A statue is a free-standing sculpture in which the realistic, full-length figures of persons or animals or non-representational forms are carved in a durable material like wood, metal, or stone. Typical statues are life-sized or close to life-size; a sculpture that represents persons or animals in full figure but that is small enough to lift and carry is a statuette or figurine, while one more than twice life-size is a colossal statue.[[CITE|undefined|http://www.getty.edu/vow/AATFullDisplay?find=colossal&logic=AND¬e=&english=N&prev_page=1&subjectid=300047453]]
Statues have been produced in many cultures from prehistory to the present; the oldest known statue dating to about 30,000 years ago. Statues represent many different people and animals, real and mythical. Many statues are placed in public places as public art. The world's tallest statue, Statue of Unity, is 182 metres (597 ft) tall and is located near the Narmada dam in Gujarat, India.
Ancient statues often survive showing the bare surface of the material of which they are made.
Medieval statues were also usually painted, with some still retaining their original pigments.
The Löwenmensch figurine from the Swabian Alps in Germany is the oldest known statuette in the world (it is just over a foot tall), and dates to 30,000-40,000 years ago. The Venus of Hohle Fels, from the same area, is somewhat later. From the ancient Near East, the over-life sized stone Urfa Man from modern Turkey comes from about 9,000 BC, and the 'Ain Ghazal Statues from around 7200 BC and 6500 BC. These are from modern Jordan, made of lime plaster and reeds, and about half life-size; there are 15 statues, some with two heads side by side, and 15 busts.
Throughout history, statues have been associated with cult images in many religious traditions, from Ancient Egypt, Ancient India, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome to the present. Egyptian statues showing kings as sphinxes have existed since the Old Kingdom, the oldest being for Djedefre (c. 2500 BC).Middle Kingdom of Egypt block statues e the most popular form until the Ptolemaic period (c. 300 BC).
The focal point of the cella or main interior space of a Roman or Greek temple was a statue of the deity it was dedicated to. In major temples these could be several times life-size. Other statues of deities might have subordinate positions along the side walls.
The oldest statue of a deity in Rome was the bronze statue of Ceres in 485 BC.
For a successful Greek or Roman politician or businessman (who donated considerable sums to public projects for the honour), having a public statue, preferably in the local forum or the grounds of a temple was an important confirmation of status, and these sites filled up with statues on plinths (mostly smaller than those of their 19th century equivalents).
The wonders of the world include several statues from antiquity, with the Colossus of Rhodes and the Statue of Zeus at Olympia among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
While sculpture generally flourished in European Medieval art, the single statue was not one of the most common types, except for figures of the Virgin Mary, usually with Child, and the corpus or body of Christ on crucifixes. Both of these appeared in all size up to life-size, and by the late Middle Ages many churches, even in villages, had a crucifixion group around a rood cross. The Gero Cross in Cologne is both one of the earliest and finest large figures of the crucified Christ. As yet, full-size standing statues of saints and rulers were uncommon, but tomb effigies, generally lying down, were very common for the wealthy from about the 14th century, having spread downwards from royal tombs in the centuries before.
While Byzantine art flourished in various forms, sculpture and statue making witnessed a general decline; although statues of emperors continued to appear. An example was the statue of Justinian (6th century) which stood in the square across from the Hagia Sophia until the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century. Part of the decline in statue making in the Byzantine period can be attributed to the mistrust the Church placed in the art form, given that it viewed sculpture in general as a method for making and worshiping idols.%20by%20Charles%20Bayet%20%281%20October%202009%29%20]]While making statues was not subject to a general ban, it was hardly encouraged in this period. size became virtually non-existent after iconoclasm; and the artistic skill for making statues was lost in the process.
Italian Renaissance art identified the standing statue as the key form of Roman art to survive, and there was a great revival of statues of both religious and secular figures, to which most of the leading figures contributed, led by Donatello and Michelangelo. The equestrian statue, a great technical challenge, was mastered again, and gradually statue groups.
These trends intensified in Baroque art, when every ruler wanted to have statues made of themself, and Catholic churches filled with crowds of statues of saints, although after the Protestant Reformation religious sculpture largely disappeared from Protestant churches, with some exceptions in large Lutheran German churches. In England, churches instead were filled with increasing elaborate tomb monuments, for which the ultimate models were continental extravagances such as the Papal tombs in Rome, those of the Doges of Venice, or the French royal family.
In the late 18th and 19th century there was a growth in public open air statues of public figures on plinths.
Starting with the work of Maillol around 1900, the human figures embodied in statues began to move away from the various schools of realism that been followed for thousands of years. The Futurist and Cubist schools took this metamorphism even further until statues, often still nominally representing humans, had lost all but the most rudimentary relationship to the human form. By the 1920s and 1930s statues began to appear that were completely abstract in design and execution.
The notion that the position of the hooves of horses in equestrian statues indicated the rider's cause of death has been disproved.