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sculptures contrasting the stiff and contrapposto human form
While early Egyptian and Greek sculpture was
stiff and monolithic, the classical Greek period
introduced the more naturalistic S-curve and
contrapposto to the sculpted human form.

One of mankind's earliest artistic expressions was the carving of stone or wood into fertility symbols, religious figures, animals or other three-dimensional forms.

It was the Greeks who later brought sculpture to the level of fine art, and their classical period in both marble and bronze was much copied by Roman sculptors who honored their gods and leaders in vivid, natural likenesses.

In style, Medieval sculpture was almost exclusively devoted to the Christian faith to adorn he great cathedrals of the age, retelling Old Testament and New Testament stories of sin and redemption -- along with, ironically, the addition of mythic grotesques, gargoyles and chimeras.

Renaissance sculpture returned again to the classical ideals of the human form, as seen in such works as Michelangelo's David. Later Baroque sculpture to movement and dynamism to new heights with wildly tempestuous sculptures such as those found in the Belvedere Palace Gardens in Vienna.

More dramatic developments followed with the Pre-Raphaelites and Victorian era sculpture that glorified allegorical figures, Arthurian legends, and the male and female nude as decorative architectural elements.

The modern art movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries introduced new forms into sculpture with a conscious effort to move away from classical subjects. Widely divergent styles introduced during this period included abstract sculptural forms Futurism, objects constructed from various elements, themes borrowed from African tribal art, and even Duchamp's genre-bending Fountain (a urinal fixture).

The art form has since exploded further, and today modern sculptors are free to work in any medium they choose including fabric, wire, glass, concrete, plastic, or any other material that strikes their fancy including neon tubing.

Around the Web, find more top resources on the history of sculpture range from Asia, Greece and India to Gothic France and Victorian England. Many of these sites are illustrated with images that take you on a virtual tour of the work of the masters spanning continents and centuries.

More about the history of sculpture around the Web:

History of sculpture - Wikipedia - Get the grand overview, with an illustrated look at sculpture in all ages and forms from the ancient Greeks to modern.

Netserf: Architectural Sculpture - Browse for selected resources from the Web Gallery of Art featuring French and Spanish Gothic and architectural sculpture and tombs.

Bronze Sculpture in the Renaissance - Here's an elegant special topics page from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia - Archived National Gallery exhibit of medieval Cambodian sculpture featuring thumbnails histories and cool 360° views. QuickTime required.

Katmat's Potpourri: The Sculptures of India - A real find - and one of the Web's largest collections, beginning with a brief overview leading to detailed histories and a wealth of images.

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