Drawing a rotated pose can assist in understanding the figure in three-dimensional space, as we learn what is happening from every angle. This will not only improve the drawing itself, but can be applied to sculpture or animation using the drawings as a starting point. The following are three examples of how artists have rotated a single pose to achieve different artistic goals.
Raphael uses a similar pose from three different viewpoints in his version of ‘The Three Graces’ from classical mythology. Whilst the two outer figures are in mirroring poses, the central figure is a rotation of the one on the left. Through their placement, the figures form a loop, each linked by a hand on another’s shoulder. This forms a pleasingly rhythmical composition, and conveys their sisterly affection. The irregularity caused by the rotation and mirroring of the pose may be intended to reflect the imperfect cyclical patterns of nature’s movements. It is believed to be the first study that the 17 year old Raphael made of the female nude from both the front and back, and the repetition of a single pose from different viewpoints would have simplified the task. The orbs they hold could be rosy apples – identifying them as the handmaidens of venus. Subtle variations differentiate them as the feminine virtues of chastity, beauty and love. The goddess on the left wears a transparent veil around her hips, representing Chastity, whilst the woman on the right may be beauty, with her red beaded necklace. The three Graces is an example of how a single rotated pose can be repeated and overlapped within a scene to create a harmonious composition with depth.
Philippe de Champaigne made a triple portrait of the Cardinal de Richelieu in 1642, rotating his sitter 90 degrees each time. It makes for an interesting image, where in the two facing profiles he appears to be conversing with himself. The real purpose of the painting was as a study for a bust – it was sent from Paris to Rome where the Italian sculptor Francesco Mochi had been commissioned to make a statue, as he was unable to travel to work from the sitter himself. Three viewpoints are preferable to one when it comes to capturing a sitter’s three-dimensional presence, however this technique still had its limits. Above the head on the right, a French inscription reads ‘of these two profiles, this is the better’, and above the central head ‘this is the closest likeness.’ It is likely that the painting was also used by Bernini for his 1641 Bust of Cardinal Richelieu, now in the Louvre Museum. Bernini adopted a similar method for his 1636 Bust of King Charles I, using a triple portrait by Anthony Van Dyck. Today we would probably use photography to fulfil such purposes, however sketches of a rotated pose can still be the source for a sculpture, liberating us from the tight constraints of a photo.
One option that was not available in Raphael’s time was animation. Using sketches from every stage of a 360 rotation it is possible to create a turning animation of the figure with the illusion of three dimensions. This is demonstrated by Deryck Henley - one of Reconfigure’s most loyal sketchers, with a drawing of Anna, animated in a workshop with Drawing Life Glasgow. An alternative would be a flip-book, or layering the drawings to capture the rotating movement in a single image.