Poses and Portraits

Preparing for the next exercise, I thought it would be nice to have a look at some different sculptures and what kind of effect their poses have on the overall character and feel. So I've been looking through the collection that's on the website of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. These sculptures all date back to the Middle Ages and beginning of renaissance and it's obvious that in those days they had an other function, or better said, a broader function than just being beautiful for arts' sake. First of all, there are the poses that show the profile of the face.  

 Tullio 1 Lombardo (around 1500)  Portrait of Bellini . [sculpture] [online image]. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Available from:  https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/search/objecten?q=Gentile+Bellini&s=achronologic&p=1&ps=12&ii=1#/BK-16976,1  [Accessed 7 November 2013].    

Tullio 1 Lombardo (around 1500) Portrait of Bellini. [sculpture] [online image]. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Available from: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/search/objecten?q=Gentile+Bellini&s=achronologic&p=1&ps=12&ii=1#/BK-16976,1 [Accessed 7 November 2013]. 

 

Mr Bellini is looking straight forward and although we can't see the expression of his face too well, it is obvious by his direct look and grim that he is proud and confident. His position is not completely natural, it shows that he is making an effort to sit up straight and keep his chin up.

 Speriando di Bartolomeo Savelli (1473)  Portrait of Elena of Aragon . [sculpture] [online image]. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Available from:  https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/search/objecten?q=Aragon&s=achronologic&p=5&ps=12&ii=10#/BK-16977,58  [Accessed 7 November 2013]

Speriando di Bartolomeo Savelli (1473) Portrait of Elena of Aragon. [sculpture] [online image]. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Available from: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/search/objecten?q=Aragon&s=achronologic&p=5&ps=12&ii=10#/BK-16977,58 [Accessed 7 November 2013]

Eleonora's sculpture is quite similar to Mr Bellini's in showing status. However, the way this is done is not so much through her pose, which is neutral and expressionless, but much more in showing her refined clothes and jewelry. Lots of conclusions can be drawn from this thinking about gender issues and all :-)

Next, I'd like to show a few sculptures that were made for religious purposes.

 Giovanni Battista Caccini (1598),  Christ as Saviour   [sculpture][online image]. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Available from:  https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/search/objecten?q=Christus+de+Verlosser&s=achronologic&p=1&ps=12&ii=2#/BK-2000-8,2  [Accessed 7 November 2013]

Giovanni Battista Caccini (1598), Christ as Saviour  [sculpture][online image]. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Available from: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/search/objecten?q=Christus+de+Verlosser&s=achronologic&p=1&ps=12&ii=2#/BK-2000-8,2 [Accessed 7 November 2013]

The first thing I notice is the fact that Christ is looking down to the side, which can be seen as a very humble pose, almost excusing oneself for being there. It's a bit contrasting with the title of the sculpture, especially when you think about him being a saviour, you might expect a more powerful pose. Christ does have a soft smile which brings about a tender and comforting feeling and brings an accessibility to the sculpture, despite His turned away gaze.

 Anonymous (around 1500),  Saint Vitus   [sculpture] [online image]. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Available from:  https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/search/objecten?q=Vitus&s=achronologic&p=2&ps=12&ii=0#/BK-1956-8,12  [Accessed 7 November 2013]

Anonymous (around 1500), Saint Vitus  [sculpture] [online image]. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Available from: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/search/objecten?q=Vitus&s=achronologic&p=2&ps=12&ii=0#/BK-1956-8,12 [Accessed 7 November 2013]

The pose of Vitus is almost similar to that of Christ, showing the humble and sort of placid characteristics of a saint. However, because his face is somewhat tilted and we have a better view on his stare, this sculpture conveys a certain sense of desperation and sadness. Not too strange when if you realize that he's being boiled in a pot of oil and tar. Considering that, it shows the piety to remain pretty calm under excruciating circumstances!

The following sculpture depicts Caritas and even though it has a lot of common with the religious sculptures, there are some differences. 

 Lorenzo Bartolini (1842 - 1845)  Carita educatrice   [sculpture] [online image]. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Available from:  https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/search/objecten?q=Educatrice&s=achronologic&p=1&ps=12&ii=0#/BK-2008-5-A,0  [Accessed 7 November 2013]

Lorenzo Bartolini (1842 - 1845) Carita educatrice  [sculpture] [online image]. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Available from: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/search/objecten?q=Educatrice&s=achronologic&p=1&ps=12&ii=0#/BK-2008-5-A,0 [Accessed 7 November 2013]

First of all, there are many more focused and engaged expressions in the faces. I guess this has something to do with the fact that the sculpture was made in a different period, but what's interesting is that it's really the posing of the head that makes us aware of the feelings of the people. First of all, although the mother and boy are looking down, they are not looking away and their expressions serve a purpose. This keeps the viewer much more focused on the message of care and education. The hands of the mother are very protective and at the same time directive. The way the baby and child are leaning against the mother shows the trust that they have in her and the comfort they feel being with her.

I'll finish off with a sculpture that wants to convey the power and status of a person. 

 Hendrik de Keyser (I) (1608),  Statue of a man, probably Vincent Coster   [statue] [online image] Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum .   http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.24514        (Accessed 7 November 2013)   

Hendrik de Keyser (I) (1608), Statue of a man, probably Vincent Coster  [statue] [online image] Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.24514   (Accessed 7 November 2013)

 

A first look at this statue makes us believe that we're dealing with a true aristocrat. The way he looks up and above, showing strength and vision, his wavy hair and Roman cloak accentuate power and wealth. He's looking away, but absolutely not in the humble way that we see in the religious statues. He's too up and above to want to have to do with the viewer.  Funny enough, Vincent Coster was a 'wine measurer', somebody who decided on how much wine was taxed. Not very rich, but probably quite influential. I can't help but wonder what other people must have been thinking when they looked at this statue in those days. This statue is a good example of how pose and facial expression reveals can bring the message of how the person wants to be looked at.