The art of sculpture appears to be the most simple of them all as regards the invention of it through the mere imitation of nature, and consists in nothing more than the endeavour to copy the form of any object animate or inanimate. Hence, being so simple, it would doubtless be one of the first that would be invented. The natural forms made by blocks of stone or trunks of trees resembling a man or an animal were probably originally availed of, and in some instances rudely hewn, so as to carry on the imitation which nature had commenced. These we may suppose were the first statues. In course of time, from altering or perfecting these rude shapes, men would be led to carve out or mould new ones resembling them. Soft stone and wood appear to have been primarily resorted to as materials for the purpose, and earth and clay were subsequently used, and moulded into the desired forms, and afterwards hardened by baking. The human stature and that of animals seem to have been the original objects of imitation. At first we may suppose that the head, or only part of the figure, would be attempted to be copied in sculptural representation. Then the whole figure in its simplest posture ; after that the same figure in a variety of, and in more difficult postures. Stones were occasionally piled together to resemble a human being, as a large oblong one for the body, a round one for the head, and long ones for the arms and legs. Figures in groups would subsequently be tried ; and as practice and experience conferred skill, more correctness and finish in the execution would be effected, and representations of dress and other articles would be added. At first the features were very rudely carved upon the block, without any attempt at character or expression, which however gradually developed themselves as the art progressed. In time the arms, instead of being imbedded in one block with the trunk, were made to branch out ; and the legs were separated and assumed their proper form and due anatomical delineament.
Certain works in sculpture of an early period, and even after it had reached a considerable degree of perfection, were painted the same colour as the objects they were intended to represent, so as to be more completely imitative. These figures were sometimes made of the size of the objects in nature, and others were very small; several of them were occasionally placed together, so as to form representations either allegorical or historical. Thus the idols of their gods were moulded or hewn out, either in earth or in stone or wood, and their monuments were carved so as to record some particular events.
Sculpture, being thus so directly and simply imitative of natural objects, is an art which required no sustaining medium for its support, and was grafted on no practical pursuit. Indeed, in its highest state it is as simple as in its earliest stages, inasmuch as by the most finished and accomplished artist, the perfect imitation of nature as regards form is its ultimate aim; although, as in the case of the other arts, it is adapted for nobler purposes than the mere imitation of the common ordinary objects even of nature. At any rate in choosing objects for imitation, a due selection is made of those whose picturesque qualities appear to be the most perfect.