I was looking up “cameo” and came across this definition:

A gem or shell carved in relief, especially one in which the raised design and the background consist of layers of contrasting colors.
Source: American Heritage Dictionary definition of “cameo”

This just confuses me more. What does “carved in relief” mean?

  • 1
    I think it is bas-relief. Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 10:16
  • @LucianSava There are both bas-relief and haut-relief (low relief and high relief). Cameo in the strict sense is almost always high relief. Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 11:50
  • @StoneyB, yes, you’re right, cameo is actually what the OP is looking for. I’m familiar from my language with the term BASORELIEF. Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 12:22

3 Answers 3


"Carved in relief" is a style of carving where an image stands out (or occasionally is cut into) a flat background.

For example this is a relief carving of a Viking ship:

low relief carving of Viking ship

Cameo jewellery typically also displays this kind of carving:

enter image description here


Did you try looking up relief in a dictionary? Check out Macmillan, definition #4:

relief (n.) art a design or sculpture consisting of a raised surface on a flat background

You can also see some examples by looking up the phrase on Google images.

The woman on the brooch on the left is carved in relief. On the other hand, the wheel on the right is stamped in relief:

enter image description here       enter image description here

In addition to being used in the phrase in relief, the word relief can also be used adjectivally:

Everything that does not exist is a relief sculpture carved into the stone of consciousness.


It means that the background has been cut away to make it look like the the sculpted or carved material has been raised.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .