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Relax, take the weight off your leg: Contrapposto (new word for the day)

October 29, 2017

I'm back after a break and raring to go, to spring into action after a long period of stasis: 


Before I knew the term I saw its importance. The sense of possibility, a story to be told; a person in time who has just been moving and is about to move. 


To think so much can change by the simple idea (the execution of the idea is anything but simple, all parts of the sculpture are changed and shown to be interdependent, the arms and shoulders have to adapt to the seeming shift in weight and the spine curves for example) of sculptured figures putting their weight on one leg. 


Put simply contrapposto means a standing sculptured figure with more of it's weight on one leg than the other. This gives the illusion of past and future movement. The first examples of this come from Ancient Greece. Earlier archaic Greek sculpture, obviously influenced by Egypt, show us male Kouros and female Kore (see below) which are undeniably beautiful and equally undeniably stuck, frozen in what is probably (not sure how we can know how people stood back then but it probably ok to guess that they stood like we do now) an unrealistic pose, a pose already thousands of years old.  


The first surviving example of contraposto is the Kritios Boy, c. 480 BC. Its beauty suggests to me that it couldn't have been the first of it's type as it is so beautiful but its the first we have. There are many other examples from classical times right through to our own (google is, as ever, your friend if you want a few well balanced examples) such as the Venus De Milo and Michaelangelo's David. Painting and photography also use this technique. 


Personnaly I think this technique is thrilling. I wonder how it further shaped Greek thought and what became possible, artistically and politically partly because of this. 


This Kouros from Attica c 590-580 BC has used a typically  Egyptian stance and is clearly more rigid that what was to come next.

Image thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and their very generous useage policy. 


 And then it all changes, we can breath, relax and spring forward.


The Kritios Boy c.480 B.C, Athens (Greece, not Georgia USA, thats famous for Coca Cola amongst other things)  is seen as a transitional figure between the archaic and the classical (apparently someone stuck the wrong head on him, poor boy)




One of the most famous Greek sculpture, the Spear Bearer  (Doryphoros) circa 440BC sadly now known only from a Roman (boo) copy. The original by the renown sculpture Polykleitos, he who apparently invented a whole set of rules regarding proportion etc and who wished to represent idealised male beauty, is quite rightly used as a prime example of contrapposto. As is often the case we can only wonder how much better the orginal was and ponder on what was lost (the spear for a start). 



More Relevant Stuff

Peter Duggan's Artoons are witty comments on the art world. This one (click on this sentence) imagines a modern style response from Ancient Egyptians to that new fangled contra wotsit, 


I am Demonstrating the difference a bit of contrathingy can bring  using myself as a live model with the expectation that a new career in modeling will be mine. The new face of Armani? Primark? 




In the first picture I am striking a typically Eqyptian pose. The carefully sucked in stomach owes more to too many Indian meals, cakes and watching TV after work than any ancient influence.


Here i am telling the story of my own dynamism. At once heroic and human ? Mr Contrapossto 2017 ? 







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