12 x 16 inches, graphite pencil on paper
Last month on my trip to New York I was able to see the original of this drawing in the study room of the Met. The mere 40 minutes I was able to look at the original drawing (and the fact that I was a bit overwhelmed being in the presence of it) made it impossible to do a satisfactory study of it.
So I bought a reproduction at the Met gift shop, and this week I did this study of it. I spent about 8 hours on this.
I am so amazed by the organized matrix of systems that make up a human being. I say "matrix" because every part is interrelated to every other part, like a grid. To put any landmark in the wrong position skews every other landmark in the drawing.
And of course Michaelangelo designs his drawing to illustrate these relationships. Copying his drawing is like watching a chess player think.
For fun I've diagrammed some of the relationships I found:
If I draw lines following the axis of each hand, as if she is balancing rods across the heels of each palm, you can see that these two lines can be repeated all over the body, connecting everything in a system:
Another thing I look for is verticals. When we draw, we tend to put things where we think they are. The twisted position in this drawing makes it even more complicated to capture the gesture, because we tend to want to exaggerate the twist, or "untwist" the form while we draw:
To fight against this habit of untwisting or over-twisting, I drop vertical imaginary plumb lines and keep them in mind for lining up landmarks. Glancing at this image quickly, I never would have guessed that the ear is directly over the top left corner of the pelvis, or that the back contour of the back is almost a perfect vertical.
This is the sketch I did at the Met in front of the original drawing. Although it looks clunky and angular, I used the same method for both drawings. I don't draw any curves, I just keep segmenting the straight lines.
I wanted to see how I did on the fast drawing in the Met, so I colored it red and superimposed it over my longer study. I did pretty well in the fast sketch after all. In fact, I made the same mistake twice, but corrected it in the longer sketch!
You can see how the fast sketch (in red) has the left arm too far over to the left. I did the same thing on the longer sketch, but later realized my mistake and adjusted it back over to the right, fairly far into the drawing.
I think I did that twice because I see the head as positioned between the two hands, so I unconsciously tried to center it between the two hands. In reality, it is much closer to the left hand.