The Face

The playwright Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) attributed the launching of a thousand ships to Helen of Troy's face and, although it seems unlikely that that portion of her anatomy was alone responsible for so much dockyard activity, few would deny the singular importance of the face in distinguishing one person from another.

If presented with a few portrait photographs, almost anyone can be prevailed upon to give an opinion about the personality of each one, and these will show a remarkable consensus if the experiment is repeated a number of times.

Considering that we all make such judgements continually, we might expect that it should be possible to compile a reliable index of facial features and the precise character traits they portray. Since antiquity many theorists have attempted to classify this perceived relationship between the human face and the mind behind it. These varied from pronouncements concerning low

Concave Facial Profile IllustrationsFacial Features And Personality Traits
Above: From J. C. Lavater's Physiognomische Fragmente: 1, 'Fine Feeling'; 2, 'Circumspection'; 3 and 4, 'I have hitherto seen but few countenances in which so much power, and goodness, fortitude and condescension were combined.'

Below: Facial profiles. - convex, concave and upright - from De Humana Physiognomina (1847).

foreheads and large noses to lists of features and their psychological meaning. The most durable example is to be found in the work of the Swiss physiognomist Johann Caspar Lavater (1741 -1801). Following the general trend of 18th-century scientific thinking towards formalized systems of knowledge, he published, in the form of his Physiognomische Fragmente (1775-8) an extensive collection of studies of widely varying faces, mainly in silhouette, with measurements of facial slope, forehead height, jaw prominence and so on, prefaced and liberally interspersed with wordy and scornful diatribes against all who questioned the veracity of his 'science'. Ultimately, of course, his conclusions proved to be based on almost entirely subjective criteria, coupled whenever possible with prior knowledge of his subjects' characters, and so even this otherwise creditable attempt to rationalize a fundamental process to which we all sometimes subscribe fell into disrepute.

All jobbing actors will tell you that the range of dramatic character parts they are offered is limited by their physical appearance, and that the roles within that range may have little in common with their own personality.

Everyone, it seems, makesjudgements based on appearance, but no proof exists that they have any basis in truth. Indeed, modern studies have shown that the factors on which we base such character judgements are, at best, dubious, and at worst, simply false. Almost anyone will find it surprising that Dr Johnson was described by one contemporary observer as having a face 'with the aspect of an idiot, without the faintest ray of sense gleaming from any feature'; and one of the most capacious intellects of the Northern Renaissance, the scholar Erasmus (1466-1536), had a cranium so tiny that throughout his adult life, to make his head look normal, he wore a specially constructed wig and a large biretta hat which he never took off in public.

And yet what prejudices we have in this regard are continually reinforced by what we see in movies and on television or read about in novels. In the entertainment media, villains continue to be beetle-browed and ugly, heroes square-jawed and handsome, heroines beautiful, despite strikingly convincing proof that this is rarely the case in real life.

Below: Facial profiles. - convex, concave and upright - from De Humana Physiognomina (1847).

Convex Face ProfileBiretta Hat

Much has been said and written about psychological insight in portrait painting, and this, I think, provides a key. The sensitivity of your drawings of faces can convey a very great deal. Sadly, though, this is something that cannot be taught. The quality of your own perceptions and artistic skill will determine your success regarding the drawing of character.

What follows is an explanation of the structural factors which determine the uniqueness of every face.


The illustrations on this page show how remarkably small a factor race is in determining the unique individuality of a face.

Of the factors which govern the enormous variety to be found in the human face, most are hereditary. The most obvious hereditary factor is race.

The definitive statement on race - drafted by an international team of scientists, and published by UNICEF in 1963 - states: 'Scientists are generally agreed that all men living today belong to a single species, Homo sapiens, and are derived from a common stock.' Widely dispersed and isolated groups developed, over a protracted period, the ethnic characteristics we know today in response to climatic and other environmental conditions.

Opinions differ regarding the number of different major ethnic groups now extant, but according to many classificatory schemes there are seven: Amerindian, Polynesian, Australasian, Oriental, Indian, Caucasian and African. Within each of these groups there are, of course, further subdivisions.

Two groups dominate numerically: Caucasoids and Orientals together account for 92 per cent of the world's population.

But, while ethnic contrasts may be distinctive, the similarities between ethnic groups are far greater than the differences. Two individuals from two separate ethnic groups may be remarkably similar in facial appearance, whereas the contrast in appearance between, say, two Caucasians may be very much more pronounced. Within all ethnic groups a wide variation in appearance is evident. _ _ __


Facial Structure Ethnicity






Facial Structure

According to the Cephalic Index used by anthropologists to categorize head shapes, there are two extremes:

• dolichocephalic, or long and narrow

• brachycephalic, or short and wide i

The intermediate type, mesocephalic, shows characteristics of both these extreme types.

If you imagine a face cast onto an inflated balloon, the act of squashing the balloon as shown in the illustration will cause the face to become vertically longer and the features to be thrust forward. As the distance between the eyes becomes narrower, the nose, in order to retain the same airway capacity, must protrude further forward. This gives the distinctive convex profile of the dolichocephalic type. If the balloon is instead stretched widthways, the distinctive flatter profile of the brachycephalic type becomes evident.

To explain facial structure, it is convenient to divide the face into three regions:

• the maxilla, or midface region

• the mandible, or lower jaw

Because the complex of bones which makes up the midfacial region is attached to the base of the cranium, the cranial floor is the template that establishes the dimensions of the face. If the cranium is long and narrow (dolichocephalic) the face beneath it will be correspondingly narrow; by contrast, if the cranium is brachycephalic the face will be short and broad with a flatter profile. We can see, therefore, that the distinctive divergent facial



Mandible Growth Diagram







IMNCXBie patterns emerge largely because of the shape of the cranium.

Of course, the shapes of most crania will fall somewhere in between these two extremes, with some (mesocephalic) skulls showing a mixture of characteristics from both extremes.

As forward growth occurs in the cranial and midfacial regions, the mandible, hinged as it is well back near the ear, has to grow downwards (to accommodate the teeth) and outwards to keep pace, so that the upper and lower teeth remain compatible - see diagram 1.

If the mandible does not grow forward enough, the front teeth in the lower jaw will not meet those in the upper for the purpose of biting - see diagram 2. This inadequacy of the lower jaw can cause other problems, too, because there is a need to make an airtight seal with the lips when swallowing. If this can only occur by pressing the lower lip against the inside of the upper front teeth (see diagram 3), the resulting persistent pressure can cause them to protrude outwards.

Excessive forward growth of the mandible can also occur (see diagram 4), resulting in an underslung jaw and a similar difficulty in biting.

The illustrations on these two pages are derived from the work of D. H. Enlow in Facial Growth and B. H. Broadbent Sr, B. H. Broadbent Jr and W. H. Golden in Bolton Standards of Dentofacial Developmental Growth.

Drawing Model Anime Poses

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