From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane. What is actually performed when a relief is cut in from a flat surface of stone or wood is a lowering of the field, leaving the unsculpted parts seemingly raised. The technique thus involves considerable chiselling away of the background, which is a time-consuming exercise with little artistic effect if the lowered background is left plain, as is often the case. On the other hand, a relief saves forming the rear of a subject, and is less fragile and more securely fixed than a sculpture in the round, especially one of a standing figure where the ankles are a potential weak point, especially in stone. In other materials such as metal, clay, plaster stucco, ceramics or papier-mache the form can be just added to or raised up from the background, and monumental bronze reliefs are made by casting.
Notable examples of monumental reliefs include:
- Ancient Egypt: Most Egyptian temples, e.g. the Temple of Karnak
- Assyria: A famous collection is in the British Museum, Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III
- Ancient Persia: Persepolis, and rock-face reliefs at Naqsh-e Rustam and Naqsh-e Rajab
- Ancient Greece: The Parthenon Marbles, Bassae Frieze, Great Altar of Pergamon, Ludovisi Throne
- Mesopotamia: Ishtar Gate of Babylon
- Ancient Rome: Ara Pacis, Trajan's Column, Column of Marcus Aurelius, triumphal arches, Portonaccio sarcophagus
- Medieval Europe: Many cathedrals and other churches, such as Chartres Cathedral and Bourges Cathedral
- India: Sanchi, base of the Lion Capital of Asoka, the rock-cut Elephanta Caves and Ellora Caves, Khajuraho temples, Mahabalipuram with the Descent of the Ganges, and many South Indian temples,Unakoti group of sculptures(bas relief) at Kailashahar, Unakoti District, Tripura, India
- South-East Asia: Borobodur in Java, Angkor Wat in Cambodia,
- Glyphs, Mayan stelae and other reliefs of the Maya and Aztec civilizations
- United States: Stone Mountain, Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, Boston, Mount Rushmore National Memorial,
- UK: Base panels of Nelson's Column, Frieze of Parnassus
- Ivory: Nimrud ivories from much of the Near East, Late Antique Consular diptychs, the Byzantine Harbaville Triptych and Veroli Casket, the Anglo-Saxon Franks Casket, Cloisters Cross.
- Silver: Warren Cup, Gundestrup cauldron, Mildenhall Treasure, Berthouville Treasure, Missorium of Theodosius I, Lomellini Ewer and Basin.
- Gold: Berlin Gold Hat, Bimaran casket, Panagyurishte Treasure
- Glass: Portland Vase, Lycurgus Cup
- Repoussé and chasing
- Relief printing - a different concept.
- Pargetting - English exterior plaster reliefs