Exercise: Draw Some Classical Figure Sculptures

On p68 of the course notes we are tasked with drawing some classical figures, preferably from life.

I undertook this task during the visit to the British Museum.

Lely’s Venus (Aphrodite), sculpture 1963. 10-29. 1.
Sketch of above
caption of statue above
caption of statue above


“Do your images help you to understand classical figures? Have you noticed how each figure is represented – skilfully, accurately, clumsily, idealised, caricatured, etc.? How do you interpret the figure? What’s the significance of the figure’s pose, for example?
Does drawing or copying a work of art give you insights that you can’t get simply from annotating an image? If you want to put this to the test, annotate one of the images you’ve copied. ” p68 of the course notes.

I found the experience of drawing in the museum relatively unpleasant. I usually find drawing relaxing and peaceful but with all the other visitors shuffling past and around me I felt self conscious and way out of my comfort zone. I had a foldout chair to sit on (which they kindly supply but the information desk) so I wasn’t uncomfortable. It’s probably just knowing my drawing skills are pretty bad and that many people were glancing over my shoulder.

I was lower than everyone standing, which while disconcerting, gave me a different viewpoint of the sculpture than when I’d looked at it standing. I would say that the two positives of drawing the figures were, it made me slow down further, look for longer and I had a greater understanding of how the gallery lighting affected the look of the sculpture. This would not have been the same lighting the original owners of the sculpture would have used (pre-electric) so the folds and shadowy sections would have appeared differently to them.

The figures here were very skillfully rendered. From the position I was sat in to observe Being Veins was a little heavy in the trunk but that might be cultural (maybe they liked more pear-shaped women in those days) or perhaps it was altered the translation from the Greek original to this Roman marble copy? The marble would be a lot heavier so some adjustments to the composition may have had to have been made. As the caption points out, the original would have been made to view from all sides but this is less well rendered on the back.

It’s difficult to comment so much on the man because of the damage to him you can’t really tell what his pose would have been. His torso is beautiful carved but the folds of the cloth on his shoulder seem a bit basic when compared with the care taken over the hair carving on Venus. She’s crouched down (washing) but bashful of her nudity where as the man just has it all on display (what’s left of it). Greek athletes used to compete in the nude so it would have meant nothing to them but women were rarely depicted nude.

They both seem idealised but the man seems to have more personality to his face, that strong jawline, than the more generic beauty of Venus face.

Seeing the sculpture in person was invaluable, being able to look and walk around it. However I don’t think drawing it was any better than say annotating a postcard would have been while being about to observe in person. Perhaps if I drew at home from photos I’d personally taken it would have more benefits. If I get a chance I’ll test this out with some photos from this visit. Todo.


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