Shoulder straps

The portrait of a person with shoulder straps does not call for psychological specifics. The head and the face do not have distinctive features that show individuality, apart from an expression of eagerness to spring into action in the line of duty. The artist does not specify what sort of duty this is – the shoulder straps are free of any definite recognizable identification marks, and the viewer only learns that the man is a junior officer. Reduced to a common denominator, his face reflects only a general readiness for a piece of heroic action, which can be viewed, with equal certainty, either as zeal, a manifestation of strong will, or as reckless bravado. This impression is largely reinforced by the modelling that is rich in spatial sculptural caesuras, intricate criss-cross vectors of the axes and floating elements (the narrow neck band, shoulder straps). The lyrical tone of the modelling of volumes and the treatment of the surface – roughened, breathing, as if preserving the warmth of the fingers that touched it – protect the image from bombast, affected heroics, and a representative grandeur inappropriate in the context. Accurately left understated exactly at the point beyond which the image would become trivialized, the depicted person looks artless, human and very recognizable in his impersonal commonness.


Brief annotations to the image

SHOULDER STRAPS are an element of military uniforms, signs worn on shoulders to indicate the wearer’s army rank, office, affiliation with a particular ministry, agency or organization. The differences are signalled with arm patches – bars, “prosvety” (gaps between the stripes), stars, chevrons. Shoulder straps are used in almost all contemporary armies.