Statue or Sculpture, Which Came First?

Posted by Christy Coltrin on

Three-dimensional artworks are often referred to as a statue or sculpture. These terms are frequently used interchangeably, or to the exclusion of one over the other. They are funny words to say – stach-oo and skuhlp-cher. But which word came first?

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the term 'statue' was first used in 995 in the biblical story in which Lot’s wife was turned into a statue of salt. The use of the term dropped off for a period of time. Lee Anne Detzel, manager of the Humanities Division of the Dallas Public Library, speculated that perhaps the Dark Ages sidelined a lot of fancy language like 'statue.' The next recorded use of 'statue' was by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1386. Not long after, the first use of 'sculpture' was noted in 1390 by English poet John Gower (a friend of Chaucer) in the sentence, “Zenzis fond ferst the pourtreture, and Promotheus the Sculpture.”

'Statue' was used hundreds of years earlier than the word 'sculpture.' These two words will continue to be explored in this blog.

NOTE: The bronze sculpture shown in this post is the Imperfect Princess by Brad Oldham.

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