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Studies of Four Figures
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Italian, 1760 - 1765
Pen and brown ink and brown wash, traces of black chalk
9 13/16 x 6 13/16 in.
99.GG.34

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Spiraling across the page, four figures twist and bend in Giovanni Battista Piranesi's animated study of the male figure. Reaching out and touching one another, the figures connect and draw the viewer's eye upwards. Unlike an academic study of the static male figure, however, this is a study of movement. The drawing illustrates how Piranesi worked out ideas about form and posture. In some ways, the lively figures are unrealistic. For example, Piranesi put little effort into describing their hands and feet, which seem to end abruptly or break off altogether. The jagged parallel shading in the body adds energy but indicates his lack of concern for muscular detail. The drawing may have formed part of a stock selection in Piranesi's workshop, from which he could later borrow images. He was known to enliven many of his compositions with human figures, although these particular figures have not been specifically identified with that purpose.