(from Italian, rilievare: to raise) In sculpture, any work in which the figures project from a supporting background, usually a plane surface. Bas-reliefs (low reliefs), in which the design projects only slightly, were common on the walls of stone buildings in ancient Egypt, Assyria, and elsewhere in the Middle East. High reliefs, in which the forms project at least half or more of their natural circumference, were first employed by the ancient Greeks. Italian Renaissance sculptors combined high and low relief in strikingly illusionistic compositions, as in Lorenzo Ghiberti's bronze doors in Florence. Baroque sculptors continued these experiments, often on a larger scale (e.g., Alessandro Algardi's Meeting of Attila and Pope Leo, 1646–53). The dramatic possibilities of the Renaissance concept of relief were later notably employed by François Rude (The Marseillaise, 1833–36) and Auguste Rodin (The Gates of Hell).
Athena mourning, mezzo-relievo from the Acropolis, 5th century BC, in the Acropolis Museum, Athens—Alinari/Art Resource, New York
Variants of RELIEF
relief or rilievo
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