Donatello's St. Mark, 1411-13.


When Donatello was commissioned to cast a bronze sculpture, he would first create a life-sized plaster version and actually dress it in wet linen in order to observe how clothing would fall over that body. Aspects of dress: shoulder, elbows, bulk of arms, pectorals, width of stomach, and the left knee are clearly visible beneath the fabric. Again, the body provides the impetus for the configuration of creases and tension lines. Lines bunch up around the elbows. As the pectorals protrude, the fabric lies flat, but beneath these “hills,” it slumps inward till it overlaps towards the belt. The fabric over his right leg hangs vertically as his leg is straight.

However, as his left knee pokes forward (same contrapposto as Aphrodite of Melos), the fabric pulls tight over that knee and then hangs freely beneath down toward the ankle.

Is there any area of the sculpture where the artist simplified the fabric into compositional shapes or a pattern of lines (drapery)? Some students believe that the perfectly vertical lines over his right leg are too perfect and may have been compositionally necessary to balance out the exaggerated arcs that cover his left side. It is possible, as in “athlete/hero”, for an artist to combine aspects of both in a work of art. In this example, I believe that Donatello's representation is “dress” due to the heaviness of the fabric, the way gravity pulls it downward, and the way that it beautifully follows the hills and valleys of the man's body.  




Ingres’ Portrait of the Princesse de Broglie, 1853. This portrait clearly obsesses over the blue ball gown worn by the princess. The lace along the cleavage buckles and folds due to the forward pressure exerted by her chest. The transparent lace short sleeves follow the lines of the shoulders and arms and the ribbons tied to the lace bend and flow across and around the arms or flow downward onto the chair. The skirt of the gown demonstrates its weight and volume in the wide but deep folds and creases that broaden as they fall to the floor. While the gown is large and not meant to be tight fitting, overall it responds to the pressure exerted along the shoulders and upper arms.