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Differences over time in head orientation in European portrait paintings

White, Peter 2019. Differences over time in head orientation in European portrait paintings. Laterality 24 (5) , pp. 525-537. 10.1080/1357650X.2018.1545780

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There is evidence for a tendency for European portrait paintings to have the head oriented so that the left side of the face is visible more than the right side. This is particularly the case for female sitters. There is evidence that the left side of the face shows emotion more than the right side does, so it has been proposed that there is a tendency for artists or sitters to want to show more of the emotionality of the sitter. It is shown here that the left-side tendency varies by date. In two studies, large samples were drawn from European gallery collections (study 1) and the National Portrait Gallery in London (study 2). The studies showed a strong left side tendency before 1600, absence of the tendency in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and some recurrence of it in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, modulated by changing gender differences. These findings show that cultural, historical, or art-historical factors are likely to be involved in determining tendencies in head orientation as well as psychological ones.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1357-650X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 17 December 2018
Date of Acceptance: 3 November 2018
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2020 15:05

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