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antique bust of Antonia d. J. (around 50 AD)

The bust is a full or relief plastic portrait or a sculpture of a usually individual person, which shows the “head with the upper part of the body”, or more generally a “representation of a person going down through the shoulder, chest, body or middle [. ..] is limited ".


The etymology of the term cannot be traced back further than the 18th century, when it was taken from the synonymous Italian word busto . A connection with Latin bustum = "corpse arson site" has been suspected because of the similarity of names, with "breast" or "bosom" the word has hardly anything to do.


Gorbachev bust ( Mangin , 2010)

Older cultures such as Babylonia or Assyria do not know the bust, even in Egypt the bust of Nefertiti is a sculptor's model and therefore an exception. In Greek art , busts of the god Hermes in the form of a herm are known. Most “Greek busts”, however, are fragments or partial copies of complete pictorial works. The highly developed art of Roman portraiture grew out of Etruscan suggestions. The type of “shield bust” also originates from late Roman antiquity; in her case, the bust section is set in a vertical, circular frame so that the sitter looks out of a round window.

The Middle Ages produced bust reliquaries since the 11th century , with the Cappenberg Barbarossakopf (around 1160) occupying an exceptional position . The Gothic architectural sculpture created busts that represent a type (the prince, the builder), not an individual. It was Peter Parler who first created such realism with the busts on the triforium of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague . However, the genre of portrait busts only became important in the Renaissance with the recourse to ancient Roman portraits. In Germany it is often only implemented in a small format. It was only in the baroque that one can speak of widespread use. For Italy Pietro and Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Alessandro Algardi should be mentioned, in France Antoine Coysevox and especially Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741–1828).

Of course, classicism had a special affinity for the ancient portrait form of the bust, which now also represents the dead on tombs and epitaphs . Christian Daniel Rauch and Johann Gottfried Schadow are considered the most important portraitists of this time in Germany. Countless busts in all possible materials and sizes have been created from the 19th century to the present day.


Since the beginning, busts have been part of the culture of remembrance, they often have the character of a monument, express private appreciation, are at the places of residence or work of an important person or serve an ideological identification policy, as the world's largest monuments of their kind in Chemnitz ( Karl-Marx- Monument ) and Ulan-Ude (Lenin) make it too clear. These oversized busts made by a sculptor and several times life size are also called "colossal busts".


The Walhalla near Regensburg with its collection of 128 busts of important Germans was built between 1830 and 1842 as a temple of fame to promote national awareness .


  • Harald Keller : Bust , in: Reallexikon zur Deutschen Kunst, Vol. 3, 1951, Columns 255–274.
  • Dieter Brunner (Ed.): The upper half: the bust since Auguste Rodin ; [on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name Städtische Museen Heilbronn, July 9th – 9th October 2005, Kunsthalle in Emden, October 22, 2005–15. January 2006, Museum Liner Appenzell (Switzerland), January 29–23. April 2006]
  • Frank Matthias Kammel: Character heads: the portrait bust in the age of the Enlightenment. Verlag des Germanisches Nationalmuseums , Nuremberg 2013, ISBN 978-3-936688-75-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: bust  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : bust  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Lexicon of Art. Volume 3, Herder Verlag, Freiburg 1987, ISBN 3-451-20663-3 , pp. 41-43.
  2. Lexicon of Art. Volume 1, EA Seemann Verlag, Leipzig 1987, ISBN 3-363-00044-8 , pp. 740-741.
  3. The great Duden. Volume 7: Etymology. Mannheim 1963, p. 92.
  4. Kluge-Goetze: Etymological dictionary of the German language. 11th edition. 1934, column 89.