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What does the term "chamber sculpture" mean?

I haven't found it in Oxford or Cambridge dictionaries, but Google provides plenty of hits (~45k) for this expression. I am not sure whether it means sculpture for interiors (opposite to exteriors), or just a small sculpture "useful for interiors" (but not necessarily placed in the interiors).

Originally I asked chatGPT 3.5 to translate the Czech language term "komorní plastika" into English, because I was suspicious that its explanation of that term in Czech is not from Czech learning data, but from English learning data. The bot responded that in English it means "small-scale sculpture" or "chamber sculpture". So I have tried to search for "chamber sculpture" and here are some examples of use:

  • "The work of Emil Venkov has been focused mostly on monumental realizations, but the period from 1990 - 2000 is rich with many new chamber sculptures made and cast in bronze." (source)
  • "So I 'escaped' into chamber sculpture—into designs of porcelain figurines, treating them with all the seriousness due to this form of expression." (source)
  • "A boy straight from the moon - a quartet of lost eccentrics - spontaneous sculpture - the collection of chamber sculptures" (source)

What exactly does this phrase mean

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  • You should include an example or two of where you've found it being used. Jul 28, 2023 at 6:16
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    I've never heard the expression, but since 'chamber music' is classical music for a few players, suitable for a room rather than a concert hall, I suppose it's logical to describe small-scale sculpture as 'chamber sculpture'. Jul 28, 2023 at 7:46
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    It does look like this is how Czech people translate a certain term into English. Looking up "chamber sculpture" gives hits of Czech artists biographies or Czech person's articles mostly.
    – fev
    Jul 28, 2023 at 8:27
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    @Juandev It would help, when comparing expression in two languages, to give a longer passage in the original non-English language so that English speakers have more context to help with the translation.
    – Mitch
    Jul 28, 2023 at 15:37
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    The number Google is giving you is completely wrong.
    – Laurel
    Jul 31, 2023 at 20:18

2 Answers 2

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I'm sorry to suggest, English simply doesn't recognise that term, nor any like it. It might be understood, but there is no place for it. I doubt the Question was meant to be about the bot’s effectiveness but that seems to have become the case…

I’m also sorry this is an anecdotal Answer, and I ask anyone who doubts the following to shoot it down ASAP, preferably in flames.

‘Chamber sculpture’ would be a non sequitur; people rich enough to afford what English culture sees as 'chambers' could - often still can - afford 'chambers' more than spacious enough for all but the largest sculptures.

Particularly in the plural, ‘chambers’ was often used synonymously with ‘rooms’, as for instance when people like Sherlock Holmes ’took chambers’, meaning ‘rented several connected rooms, which might today be termed a flat or apartment’ in Baker Street.

Holmes’ homely ‘chambers’ were very different from what might well be called ‘halls’, in which ’chamber music’ was intended to be played in private houses, rather than theatres.

In that context the one music ’chamber’ alone would be so much larger than many people’s houses, such a room could and often did accommodate sculptures more than life size.

That's clearly true of both my own British variant and the epitome of Californian American English, wherein experienced guides at the unique Hearst Castle will talk for hours in great detail about examples of art from cultured, moneyed Britain, France and Italy, among other parts of Europe, without recognising anything like ‘chamber sculpture’.

I didn't have time to compare tourism in Czechia but here in the UK besides museums, hundreds of 'real' stately homes dating back hundreds and sometimes 1,000 years are open to the public. Having visited a dozen and read about many more I insist it is only logical deduction, not any text-book or idiomatic part of the language, that recognises the term 'chamber sculpture.'

What Czech phrase did ’small scale’ come from? ‘malém měřítku’ or what?

Beneath any of that, how can you say Google provides ~45k hits but cite not one, nor even an averaged meaning?

Anyway, why focus on the bot's 'chamber…' when 'small-scale…' sculpture might fit the bill perfectly and Google tranx might make much more sense?

Why would you not work with a back-translation like ’sochařství' as well as, if not instead of 'plastika'?

A deeper clue should be that in English, figurines - figurka - are not considered sculpture. In a different use of 'small scale', sculpture covers statues and other large figures while figurines are always statuettes - soška -, ie small figures; for clarity, very small.

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  • As has already been suggested by Ms. Bunting, it seems obvious that chamber sculpture is supposed to be analogous to chamber music and the latter is a well established phrase whose meaning has become largely independent of however chamber is used or not used in other contexts.
    – jsw29
    Aug 1, 2023 at 15:58
  • Thanks Jsw29. I wholly support Kate Bunting's Comment in its context, yet unless I'm mistaken it seems you hope to extrapolate too much. 'Chamber music' being a well-established phrase doesn't at all mean that all chambers are even vaguely the same size. Is your interest in music or chambers or what, please? Aug 2, 2023 at 17:43
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It seems that OP's second link corroborates @KateBunting's deduction and @Fev and @StuartF's replies in the comments.

Figurines designed at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s at the Institute of Industrial Design in Warsaw can be referred to as small chamber sculptures.

"At that time, large sculpture forms at the Institute of Industrial Design in Warsaw were reserved for the 'idols of communists,' and I did not intend to serve them in any way. So I 'escaped' into chamber sculpture-into designs of porcelain figurines, treating them with all the seriousness due to this form of expression. Ideas are around us and inside us, inspiration comes from the world around us."

The above quote is by "Lubomir Tomaszewski, one of the most outstanding Polish designers" and contrasts "large sculpture forms" with "chamber sculpture"

This idea appears to be endorsed in a Research Article : Public Spaces in Lithuanian Cities: Legacy of Dependence and Recent Tendencies

... Already at that time experienced monumental artists forewarned that a mechanically enlarged chamber sculpture meant for the interior (although created with utmost precision) by the well-known artist would not be successfully realized in a large-size square.

This 2006 thesis by Petr Berkovsky from the University of South Bohemia in České Budejovice entitled Komorní prostorová plastika - objekt. Materiál - kámen - The Chamber Sculpture - Object of the Stone describes the process of creating his small sculpture

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    The comment by fev should be given more prominence in this answer. The phrase doesn't have a meaning that would be immediately understood by an average English speaker, and it is therefore unwise to use it in a text aimed at a general English-speaking audience. It seems to be a term with a definite established meaning only when used in the contexts that have to do with the art of formerly communist European countries. (It may well be a useful term that should be given a wider circulation, but it doesn't have such a circulation now.)
    – jsw29
    Jul 29, 2023 at 16:03
  • This points out it's not a Czech term, as mentioned in the comments above, but more like Slavic or Eastern European, which might be incorrectly translated into English. Or there is no appropriate English companion, so it should be translated this way.
    – Juandev
    Aug 5, 2023 at 16:15

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