The pyramid composition is one of the most fundamental compositions in art and photography. In a portrait that follows the pyramid composition, the subject's body forms an upright triangle shape, with the head in the top center of the vertical space and the shoulders and body expanding below to form a wide base. The pattern is balanced and symmetrical, making it easy for the human eye to follow.
One early example of the pyramid composition is "The Madonna and Child with St. Anne," an oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci. In the composition, St. Anne's head forms the top of the triangle while infant Jesus and a dog help to form the base of the triangle. This composition was also popular among Michelangelo, Raphael and other Renaissance artists.
During the medieval period, many human figures were painted flat alongside each other with the overall composition forming no apparent shape. During the Renaissance, artists became more aware of composition, and that is when pyramid composition became common. Pyramid compositions are often found in nature. Mountains and pine trees are two examples. Tall buildings also form pyramids from the perspective of an onlooker at ground level. For this reason, the pyramid composition is considered to be a pleasant and natural composition.