In the Greek art of the 7th and 6th centuries BC, the representation of the human body followed a strict canon. One of the main sculptural types was the female figure clad in a long robe (kore): one foot is advanced, but the body can still be divided into two essentially equal halves (1–2). These statues may depict both a goddess or her worshipper: identification is possible only if she holds the attributes of a deity (2).

In the early 5th century BC, the representation of the human figure underwent revolutionary changes with the appearance of contrapposto (3–6), which exerted a lasting influence on Greek sculpture, and also on art outside Greece. The weight of the body is not equally carried by the two legs of the figure anymore. The youth (3), for example, leans on his left leg with his right leg bent. His posture also affects the upper body: both the hip and the shoulders shift from their normal axis. The youth holding a lyre and phiale is the worshipper of a god, but Apollo could also be represented this way.

Terracotta statuettes were produced in series (7–10). Quite often, only the front was pressed from a negative mould (11), and the back covered with a smooth clay panel (12–13). From the 4th century BC onwards, multi-part negatives (6) were used more and more often, which greatly enhanced the artistic potential of contrapposto.