Contrapposto (Italian pronunciation: [kontrapˈposto]) is an Italian term that means counterpoise. It is used in the visual arts to describe a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot so that its shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs. This gives the figure a more dynamic, or alternatively relaxed appearance. It can also be used to refer to multiple figures which are in counter-pose (or opposite pose) to one another. It can further encompass the tension as a figure changes from resting on a given leg to walking or running upon it (so-called ponderation). The leg that carries the weight of the body is known as the engaged leg, the relaxed leg is known as the freeleg. Contrapposto is less emphasized than the more sinuous S Curve, and creates the illusion of past and future movement.
Contrapposto was an extremely important sculptural development, for its appearance marks the first time in Western art that the human body is used to express a psychological disposition. The balanced, harmonious pose of the Kritios Boy suggests a calm and relaxed state of mind, an evenness of temperament that is part of the ideal of man represented.
From this point onwards, Greek sculptors went on to explore how the body could convey the whole range of human experience, culminating in the desperate anguish and pathos of Laocoön and His Sons (1st century CE) in the Hellenistic period.