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Contrapposto Pose

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Four Classic Instancesnote 
Contrapposto (Italian for "counterpoise") is the term in the Western artistic tradition for a pose in which a person stands upright with most of their weight on one foot, so that their body is turned slightly to one side, with one shoulder a little higher than the other. This creates a relaxed but dynamic effect; the figure isn't standing at attention, but appears either to be in motion or to be capable of moving off at any moment. Nonetheless, someone in this pose "stands tall", and can be depicted meeting the viewer's gaze boldly or surveying their surroundings heroically. On a female figure, it also creates the visual effect of a reduced waist-to-hip ratio; at least one scientific study has shown that this makes many people perceive the woman as more attractive.

One weakness of the pose from the engineering point of view is that by definition it creates an uneven distribution of weight, placing the statue in danger of collapse. Expect to see the weight-bearing leg on classical examples propped up with strategically-placed carvings of rocks, columns, or small tree trunks (this can be seen on Michelangelo's statue of David). Modern examples may be made of different materials or supported by internal reinforcement, making this addition unnecessary.

Contrapposto may be the oldest of the Stock Poses; it was identified in Ancient Greece (making it Older Than Feudalism), where it was used in many classical statues, and rediscovered in The Renaissance, when it was used in both sculpture and painting. Hence, it often shows up in parodies of and call-outs to classic works, as well as still being used in art to this day. It's more subtle than other poses, but historically very important, as its development marks the point when Greek sculptors discovered that they could convey movement and complex emotion in a statue.


This pose is generally more subtle than the Boobs-and-Butt Pose, and in any case the figure is usually intended to be viewed primarily from the front rather than the rear, but either pose could evolve into the other easily enough when the person starts moving. It can be combined with the Head-and-Hip Pose, but putting the two together emphasizes both the bust and the hips, and may look like someone trying to be sexy to the point of parody and beyond. It is sometimes used as a Modeling Pose, either to show off an elegant skirt or well-cut pair of pants, or just to associate the clothes with someone who looks relaxed but dynamic, and thus cool. A Sexy Walk uses much of the same effect, but more blatantly and in motion rather than as a fixed pose; in fact, the walk may end with this pose, as when a model at a Fashion Show, on reaching the end of the catwalk, pauses, juts her hip, and glances sideways at the audience.


Related to other Stock Poses such as the Captain Morgan Pose (another dynamic asymmetric stance) or Foot Popping (which also suggests energy by putting the figure’s weight onto one foot).

Works Featuring the Contrapposto Pose:

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  • Millie the Model: A lot of covers seem to show Millie or other models in this pose, suggesting action while making them look appropriately elegant. Likewise, Katy Keene is sometimes depicted shifting into contrapposto.
  • Wonder Woman 600: Phill Jimez's two page spread depicts Etta with all her weight on her right leg with her left leg slightly forward and to the side.

    Comic Strips 

  • 9 Chickweed Lane: Creator Brooke McEldowney explicitly references the contrapposto pose more than once; this strip (from May 17th 2009) lampshades its use for sexy effect.

    Films — Animation 

  • Frozen (2013): When Queen Elsa is feeling at her most assertive and confident, she often falls into some version of this pose (while her sister Anna tends to a more flat-footed stance).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Emma.: In the movie, Emma's watercolour portrait of Harriet is a whole-length in the contrapposto pose. Harriet is slightly turned to one side, standing with one arm relaxed while she's lifting her other arm above her head and is holding a feather. Emma takes Harriet's likeness for Mr Elton's benefit so that he can admire Harriet's beauty. In the novel, Harriet was sitting down in the portrait.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Contrapposto is basically Jessica Rabbit's default stance. Anyone cosplaying her tends to spend a lot of time pulling this pose, if only because a real human being needs all the help they can get to approximate Jessica's waist/hip ratio.