How to describe a sculpture?

The subject matter: is the piece of sculpture a portrait, a commemorative work, a narrative scene featuring historical or mythological figures, an ornamental item of decoration?

The function:
is the sculpture a decorative element embedded in the architecture of a building or the ornamentation of a park ? Is it a votive work associated with the cult of a god or magic beliefs? Is it an everyday artefact used in older times ? Is it an autonomous work created to be shown in a particular place?

The stylistic features: Does the work belong to one specific period ? Can you liken it to other works produced at the same period? Was the sculptor a member of an artistic group? Is he identified as a proponent of a specific trend? What is emphasized in the work ? (movement, expression, texture, colours, shapes, etc.) How is movement rendered? Is the sculpture life-like, stylized or abstract?

The technique: Which technique was used? Is the piece carved in one single block or composed out of several elements that are assembled ? Are the elements free from the main block ? Is there a pedestal? How is it related to the work? Is the material used to enhance the stylistic features? Do you have an impression of heaftiness or weightlessness? Are there several viewpoints? How is light used? How do the volumes impact upon the reflection of light on the surface?

Site-specificity: What is the relation between the piece and its surroundings? Does the sculpture change our perception of the place? Would the sculpture look different if it was placed in another setting? Is the work meant to be seen next to other works that may complement its perception?

Basic vocabulary

Wax, glass, bone, ivory, terra cotta, clay (argile), stoneware (grès), gems, marble, bronze, gold, silver, pewter (étain), limestone (calcaire), granite, oak, ebony, steel, ready-made objects, industrial materials, rubber (caoutchouc), silicone 

Mould, cast (mouler), carve (tailler), chisel (burin), punches (poinçons), drills (forets), weld (souder), "remove material from", a pedestal, a socle, a block of stone, a slab 

High/bas relief, sculpture in the round, free-standing sculptures, busts, figurines or statuettes, full-length portraits or shoulder-length portraits, indoor or outdoor sculpture, friezes, Caryatid, male or female nudes. 

Ornaments (decorating vases, vessels, pieces of architecture), votive sculptures, independent artworks.

Smooth, even, regular, uneven, bumpy, rough, dull, shiny, polished.

Adjectives for the appraisal of a sculpture

round; supple; heavy; even / regular / smooth; fine / delicate / beautiful / graceful; balanced/ well-proportioned; thin; large; expressive / moving; humorous / joyful; life-like; shiny; symmetrical; straight

angular; stiff / rigid / static / hieratic; light / weightless; bumpy / uneven / rough / coarse; ugly / nonedescript; unbalanced / disproportionate; bulky / massive / hefty; small / tiny / cramped; stern / austere; stylized / simplified; dull / mat; asymmetrical; curved / curvilinear / round

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