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Contrapposto (from Italian contrapposto - opposition, contrast) - in the visual arts, a compositional scheme for positioning human figures where the body's weight rests on one leg. The other leg is relieved of weight and lightly touches the ground (characteristic bending at the knee). The counterbalance involves a slight bending of the hips, arms, and tilting of the head in the opposite direction to the weight-bearing leg, which gives the figure expressiveness, suggesting muscle tension and creating an impression of movement.

This compositional principle emerged in early 5th century BCE Greece as an alternative to the frontal, static pose where the figure's weight is evenly distributed on both legs. The term itself was coined during the Renaissance when Italian artists (such as Donatello, Andrea del Verrocchio) returned to the classical scheme after the Gothic shaping of figures in contrapposto, making them appear to float, and enriched it with anatomical studies.

The composition was further developed by Michelangelo, whose David became a model for Baroque sculptors, including Jan Brokoff, who authored the wooden model for the bronze statue of St. John of Nepomuk placed on Prague's Charles Bridge in 1683. This figure became a "standard" for Nepomuk, and one of the more characteristic features of the figure is the contrapposto.

Sources of the article

  • Słownik terminologiczny sztuk pięknych PWN, Warszawa 2005, s. 200
  • Britannica. Edycja polska tom 21, Wyd. Kurpisz, Poznań 2001, s. 151