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Narrative Relief

Narrative Relief.  The use of multiple figures and scenes of events in continuous sequence. Narrative relief, also called continuous relief, is much like a comic strip without panes. In medallic form narrative relief is called a register which employs multiple ground lines with the multiple designs crossing over a ground line or two.

As an art technique the use of narrative relief is quite old. First used in Egyptian wall relief sculpture which presented human, animal and mythical figures in noteworthy scenes. The most famous narrative relief is Trajan’s Column with a spiral base line winding up a 125-foot column with a 4-foot band over 625 feet long. The marble column is hollow with a staircase inside; it was built 106-113 AD to be the tomb of Roman emperor Trajan. The continuous relief tells of two campaigns during Trajan’s reign. It is still standing but the relief has been eroded by time. A statue of Saint Peter was added at a later time.

An excellent example of narrative relief is illustrated: the Hartford Art School Medal of 1952 by Henry Kreis.  See register.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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