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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Persian bas relief from Qajar era in the style of Persepolis, located at Tangeh Savashi in Iran.

A relief is a sculptured artwork where a modelled form is raised, or, in a sunken-relief, lowered, from a plane from which the main elements of the composition project (or sink). Reliefs are common throughout the world, for example on the walls of monumental buildings. The frieze in the classical Corinthian order is often enriched with bas-relief (low relief). Alto-relievo (high-relief) may be seen in the pediments of classical temples, e.g., the Parthenon. Several panels or sections of relief together may represent a sequence of scenes.



Detail in high relief from the Ancient Greek Elgin Marbles. Some front limbs are detached from the background completely, while the centaur's left rear leg is in low relief.

There are three main types of relief. The drawing of the distinction between high and low is often drawn differently, and in fact the two are very often combined in a single work - in particular most "high-reliefs" contain sections in "low-relief". Dashes may or may not be used in all these terms.


Bas-relief or low relief

A bas-relief ("low relief", French pronunciation: [baʁəljɛf], from the Italian basso rilievo) or low relief is the quality of a projecting image where the overall depth is shallow. The background is very compressed or completely flat, as on most coins, on which all images are in low-relief.

Lorenzo Ghiberti's gilded bronze "Doors of Paradise", Baptistery, Florence combine high relief main figures with backgrounds mostly in low relief.

Bas-relief is very suitable for scenes with many figures and other elements such as a landscape or architectural background. A bas-relief may use any medium or technique of sculpture, but stone carving and metal casting are the traditional ones. If more than 50% of most rounded or cylindrical elements such as heads and legs project from the background, a sculpture is usually considered to be "alto rilievo" or "high relief", although the degree of relief within both types may vary across a composition, with prominent features such as faces in higher relief.

High relief

High relief (or alto relievo, from Italian) is where the most prominent elements of the composition are undercut and rendered at more than 50% in the round against the background.

All cultures and periods where large sculptures were created used this technique as one of their sculptural options. Seen in "monumental sculpture" and architecture from ancient times to present.

Sunken relief

Sunken-relief depiction of Pharaoh Akhenaten with his wife Nefertiti and daughters. Note how strong shadows are needed to define the image.

Sunken-relief, also known as intaglio or hollow-relief, is where the image is made by carving into a flat surface - usually the images are mostly linear in nature. It is most notably associated with the Art of Ancient Egypt, where the strong sunlight usually needed to make the technique successful for images is present most of the time. In the sculpture of many cultures, including Europe, it is mostly used for inscriptions and engraved gems - the most likely meaning for "an intaglio".

Notable reliefs

Notable examples of reliefs include:

See also


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

RELIEF (through Fr. from Lat. relevare, to lift up), an act of raising or lifting off or up. Apart from the general sense of a mitigation, cessation or removal of pain, sorrow, discomfort, &c., and the artistic use (It. relievo) of the projection of a figure or design in sculpture from the ground on which it is formed, which is treated below, the term "relief" is used in the following senses; it was one of the feudal incidents between lord and vassal, and consisted of a payment to the lord in kind or money made by the heir on the death of the ancestor for the privilege of succession, for, fiefs not being hereditary, the estate had lapsed to the lord; by this payment the heir caducum praedium relevabat (Du Cange, Gloss. s.v. Relevare). The word is also generally used, in law, for any exemption granted by a court from the strict legal consequences of an act, &c., e.g. to a parliamentary candidate from the penal consequences ensuing from breaches of the regulations of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Acts. Relief is also the term used in English law for the assistance given to the indigent poor by the Poor Law authorities (see Poor Law).

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also relief


German Wikipedia has articles on:

Wikipedia de


Relief n.

  1. relief (type of artwork)
  2. (geology) relief

Simple English

A relief is a sculptured artwork where the form is modeled out from a flat background.

Reliefs are a common type of artwork found throughout the world, particularly to decorate monumental buildings, such as temples.

The frieze in the classical Corinthian order is often enriched with bas-relief (low relief). Alto-relievo (high-relief) may been seen in the pediments of classical temples, e.g. the Parthenon. Reliefs can be used for a single scene, or ordered into a narrative. They can be very detailed to the extent that even tensed musculature itself may be seen.

Types of relief

Hetaera, Relief, around 2nd century, Head is missing]]

Several types of relief are commonly used and defined although in all cases the images must attach to the background.

Famous reliefs

Famous examples of reliefs include:

  • Great Altar of Pergamon, now at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin
  • Lions and dragons from the Ishtar Gate, Babylon
  • Temple of Karnak in Egypt
  • Angkor Wat in Cambodia
  • Lion Capital of Asoka, the national symbol of India
  • glyphs and artwork of the Maya civilization
  • The monument to the Confederacy at Stone Mountain, Georgia
  • Borobudur temple, Java, Indonesia
  • The Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon now housed at the British Museum.
  • The representation of Monticello on a US nickel.
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