The history of the elaborate mannequin – or ‘lay figure’ – has been largely silent these last 500 years, during which time they have been used by both painters and sculptors as a stand-in for live models.These articulated human figures made of wax or wood, have been as essential a tool in artistic practice since at least the 16th century. Their intriguing history has been brought to light in this exquisitely detailed book and exhibition by Jane Munro.
The articulated human figure made of wax or wood has been a common tool in artistic practice since the 16th century. Its mobile limbs enable the artist to study anatomical proportion, fix a pose at will, and perfect the depiction of drapery and clothing. Over the course of the 19th century, the mannequin gradually emerged from the studio to become the artist's subject, at first humorously, then in more complicated ways, playing on the unnerving psychological presence of a figure that was realistic, yet unreal--lifelike, yet lifeless. Silent Partners locates the artist's mannequin within the context of an expanding universe of effigies, avatars, dolls, and shop window dummies. Generously illustrated, this book features works by such artists as Poussin, Gainsborough, Degas, Courbet, Cezanne, Kokoschka, Dali, Man Ray, and others; the astute, perceptive text examines their range of responses to the uncanny and highly suggestive potential of the mannequin.