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So I've been "copying" or using the "Drawing anatomy with the masters" as a reference to just practice and get a better grip on anatomy. See my sketchbook to see the results.
Anyway, I notice some parts of their anatomy are a bit odd. Like their "cauliflower" knees. I've never seen knees like that for real. Nor do the anatomical references in the back of the book support this kind of knee.
So where do they come from?
Well a good example would be Benvenuto Cellini, Drawing of a satyr:
I did notice however that after having studied the knees more in debt they are less mystifying, but this is still a good example. There just doesn't seem to be that many bones, muscles, tendons, ... around the knee joint.
I read that Da Vinci said Michelangelo's men looked like they were stuffed with nuts.
Sure...there's all kinds of reasons and weirdisms in art. That model may have very well had knees like that with a bit of extra skin or fatty tissue. Take a look at hands sometime - real people's hands...not stylized ideal hands. Some have a bit of arthritis so th eknuckles are enlarged...all kinds of things. If you work from life enough you realize just how much variation exists and how stylized someone like Loomis is.
The "Masters" were generally either telling stories...or recording some degree of reality...or often creating fantastical allegorical images. They were'nt doing comics, pinups or posters where pop culture trends and styles have so much influence.
A lot of masters seem to be like that. Even the above that seems accurate. The bottom half though I don't see those muscles that developed or extended ever. But at the same time, peoples anatomy was probably very different from the everyday now. Different nutrition, amounts of working out their bodies. Etc.
So the 'stylized' master anatomy I'm wondering if it was even stylized.
As well what Jeff said about people having anatomical differences.
That's just heavy stylization and overzealous attention to anatomical minutiae. Cellini had been very prone to overdoing such detail, exaggerating the lumping and bunching-up of tissues. It's very evident in all his work; I think he was either not very interested in encompassing form, or not very good at seeing it. You won't see anything like Donatello's elegant simplicity and balance in Cellini's work.
The masters were just humans, after all; they were very good at what they did, which is why they are remembered as masters, but it does not mean they had supernatural abilities. Their attentions had their quirks, just like with the rest of us.
If you want to study anatomy, then study anatomy.
If you want to study the old masters, then study the old masters.
This sketch by Michelangelo has always disturbed me
The eye doesn't appear in profile and some weird boobage.
But if anything, I think the masters are entitled to mistakes like anyone else, that's how they learned and got better.
This used to disturb me.
Then I learned that, at the time, it wouldn't have been appropriate to use a female model. It would've been difficult to draw a woman if you're just going by memory and how a female form looks fully clothed. Doesn't really address the cauliflower knees, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn if there was a similar reason it was all so exaggerated or overdone, in comparison to realistic anatomy.
That Cranach was actually an ideal type at the time... She looks like that not so much because of ignorance as because of the fact that she's been exaggerated to fit an ideal. (Much like the way a fashion illustration will have wildly distorted proportions...) Same with a lot of old master stuff, they're often more concerned with creating ideals than with creating something strictly realistic.
Plus there was a fair amount of imitating classical sculpture and/or each other, so you see some trends in stylization that get passed around and become increasingly stylized... Especially with artists who didn't have the opportunity to see any real classical sculpture and were imitating prints of other people's drawings of classical sculpture.
As for Michelangelo, he never did get the hang of women. Probably he never had an opportunity to see any real nude women.
Da Vinci's drawings are interesting to look at in bulk, you can see him change his mind a lot about anatomy as he progressed with his dissection experiments...
"Don't judge a book by it's cover" Frank Frazetta 1928-2010
DA gallery http://michaelsyrigos.deviantart.com/gallery/
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The masters of the Flemish Renaissance painted figures that were in some ways more realistic, in that they looked like normal people instead of those heavily muscled supermen that the Italian masters painted. What I have always wondered though is whether the Flemish artists studied anatomy, or whether they just painted from living models as well as they could. My guess is that at the time, dissecting dead bodies was even more illegal in northern Europe than it was in Italy, and the likes of Campin or Van der Weyden probably would not have done anything of the sort. On the other hand, some of their work seems to be informed by anatomical knowledge, such as Campin's "Crucified thief" and Van der Weyden's "Deposition" below.
Many of them seem to have issues with faces though. The first one, I swear it looks like several of the faces are just 'drooping' down, like it's half melted or clay like
Anatomy had been a real underdog back then; the church forbade dissections, so all that there was to study from were the works of Aristotle and Galenus; both quite advanced for when they had been written, but chock full of naive errors. Geometric perspective was still to be developed. What you have here is a breakthrough of a different kind: the artists just starting to work from life instead of copying the canon. The breakthrough was in the approach, but not yet in the method.
If your basic education had been in icon painting (very canonical and formulaic), and then someone imports a completely different paradigm of painting, then if you try to approach life drawing with the methods carried over from icon painting, you'll get something like these Flemish works. It is markedly different with early Italian renaissance, where you can actually see a gradual progression in method over three generations. In Flanders, you get something not unlike a talented but strictly manga-fed kid who discovers Raphael and tries painting from life.
It is actually instructive to compare Flemish Renaissance with Italian works of the same period or slightly later. By modern standards, both have their own weaknesses. The Flemish work suffers from lack of anatomical and perspective knowledge; the Italian work sometimes has too much of it. The Flemish artists were much concerned with precise observation from nature; the Italians with theory.
Caravaggio was perhaps the first to achieve a good synthesis between the two?
Either way, I am very fond of early Renaissance/late medieval work. It exemplifies the word craftsmanship, and achieves an intensity of expression seldom seen again. And of course, it is often deliciously gory... :-)
If you want realism, Grunewald is definitely not the guy you want... (I love him though. Sixteenth century psychedelia FTW!)
An interesting point about northern and southern renaissance trends: Late in the sixteenth century, some Italian artists actually took to admiring the expressive exaggerations of northern renaissance art, and tried to imitate it, or were inspired to experiment with new forms of expressive exaggeration. (Pontormo was pretty strongly influenced by northern art.) Cross-influences between north and south helped feed the general trend of mannerist art...
The guy on the right pointing totally has a "Oh no you didn'!" look
I find it fun trying to figure out what's off. These are my guesses.
Well perspective issue is that Jesus I'm guessing who is on the cross. Is fricken huge for one.. On my screen I wanted to measure to see if it was my eyes playing tricks on me and when I zoomed out he was an inch taller by scale than the other figures and his body seems thicker. The girl praying to the left looks behind the cross.
Looks as though the cross is meant to be directionally a bit right, but his body is twisting left a bit. Then if the cross is facing the right, the actually horizontal part of the cross is oddly longer than the cross and more so longer on the right.
It was an hierarchy, more important people were painted bigger. If you were rich and wanted to be included, you might be just a tad smaller.
True, just pointing out the issues with perspective I saw, people can make hierarchy within perspective but back then they were a bit lacking in that knowledge apparently.
I like cross-bearing-lamb-with-attitude.