Research Point: 4.2.1: Foreshortening and the Human Form

For this piece of research, I tried to begin by seeing foreshortening in the world around me; my husband relaxing on the opposite settee (creating an illusion that his furthest arm was much smaller than his closest), my daughter resting her feet on me and her head further away (creating the illusion that her feet were a lot bigger in scale than her head).

I then turned to the internet to try and find some images of historic pieces of art where the artist has been rather successful in creating the illusion of depth with foreshortening within their pieces.

Fig. 1. Mantegna, A The Lamentation over the Dead Christ (c.1490)

The first piece I came across was the above piece by Italian Renaissance artist, Andrea Mantegna. I was instantly drawn to this piece due to the quality of the illusion created. Whilst I know it has been created on technically just a flat, even surface, I feel as though I am looking through a square window, into the room and directly onto the subject, Christ. The artist has been very successful in taking the vertical figure and making it appear almost horizontal. I am a little confused by the fact the feet do not appear massively bigger in scale than the head, yet it is clear that the feet are in the foreground and the head in the background of the piece. Perhaps it is the shortening of the limbs and torso? Or perhaps the delicate shading and tonal changes? Perhaps it is a combination of both? Whilst I do not think I will ever have the skill to be able to compete with this level of skill, I think I can definitely learn a lot from it regarding being subtle with my mark making and exaggeration of limbs and features. Whilst I think I would still enjoy creating a little too much over-exaggeration, I will definitely try to do more in moderation.

Fig. 2. Caravaggio, M Supper at the Emmaus (1610)

Next I came across the above piece by the Baroque artist, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. At first glance, this piece also makes me feel as though I am looking through a window and eavesdropping on this deeply-heated conversation. The artist has somehow made the depth of the piece so realistic, with the arms looking as though they are literally coming through the flat surface in a 3D method.

I then tried to find some contemporary pieces but, taking into account my tutor’s comments regarding personalising, I decided to find works I felt I could recreate somewhat. In Fig. 3., the piece has a strong outline (though not with a solid line), yet is rather expressive inside. I decided to dissect the piece in my sketchbook, cutting the parts of the body into easier shapes to assist in measuring the differences in scale due to the foreshortening aspects.

I really like how the artist has used the direction of the line to show the contours of the surface, such as the depth and shape of the breasts and the flesh of the leg. I decided to recreate this in oil pastel on a black piece of paper.I tried to recreate similar colours seen in the original, using line and expressive marks to show the contours and highlights of the flesh.

This piece focuses on a completely different part of a female than other pieces seen in this Research Point; the bottom. The artist has laid the model in a somewhat diamond shape on the chosen surface. The bottom has been magnified greatly compared to both the head and feet of the model due to the foreshortening of the chosen angle. The shadow above the bottom and towards the feet help only to emphasise the highlighted mass of the buttocks and upper thighs. I tried to recreate the piece using charcoal to try and garner a better understanding of the artist’s intentions. I really enjoyed recreating this piece, with its diamond shape and strong tonal contrasts. I think I have left the buttocks much darker than the original. Overall, however, I think I will consider this construction technique when I create my own pieces and also how this artist has created the piece focussing on tone as opposed to details.

This piece is somewhat similar to the piece created by Mikawoz in respect of the composition used. I like the use of a different colour than just black to create this piece, and also how there is an outline and rather controlled markings inside those lines, but then some rather expressive marks around the outside of the piece. Again, this piece has been constructed focussing more on tone than detail. There are hints at detail, but no complete sections.

This piece is by far my favourite piece. I really enjoy how large the foot and toes are compared to the head and hand. I like that the indication of a hand is there but is not detailed. The smaller foot also has some detail, but is nowhere near as much as the larger foot. I think, if I were to try and recreate this properly and for it to work efficiently, I would be best suited to using a large surface, such as A1, so that whilst the smaller details of the piece would be small, they would still be much larger than if I were to create them on A3, for example.

I chose to recreate this piece on a black surface with chalk to lift the highlights from the shadows and then used some willow chalk to put some of the darker areas back in. Whilst I had difficulty with the face and then decided to work the features back out, I am actually rather pleased with the outcome, even if somewhat different to the original. I actually really liked the process used to create this piece and think I will use it again in the future.

Mirrored Self-Portrait

Self-portrait through a mirror

As instructed in the textbook, I sat myself in front of my wardrobe mirror and drew what I could see of myself. I was sat on the floor with my knees bent in front of me. I wore a black vest top and a black pair of leggings.

I think overall I have managed to scale the different parts of my body rather accurately as I tried to bear in mind that those things whcih were closest to the mirror would be larger, whilst those which were further away would be smaller, such as my facial features and elbows.

I think I have been rather successful in recreating the shadows and other tonal patches within the piece as well as the general measurements of the body and limbs, whilst considering the foreshortening aspects as well. I do, however, think I have created the head a little too small and the resemblance to me is not very strong, though this was not my prime focus within this piece. I also think the purple adds a little something different to the piece and makes it a little more interesting than just the black and white. I think this may hopefully assist me in working on the hues of the colours if just using them in a limited palette method.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Mantegna, A (c. 1490) [tempera on canvas] At: (Accessed on 13 August 2019)

Fig. 2. Caravaggio, M (1610) ‘The Supper at Emmaus’ [oil on canvas] At:,_London)#/media/File:1602-3_Caravaggio,Supper_at_Emmaus_National_Gallery,_London.jpg (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Fig. 3. Hatt, F (2010) ‘Dynamo’ [crayons] At: (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Fig. 4. Mikawoz, S. (2013) ‘61745766923’ [unknown] At: (Accessed on 20 August 2019)

Fig. 5. George Dawney. (2016) ‘George Dawney’ [conte] At:é-strathmore (Accessed on 20 August 2019)

Fig. 6. Hankin, J (2017) ‘Foreshortened’ [Photoshop] At: (Accessed on 21 August 2019)


Essential Vermeer (Unknown) ‘The Essential Vermeer Glossary of Art-Related Terms: D-I’ [online] At: (Accessed on 13 August 2019)

Wikipedia. (2019) ‘Supper at Emmaus’ (Caravaggio, London) [online] At:,_London) (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Fred Hatt (2010) ‘End-On: Extreme Foreshortening’ [crayons] At: (Accessed on 13 August 2019)

6 thoughts on “Research Point: 4.2.1: Foreshortening and the Human Form

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