someone who thinks seriously: sitting with chin resting on hand. The Thinker is currently on display at the Rodin Museum in France.
3. Venus de Milo (sculptor – Alexandros of Antioch, year – 100 BC)
Venus de Millo is an ancient marble sculpture depicting Aphrodite – the Greek goddess of beauty and love. The statue stands 6 feet tall and is distinguishable because Aphrodite’s arms are missing.
Venus de Millo is one of the most famous sculptures in Greek history. After the statue was discovered in Milos, Greece, in 1820, it was brought to the Louvre in Paris, where it remains to this day.
4. Pieta (Sculptor – Michelangelo, Year – 1499)
This is yet another famous sculpture by Michelangelo. Pieta is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus. The marble statue was created in 1499 and is currently on display in Italy in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City.
Given the technical mastery required to create it and the emotional impact it has on many observers, the Pieta is widely regarded as Michelangelo’s finest sculpture.
5. Citizens of Calais (Sculptor – Auguste Rodin, Year – 1884)
This statue, also called Les Bourgeois de’ Calais (in French), has twelve original castings. It is made of bronze and depicts six men during the famous Hundred Years’ War in the late Middle Ages between France and England.
The statue was created by Auguste Rodin in 1884 and is currently displayed at Musee Rodin in France. It is one of Rodin’s most influential works, given the emotional impact and lifelike nature of the figures.
6. Moses (sculptor – Michelangelo, years – 1515 to 1545)
This iconic statue of Moses is part of a set on the tomb of Pope Julius II. Moses is seen with horns, referring to the fact that the Hebrew word shining was mistranslated as horned. The statue is currently in Rome, Italy, in the Church of SanPietro.
7. The Great Sphinx (Year – c. 2558-2532 BC)
The Great Sphinx is one of the largest sculptures on Earth. The limestone statue represents a mythical creature, it is a lion’s body with a human head. The statue was created during the reign of Pharaoh Khafra to portray his authority and power.
The Great Sphinx is located in Giza, Egypt, where it attracts millions of tourists worldwide every year.
8. The Kiss (sculptor – Auguste Rodin, year: 1901-1904)
The Kiss is another famous sculpture by Auguste Rodin. It is made of bronze and shows lovers in a close embrace. The Kiss is one of the few famous sculptures that depict sensuality.
The statue is also notable for its naturalistic style. The Kiss was completed in 1904 and is currently located in Paris, France.
9. Discobolus (sculptor – Myron, year: c. 450-440 BC)
The Discobolus is another ancient marble sculpture depicting ancient Greek culture. As the name suggests, the statue shows a discus thrower in his element.
Please note that the original image has been lost. However, many Roman copies exist, including the one in Rome, Italy, in the Palazzo Dei Conservatori.
10. Statue of Liberty (year: 1886)
This is perhaps America’s most famous sculpture. It is located in New York and is made of copper. The statue is a symbol of liberation. It was donated to America by the French on October 28, 1886.
The statue depicts a female figure in a robe (Libertas – Roman Goddess) holding a torch and a tablet with the date of the Declaration of Independence in Roman numerals.
11. Nefertiti Bust (Year: 1345 BC)
This limestone statue represents the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. It is perhaps one of the most famous sculptures of all time. It was discovered in 1912 in the studio of the famous Egyptian sculptor Thutmose.
The bust is currently in Berlin, Germany, at the Neues Museum. The sculptor is notable for its elegance, beauty and unique representation of Egyptian culture.
12. Laocoön and his sons (year: c. 42-20 BC)
This Hellenistic marble sculpture depicts Laocoon (Trojan priest) and his sons being strangled by snakes. The sculpture stands out as a masterpiece of ancient Roman sculpture and is of pivotal importance to the history of classical art. It is currently in Rome, Italy, in the Vatican Museums.
13. Terracotta Army (year: c. 210-209 BC)
This statue is composed of 8,000 life-size sculptures of terracotta soldiers, horses and chariots buried next to Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, for protection in the afterlife.
The Terracotta Army was founded in the late 3rd century BC. The statue is located in the mausoleum of the 1st Qin Emperor in Xian, China.
Sculpture has been pivotal in art history and remains an important form of self-expression for contemporary artists. Throughout history, people have used sculpture to express a wide variety of ideas, feelings, and stories.