Traditional Sculpture Draping

by Brenda Priddy
Traditional fabric draping comes in a few distinct styles.

Traditional fabric draping comes in a few distinct styles.

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Making a sculpture come to life can be a difficult task. The task is even more difficult if the sculptor must fashion draped clothing on the sculpture subject. Painting and sculpting natural-looking fabric is one of the hardest art studies. Traditional sculptures nearly all used some form of draping. The awareness of the basic forms of traditional draping can make sculpting fabric less of a challenge.

Sheet Draping

Many of the traditional sculptures use sheet draping. This is the impression of a single sheet draped over the body. Typically, this drapery was used to cover the genital area, or draped loosely across the shoulders. This technique was created by carving rivets and depressions in the sculpture to give the appearance of a sheet. The body form was still outlined under the sheet, but the drapery sat on top of the body, giving the illusion that the sheet could come off of the statue and you would see the complete body underneath.

Shoulder Draping

Shoulder draping looks more like traditional Greek clothing costumes, with a flowing body with the fabric pinched and draped around the shoulders. Like the sheet draping, the form of the body was typically outlined under the clothing, but slightly less than that of sheet draping. This effect was made by carving the body away from the stone and shaping the stone to give the illusion of fabric.

Mantle Draping

A mantle was an outer garment worn by both men and women in early A.D. and late B.C. The men wore the mantels like a shawl around their shoulders. Women often wore the mantels over their heads like a hood. The mantel draped around the neck and came down over the base tunic underneath. The mantel has more folds than the under-tunic and hides the shape of the body. The mantel changes the number of necessary folds depending on how it is worn.

Seated Draping

Seated draping uses a different technique than standing draping. When seated, a person’s knees are visible through the fabric. The sculpture must give the illusion that the person is wearing a cloth over his body. The fabric is bunched at the waist, smooth at the knee and folds near the hem of the garment for a realistic appearance. In a seated drape, the cloth will often have greater rigidity in the appearance of the folds.

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