A lovely new word in the sculpture garden of my vocabulary — or rather, a new-to-me word for a lovely classical posture: déhanchement. It caught my eye a couple of weeks ago in a New Yorker book review by Joan Acocella titled "The Girls Next Door: Life in the Centerfold" [1]:

... The poses, too, are often traditional. Again and again, we see the full-frontal stance with the déhanchement — said to have been discovered by the sculptor Polyclitus in the fifth century B.C. — in which the body's weight is shifted onto one leg, thus creating two different, beautiful curves at the two sides of the waist. ...

Online French-English dictionaries translate déhanchement variously as "swaying walk", "limp", "squirming", "lopsided hips", etc. — none of which seem quite to touch the target. The word appears in an anonymous essay (by "J.") titled "Unexpected Beauty" [2]:

It is worth comparing the Aphrodite from Melos with two other Aphrodites from classical antiquity, the Cnidian Venus and Medici Venus. These are less well known so it will be worthwhile to describe them. The Cnidian Venus represents a nude woman standing beside an urn. In her left hand she is holding a piece of drapery that rests on the urn. Her head is turned slightly to the left. She is standing with her left heel off the ground, her weight thrown over her right hip en déhanchement.

The posture is described in greater detail in a SUNY/Oneonta Art Department class-note essay (by Professor Allen Farber) titled "Polyclitus's Canon and the Idea of Symmetria" [3]:

Modern scholars have seen in Polyclitus's work a similar balance of opposites. Three of these pairs are easily detected in the Dorphoros: right/left, rest/movement, and straight/curved. It is telling that the figure's right side is the side of rest and is straight in clear opposition to the left which is in movement and is bent or curved. Scholars have noted what they call the chiastic principle in the composition of the figure of the Doryphoros. The term is derived from the Greek letter chi which is formed by two lines crossing obliquely, but the stroke descending right to left is straight while the other is, like a reversed S, curved at both ends. Thus the upper curve on the left corresponds to a mirror-image curve on the lower right and two straight halves face each other across the sinuous divide.

Though I didn't have the word for it then, a few years ago I witnessed déhanchement, live, during a hallway conversation. Comrade Nancy was counseling me on iliotibial band syndrome, knee pain that's the bane of many a long-distance runner. "A good exercise to stretch your ITB is to stand like this," she demonstrated, "with one hip cocked out — like a streetwalker, eh?!"

En déhanchement, however, is a slightly more suave way to say it. And perhaps there are elements of déhanchement visible in the script form of the Cyrillic Ж character — in the delightful curves of the ZhurnalWiki logo itself?

(cf. GibbonChapter24, ArtAndIdeas (1 Sep 2001), FlyingEagle (16 Apr 2002), RearAdmiralLowerHalf (1 Jul 2003), ...)

TopicLanguage - TopicRunning - TopicArt - 2006-04-02

(correlates: ToughTimes, DavidCopperfieldInFashion, FinalLesson, ...)