Contrapposto

About

An Italian term meaning “counterpose,” contrapposto refers to a now-canonical stance in which a figure stands with their entire body weight supported over one straight leg and lets their arms fall in opposite directions to create a natural-seeming twist in the torso. The most famous example of this pose in art is the ancient Greek Doryphoros (Spear Bearer), from approximately 450–440 BCE. Mastering the technical feat of conjuring a sense of movement in a hard material, the marble sculpture became an emblem of the ideal Classical figure for Renaissance artists, who frequently emulated the stance. Contemporary artists have creatively interpreted the pose to comment on its art historical legacy. In Bruce Nauman’s video Walk with Contrapposto (1968), the artist laboriously traverses a narrow passageway while maintaining the contrapposto stance. The difficulty of this endeavor, attempted with such physical limitations, demonstrates how a technical solution in art can, over millennia, become a constraint.

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