Artists tell me that second to hands and the face, feet are one of the areas sculptors often have trouble with. Like hands they are very complex structures with lots of bones, articulations and surface textures. The anatomical details of the foot and ankle realistically treated are difficult to make with all the essential parts in the right proportions.
Traveling in Italy I’m always amazed at the artistic renderings of the human foot. Many paintings, frescoes, mosaics and sculptures pay a great deal of attention to the foot. As a physician and surgeon that specializes in the treatment of the foot and ankle I’m always interested in the art and design of what Leonardo da Vinci called ” a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art . . . the human foot”.
Here are a few monumental feet that reflect the art and appreciation of this essential yet often overlooked part of the human body.
The first is a statue known as Lo Spinario, or Boy Plucking a Thorn from the Foot. It is located at the Musei Capitolini in Rome (a copy is in the Uffize gallery in Florence). Also named Fedele (faithful) because it was thought to represent a Roman messenger boy who completed his mission despite having an injured foot. Listed as one of the 10 Sculptures One Must See When in Rome, the statue has been copied many times and can be found in various places including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The next monumental foot is truly monumental, the foot of the statue of Emperor Constantine II in the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori also at the Musei Capitolini in Rome. The foot is part of fragments of body parts from the Colossus of Constantine a 40 foot monument commissioned by the Emperor to honor a military victory.
Dawn and Dusk, two sculptures on the tomb of Lorenzo de’ Medici in Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo in Florence. Dawn (6 feet 8 inches in length) and Dusk (6 feet 4 3/4 inches in length) gracefully spread themselves along the edge of the sarcophagus. There are other monumental figures on the tomb of his brother Giuliano (Night and Day). Together they are considered to be some of Michelangelo’s best works.