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You may have heard the saying 'putting someone on a pedestal'. This means that you admire them and think that they are amazing.

Florence Nightingale (1820–1910)

Florence Nightingale (1820–1910)

Feodora Gleichen (1861–1922)

London Road, New Normanton Derby, Derbyshire

A pedestal is a base that sculptures or statues often stand on. This raises them up in the air so that everyone can see them. Pedestals come in all shapes and sizes and can be square, octagonal or round (like a column). They can also be very complicated with lots of columns and decorations.

Wellington Arch and Quadriga

Wellington Arch and Quadriga 1825–1912

Adrian Jones (1845–1938) and A. B. Burton (active 1874–1939) and Decimus Burton (1800–1881)

Aspley Way, Westminster

A pedestal is divided into three parts: from bottom to top: the plinth (or foot), the die (or dado) and the cap (or cornice).

Pedestal diagram

Pedestal diagram

Pedestals often have some words or a plaque on them explaining who the statue is of or what the sculpture is about.


Plaque attached to the pedestal of the Greyfriars Bobby statue in Edinburgh

Let's look at some people (and animals and objects!) on pedestals

This sculpture shows pioneering Black footballer Walter Tull. He was only the second Black footballer to play in the football league in the UK.

Walter Tull (1883–1918)

Walter Tull (1883–1918) 2017

Richard Austin (b.1959)

West Northamptonshire Council

This is a staue of Emmeline Pankhurst. She was the leader of the Suffragette movement which campaigned for equal rights for women. The artist has used a chair as a pedestal. Emmeline Pankhurst is shown standing on the chair and talking to the people who are passing.

'Rise up, women' (Emmeline Pankhurst, 1858–1928)

'Rise up, women' (Emmeline Pankhurst, 1858–1928) 2018

Hazel Reeves and Bronze Age Sculpture Casting Foundry

St Peter's Square, Manchester, Greater Manchester

It is not just people who are remembered and celebrated in public sculptures. If you visit Linlithgow in Scotland, you may see this fellow sitting on a pedestal. He is called Dudley and was a much-loved pet whose owner donated money to help her local community.

Dudley the Cat

Dudley the Cat 2018

David Annand (b.1948) and Powderhall Bronze (founded 1989) and W. L. Watson & Sons

Linlithgow Canal Basin, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Objects can also be placed on pedestals to help celebrate people or events.

Can you see what is on top of this wave-shaped pedestal? Who or what do you think this might be remembering or celebrating?

Canal Builders

Canal Builders 2014

Denis O'Connor

Ribble Link Canal, near Tom Benson Way, Preston, Lancashire

A shiny narrowboat has lots of tools popping out of it. The sculpture celebrates the workers who helped build and work on the canals, as well as the wider boating community in the local area.

Now it's your turn: who or what are you going to put on a pedestal?

First, you need to decide who you think should be on a pedestal.

  • It could be a historical figure that you have learned about or someone from recent times – or a character from a book you enjoy.
  • It could be someone in your family or a friend, or someone you know and admire.
  • It could be someone famous or someone who isn't famous at all but you think is special.
  • It could be an animal that you think deserves to be celebrated.
  • Or you could decide to put an object on your pedestal. This might be an object that is important to you or something that represents an event or place (such as the town or city where you live) or the people in your community.


Network 2013

Thomas J. Price (b.1981)

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Discuss your ideas with friends or classmates.

Teachers note: If you are using this activity in the classroom. Encourage students to discuss who (or what) they think should be on a pedestal. You could relate the discussion and activity to a project or theme that you have been studying in school – such as a theme or subject from history or that relates to people, places or events within your local community.

It may help to explore more sculptures and statues on Art UK with students.

  • You could choose one or two and discuss who or what they are celebrating.
  • Discuss also the different approaches that the artists have taken to depicting their subjects. (You can see more images of the sculptures and find out more about them on the artwork pages.)


You will need:

  • card (recycled card such as cereal packets, or lightweight packaging, are ideal)
  • cardboard tubes such as toilet or kitchen roll tubes
  • paper
  • pencil
  • crayons or paint
  • scissors
  • sticky tape
  • other craft materials, such as scraps of paper or fabric, or anything clean and useful you might find in the recycling bin! (Optional)


Step 1. Plan and draw your statue or sculpture

On a sheet of card or thick paper draw a picture of your statue or sculpture.

  • If it is a person, will they be standing or sitting down? Or you could draw them in action – talking or running or jumping! What will they be wearing or carrying?
  • If it is an animal, how will you show them? What is the animal's typical pose? What colour are they? How will you draw their fur (or feathers)?
  • If it is an object, draw its shape so that it stands out on the pedestal. Do you need to add anything else to it to make it clear what the object represents and what your message is?


It doesn't have to be a full-length figure.

This sculpture shows the head and shoulders of a well-known former children's television presenter, now author and member of the House of Lords. This type of sculpture is called a bust. 

Baroness Floella Benjamin (b.1949), OBE, DL

Baroness Floella Benjamin (b.1949), OBE, DL 2017

Luke Shepherd (b.1961)

University of Exeter, Fine Art Collection

The bust is rather surreal-looking and invites people to look again. Don't be afraid to make your sculpture as unusual as you like! 

  • Colour your sculpture using crayons or paints. Or, if you have scraps of paper or fabric, use collage to add decoration and texture to your sculpture.

Step 3. Cut out your sculpture

Now carefully cut your sculpture out.

You will need to leave a tab at the bottom of your sculpture so that you can attach it to the pedestal.


Step 4. Make your pedestal

You could either use a cardboard tube for your pedestal.

Or use an old yoghurt pot turned upside down, or a small cardboard box. Remember pedestals come in all shapes and sizes!

Choose to keep your pedestal quite simple, or make it really fancy with all the different sections incorporated.

Pedestal diagram

Pedestal diagram

Step 5. Write your plaque

Cut a piece of plain paper to cover your pedestal and make your plaque. Make sure it fits!


Before you attach it to your pedestal, write some information on the paper explaining your sculpture. You could write:

  • who or what shows
  • why you think they should be remembered or celebrated


Step 5. Attach your sculpture to your pedestal

Now attach your sculpture to your pedestal.

You could either stick the tab down the gap between the paper plaque and your pedestal or bend the tab and attach this to the top of the pedestal with tape.


Step 6. Show the world who you have put on a pedestal!

Sculptures and statues are often placed in public places so that lots of people can see them.

Share your sculpture by putting it in a public place in your school.

Or you could place it in a park or street near where you live and photograph it. Have fun photographing it in different locations. Consider how it brings a new meaning to a well-known place.


Don't forget to recycle your artwork and unused materials once you've finished with them.

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