Free-standing, fully three-dimensional sculptures can remind us of stories from the past, whether they are political, religious, or strictly literary, but it is difficult to tell a story using a single figure or even a figural group. Instead, sculptors who wished to give a fuller narrative account usually turned to the relief format. Such was the case for the American neoclassicist Thomas Crawford when he sought to illustrate an ode by the Greek poet Anacreon about an artist and his muse that reads in part (and in translation):
With twenty chords my lyre is hung,
And while I wake them all for thee,
Thou, O virgin, wild and young,
Disport’st in airy levity.
Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.