Art Encyclopedia - Contrapposto
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Contrapposto is an Italian word that describes a pose in which one part of the body is twisted in the opposite direction from that of the other - usually hips and legs one way, and the chest and shoulders twisted on an opposite axis creating a sense of balance.
Contrapposto has been used since the dawn of classical western sculpture. According to the canon of the Classical Greek Sculptor Polykleitos in the fourth century B.C., it is one of the most important characteristics of his figurative works and those of his successors, Lysippos, Skopas, etc. The Polykletian statues for example Discophoros and Doryphoros are idealized athletic young men with the divine sense, and captured in contrapposto. In these works, the pelvis is no longer axial with the vertical statue as in the archaic style of earlier Greek sculpture until the Ephebe-statue of Kritios ca. 490-480 B.C.
Contrapposto can be clearly seen in the Roman copies of the statues of Hermes and Heracles. A famous example is the marble statue of Hermes with the infant Dionysus in Olympia by Praxiteles. It can also be seen in the Roman copies of Polyclitus' amazon.
Classical contrapposto was revived in the Renaissance by the Italian artists Michelangelo and Donatello, as well as Leonardo da Vinci. One of the major achievements of the Italian Renaissance was the re-discovery of contrapposto.