Contrapposto Pose


The classical posing technique is still used today to produce beautiful, lifelikeness in the human figure.  After the Greek period, many amazing artworks did not embrace contrapposto but centuries later, the Italian Renaissance would rediscover and rename contrapposto.

what is contrapposto?

The contrapposto definition is a relaxed and life-like standing pose where the body’s weight is rested on one leg. The figure does not stand stiff and upright but distributes the weight of the body at ease.

ancient greek origins

Ancient Greece necessitated art that mastered the realities of existence by breaking the stiff symmetry of the archaic Greek figures.

polykleitos' doryphoros

Doryphoros or Spear-Bearer, sculpted by Polykleitos is one of the best-known examples of the classical posing technique of contrapposto.

praxiteles' aphrodite of knidos

This sculpture is important because it is the first time we see evidence of the female contrapposto pose.

lysippus' apoxyomenos

Apoxyomenos (c. 350 B.C.E) depicts yet another contrapposto Greek athlete. The title means “the scraper”.

italian renaissance

Accurately muscular bodies was no longer necessary when the aim was to impart the gospel to the largely illiterate masses.


Donatello’s David (c. 1440) was the earliest free-standing male nude since ancient times. For the thousand years in between, figures had either been sculpted in relief or clothed.


This sculpture is legendary because of its masterful use of contrapposto, and is both iconic and completely at ease.

contemporary use of contrapposto

It has had a massive effect on Western art and thus human culture. It informs our ideas of beauty and permeates our everyday lives.