25 Most Famous Statues in the World

By Susan Dorling | 2020 Guide

Sculpturing may have been our kind’s first brush with art and our ability to create. It is a craft our kind has mastered over millenniums. From a etching lines in a pebble to creating lifelike wax statues, we have come a long way. And while millions of creations must have turned back to dust, many stand as a glorifying testament of human evolution and advancement.

Paying an ode to mankind’s own creation, we are going to talk about the 25 most astonishing masterpieces ever crafted. These statues have become world-known monuments worth paying a visit at least once in your life.

Let’s start the countdown.

1. The Statue of Liberty, New York

  • Country: United States
  • Artist: Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi
  • Year: 1886
  • Height: 125 ft
  • Weight: 225 tons

Over the centuries and across the globe, there isn’t a statue as well recognized as the Statue of Liberty. The most significant landmark of America, Lady Liberty symbolizes everything this country stands for – liberty, freedom, and democracy.

The monument can be accessed in a ferry from Liberty State Park or Battery Park, NY. Interestingly, this enormous statue is a building in itself, and you can climb up to its crown for the best view of New York. It welcomes more than 3.5 million visitors every year.

While many people believe it to be a gift from France, it was a joint effort of both countries. The sculpture reached New York around two years before the pedestal was ready, and arrived in 350 pieces packed in 214 crates.  

Another interesting fact about the statue is that while Bartholdi is primarily credited for the creation, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel played a crucial role in making the structure stand upright. More than a century since its dedication, our Lady stands as a fine amalgam of brilliant art and excellent engineering. 

2. The Great Sphinx, Giza

  • Location: Egypt
  • Artist: Unknown
  • Year: 2500 BCE
  • Height: 65 ft
  • Weight: 20,000 tons

One of the largest and oldest statues built by man, the Great Sphinx of Giza, has a mysterious allure that attracts thousands of visitors every year. It is an epic feat of architecture and engineering dating back to around 2500 BC. The statue is so ancient that no one is sure of its actual age. There is also a lot of dispute about which Pharaoh commissioned the Sphinx. Most Egyptologists believe it to be built on King Khufu’s son Khafre, while others believe it to be Khufu himself.

Both the size and age of this Sphinx make it one of the Seven Wonders of the World – but there is a lot more to it. For starters, it is carved out of a single limestone ridge, which makes it one of the most massive monolithic statues ever carved by humans. The fact that the people living ages before us built something so magnificent is mind-blowing and adds to the charm. One can only imagine the years of labor and hard work behind this piece of art.

The Sphinx sits around 9.5 miles from the city of Cairo. You can hail a taxi from the city to the Pyramids of Giza, and then take a camel ride to the Sphinx.

3. David, Firenze

  • Country: Italy
  • Artist: Michelangelo
  • Year: 1501
  • Height: 17 ft 
  • Weight: 12,000 pounds

David, Michelangelo’s finest masterpiece, is one of the most iconic sculptures ever carved. With eyes that seem like they are about to blink and veins that almost feel like they are pulsating, we won’t be surprised if one day David just comes to life.  

Carved out of white marble, Michelangelo’s David isn’t standing over the slain Goliath, as seen in earlier depictions of this biblical figure. Instead, his bravery and strength reflect in his confidence and contentment. Just 26 at the time of commission, Michelangelo took two years to turn a marble slab into this great effigy of a man.

Till date, not many artists have been able to carve such a human figure that is neither unrealistic nor exaggerated, yet so perfect. This masterpiece shows Michael’s vast understanding of human anatomy, which inspired many of his peers, including Botticelli and Da Vinci.

Today, David stands in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence right below a skylight designed by Emilio de Fabris. Thousands of people visit the gallery to be awed by how David in person looks even more magnificent than he does in the photos.  

4. Christ the Redeemer, Rio De Janeiro

  • Country: Brazil
  • Artist: Paul Landowski
  • Year: 1931
  • Height: 98 ft
  • Weight: 635 tons

Christ the Redeemer may be one of the few statues that become a landmark not just for a country, but also for an entire continent. It is one of the largest structures in South America, and therefore, a significant attraction. It may be one of the ‘youngest’ statues on our list so far, but even in the modern, creating a sculpture of this scale is nothing short of a marvel. While the figure itself is colossal, it stands atop 2300 feet high Corcovado Mountain, which adds to its holy glory.

There aren’t many art deco monuments that have gained such widespread popularity across the world. Size matters, but a mosaic of soapstone tiles on the statue’s surface makes it a sight to behold. The photos may seem awe-inspiring, but an up-close view of this wonder is an experience worth climbing 200 steps for. However, panoramic elevators and escalators are now added to make your journey to Christ easier.

5. The Terracotta Army, Xian

  • Country: China
  • Artist: Unknown
  • Year: 246 – 208 B.C
  • Height: 6 to 7 feet
  • Weight: 300-400 pounds

One of the grandest finds of our time is the unbelievable burial site of the first Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Carved out of terracotta clay, these 8000 life-sized soldiers were uncovered near the tomb of the emperor. This army was supposed to guard the emperor in the afterlife. There is hardly a burial site so grand in the World. Thousands of visitors arrive in Xian to witness the larger than life ‘afterlife’ of the great emperor.

Legends have it that nearly 700,000 laborers worked day and night to create this clay army. However, some evidence points towards the usage of molds and technology closer to the modern assembly lines. That said, each soldier has different facial features, unique body type, and varying height and weight. Each carries a bronze weapon, and some have horses beside them. The details might have been added after the basic mold was created.

Thanks to the chromium coating, the statues have managed to survive thousands of years under the sand. Most of the figures were in good shape when discovered in 1987, but several rounds of restorations have been carried out to preserve the magnificence of this manmade marvel.   

6. The Thinker, Paris

  • Country: France
  • Artist: Auguste Rodin
  • Year: 1902
  • Height: 20 feet
  • Weight: 3171 pounds

Carved around four centuries later, The Thinker is almost as well recognized as Michelangelo’s David. One thing they share in common is the lifelike chiseled body. However, it would be unfair and shallow to limit this statue’s beauty to what the eyes behold. Rodin carved statues far more beautiful and realistic. The Thinker isn’t anything like those men.

Sitting on a stone, lost in his thoughts, the Thinker sums up the essence of a man’s existence: cogito, ergo sum. A poetic representation of human intellect, this masterpiece represents the single, most distinguishing act that has helped humans rise above all the species on this planet. 

People who can see beyond this gorgeous effigy of a man visit Paris to pay homage to the Thinker. You may have seen numerous duplicates, but it’s only after standing in its shadow will you realize why it’s one of the most recognized masterpieces of the last century.

7. Spring Temple Buddha, Lushan

  • Country: China
  • Artist: Shengbiao Lin
  • Year: 2008
  • Height: 502 ft
  • Weight: 1,000 tons

Unlike most entries on our list, Spring Temple Buddha doesn’t belong to the ancient world or the past centuries. This humongous copper statue was completed in 2008, almost 11 years of hard work and labor. For nearly a decade, it stood as the tallest statue in the World. The longstanding record also made it a highly recognized figure across the world.

The statue was commissioned after the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed in Afghanistan. Around 108 kilograms of gold, 1,500 tons of steel, and about 3,300 tons of copper went into creating this gigantic Buddha. No wonder you can see it gleaming from far away.

The 128-meter tall Buddha stands on a 20-meter tall lotus throne, which itself is a marvelous work of art. This lotus throne is a monastery that sits on a diamond seat and a Sumeru Seat, both added later. Thanks to this multi-story pedestal, visitors need to climb almost 1000 steps to the Buddha, or you can take a bus for a small fee.

8. The Statue of Unity, Gujrat

  • Country: India
  • Designer: Ram V. Sutar
  • Year: 2013
  • Height: 597 ft
  • Weight: 2,000 tons

In 2013, the Statue of Unity toppled the Spring Temple Buddha as the World’s tallest statue. Towering at 597 feet, it is the statue of India’s first home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, famously credited for uniting the 562 princely states in India after the British left the subcontinent. Clad in the traditional Indian attire, Vallabhbhai stands near the Narmada River in Gujrat.

The statute is a symbol of national pride for Indians. The Indian government invested more than 100 million dollars and immense workforce in getting this statue ready in less than four years. Nearly 300 engineers supervised the construction and dedication of this giant statue. Over the concrete core, tons of structural and reinforced steel further covers a façade made of bronze plates and bronze cladding. 

Interesting fact: Millions of farmers donated their farming instruments to source iron for this statue. The site attracted around 2.8 million people in 2019.

9. Pieta, Tuscany

  • Country: Italy
  • Artist: Michelangelo
  • Year: 1499
  • Height: 6.7 ft
  • Weight: 6,700 pounds

It is no surprise that most of our honorable mentions belong to Italy. The country remained the center of art and culture during the Renaissance period. It was home to the masters such as Da Vinci and Michelangelo – the latter singlehandedly responsible for the highest number of famous statues. Pieta may not be as popular as The David, but it is one of the most exceptional masterpieces ever carved out of the stone.

Pieta depicts the heart-wrenching scene of mother Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion. The statue is so true to life that one can almost feel emotions moving through Mary’s otherwise calm expressions. Pita is credited for changing how Mary and Jesus were depicted in art. It focuses more on patience and faith than grief and passion.

Many even claim to have witnessed the drapes moving – such is the beauty of details on this sculpture. Michelangelo might have been too proud of his creation, and perhaps that’s why it’s the only work he ever signed. That alone makes it a statue worth visiting.

10. Olmec Colossal Heads, San Lorenzo

  • Country: Mexico
  • Creator: unknown
  • Year: unknown
  • Height: 10 ft
  • Weight: 40 tons

These colossal heads are the most significant relic from the Olmec civilization around 1200 to 400 BC. Sculpted out of enormous basalt boulders, these heads have a mysterious history. While some say it is the head of a powerful Olmec ruler from 900 BC, others believe it to be the face of more than one man. The unknown history of statues so grand is probably what intrigues people into visiting the site.

There are a total of 17 heads discovered so far. Most of them are in Lorenzo, but you can find some in La Venta as well. Each head seems to have a different expression and a noticeably different headgear. Back in their glory days, these heads, the headgear in particular, must have been covered in bright paint. 

What’s more interesting: the speculation that some heads were deliberately buried, possibly as a part of the ritual.

Nothing about these statues can be said for sure, except that they are one of the most remarkable relics from the ancient World.

11. Moai, Rapa Nui

  • Location: Eastern Island
  • Artist: Unknown
  • Year: 1400s
  • Height: 70 feet
  • Weight: 14 tons

Carved from compressed volcano ash, Moai statues were built somewhere around the 1400s. Made to honor chieftains and significant people, they stand on ‘ahu,’ i.e., a traditional platform found around burial sites in the region. The natives of Rap Nui Island still consider these statues to be a source of power and spiritual energy for their people.

The most interesting fact about these gigantic statues is that they aren’t just the head or torso; Moai statues have a body as well. However, most statues have bodies that are very small in proportion to the head. The ones positioned on slopes have bodies buried in the soil.

There are 900 completed Moai, and more than 300 incomplete ones discovered so far. The statues are so amazing that conspiracy theorists believe them to have been built by aliens. That’s a legit reason to pay a visit.  

12. The Leshan Giant Buddha, Sichuan

  • Location: China
  • Artist: Hai Tong 
  • Year: 8th century A.D
  • Height: 233 feet

For several reasons, the Leshan Giant Buddha might be even more popular than the tallest Buddha in Lushan. Carved out of a cliff of Qifeng Peak, this is the largest stone statue of Maitreya, the anticipated successor of Gautama Buddha.

The Leshan Buddha has an interesting story. It is built over the meeting point of three rivers to calm down the water spirits that were turbulence. It took 90 years and thousands of men to complete the structure. By the time it was complete, the rivers had slowed down due to all the stones that fell into the water.

 The closer you get to the Giant Buddha, the more you realize why it took so many years. From coiled hairs to wooden year, the attention to detail is unmatched. Plus, a proper drainage system to keep rainwater from entering the structure has effectively prevented corrosion over the centuries.

13. Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island

  • Location: Hong Kong
  • Artist: CASC
  • Year: 1979
  • Height: 112 ft
  • Weight:  250 tons

The gleaming Tian Tan Buddha is Hong Kong’s most iconic landmark. Though it’s known as the Big Buddha, it’s nowhere as huge as other Buddha statues on our list. Its claim to fame is not just the size but the artistry. With a steel framework and bronze façade, Tian Tan Buddha is a work of art. Its tranquil expression offers consolation to those who visit the monastery that houses the Buddha. It doesn’t fail to touch the hearts of pilgrims and tourists alike.

You will have to climb 268 steps to reach the top and appreciate the beauty of this Buddha structure up-close. From the top, you will get the most fantastic view of the Island as well. That’s not all; visitors of the Big Buddha can also see some relics that belonged to Gautama Buddha. Simply put, a wholesome experience awaits you in Lantau Island.

14. Apollo & Daphne

  • Country: Rome
  • Creator: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
  • Year: 1625
  • Height: 8 ft

This statue was commissioned by an ardent patron of the arts, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, early in Bernini’s career. A breathtaking sculpture depicting Apollo and Daphne’s unwanted desire retells one of the more famous stories in Greek mythology.

This life-size statue of these Greek deities is a prime example of Bernini’s artisanship. Very few artists have been able to sculpt both male and female figures with such perfection. It is one of his most well-recognized work and still gets admiration from art lovers and critics. Since the scene depicts the climax of Apollo and Daphne’s story, it feels as if Daphne will finally flee if we start at this statue for too long.

Admire this baroque sculpture emphasizing theatricality and sensuality at Rome’s Galleria Borghese, the most esteemed gallery in Rome.

15. Venus de Milo, Paris

  • Country: France
  • Creator: Alexandros of Antioch
  • Year: 130-100 BC
  • Height: 6.8 ft

One of the Louvre’s main attractions, Venus de Milo, is believed to depict the Greek goddess of beauty and love, Aphrodite. The statue is named after the place of discovery, i.e. the ancient city of Milo.

Some scholars have suggested that the sculpture may not be of Venus but of Amphitrite, a sea goddess who the denizens of Milos were said to adore. Without the contextual clues her long-missing arms would have provided, there is just no way to be sure. In fact, the missing limbs add an air of mystery that makes this statue further interesting. The arms seem to have been deliberately removed for reasons unknown.

The statute became even more popular in France after they returned Venus de’ Medici to the Italians. An unofficial campaign to promote it as the best Venus statue sparked its depiction in other art forms. Salvador Dali used the figure in one of his paintings, marking ist reputation as an accidental surrealist masterpiece.

16. The Statues of Mount Nemrut, Adiyaman

  • Country: Turkey
  • Artist:  Unknown
  • Year: 1st Century BC  
  • Height: 28 ft

Located at the summit east of the highest peaks of Taurus Mountains is an iconic UNESCO world heritage site that is home to the statues of Nemrut Dağı. These massive statues were built for King Antiochus Theos of Commagene, a famous Armenian king from 62 BC. Evidently, the technology used for constructing these statues was quite advanced for its time.

The state of Commagene had a wide range of cultures that caused King Antiochus, a rather inclusive religious dynasty, to be immortalized in Mount Nemrut. The mount is believed to be the king’s final resting place. However, subsequent excavations have failed to reveal Antiochus’s tomb anywhere in this region.

This collection of breathtaking statues includes the king himself with two lions, two eagles, and other gods’ statues, including Zeus and Apollo. Experts believe that the statues used to be full figures, each with their names inscribed. Now all the statues lie beheaded and present an even more interesting site for those who like to visit ancient ruins.

17. The Terrace of the Lions, Delos Island

  • Country: Greece
  • Creator:  Unknown
  • Year: 600 BCE
  • Height: Unknown

While we know ancient Greeks to be extravagant, the Terrace of the Lions is close to what can be called the minimalistic art of the ancient world. Carved from white marble, these snarling lions of Delos are as magnificent today as they must have been in their glory days.

Dedicated to the sun god by the people of Naxos, the terrace has a row of about 12 lions facing east towards the sacred lake of Delos. Since this is the pathway to the temples, it’s unclear whether the lions were to guard the worshiper or intimidate them. Now, much of this site lies in ruins, but there could have been as many as 16 lions along the sacred path in its prime.

Today only five of these original sculptures remain along with the remnants of three others. The remaining sculptures now reside in a nearby museum so they can be protected from erosion and thieves.

18. The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, Rome

  • Country: Italy
  • Artist: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
  • Year: 1647-52
  • Height: 4.9 ft

This marble ensemble depicts the spiritual awakening of Saint Teresa by the leading sculptor of the Roman school, Bernini. It is considered one of the most significant Baroque masterpieces. Crafted from marble, this deliberately intense sculpture aims to capture the significance of what Santa Teresa experienced to be her calling to god.

There are two figures central to Bernini’s composition: one of an angel with a spear and one of the swooning nun. The placement of the sculpture at the Santa Maria Della Vittoria befits the description Santa Teresa gave. A hidden window illuminates the figures in the dome through natural light, and gilded stucco rays underscore it. Teresa is depicted lying on a cloud, which indicates a divine apparition.

Significant to the statue is the setting of the chapel Bernini himself designed in stucco, marble, and paint. It adds a theatrical effect to this piece, making it one of the most popular statues in the World.  

19. Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C

  • Country: USA
  • Artist: Daniel Chester French
  • Year: 1914-22
  • Height: 199 ft

This well-known likeness of Lincoln sits west of the National Mall, just across the Washington Monument in the USA’s capital. This larger than life statue has the classic characteristics of a neoclassical temple, a common feature of buildings and monuments in DC.

The structure is a solitary figure of Abraham Lincoln alongside the inscription of the inaugural speech and the Gettysburg address. The exterior, taking cues from classical Greek temples, is surrounded by 36 peristyle Doric columns – one for each state that existed in Lincoln’s time. The interior of the structure is neatly divided into three chambers with these ionic columns.

On the surface, it’s just a fantastic piece of art and architecture, but there are many exciting things worth noticing. For instance, the contemplating expressions on the face and hand gestures represent Lincoln’s initials in sign language.

The brilliance of this structure attracts not just Americans but millions of tourists from across the globe.

20. Augustus Prima Porta, Vatican City

  • Country: Rome
  • Artist: Unknown
  • Year: 29 AD
  • Height: 6.8 ft
  • Weight: 1 ton

Augustus of Prima Porta is a famous depiction of the first emperor of Rome, Augustus Caesar. The sculpture got its name from where it was discovered in 1863, at the Villa of Livia, Augustus’s third wife. As brilliant as it is, the sculpture is said to be a copy of a lost bronze statue that might have existed long before this one.

Ceaser’s life-size likeness is now displayed in the new wing of the Vatican museums, Braccio Nuovo. At first glance, the sculpture simply appears to be Augustus’s portrait as a general and orator. However, upon closer inspection, one can see a lot more of his personality and history. His influence, dominance, and power are evident in his posture, which is of a victor addressing his troops.  

The statue shows him to be a great military leader and victor and a staunch supporter of the Roman religion. Those who visit the Vatican often do not return without paying Caesar a visit.

21. The Motherland Calls, Volgograd

  • Country: Russia
  • Artist: Yevgeny Vuchetich
  • Year: 1959-67
  • Height: 279 ft
  • Weight: 8000 tons

Perhaps one of the most ambitious and dramatic modern statues on this list is Russia’s famous landmark, Rodina-mat’ zovyot! (with an exclamation mark). Translating to ‘the Motherland calls,’ it is a towering statue dominating the summit of Mamayeb Kurgan in Volgograd. The figure is a centerpiece of a memorial complex commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad that took place on the mount.

There are a lot of reasons that make it a statue worth beholding. First of all, it is the tallest statue of a woman in the World. It is undoubtedly a woman you don’t want to mess with, as she is also wielding the largest sculpted sword in the World. The Motherland Calls sculpture is notable for being beautiful just as it is dramatic. The brilliant figure leans forward in an imposing yet elegant manner with her outstretched arms holding a mighty sword.

The statue symbolizes determination and strength, but it is also an extraordinary feat of artistry and engineering.

22. Little Mermaid, Copenhagen

  • Country: Denmark
  • Artist: Edvard Eriksen
  • Year: 1913
  • Height: 4.1 ft
  • Weight: 386 lbs

The Little Mermaid sits atop a water-locked boulder and has somewhat become an informal symbol for Copenhagen. It was originally commissioned by a relative of a local business magnate and had been gracing the city’s shores for over a century. Inspired by a classic folktale ballet performance, the mermaid figure stares into the distance with her features frozen in sadness.

As the sculpture became a famous tourist attraction, it quickly became an unofficial landmark for the city. And with this newfound attention came random acts of vandalism targeting the statue and a few protests against it. The little mermaid can’t seem to find a moment of peace as it has been beheaded, broken, and blown off.

Restored to its former glory, today, the statue sits atop the same boulder in its entirety and continues to draw admirers each year.

23. The Angel of the North, Gateshead

  • Country: England
  • Artist: Sir Antony Gormley
  • Year: 1994-98
  • Height: 66 ft
  • Weight: 800 tons

One of the most famous statues in the United Kingdom, the massive angel of the north greets 90,000 pairs of eyeballs every day! Standing at a gigantic height of 66 feet with a wingspan of 180 feet, this is one gargantuan statue that depicts an angel’s embrace.

According to Sir Antony Gromley, the angel’s significance is three-fold: firstly, it commemorates the statue’s construction site, which is a depleted coal mine; secondly, the statue grasps the transition of UK from the industrial age to the information age, which rather befits its location, sitting atop a depleted coal mine; lastly, it serves as a focal point for the evolution of hopes as well as fears as a nation.

From an artistic point of view, this statue represents Sir Gromley’s mastery over art and engineering. Despite its wingspan, the angel can withstand winds of more than 100 miles per hour.

24. Christ of the Abyss – Key Largo, St. George’s, Genoa

  • Country: New York, Grenada, Italy
  • Artist: Guido Galletti
  • Year: 1994-98
  • Height: 66 ft
  • Weight: 800 tons

Christ of Abyss may not be as well-known as other statues of Jesus we have on our list, and there are two good reasons. First of all, it’s submerged in the ocean, and one needs to dive or snorkel their way to it. Secondly, there isn’t just one Christ of Abyss.

Over the course of seven years, artist Guido Galletti installed three similar bronze sculptures in three different locations: the first one is in the Mediterranean sea near the Italian Riviera, the second one is near the coast of St. George’s, and the last one is in the waters of Key Largo Florida. All three statues are cast from the same mold, so they are all the same.

All three statues combined are considered the most visited underwater site in the World. The depiction in the Netflix series Bloodline has increased its popularity over the past few years.

25. The Manneken Pis, Brussels

  • Country: Belguim
  • Artist: Jérôme Duquesnoy the Elder
  • Year: 1388
  • ·Height: 24 inches 

The Manneken Pis may be more popular than many other statues we have listed here, but it deserves the last spot because it is also one of the most overrated statues in the World. Manneken Pis literally translates to a little pissing man, and by little, it means just 24 inches. Many people are unable to find the statue when they reach the spot. Those who return without finding it are considered luckier than those who find it only to be utterly disappointed.

Still, it is considered a national landmark as there are several legends attached to it. While some tell a story of a boy who urinated on the enemies to save the city, others believe the tale of a lost boy and found pissing in the garden.

The original bronze statue rests safely in the Brussels City Museum after several attempts of vandalism. However, a replica still stands pissing in the fountain near the Grand Palace. 

If you enjoyed the list of most popular statues in the world, don’t forget to check our  100 most famous paintings in the world.

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