Relief sculpture is any work in which the figures project from a supporting background. It is sculpture in which images are slightly raised off a flat background, for example, canvas, wood or stone.
The term relief means to raise, hence to create a sculpture in relief is to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane. In essence, carefully carved and chiseled out figures are bonded to a solid background of the same material. When a relief is carved into a flat background, the field is lowered, leaving the un-sculpted areas seemingly higher. A coin is a good example of relief sculpture: the date, the inscription and the figure - usually a portrait - are all slightly raised above the flat surface.