Sculpting Glossary

What is a Stone Sculpture? The Complete Guide

May 11, 2023 by

Imagine standing in front of a majestic stone sculpture, feeling its raw power and beauty emanating from its form.

Stone sculpture is a timeless art form that has captured the hearts and minds of people for centuries.

From the ancient pyramids to modern city squares, stone sculptures have graced some of the most iconic and historic locations around the world.

In this article, we’ll explore the art of stone sculpture, from its history and cultural significance to the tools and techniques used to create these magnificent works of art.

So, let’s delve into the fascinating world of stone sculpture and discover what makes this art form so enduring and inspiring.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

Table of Contents

What is a Stone Sculpture?

A stone sculpture is a stone object that has been shaped, usually carved, or assembled to form an appealing shape.

Stone carving is an old tradition. Many aspects of the cultural heritage of mankind now exist only through the lens of ancient stones.

Monolithic sculptures, ancient writing, and prehistoric figures are old examples of stone sculptures.

stone sculpture example

From these humble beginnings, the practice of carving stones and creating stone carvings has developed into an essential element of the art of painting.

Stone sculpture is an old moving and practical art.

For example, Stone Age statues known as Venus of Berekhat Ram and Venus of Tan-Tan are at least 200,000 years old, and limestone statues known as Venus of Willendorf date from about 30,000 BCE.

How Do You Cut Stone for Sculpture?

Whether you intend to build a patio platform or make a sculpture out of stone, learning to cut stone allows you to customize the size and shape of your pieces.

Cutting a stone is hard work, but the stone lasts a long time.

To avoid injury, take precautionary measures, such as wearing a dust mask and safety goggles.

To see the process of cutting/carving stone in action, we also recommend this video by Varo Sculpture:

What is the Process to Sculpt a Stone Sculpture?

With the precise method of carving stones, the work usually begins with selecting the painting stone, the attributes that will influence the artist’s choice in the design process.

An artist who uses a straightforward approach may use drawings but avoid the use of a visual model.

The complete form or figure is first made on the stone itself.

The indirect method, where the sculptor starts with a clearly defined model, is copied from the stone.

Models usually made of plaster or similar clay may be the full size of the intended image and have complete details.

Once the model has been completed, a suitable stone must be found to fit the intended design.

The model is then copied to the stone by measuring with a caliper or pointing machine.

To further explore the process, refer to the video in the previous section or also watch this video by National Geographic:

What are the Types of Stone Used in Stone Sculptures?

With a hardness of about 2, soapstone is an easy-to-use stone, often used by beginners for stone carving.

1. Limestone

Limestone is about four on the Mohs scale.

Limestone comes in popular varieties, twice as strong as alabaster, which is ideal for carving. Strong serpentines can also reach up to 4 on the Mohs scale.

Check out this limestone sculpture by Helen:

2. Marble, Travertine, Onyx

Marble, travertine, and onyx are about six on the Mohs scale. Marble has been a popular staple for European sculptors since the time of ancient Greece.

It comes in various colors, from white to pink and red to gray and black.

Check out this marble sculpture by Jesenko Gavric:

3. Granite

The hardest stone (Granite) is often carved in stone, about 8 on the Mohs scale. It is the strongest carved stone and, similarly, the hardest stone.

Check out this granite sculpture by Viktor:

4. Basalt

Basalt columns, stronger than granite, are rarely engraved. This stone takes on a beautiful black color when polished.

Check out this basalt sculpture by Marc O. Loerke:

Famous Stone Sculptures

1. The Terracotta Army

Discovered in 1974, the Terracotta Army is undoubtedly one of the most amazing artifacts found in the history of archeology.

2. Laocoon and Sons

One of the most famous ancient Roman statues — Laocoon and his Sons was first unearthed in Rome in 1506 and moved to the Vatican, where it still stands today.

3. David

One of the most outstanding works in all of art history, is Michelangelo’s David.

There are countless other famous sculptures too, like Antoniou Canova, etc.

Popular Stone Sculpture Artists

Outside of the artists who created the works above, here are other popular stone sculpture artists to check out for inspiration.

1. Agnes Nyanhongo

Agnes Nyanhongo is a Zimbabwean stone sculptor.

2. Emily Young

Emily Young FRBS (born 1951) is a sculptor. She was born in London to a family of artists.

Dominic Benhura, Bernard Matemera, etc., are some other famous stone sculpture artists.

Final Remarks

The stone sculpture has been used for a long time now, and it enhances the beauty of sculpting and provides an exciting look to the viewers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a stone sculpture made of?

A stone sculpture is typically made from a single block of stone, which can be sourced from a quarry or other natural deposits. The most common types of stone used for sculpture include marble, granite, limestone, sandstone, and soapstone, among others.

How is a stone sculpture made?

Creating a stone sculpture typically involves several steps, including selecting the appropriate stone, roughing out the basic shape with a chisel or saw, refining the details with finer tools, and polishing the surface. The process requires skill, patience, and a deep understanding of the properties of the stone being used.

Why are stone used as sculpture?

Stone has been used for sculpture for centuries due to its durability, beauty, and versatility. Stone sculptures can withstand the test of time and weathering, and the natural grain and texture of the stone can add depth and character to the artwork.