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Top 10 Famous Sculptures And Their Place In History

For hundreds and thousands of years, sculptures have played a fundamental part in history. Nowadays, they remain an important aspect of understanding ancient cultures. In ancient times, sculptors put a lot of skill into creating pieces of art and used them to showcase their skill. We cannot write about all the popular sculptures throughout history.

But we can talk about some of the most influential sculptures. They are the work of artists like Michelangelo, Donatello, and many more sculptors.

Read on to find out more about some of the famous sculptures in history. The list includes the terracotta warriors, David, and much more.

Venus of Willendorf


Discovered in Austria in 1908, this tiny figurine measures just over four inches. But its significance is enormous. Nobody knows the function this sculpture served.

But we have to mention that according to estimates, it dates up to 25,000 years ago. It is one of the few surviving figurines from Paleolithic Europe. Probably this figure never had feet, and parts of the body make an association with fertility.

Some scholars believe these figurines were self-portraits by women.

Bust of Nefertiti


The sculpture is a beautiful portrait of Nefertiti, the Great Royal Wife of Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten. Dating up to 1345 BC, the iconic rendering made Nefertiti a symbol of ideal feminine beauty.

Today, it remains one of the most recognizable pieces of art coming from ancient Egypt. Before this sculpture, not many people viewed Nefertiti as a symbol of femininity. But everything changed once people saw the beauty of the Queen in 1912 thanks to this sculpture.

The Terracotta Army


Discovered in 1974, this sculpture dates back to 210-209 BC. It is one of the most stupendous finds in all archeological history.

The statute is basically an enormous cache of clay statues buried in three massive pits near the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China.

According to historians, he had an army of more than 8,000 soldiers protecting. They were designed to protect him in the afterlife.

Each soldier is life-sized, but the actual height varies according to military ranks. The figures are a great example of funerary art. In 1974, farmers discovered them by digging a well. Some parts of the collection took part in traveling exhibitions around the world.

The mausoleum of Xi’an remains a World Heritage Site since 1987.

Discus Thrower

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Depicting a young Greek man throwing a discus, the sculpture is a perfect example of athletics. It remains one of the symbols of the Olympics. Originally, the statue was cast in bronze.

Sadly, the original work remains lost in history. And now the replica serves as a reminder of it. It is an incredible piece of work showing the advancements in Classical sculpture techniques.

David by Michelangelo


David by Michelangelo remains one of the most iconic works in all of art history. The piece is part of a larger project to decorate the buttresses of Florence’s great cathedral, the Duomo.

Michelangelo had to decorate it with a group of figures taken from the Old Testament. Fun fact: Agostino di Duccio started to work on the project. But he stopped working two years after, and another artist took over. He too quit before finishing the work.

Michelangelo resumed carving the marble in 1501. When he finished the statue, David weighed six tons. And they couldn’t put it on the cathedral’s roof. Instead, they put it on display just outside the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio.

To this day, the figure remains one of the purest distillations of the High Renaissance style.

David by Donatello


Fun fact: 100 years before Michelangelo finished David, another Italian sculptor created the biblical character. Donatello cast David in bronze, showing him as a younger and more contemplative version. Donatello shows David just after slaying Goliath.

In the sculpture, Donatello cleverly uses Goliath’s head and David’s sword to support the structure. At the time, the sculpture caused a lot of scandals. Donatello made David nude except for his boots. Many considered the naturalistic approach disturbing.

Laocoon And His Sons


This Hellenistic sculpture depicts three marble figures in an action-packed scene. Based on a Greek myth, the sculpture has attracted archeologists and art lovers for many years.

The legend says Laocoon was a priest from Troy. He got attacked by sea serpents sent by a God, and he tried to defend himself alongside his two sons.

Many praise the work for its technical mastery and emotional impact.

Apollo Belvedere


Let’s talk about one of the most popular and famous art works of Classical sculpture. Many historians believe Apollo Belvedere is actually a copy of an earlier bronze statue.

Apollo remains now in the Vatican Museum. Made of marble, many believe he dates back to 120 or 140 AD. The statue was lost for nearly 1,500 years until historians rediscovered it during the Italian Renaissance period.

In the 18th and 19th century many art experts regarded it as one of the most perfect statutes ever created. Neoclassicists praised it as “aesthetic perfection”.

Depicting the Greek god Apollo as an archer having just released an arrow, the statue shows him entirely nude apart from sandals.

Perseus with the Head of Medusa


Antonio Canova, born in 1757, remains one of the greatest sculptors of the 18th century. The Italian artist made one of the most celebrated sculptures of Neo-Classical style, Perseus with the Head of Medusa.

This work epitomized the style. His rendition in marble is perfect. And he made two versions of the piece. One resides in the Vatican and the other in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s European Sculpture Court.

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa


Gian Lorenzo Bernini made this sculpture. Famous as the founder of the High Roman Baroque style, he created the masterpiece for a chapel.

At the time, Baroque was linked to the Counter-Reformation through which the Catholic Church tried to prevent Protestantism from surging across Europe.

The church used artists like Bernini to reaffirm Papal dogma. They wanted to create religious scenes with dramatic narratives.

Enter Gian, and his work. He used Saint Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Carmelite nun as inspiration. Experts also point to the erotic overtones in the sculpture, notable by the nun’s orgasmic expression.

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