The ancient Egyptians
represented the body in an impossible twist, combining multiple perspectives into a single stance. In this composite pose
, used in reliefs, stelae, and wall paintings, the torso faces forward, while the head, hips, and legs are shown completely in profile. And even though the figure’s face looks out to the side, its single, almond-shaped eye stares directly at the viewer.
Why contort the body this way? One reason is practical. Noses and feet are easier to draw from the side, while eyes and shoulders are easier to draw straight-on. Go ahead and try it—you’ll find that this is one of the simplest poses to copy on paper, even though it’s among the hardest to recreate with your body.
But these contortions also had spiritual implications. The ancient Egyptians believed that souls needed earthly homes, such as sculpted sarcophagi or painted portraits, to survive after death. Designed to convey this sense of eternal life, the composite pose presents figures as unwavering, motionless, and altogether timeless.