The opportunities for free spatial design that such freestanding sculpture presents are not always fully exploited. The work may be designed, like many Archaic sculptures, to be viewed from only one or two fixed positions, or it may in effect be little more than a four-sided relief that hardly changes the three-dimensional form of the block at all. Sixteenth-century Mannerist sculptors, on the other hand, made a special point of exploiting the all-around visibility of freestanding sculpture. Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines, for example, compels the viewer to walk all around it in order to grasp its spatial design. It has no principal views; its forms move around the central axis of the composition, and their serpentine movement unfolds itself gradually as the spectator moves around to follow them. Much of the sculpture of Henry Moore and other 20th-century sculptors is not concerned with movement of this kind, nor is it designed to be viewed from any fixed positions. Rather, it is a freely designed structure of multidirectional forms that is opened up, pierced, and extended in space in such a way that the viewer is made aware of its all-around design largely by seeing through the sculpture. The majority of constructed sculptures are disposed in space with complete freedom and invite viewing from all directions. In many instances the spectator can actually walk under and through them.
Lorenzo Bernini: Apollo and Daphne
Apollo and Daphne, marble sculpture by Lorenzo Bernini, 1622–24; in the Borghese Gallery, Rome.
SCALA/Art Resource, New York
The frontal composition of wall and niche sculpture does not necessarily imply any lack of three-dimensionality in the forms themselves; it is only the arrangement of the forms that is limited. Classical pedimental sculpture, Indian temple sculpture such as that at Khajuraho, Gothic niche sculpture, and Michelangelo’s Medici tomb figures are all designed to be placed against a background, but their forms are conceived with a complete fullness of volume.
Surasundara, buff sandstone, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India, 10th–11th century; in the Honolulu Academy of Arts.