The face is not only central to identity, but is also the primary vehicle for human expression, emotion and character. It also signifies intellect and power, and has often been regarded as a window into the soul. Above all, it is the focus of our attention whenever we encounter another individual. But how have different cultures depicted faces, whether a likeness or idealized, whether masked or revealed, whether newborn, in the prime of life, dying or even deceased? Why has the depiction of the human face been so central to artistic expression in all world cultures, and why has it sometimes even been defaced or destroyed by iconoclasts and others?
Debra N. Mancoff explores the depiction of the human face through the full range of objects and works of art in the collection of the British Museum, and discovers how the face subtly conveys the full spectrum of human emotion. Arranged thematically, the book’s chapters each begin with a brief introduction before depicting faces in various visually led pairings and groupings that encourage the reader to look for associations regardless of the objects’ cultural origins. Some of the juxtapositions are allowed to speak for themselves; others are explored through brief narrative captions. Some of the juxtapositions raise a smile; others are surprisingly affecting. This book will both fascinate and delight the reader, offering insights into experiences that we all share as human beings and that our faces inevitably reveal.