The term monumental sculpture is often used in art history and criticism, but not always consistently. It combines two concepts, one of function, and one of size, and may include an element of a third more subjective concept. It is often used for all sculptures that are large. Human figures that are perhaps half life-size or above would usually be considered monumental in this sense by art historians, although in contemporary art a rather larger overall scale is implied. Monumental sculpture is therefore distinguished from small portable figurines, small metal or ivory reliefs, diptychs and the like.
It is also used of sculpture used to create or form part of a monument of some sort, and therefore capitals and reliefs attached to buildings will be included, even if small in size. Typical functions of monuments are as grave markers, tomb monuments or memorials, and expressions of the power of a ruler or community, to which churches and so religious statues are added by convention, although in some contexts monumental sculpture may specifically mean just funerary sculpture for church monuments.
The third concept that may be involved when the term is used is not specific to sculpture, as the other two essentially are. The entry for "Monumental" in "A Dictionary of Art and Artists" by Peter and Linda Murray describes it as:
However this does not constitute an accurate or adequate description of the use of the term for sculpture, though many uses of the term that essentially mean either large or "used in a memorial" may involve this concept also, in ways that are hard to separate. For example, when Meyer Schapiro, after a chapter analysing the carved capitals at Moissac, says: "in the tympanum of the south portal [(right)] the sculpture of Moissac becomes truly monumental. It is placed above the level of the eye, and is so large as to dominate the entire entrance. It is a gigantic semi-circular relief ...", size is certainly the dominant part of what he means by the word, and Schapiro's further comments suggest that a lack of "excess of virtuousity" does not form part of what he intends to convey. Nonetheless, parts of the Murray's concept ("grand, noble, elevated in idea") are included in his meaning, although "simple in conception and execution" hardly seems to apply.
The Cimitero Monumentale ("Monumental Cemetery") is one of the two largest cemeteries in Milan, Italy, the one being the Cimitero Maggiore. The Monumentale is noted for the abundance of artistic tombs.
It was designed by the architect Carlo Maciachini (1818-1899). The structure was planned to consolidate a number of small cemeteries that used to be scattered around the city into a single location, at that time being removed from the central city area.
It opened in 1866 and since then has been filled with a wide range of both contemporary and classical Italian sculptures as well as Greek temples, elaborate obelisks, and other original works such as a scaled-down version of Trajan's Column. Many of the tombs belong to noted industrialist dynasties, and have been designed by renewed artists such as Giò Ponti, Arturo Martini, Lucio Fontana, Medardo Rosso, Giacomo Manzù, Floriano Bodini, and Giò Pomodoro.
The main entrance is through the large Famedio, a massive Hall-of-Fame-like Neo-Medieval style building of marble and stone that contains the tombs of some of the city's and the country's most honored citizens, including that of novelist Alessandro Manzoni.