From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic
representation of a person, in which the face and its expression
is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality,
and even the mood of the person. For this reason, in photography
a portrait is generally not a snapshot, but a composed image of
a person in a still position. A portrait often shows a person
looking directly at the painter or photographer, in order to most
successfully engage the subject with the viewer.
Most early representations that are clearly intended
to show an individual are of rulers, and tend to follow idealizing
artistic conventions, rather than the individual features of the
subject's body, though when there is no other evidence as to the
ruler's appearance the degree of idealization can be hard to assess.
Nonetheless, many subjects, such as Akhenaten and some other Egyptian
pharaohs, can be recognised by their distinctive features. The
28 surviving rather small statues of Gudea, ruler of Lagash in
Sumeria between c. 2144 - 2124 BC, show a consistent appearance
with some individuality.
Some of the earliest surviving painted portraits
of people, who were not rulers, are the Greco-Roman funeral portraits
that survived in the dry climate of Egypt's Fayum district. These
are almost the only paintings from the classical world that have
survived, apart from frescos, though many sculptures survive,
and portraits on coins. Although the appearance of the figures
differs considerably, they are considerably idealized, and all
show relatively young people, making it uncertain whether they
were painted from life.
The art of the portrait flourished in Ancient Greek
and especially Roman sculpture, where sitters demanded individualized
and realistic portraits, even unflattering ones. During the 4th
century, the portrait began to retreat in favor of an idealized
symbol of what that person looked like. (Compare the portraits
of Roman Emperors Constantine I and Theodosius I at their entries.)
In the Europe of the Early Middle Ages representations of individuals
are mostly generalized. True portraits of the outward appearance
of individuals re-emerged in the late Middle Ages, in tomb monuments,
donor portraits, miniatures in illuminated manuscripts and then
Moche culture of Peru was one of the few ancient
civilizations which produced portraits. These works accurately
represent anatomical features in great detail. The individuals
portrayed would have been recognizable without the need for other
symbols or a written reference to their names. The individuals
portrayed were members of the ruling elite, priests, warriors
and even distinguished artisans. They were represented during
several stages of their lives. The faces of gods were also depicted.
To date, no portraits of women have been found. There is particular
emphasis on the representation of the details of headdresses,
hairstyles, body adornment and face painting.
One of the best-known portraits in the Western world
is Leonardo da Vinci's painting titled Mona Lisa, which is a painting
of Lisa del Giocondo. What has been claimed as the world's oldest
known portrait was found in 2006 in the Vilhonneur grotto near
Angoulême and is thought to be 27,000 years old.