An artistic practice since the 16th-century

Records show the existence and use of the Lay Figure as a common piece of studio equipment in Europe from the 16th-century.

Life sized replicas of humans, from finger joints to the arms and elbows, the shoulders and the torso, each joint twisting and turning to represent the movements and actions of humans. The pose it set, frozen in time to be dressed and take on a personality through disguise. They show wealth and stature in portraiture and can declare honour and glory in victory and leadership yet beneath this cladding and always in support is a lay figure.

Costumes and jewellery took a long time to paint. There was no other way of recording other than to study and copy so these items would often come to the studio and a lay figure dressed and posed. The portrait added later from a live sitting.

Recommended research book:

Silent Partners: Artist and Mannequin from Function to Fetish, by Jane Munro, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.