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From petroglyphs to the drawings of the great Pushkin: History of portrait profile

The profile that in the modern world is associated primarily with self-presentation in the Internet space, in its original meaning of a half-turn, silhouette is almost the same age as the visual arts. The emergence of a profile portrait, like the drop in its popularity, is directly related to the main stages of the development of human culture.

The ancestors of modern man were able to create images of their own kind even in the Paleolithic period. The surviving cave paintings show scenes from the life of a caveman, with animals and people, as a rule, painted in profile.
In ancient Egypt, the head of a person was also portrayed from a side view, while the body was turned towards the viewer. Assyrians and artists of the early periods of the civilization of ancient Greece adhered to the same rules. The fact is that the drawing of a profile required much less skill from the master than the use of other angles, allowing nevertheless to achieve similarity with the original and to realize the goals of the work.

One of the most famous ancient profile portraits was the “Parisian”, a fresco from the Palace of Knossos in Crete, depicting a young girl. Named so by the discoverer of the Minoan civilization by Arthur Evans, “Parisian” demonstrates the style in which the artists of Ancient Crete worked.

With the gradual improvement of the skills of the ancient masters, other ways of depicting a person appeared, but profiles were continued to be accessed quite often – primarily when minting coins. In the manufacture of cameos – jewelry, which lead the history from the fourth century BC. and represent a bas-relief, made on precious or semi-precious stones, also often resorted to the profile image, which was easier to produce with maximum preservation of similarity and with less risk to spoil the stone in case of failure.

The profiles of antiquity can be divided into “Greek” and “Roman”: the first are distinguished by a single line of the forehead and nose, the second – an eagle, hooked nose. The fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent times of medieval decline in the visual arts led to the loss by artists of the skills of drawing a person in general and profile images in particular. But it was the coins of antiquity that helped the millennium to revive the portrait genre in Europe. They became a model for artists of the new cultural era.

The beginning of the Renaissance is associated with the appeal to the portrait of a person, both pictorial and psychological. The artist became interested in the personality of the person who appeared on the canvas, and the attention to the person as a creator, creator, brought the image of the person to the fore. According to the old, medieval canons, all attention should have been chained to itself the figures of Christ, the Madonna and the saints, to whom the prayers should be directed. Visual contact between the image in the picture and the person standing in front of it was achieved by depicting these figures from the front. Those who could not be the addressee of such a religious appeal were painted in profile. This is how the face of Judas was traditionally depicted in the pictures with the plot of the Last Supper, and they did the same with the images of demons.

The paintings of the early Renaissance were often created by the order of rich art lovers, and therefore on the canvas of this period there are profiles of such donors, donors – usually humbly bowed before the figure of the saint, but still occupying a prominent place in the composition. According to tradition, donor men are placed on the right hand of the saint, women on the left.
Artists gradually brought in their works more and more realism, moving further and further away from the traditions of medieval painting.

Persons for secular portraits for a long time wrote in profile – in this way, artists relatively easily achieved similarities. One of the earliest portraits contains the image of the French King John II the Good. Often the artist was ordered posthumous portraits for the family of the deceased.

But with the development of the skills of artists, the emergence of many schools and with increasing interest in the works of painting, the canons changed. Increasing importance was given to the correct transfer of the essence, the personality of the characters, the picture became more voluminous.

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