The Face (British Museum)

Our Human Story

Debra N. Mancoff


A thoroughly engrossing thematic study of the representation of the face on objects and in works of art from all cultures and throughout history


From sacred totems to playful caricatures, the face is the most revealing subject in the history of art: it defines our human identity. But how have different cultures depicted the face, and why has it been so central to artistic expression all over the world?

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. The book is arranged thematically, and each chapter begins with a brief introduction before depicting faces in various visually led pairings and groupings. Some of the juxtapositions speak for themselves; others are explored through brief narrative captions. Many pairings 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.

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'Beautifully designed'
Antiques Diary

'Beautifully designed and illustrated, and intrigue, inspire and entertain in equal measure'
London Visitors

'Excellent … Thames & Hudson is to be congratulated on their presentation'
Yorkshire Gazette and Herald

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Further Details


Format: PLC (no jacket)

Size: 19.0 x 17.0 cm

Extent: 304 pp

Illustrations: 363

Publication date: 20 September 2018

ISBN: 9780500518625

Contents List

Introduction • 1. Birth & Childhood • 2. Love & Beauty • 3. Everyday Life • 4. Faith & Ritual • 5. Rulers & Warfare • 6. Identity & Disguise • 7. Death & the Afterlife

About the Author

Debra N. Mancoff is an art historian and a Scholar-in-Residence at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Her publications include Van Gogh’s Flowers, Monet’s Garden in Art, John Everett Millais: Beyond the Pre- Raphaelite Brotherhood, Flora Symbolica: Flowers in Pre-Raphaelite Art, Danger! Women Artists at Work, Fashion in Impressionist Paris and many other titles on the history of art. She lectures regularly at many of the major museums in the US and Great Britain.