The Famous Sculptures
One of the best ways to create art is through sculpture. When you take natural materials and turn them into something that reflects your vision, you’ve left an indelible mark on our world. Some of today’s most famous sculptures were created by human hands several centuries ago.
Whether you’re etching lines into rock or producing something that looks lifelike from wax or other mediums, the art of sculpture has come a long way since its early days.
It’s fair to say that millions of our artistic efforts were shaped, appreciated, and returned to dust. There are also many more that continue to stand as a testament to how far we have come as a specie
Although any list is somewhat subjective based on the author’s preferences, some statues are notably more famous than others. This post discusses what they are while discussing the work’s impact on society.
How Does a Statue Become Famous?
The problem with most sculptures is that our ancestors decided to melt them down to use their core materials. There’s an idea that Rome preferred to use marble to create something stunning, but we know from Pompeii that they often painted their works of art to make an accurate impression.
When something was cast from metal, post-Rome societies typically melted down the components so that the usable materials could become something else. That’s why many of the ancient works aren’t available, even though some of them were documented.
Sculptures become famous when they survive and live a long life, but there is much more to it than that. You also need to consider the grandeur of its appearance, the overall size of the work, and what it means to the people who see it.
If you think about height, the Statue of Liberty often comes to mind because it is approximately the same height as the Colossus of Rhodes. The ancient work stood about 108 feet tall, making it the most prominent piece in the ancient world. It collapsed in 226 BC because of an earthquake, and it was never rebuilt.
What Are the Most Famous Statues in the World?
The most astonishing statues ever created have left a massive impact on our society. Here are some of the best works for your consideration! If you ever get the chance to see any of them in person, you should take that opportunity.
1. The Statue of Liberty: New York City, NY
This statue is arguably the most recognized symbol of freedom in the modern world. It’s seen as a visual representation of freedom, democracy, and liberty. Although it is popularly taught that France offered it as a direct gift, it’s more accurate to call the installation a joint effort.
When the statue arrived for assembly, it came in 214 crates and 350 pieces. It stands at 125 feet and weighs 225 tons. Although the monument isn’t always open for tours, you have an entire island to explore when the ferries are running.
Events can change at a moment’s notice, so you’ll want to consider having a backup plan in place before traveling.
2. Christ the Redeemer: Rio De Janeiro
Since it stands on one of the monoliths overlooking the city, this statue seems much taller than its 98 feet. What makes it so famous is that you could say this piece is a landmark for the entire South American continent. You’ll need to climb 200 steps to get a close look at the work, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
The statue was built in 1931, but it was an idea that was over 70 years in the making. It took over nine years to make it. Several restoration projects have been completed over the years, including when lightning struck it in 2014 and removed a finger.
3. Moai: Easter Island, Chile
Another statue that evokes mystery and intrigue is the heads found on Easter Island. We know that they were carved out of compressed volcanic ash about 700 years ago. Archeologists and historians believe they were made to honor the significant people and chiefs from the tribe. The native residents still see them as a source of spiritual energy and power.
Although we see the heads of these statues, they also have bodies. It’s unique because the proportions are so different. About 900 completed works have been discovered so far, with another 300 in various forms of finishing.
4. Little Mermaid: Denmark
As one of the most diminutive statues that makes a lasting impact on the people who see it, the Little Mermaid sits on top of a boulder in Copenhagen. It’s been in the same place for over a century, inspired by a folktale performance. Artist Edvard Eriksen has her staring off into the distance, her facial features permanently frozen in sadness.
Once people discovered how beautiful the statue was, it became a hot tourist spot for the city. That led officials to quickly adopt it as one of the community’s landmarks. That also meant more vandalism, with several significant restorations required. It’s been blown off the boulder, broken, and even beheaded.
Even with all of those challenges to consider, the sculpture continues to drive people to see it each day.
5. The Statue of David: Florence, Italy
Although this statue only stands 17 feet tall, it seems to be larger than life when you see it. If you stare at the subject’s face for long enough, you’d almost swear that the figure is about ready to blink. Even the veins that stand out from the skin feel like they’re about to come alive.
What makes Michelangelo’s David unique is that the artist didn’t emphasize the triumph over Goliath with the work. The white marble statue looks at strength and bravery through the lens of contentment and confidence instead.
It took the artist two years to turn a marble slab into this famous statue. He was only 26 at the time, but the final result would become one of his signature pieces.
6. Terrace of the Lions: Delos, Greece
We all know that the ancient Greeks loved to be extravagant. That’s why this statue complex is so remarkable for its simplicity. The snarling beasts are carved from white marble, creating a line that likely served as an entry to the temple that served the sun god for the people of Naxos.
The entire row has about a dozen lions, with all of them facing toward the east. This positioning allows them to look upon the holy lake of Delos. Only five of the original sculptures remain, along with remnants of three others.
You’ll need to visit the nearby museum to see them in person. The materials are so sensitive to the elements that it is the only way to protect them.
7. The Statues of Mount Nemrut: Taurus Mountains, Turkey
You can find these ancient statues just east of the highest peaks in the Turkish Taurus Mountains. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site to help preserve the figures of Mount Nemrut, which were built for King Antiochus in 62 BC. This famous Armenian king might not be widely remembered, but the technology used to create these artworks was quite advanced.
The mountain is believed to be the king’s final resting place, but no one could find the tomb. One of the best statues of the bunch is of the king himself, with two eagles and lions keeping him company. You’ll find other figures that honor Apollo and Zeus in the complex, but they were all beheaded.
Hiking up the mountain is quite the journey. The site is at the summit, which stands over 2,100m above sea level. Some pieces remain complete, including one of the king shaking hands with another.
8. The Motherland Calls Statue: Russia
Standing at 279 feet, this impressive landmark might be one of Russia’s most remarkable installations. It’s a towering statue that stands at the summit of Mamayeb Kurgan. You can find it near Volgograd, serving as the centerpiece of an entire memorial complex for the battle that took place on those grounds.
Although it is over 300 feet shorter than the world’s tallest statue, it is the largest work of a woman currently installed. She’s also wielding the most enormous sculpted sword ever created. This combination of visual influences makes it a beautiful and dramatic piece that does an excellent job of being intimidating.
The goal is to symbolize strength and determination. Once you see it personally, you’ll also see how much artistry and engineering genius went into its creation.
9. The Statue of Unity: Gujrat, India
When this statue was completed in 2013, it beat the world record for the tallest artwork by over 90 feet. It weighs about 2,000 tons, immortalizing the first home minister in India. He’s recognized for uniting the 560+ princely states in India after the British withdrew from their colonization efforts.
Over $100 million went into creating this statue, which makes it a piece of national pride. Over 300 engineers contributed to the work, which includes concrete, bronze cladding, and bronze plates.
10. The Manneken Pis: Belgium
It would be fair to say that this statue might be the most popular one on this list. It could also be noted that it’s arguably the most overrated one that people enjoy.
The work was created in 1388, and the statue is only 24 inches tall. It’s so tiny that some people travel halfway around the world to see it, only to discover that they were unable to find it.
Several legends are attached to this sculpture, including one of a boy who decided to urinate on the city’s enemies as a way to save everyone. Another tale is much simpler, saying that the artist was inspired by stumbling onto a little boy found using the garden as a bathroom.
The original is in the Brussels City Museum if you want to see it. When you visit the Grand Palace, you’ll find a replica offering some water to a nearby fountain.
11. The Great Sphinx of Giza: Egypt
Although we don’t know who carved the initial statue, the fact that it has withstood 4,500 years of weathering is a credit to the artist’s work. It continues to attract thousands of visitors each year. With its size and age, the result is definitely one of the best ancient wonders to see.
You’ll find the Sphinx sitting about ten miles from Cairo. It’s possible to hail a cab in the city to have someone take you out to the Pyramids. Once you’ve toured the site, you can take a camel ride to this fantastic statue.
It stands 65 feet tall and is estimated to weigh approximately 20,000 tons.
12. Spring Temple Buddha: Lushan, China
You can’t miss this copper tribute when visiting the Lushan area. It stands over 500 feet tall, and the world took about 11 years to complete. It was first opened for visitors in 2008. Once completed, it would hold the world record for the tallest statue for almost a decade.
This work was commissioned because other statues were destroyed during the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan. Although it’s officially listed as being made from copper, it also contains 1,500 tons of steel and 108kg of gold.
The statue sits on a 20m lotus throne, which is a fantastic work of art by itself. You’ll need to climb about 1,000 steps to see the result, although a bus is also available for a small fee.
13. The Terracotta Army: Xian, China
One of the most significant archaeological finds of our era happened in 1987. The terracotta army is believed to be the burial site of the first Chinese emperor. You’ll find 8,000 life-sized soldiers stationed there, guarding the ruler in the afterlife.
As the story goes, over 700,000 laborers worked tirelessly, day and night, to create the army. When one looks at the actual work, it appears that molds were used to fashion many of the figures. Some historians believe that they could have set up an assembly line.
Many of the soldiers have unique facial features, body types, and other details that were added. A chromium coating helped to preserve everything.
14. Pieta: Tuscany, Italy
Here’s another work from Michelangelo that became famous worldwide. Although this work isn’t as popular as some of his other pieces, it could be the best work that he ever did. The statue tells the story of Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion. The emotions you can see on her face make the viewing experience feel lifelike.
Even though she seems calm, you can feel sadness emanating from her expression. Michelangelo’s work is so profound here that it would change how artists would portray these Christian icons for several centuries.
Some people say that they’ve seen the drapes moving in the display. Whether that’s true or not, there’s no denying the fact that this sculpture is worth seeing.
15. Olmec Colossal Heads: San Lorenzo, Mexico
We don’t know when these sculptures were created or placed. Archeologists don’t even know who might have carved the 40-ton heads. The only information to consider with this work is the Olmec influences, dating the pieces to potentially 3,000 years ago.
Some people think that the sculptures are of former rulers. Others believe that they’re a combination of many different people. Since the history is unknown, visiting the various sites makes for an intriguing trip.
Almost 20 sculptures have been found so far, with most of them in the San Lorenzo area. A few more are in La Venta. Each one has different headgear and a unique expression. Many historians believe that they were likely covered in paint when they were first installed.
16. The Leshan Giant Buddha: Sichuan, China
This impressive statue was carved out of a hillside around the eighth century. It stands over 230 feet tall, creating a magnificent place to explore Qifeng Peak. It’s also the largest stone statue of Maitreya, who was the anticipated successor of Buddha.
The artist Hai Tong created the statute at a place where three rivers converge. It was done with the thought that its presence could help to calm the water spirits. Since the technology was limited at the time, the entire process took 90 years to complete.
After all of the stones fell into the water, the rivers did eventually slow. Once you see all of the intricate details put into the rock, including a proper drainage system, you’ll know why it has withstood the tests of time over the years.
17. The Tan Buddha: Lantau Island
When you think about a visit to Hong Kong, the first thing that comes to mind is the crowded city. It’s been a bustling center of economic activity for more than a generation, even after Britain allowed the territory to return to China.
If you visit this statue, you’ll see the area’s most iconic landmark. It’s not as large as some of the other Buddha sculptures you can find, but it does have some impressive artistry to consider. It uses a bronze façade with a steel framework to capture the imagination while standing 112 feet tall.
You need to climb 28 steps to reach the top of the structure. Once you arrive at the destination, a fantastic view of the entire island opens up before your eyes.
18. The Angel of the North: Gateshead
Although there aren’t many statues in the United Kingdom that come to mind for being famous, this piece by Sir Antony Gormley certainly qualifies. It was finished in 1998, standing with a wingspan of 180 feet.
The artist says his goal with the sculpture was to create three outcomes. It commemorates the old coal mine where it sits, talks about the transition from manufacturing to the information age, and serves as a place to consider hope as an evolving concept.
Even with its width being three times larger than its height, the statue can withstand wind speeds of over 100 miles per hour.
19. Christ of the Abyss: Key Largo, St. George’s, and Genoa
If there is one Jesus statue that people don’t know about, it is usually this one. It’s submerged in the ocean due to the efforts of artist Guido Galletti. He created three bronze pieces that are in three different spots around the world.
Galletti cast all three from the same mold, making them identical to each other. When you combine the dives from each location, the statues are the most visited underwater site in the world today. It’s even had a mention on Netflix.
That statues are 66 feet tall, each weighing 800 tons. The initial bronze formation might be similar, but the sea life is creating a different viewing experience for each destination. If you love diving, visiting one of these statues should be on your bucket list!
20. The Thinker: Paris, France
We don’t always think about Rodin as a sculptor, but he proved everyone wrong with this fascinating work in Paris. The figure is clearly lost in thought, summing up what it means to be human today. It’s remarkable because the final piece only weighs 3,171 pounds, even though the entire work is three feet taller than Michelangelo’s David.
The statue is far from being a realistic piece. Even Rodin would likely admit that some of his other works had more finishing details than this one. Even though things seem a little rough at first, the masterpiece makes its intended impact.
You can view it outside at the Rodin Museum.
What Are Your Favorite Statues?
Hundreds of remarkable statues are available to see around the world. We use this medium to memorialize sports icons, political heroes, and everyday people who stepped up to change the world.
Most of us won’t have the honor of having a statue made of ourselves, but that’s fine. When we look at the most famous sculptures from history, each one has a story to tell.
What ones are your favorites to hear?