Tracing Old Master Drawings #1

December 16, 2014

hale 112 analysed




hale 112 painting






Terence Coyle decided to write a book based on Robert Beverly Hale’s anatomical analysis of Old Master drawings and Anatomy Lessons from the Great Masters: 100 great figure drawings analyzed, published by Watson-Guptill in New York in 1977 was born.

I’ve dipped into this book over the years but it always made me feel like a medical student. However, I’m now getting into it.

Here’s the first of my own 100 great figure drawings, involving a tracing and digging up how the drawing was used for the painting which followed.

I’m mainly interested in the back at the moment – traps in red, lats in orange and the teres group in yellow -, though obviously Michelangelo has put a lot of effort into the posterior aspect of the arms.

The pose in the painting helps fill in the gaps in the drawing. I still don’t know what exactly is going on in the lower half of the body because I think the twist in the body is completely imaginary; notice how he’s lowered the sitter’s left thigh to a horizontal position, presumably so as not to interfere with the draped figure behind and to increase the sense of torsion.

Notice too how naturalistic the drawing is compared to the exaggeration in the painting: the figure’s upper body is identical, but the position of the hands has changed making the two scapulas almost horizontal in the painting.

I’m on the lookout for reference photos showing this amount of twist in the neck. The head looks odd, but that’s probably Michelangelo’s treatment of the heroic/Herculean where he seems to like 11-head high people.



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