There are different techniques used to make these sculptures. The most famous amongst these include free-standing sculptures and carving them in reliefs―high, low, sunk, counter, etc. In this Buzzle write-up, we will compare and contrast the bas (low)-relief sculptures, and those made in high relief.
Before we go on to learn about the difference between the two sculpture techniques, it should be noted that, more often than not, the distinction between the two is subjective in nature, especially in cases where the two techniques are combined in a single piece of work. Nevertheless, here are some points worth comparing between the two sculpture techniques.
|Bas-relief Sculptures||High Relief Sculptures|
|Italian basso rilievo, a.k.a. low-relief||Italian alto relievo|
|A sculptural relief in which the figural projection from the given plane or surface or background is slight and very delicate||A sculptural relief in which the figural projection from the background surface is significant and notable|
|In the lowest reliefs, like the figures carved on coins, the dimension of depth may make no sense if observed from one side. However, when observed from the front, the relative depth of the sculpted elements may be visible.||Here, the depth of the sculpture is clearly visible, irrespective of whether one looks from the sides or front. In fact, if it is a very high relief sculpture, many elements may even be completely detached from the background.|
|Low-relief sculptures look like mere outlines of elements, sometimes with minute details.||Looking at very high relief sculptures is, more often than not, like looking at free-standing statues, standing on their own without any attached plane.|
|The plane is moderately scratched out with a chisel to remove the "extra" part of the background, in order to leave out the raised, unsculpted portions that form the sculpture. Detailing, if any, is done at the end.||In a full range high relief sculpture, over 50% of the depth of the figure has to be portrayed. So, more of the background has to be chiseled out, and because the figure is larger and clearer, more detailing has to be done.|
|Time and Cost|
|Carving in low-relief is less labor-intensive, and so, lesser time is taken to complete these sculptures. This, in turn, means lower costs.||This is a more laborious task as more background surface needs to be chiseled out, thus, requiring more time and money.|
|Light and Shadow Effect|
|Limited due to less prominent depth||A salient feature of high relief sculpture, owing to its prominent depth|
|Commonly Used Materials|
|Stone, brick, terracotta, and metals (gold, silver, copper, bronze) in case of coins||Mostly stone; also stucco and terracotta in many cases|
|Common Technique In|
|Ancient Egyptian art; ancient Near Eastern and Asian cultures; Mesoamerican art; ancient Hindu and Buddhist sites in India, Java, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka; ancient European art; Babylon; and Pompeii; very rare instances from the Middle Ages||Ancient Greek and Roman art; medieval Hindu and Buddhist art of India and Java; medieval Europe, both as a funerary art as well as on the exquisitely sculpted neoclassical pediments|
Relief sculptures are common all across the world, and can be generally found adorning the walls of architectural edifices. However, in certain instances, these sculptures have also been discovered in smaller settings, such as sarcophagi and so on. It is also worth noting that in the early phases, most low-reliefs were painted, so as to make the forms sharper and more prominent.
No write-up about sculptures can be complete without pictures. Here are some good examples of bas-relief and high relief sculptures for you to look at.
** Click on the images to enlarge.
Reliefs are generally used to depict complex subjects, having several figures with animated poses so that an extended narrative of a particular event/myth may be represented. Owing to this, most of the relief sculptures that have been discovered till today, are in the form of huge horizontal and/or vertical panels, and bear all sorts of figures and motifs. Even today, high and low relief sculptures occupy a prominent place in the art of sculpting, and continue to remain popular the world over.