Faces sell pictures. Obvious really considering there is a whole industry, advertising, partially dependant on that principle. Stick a pretty face in front of almost anything and you’re more likely to get it noticed.

The modern obsession with celebrity has complicated things somewhat but it is still true that some faces carry qualities that draw the attention more than others. and it’s not only prettiness. It’s when the concept of beauty comes in that things get complicated and interesting, because a face doesn’t have to be pretty to be beautiful. Other qualities such as innocence, vulnerability, cheerfulness, other-worldliness, authenticity, are all components of faces you want to look at.


Picture 4



Egypt 2

Van Dyck

Before photography whole volumes were devoted to physiognomy and the study of the meanings some faces convey but we are now a bit more sophisticated in our assessment. We no longer think, for example, that we can tell a criminal from their facial characteristics although the signs wrought by time, circumstance and culture can give us a good basis for judging who we want to spend time with.

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    April 30, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I completely agree with what you say about faces. May I add another aspect? In the last years when I visited art museums I happened to stumble upon paintings, drawings or even sculptures showing human heads that suddenly gave me the impression: This is a real, individual person looking at me! More than all the others who’s heads are shown that leave me untouched. And it is usually not a question of beauty of the portrayed person or of the fame of the artist. Sometimes the lively portrait shows a person who has a near relationship with the artist, sometimes not. An example: The classicist sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini made lots of idealized portraits of famous people of the frist half of the 19th century. They all are well done, but leave me cold. And then – at a wonderful exhibition at the Florence Accademia – a head of a woman hit me with her highly individual, alert and most intelligent expression. Consulting the catalogue, I found out: it was Bartolini’s wife. I tried to draw it, but unfortuately I did not capture it too well.
    I could add other examples, like the wonderful terracotta bust of an anonymous lady by an anonymous sculptor at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris (I’ll post it on my instgram account wkrisai for you) or the portrait of a Renaissance sculptor by Moroni at the KHM Vienna.
    And I guess that you encounter this effect even in your own marvellous portraits…

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