The National Gallery of Art holds approximately 2,100 works of Western sculpture. This selection includes many of the finest examples from the period 1300-1900. It covers a wide range of materials and techniques and gives some idea of the variety of purposes that sculpture has traditionally served.
The earliest works here—the Pisan Annunciation pair and the English Saint George—were devotional sculptures, made to stand on an altar or elsewhere in a church or chapel, to teach religious lessons, inspire faith, and invite divine favor for their donors. Another major task for sculptors throughout history was the portrait bust, especially in demand during the Renaissance. The Gallery holds many fine examples of these busts as well as of Renaissance portrait medals, which were made as gifts for friends or political allies, often to commemorate important events. Such medals might be worn or kept as desk or pocket objects. Statues of mythological subjects embellished the palaces and gardens of the powerful and now are displayed at the National Gallery. Great civic monuments were produced by sculptors in the nineteenth century; a small bronze version of Rodin's Jean d'Aire is part of the Gallery's collection. The most revolutionary sculpture in the present group is the last, The Tub in wax by Degas, a highly personal and experimental study combining freely modeled naturalistic forms with geometric composition and incorporating everyday objects.
- Italian Altarpieces and Religious Sculpture of the 1300s
- Florentine Sculpture of the 15th Century
- 15th-Century Sculpture in Tuscany
- Marble Sculpture from France