Sunday, January 1, 2012

Artists' Lay Figures, Part 3

Happy New Year everyone! Continuing the series on lay figures...

Painters before the era of photography often traveled with miniature lay figures that they carried around in boxes, along with finely made miniature costumes. 

Portrait painters could arrive at a client's palace and paint the head of their subject from observation, quickly sketching their actual costume. The miniature lay figure came in handy to help them finish the portrait at leisure.

Here’s a portable lay figure set from 1769 (Collection LACMA). The figure is only 11 and a half inches tall, made of wood with metal screws.

The set contains an assortment of tiny costumes, made from very delicate fabrics. Thin fabrics were required to get the folds and wrinkles in the proper scale. 
Sculptors and ceiling painters used miniature lay figures for angels and saints. These jointed dolls could be draped, and the fabric could be wetted to make it follow the form. Or it could be soaked in plaster to make it take spiraling folds that hardened into permanent form.

Read the full GurneyJourney series on lay figures:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 
Part 4


Rick Hansen said...

Have to say that's pretty cool. I wonder what type of fabric was used to get the effects of folds properly? Most modern 8" dolls I've seen have terrible clothes that are not the best at mimicking folds. Nor are they the best for articulation. Happy new year to everyone as well :)

Journeyman said...

Thanks for the series on Lay Figures James it’s been very interesting. On the same theme have you seen the Putti that Teresa Oaxaca has been making?
Can’t insert an active ling but if you copy and past this it should work.

jill polsby said...

I just found your blog about a week ago (via someone else's mention of you). Thank you for such interesting information!! I'm going to, with your permission of course, mention the lay figures and your blog on my blog. Hope that's okay? Keep the wonderful teaching lessons coming and a happy new year.

James Gurney said...

Rick, For linen or cotton clothes, it would have to be a very light thread and a very fine weave. It just has to scale down to the size of the mannikin.

For the "skin" of the fabric covered mannikins, one 19th century source on painting describes the material this way: "The best [mannikins] are stuffed and covered with an elastic tissue of knit silk." It's a kind of stockinette knit material that stretches and recoils like skin.

Journeyman, thanks for that cool link.

Jill, welcome to Gurney Journey, and please go ahead and excerpt images or text in your blog.