Last edited 09 Dec 2021



A bas-relief is a form of sculpture that is carved from a flat two-dimensional plane creating a three-dimensional appearance. The backgrounds are kept shallow from the raised features, usually between a fraction of an inch to a few inches deep. It was predominately used as a decorative feature in the ancient architecture of countries such as Egypt, Greece and Italy.

The term is French and is derived from the Italian basso-relievo (‘low relief’).

A bas-relief is created in one of two ways:

The natural contours and shape of that being represented should be retained, which means that the bas-relief can be viewed from different angles without undue visual distortion.

Alto-relievo (high relief) is where the technique is applied to much deeper backgrounds, usually of between a foot and several feet in depth.

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