Proportion refers to the relationship of parts of a body to one another and to the body as a whole, whereas scale is the relationship of parts of an image to the image as a whole.

Beginning with proportion, let’s look again at Doryphoros (who we saw on the Balance page. We will compare his proportions to those of the jamb figures from the Royal Portal of Chartres Cathedral, France, ca. 1445-1455, and a sculpture by modernist Alberto Giacometti:

Doryphoros’ proportions were laid out according to mathematical formulas in order to create an image that the sculptor believed to be the ideal man. The etherial figures from Chartres, on the other hand, are tall and narrow. Look at the size of the head of the rightmost of these figures, and compare it to her height. Doryphoros is about seven “heads” tall, so to speak, whereas the figure from Chartres is about ten “heads” tall, and far narrower. For further comparison, look at the attenuated figure by Giacometti, which is about eleven “heads” tall, and even narrower, on the brink, it would seem, of disappearing entirely.

Scale can refer to any relationship of parts to the whole, but one particular type is of great significance in many periods: Hieratic scale is scale based on relative importance. That is, the more important a figure, the larger he or she is.

In this Ancient Egyptian wall painting from Nebamun’s Tomb, ca. 1350 BCE, it is very easy to see who is important: The largest figure is Nebamun, himself. Behind him is a smaller figure of a woman — his wife — and below him is a still smaller female figure — their daughter. While we might assume him to have been larger than his wife and both to have been larger than their daughter, these size differences are all exaggerated to clarify his importance.