Ancient Carvings & Sculptures…

 Discover extraordinary Carvings & Sculptures designs by talented Artisans worldwide. Throughout history, civilizations have documented life experiences through Carving – Sculpting physical items, Crafting fantastic wood Carvings as well as Stone, Metal & Bronze Sculptures.

Wood Carving is a form of woodworking by means of a cutting tool  in one hand or a chisel by two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, resulting in a wooden figure or figurine, or in the Sculptural ornamentation of a wooden object.

The making of Sculpture in wood has been extremely widely practiced, but survives much less well than the other main materials such as stone and bronze, as it is vulnerable to decay, insect damage, and fire. It therefore forms an important hidden element in the art history of many cultures. Outdoor wood sculptures do not last long in most parts of the world, so it is still unknown how the totem pole tradition developed. Many of the most important sculptures of China and Japan in particular are in wood, and so are the great majority of African Sculptures and that of Oceania and other regions. Wood is light and can take very fine detail so it is highly suitable for masks and other Sculptures intended to be worn or carried. It is also much easier to work on than stone.

Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. Durable Sculptural processes originally used Carving and Molding, in stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials.  

Sculpture in stone survives far better than works of art in perishable materials, and often represents the majority of the surviving works from Ancient Cultures, though conversely traditions of Sculpture in wood may have vanished almost entirely.  

Sculpture has been central in Religious devotion in many Cultures, and until recent centuries large Sculptures, too expensive for private individuals to create, were usually an expression of Religion. Those Cultures whose Sculptures have survived in quantities include the Cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean, India and China, as well as many in South America and Africa.

Most African Sculpture was historically in wood and other organic materials that have not survived from earlier than at most a few centuries ago. Masks are important elements in the art of many peoples, along with human figures, often highly stylized. Direct images of deities are relatively infrequent, but masks in particular are or were often made for Religious Ceremonies.

West African Cultures developed bronze casting for reliefs to decorate palaces like the famous Benin Bronzes, and very fine naturalistic royal heads from around the Yoruba town of Ife in terracotta and metal. Akan gold weights are a form of small metal Sculptures representing proverbs and so with a narrative element rare in African Sculpture, and royal regalia included impressive gold Sculptured elements.

Between the Ivory Coast and the Congo lie Ife, in the Yoruba country, and Benin, in Southern Nigeria, where African Sculpture has reached its highest level. The bronzes are of two kinds. There are figures – either life-size human heads or models of animals or human beings – and there are relief sculptures of complete scenes, animals, human beings and mythological or magical symbols. The principal ivory products are large elephant tusks carved in relief, goblets and tankards decorated either in relief or open-work, and armlets and other ornaments in the same style. The headdress and the rings round the neck of bronze heads, represent the traditional coral decoration still worn by the kings of Benin. Coral beads were an important part of the crown treasures, and when a ruler ceased to wear them it was a sign of bad financial policy.

History of Bronze Sculpture in Benin: According to Bini tradition, brass-casting was introduced into Benin by medieval artists from Ife. The bronzes are produced by what is known as the lost-wax process. A model is made – usually of clay – and covered with a layer of wax. It is the method used in all West African Bronze and Brass industries.  

Yoruba Sculpture: There is a vast difference between the Ancient Art of the Yorubas and their present-day work. Modern Yoruba art consists chiefly of wooden figures and masks. With its striking polychrome paintings, it is certainly very decorative, but it is on a lower artistic plane than the old classic Sculpture in Stone, Terracotta and Bronze. The old Carvings in hard stone such as quartz and the old bronze castings are distinguished by an astonishing fidelity to nature, absolutely correct proportions and a lack of conventional features. The technique was excellent and the figures show a marked sense of beauty.

Yoruba Traditional Wood Carving

It is probably centuries since work of this kind was produced at Ife, but the antique masterpieces have never been forgotten. Dozens of beautiful terracotta heads were kept in a shrine outside the town until only a few years ago, when they were all stolen or broken. But it is the Terracotta Sculpture & Bronze which show the Art of Ancient Ife at its best. The age of the Ife heads has not yet been conclusively ascertained, but since it is practically certain that the Bronze art of Benin was derived from Ife.

African Stone Sculpture: There are other examples of Ancient African Art in harder and more durable materials than wood. In some parts stone Sculpture has been found which is entirely different from Ife Sculpture. Many West African figures are used in Religious Rituals and are often coated with materials placed on them for Ceremonial offerings.  

History of Traditional African Masks: One of the main characteristics of culture of African peoples is use of masks in rituals and ceremonies. They represent spirits of animals or ancestors, mythological heroes, moral values or a form of honoring of a person in a symbolic way. They are made from wood, pottery, textiles, copper and bronze. Details could be made from animal teeth, hair, bones and horns as well as feathers, seashells and even straw and egg shells. Maker of the masks has a high rank in the village because it is believed that he has a contact with a spirit world.

One more theme for African masks is female face made by ideal of feminine beauty. While masks of some tribes have breasts and ornamental scars some other have almond shaped eyes, curved eyelashes, thin chin and ornaments. All this is considered as attributes of beauty in females for their respective tribes. Wearing of these female masks is reserved for men in most cases.


3 thoughts on “Ancient Carvings & Sculptures…”

  1. I think that African stone sculptures are so fascinating. There is so much that they can communicate and they are just one still statue! I love African culture and stories and think that they would be awesome to put in my home.

  2. I loved and revered African Art since I was a child. I find it engaging, thought provoking, beautiful and Spiritual. When I was 10 yrs of age, i saw A movie titled Bell, Book, and candle, kim novak had a shop in NY, she sold African Art. I dreamed of a shop like it all my life, even now . I collect my ART 2 this

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