The system of equidistances, intended to underscore the harmonious proportions of a countenance, is very pronounced among saints and biblical ‘personnel’. Two Madonnas and one apostle’s head will serve as examples.
The Madonna and Child with a Chrysanthemum in Munich represents a comparatively simple variant. The design of the Florence Madonna and Child with a Pear is more complex (see Variants III: Schemata in Format).
In the frontally oriented Munich painting, the mouth, nose, and eyes (including the distance between the lower lid and the height of the eyebrow) are given the same measurements. The pupils lie exactly in the centre of the square fields. As so frequently in Dürer’s work and in the Head of a Man, diagonals that can be drawn between the chin and the crown of the head on one half of the face meet exactly here.
Dürer determines the place and shape of the ears by means of two construction lines that converge over one of the Christ Child’s thumbs. Both lines intersect corner points of the proportion diagram at the height of the nose.
In the Madonna from the Uffizi the artefactual regularity of the physiognomy is designed in a far more complex manner. Vertical lines are derived from equidistant portioning points (like the corners of the eyes and mouth). The crown of the head and the distances between the corners of the mouth and the left and right outer lines of the head schema are the same.
Diagonals in the central zone graze the eyes at the temples.
The head schema is also connected to the rest of the composition via geometric extensions: a middle line through the linear grid through the head, inclined to the left to the child, runs downwards to Mary’s hand.
This point also represents the extension of an acute-angled triangle. While the other two sides also run through corners of the grid, it fulfils scarcely any constructive function within the
painting. But the triangle can be divided into two equal halves so that the central line runs exactly through the centre of the circle inscribed within the tripartite division of the
A further example of the meticulousness that Dürer exercised in designing biblical figures is the preliminary drawing of an apostle head for the Heller Altarpiece.