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Portrait in Art and Literature

Below are extracts from the writings of eleven well-known English-language authors. Match correctly the extracts to the authors listed on this page; send them to English by April 20; and all correct entries will receive prizes in May. Good luck!!! (Correct answers will be printed in the first May issui.)



My mother was, no doubt, unusually youthful in appearance even for her years; she hung her head, as if it were her fault, poor thing, and said, sobbing, that indeed she was afraid she was but a childish widow, and would be but a childish mother if she lived. In a short pause which ensued, she had a fancy that she felt Miss Betsey touch her hair, and that with no ungentle hand; but, looking at her, in her timid hope, she found that lady sitting with the skirt of her dress tucked up, her hands folded on one knee, and her feet upon the fender, frowning at the fire.

The first objects that assume a distinct presence before me, as I look far back, into the blank of my infancy, are my mother with her pretty hair and youthful shape, and Peggotty with no shape at all, and eyes so dark that they seemed to darken their whole neighbourhood in her face, and cheeks and arms so hard and red that I wondered the birds didn’t peck her in preference to apples.

When my mother is out of breath and rests herself in an elbow-chair, I watch her winding her bright curls round her fingers, and straitening her waist, and nobody knows better than I do that she likes to look so well, and is proud of being so pretty.



On the Monday morning when Flem Snopes came to clerk in Varner’s store, he wore a brand-new white shirt. It had not even been laundered yet; the creases where the cloth had lain bolted on the shelf, and the sun-browned streaks repeated zebra-like on each successive fold, were still apparent. And not only the women who came to look at him, but Ratliff himself (he did not sell sewing-wachines for nothing. He had even learned to operate one quite well from demonstrating them, and it was even told of him that he made himself the blue shirts which he wore) knew that the shirt had been cut and stitched by hand and by a stiff and unaccustomed hand, too. He wore it all that week. By Saturday night it was soiled, but on the following Monday he appeared in a second one exactly like it, even to the zebra-stripes. By the second Saturday night that one was soiled too, in exactly the same places as the other. It was as though its wearer, entering into a new life and milieu already channeled to compulsions and customs fixed long before his advent, had nevertheless established in it even on that first day his own particular soiling groove.

He rode up on a gaunt mule, on a saddle which was recognized at once as belonging to the Varners, with a tin pail tied to it. He hitched the mule to a tree behind the store and untied the pail and came and mounted to the gallery, where already a dozen men, Ratliff among them, lounged. He did not speak. If he ever looked at them individually, that one did not discern it – a thick squat soft man of no establishable age between twenty and thirty, with a broad still face containing a tight seam of mouth stained slightly at the corners with tobacco, and eyes the color of stagnant water, and projecting from among the other features in startling and sudden paradox, a tiny predatory nose like the beak of a small hawk. It was as though the original nose had been left off by the original designer or craftsman and the unfinished job taken over by someone of a radically different school or perhaps by some viciously maniacal humorist or perhaps by one who had had only time to clap into the center of the face a frantic and desperate warning.



The eldest of these men had a stern, savage, and wild aspect. His garment was of the simplest form imaginable, being a close jacket with sleeves, composed of the tanned skin of some animal, on which the hair had been originally left, but which had been worn of in so many places, that it would have been difficult to distinguish from the patches that remained, to what creature the fur had belonged. This primeval vestment reached from the throat to the knees, and served at once all the usual purposes of body-clothing; there was no wider opening at the collar, than was necessary to admit the passage of the head, from which it maybe inferred, that it was put on by slipping it over the head and shoulders, in the manner of a modern shirt, or ancient hauberk. Sandals, bound with thongs made of boars’ hide, protected the feet, and a roll of thin leather was twined artificially round the legs, and, ascending above the calf, left the knees bare, like those of a Scottish Highlander. To make the jacket sit yet more close to the body, it was gathered at the middle by a broad leather belt, secured by a brass buckle; to one side of which was attached a sort of scrip, and to the other a ram’s horn, accoutred with a mouthpiece, for the purpose of blowing. In the same belt was stuck one of those long, broad, sharp-pointed, and two-edged knives, with a buck’s-horn handle, which were fabricated in the neighbourhood, and bore even at this early period the name of a Sheffield whittle. The man had no covering upon his head, which was only defended by his own thick hair, matted and twisted together, and scorched by the influence of the sun into a rusty dark-red colour, forming a contrast with the overgrown beard upon his cheeks, which was rather of a yellow or amber hue. One part of his dress only remains, but it is too remarkable to be suppressed; it was a brass ring, resembling a dog’s collar, but without any opening, and soldered fast round his neck, so loose as to form no impediment to his breathing, yet so tight as to be incapable of being removed, excepting by the use of the file. On this singular gorget was engraved, in Saxon characters, an inscription of the following purport: “Gurth, the son of Beowulph, is the born thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood.”



He is taller by almost the breadth of my Nail, than any of his Court, which alone is enough to strike an Awe into the Beholders. His Features are strong and masculine, with an Austrian Lip and arched Nose,

his Complexion olive, his Countenance erect, his Body and Limbs well proportioned, all his Motions graceful, and his Deportment majestic. He was then past his Prime, being twenty-eight Years and three Quarters old, of which he had reigned about seven, in great Felicity, and generally victorious. For the better convenience of beholding him, I lay on my side, so that my Face was parallel to his, and he stood but three Yards off: However, I have had him since many times in my Hand, and therefore cannot be deceived in the Description. His Dress was very plain and simple, and the Fashion of it between the Asiatick and the European; but he had on his Head a light Helmet of Gold, adorned with Jewels, and a Plume on the Crest. He held his Sword drawn in his Hand, to defend himself, if I should happen to break loose; it was almost three Inches long, the Hilt and Scabbard were Gold enriched with Diamonds. His Voice was shrill, but very clear and articulate, and I could distinctly hear it when I stood up.

. . . he said that my Face appeared much fairer and smoother when he looked on me from the Ground, than it did upon a nearer View when I took him up in my Hand, and brought him close, which he confessed was at first a very shocking sight. He said he could discover great Holes in my Skin, that the Stumps of my Beard were ten times stronger than the Bristles of a Boar, and my Complexion made up of several Colours altogether disagreeable: Although I must beg leave to say for my self, that I am as fair as most of my Sex and Country, and very little Sunburnt by all my Travels. On the other side, discoursing of the Ladies in that Emperor’s Court, he used to tell me, one had Freckles, another too wide a Mouth, a third too large a Nose, nothing of which I was able to distinguish.



My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.



She walks in Beauty...


She walks in Beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes.
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.


One shade the more, one ray the less
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
Of softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.


And on that cheek, and o’er that brow
So soft, so crem, yet eloquent
The smiles that win, the tints that glow
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.



Her reverie is interrupted by her mother, Catherine Petkoff, a woman over forty, imperiously energetic, with magnificent black hair and eyes, who might be a very splendid specimen of the wife of a mountain farmer, but is determined to be a Viennese lady, and to that end wears a fashionable tea gown on all occasions.

Louka, smoking a cigarette, is standing between the table and the house, turning her back with angry disdain on a manservant who is lecturing her. He is a middle-aged man of cool temperament and low but clear and keen intelligence, with the complacency of the servant who values himself on his rank in servility, and the imperturbability of the accurate calculator who has no illusions. He wears a white Bulgarian costume jacket with decorated border, sash, wide knickerbockers, and decorated gaiters. His head is shaved up to the crown, giving him a high Japanese forehead. His name is Nicola.

Major Sergius Saranoff, the original of the portrait in Raina’s room, is a tall, romantically handsome man, with the physical hardihood, the high spirit, and the susceptible imagination of an untamed mountaineer chieftain. But his remarkable personal distinction is of a characteristically civilized type. The ridges of his eyebrows, curving with a ram’s horn twist round the marked projections at the outer corners, his jealously observant eye, his nose, thin, keen, and apprehensive in spite of the pugnacious high bridge and large nostril, his assertive chin, would not be out of place in a Paris salon. In short, the clever, imaginative barbarian has an acute critical faculty which has been thrown into intense activity by the arrival of Western civilization in the Balkans; and the result is precisely what the advent of nineteenth-century thought first produced in England: to wit, Byronism.



... Along the Terraces David went, his footfalls ringing and echoing amongst the other footfalls of the early frigid twilight. Dim shapes moved with him in comradeship, the shapes of the twilight men. Heavy-footed, bent of head, breath coming whitely from the frost, a faint pipe grow here and there, massing forward in shadowy formation.

Sammy grinned, his blue eyes disappearing from sheer excitement. He was not very tall for fourteen years, but he made up for it in spirit, thrilling to the great adventure of his first day underground.

He glanced towards Annie who now stood with her fine pale face warmed by the fire glow, the top button of her blouse, unfastened, revealing her smooth straight throat. Her figure, erect even in repose, had both strength and softness. Her faint anxiety for Sammy, only half concealed, caused her to seem curiously young and untried. All at once, his heart moved in affection towards her. How brave she was, how honest, and unselfish! – she had real nobility. “By the by, Annie,” he remarked “you and Sammy are invited up to-night. There’s going to be a regular feast.”

A silence.

“Am I really asked?” she said.

He nodded emphatically. “My mother’s own words.”

The trace of wistfulness left her; her eyes fell; he could see that she was deeply gratified at this recognition, at last, from the old woman.

“I’ll be glad to come, Davey,” she said.

On that day, two men were sitting on the bank of a small river. Woods came up to the bank of the river. The sun was not so hot now and the air near the river had become much cooler.

One of the men had the red skin and the equipment of an Indian, the other man, though sunburnt, had the white skin of a European. The Indian was seated on the end of a fallen tree. His body was painted white and black. On his head there was the well-known scalping tuft and the eagle’s plume, the mark of an Indian chief. A tomahawk and scalping-knife were on his girdle, while a short military rifle of the kind which the whites gave to friendly Indians lay near him.

The Indian was of middle age, but looked a strong and healthy man. The white man’s body, though also strong, was very thin. He wore a dark green hunting shirt and a summer cap of skins. He also had a knife on his girdle but no tomahawk. On his feet he had moccasins. A pouch and horn were a part of his equipment, and a long hunting rifle stood near him against a young tree. The eyes of the hunter were small and quick, all the time moving while he spoke, and looking on every side of him as if he was afraid of an attack of the enemy. But his face was kind and open.



He stood up, gravely ungirdled and disrobed himself of his gown, saying resignedly:

– Mulligan is stripped of his garments.

He emptied his pockets on to the table.

– There’s your snotrag, he said.

And putting on his stiff collar and rebellious tie, he spoke to them, chiding them, and to his dangling watch chain. His hands plunged and rummaged in his trunk while he called for – a clean handkerchief. Agenbite of in wit. God, we’ll simply have to dress the character. I want puce gloves and green boots. Contradiction. Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. Mercurial Malachi. A limp black missile flew out of his talking hands.

Buck Mulligan at once put on a blithe broadly smiling face. He looked at them, his wellshaped mouth open happily, his eyes, from which he had suddenly withdrawn all shrewd sense, blinking with mad gaiety. He moved a doll’s head to and fro, the brims of his Panama hat quivering, and began to chant in a quiet happy foolish voice:



Mildred Douglas and her aunt are discovered reclining in deck chairs. The former is a girl of twenty, slender, delicate, with a pale, pretty face marred by a self-conscious expression of disdainful superiority. She looks fretful, nervous, and discontented, bored by her own anaemia. Her aunt is a pompous and proud and fat old lady. She is a type even to the point of a double chin and lorgnetters. She is dressed pretentiously, as if afraid her face alone would never indicate her position in life. Mildred is dressed all in white.



The only person who spoiled these parties was Mr. Albert Forrester, her husband. All her friends considered him a bore and often asked one another how she had ever married him. He was known among them as the Philatelist because a young writer had once said that he was collecting stamps.

Albert, I should explain, was an ordinary businessman not a very rich one. The suits he wore always looked shabby, the expression on his face was gloomy and he never said anything worth listening to. Mrs. Forrester, however, was kind to him and always knew how to put to shame anyone who tried to make fun of him in her presence.

List of authors:

James Joyce
William Shakespeare
George Gordon Byron
William Faulkner
William Somerset Maugham
Bernard Shaw
James Fenimore Cooper
Charles Dickens
Jonathan Swift
Eugene O'Neill
Walter Scott


Portraiture has broad and varied functions. In the Roman Empire (44 BC – AD 476), portraits of the emperor were required to be present in order for court proceedings to take place. Many societies regard portraits as important ways to convey status and acknowledge power and wealth.

During the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century) and the Renaissance (14th century to 17th century), portraits of donors were included in works of art as a means of verifying patronage, power, and virtue. Many societies have employed portraits as a means of remembering the dead. Egyptian mummy portraits and Roman death masks played important roles in death rituals.

Japanese portrait sculptures commemorate deceased monks, and skulls refashioned to be lifelike are memorial representations of ancestors in Oceania.



The first representations of identifiable individuals date from the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt about 3100 BC. During the Old Kingdom (3100? – 2258? BC), this type of portraiture flourished, especially in the funerary representations of pharaohs and nobles. During the New Kingdom (1570 – 1070 BC), more naturalistic portraits were made. In this new style, depictions of members of the royal family are believed to be based on the subjects’ actual appearances. Some scholars feel that the first real portraiture dates from this period.

The earliest examples of Greek portrait busts date from the 5th century BC. Although vivid and lifelike, these sculptures, which portrayed determined and handsome youths, were frequently idealised images. Historical accounts confirm that portrait painting was also executed during the same period in Greece.

The Romans were expert in rendering individuals. Some scholars have argued that it was the practice of making and keeping death masks of ancestors that accounts for the enormous skill with which Roman portraitists captured the individuality of their subjects. Many portrait busts survive, including images of Roman rulers as well as poignant representations of aged citizens.



Early Christian art, dating from the 3rd century to the 7th century, included portraits in mosaic and sculpted portraits. Mosaic portraits, such as those in the apse of the Byzantine church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy (526 – 547), depict their subjects in stylised frontal images that convey authority. Medieval Gospel books included portraits of the Gospel authors, shown writing at their desks. Flat and sometimes formulaic, these portraits often conveyed the artist’s understanding of the author based on the author’s text. Noblemen and kings commissioned a variety of books, which were adorned with lavish portraits of these individuals. Examples of these books survive from the Carolingian period (8th century to 9th century) through the Gothic era (12th century to 15th century).



The Renaissance marked a turning point in the history of portraiture. Partly out of interest in the natural world and partly out of interest in the classical cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, portraits – both painted and sculpted – were given an important role in Renaissance society.

Profile portraits, inspired by ancient medallions, were particularly popular in Italy between 1450 and 1500. Later, profile portraits depicted donors, represented in the paintings and altarpieces they had commissioned. Important portraitists include Sandro Botticelli, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci. Perhaps the finest 16th-century portraitist was Venetian artist Titian, who portrayed many leading figures of his day. Italian Mannerist artists contributed many exceptional portraits that emphasised material richness and elegantly complex poses, as in the works of Agnolo Bronzino and Jacopo da Pontormo. One of the best portraitists of 16th-century Italy was Sophonisba Anguissola from Cremona, who infused her individual and group portraits with new levels of complexity.



During the baroque and rococo periods (17th century and 18th century, respectively), portraits became even more important. In a society dominated increasingly by secular leaders in powerful courts, images of opulently attired figures were both symbols of temporal power and wealth, and a means to affirm the authority of certain individuals. Flemish painters Sir Anthony van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens excelled at this type of portraiture. Also during these periods, artists increasingly studied the facial expressions that accompanied different emotions and they emphasized the portrayal of these human feelings in their work. In particular, Italian sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini and Dutch painter Rembrandt explored the many expressions of the human face. This interest fostered the creation of the first caricatures, credited to the Carracci Academy, run by painters of the Carracci family in the late 16th century in Bologna, Italy.

Rococo artists, who were particularly interested in rich and intricate ornamentation, excelled at the refined portrait. Their attention to the details of dress and texture increased the efficacy of portraits as testaments to worldly wealth. French painters Franзois Boucher and Hyacinthe Rigaud proved to be remarkable chroniclers of opulence, as were English painters Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds. In the 18th century, female painters gained new importance, particularly in the field of portraiture. Notable female artists include French painter Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, Italian pastel artist Rosalba Carriera, and Swiss artist Angelica Kauffmann.



In the late 18th century and early 19th century, neoclassical artists depicted subjects attired in the latest fashions, which were derived from ancient Greek and Roman clothing styles. The artists used light that had great clarity to define texture and the simple roundness of faces and limbs. French painters Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Italian sculptor Antonio Canova were leading practitioners of neoclassical portraiture.

Romantic artists, who worked during the first half of the 19th century, preferred to paint exciting portraits of inspired leaders and agitated subjects, using lively brush strokes and dramatic, sometimes moody, lighting. French artists Eugene Delacroix and Theodore Gericault painted particularly fine portraits, the most noteworthy being Gericault’s series of portraits of mental patients (1822-1824). Spanish painter Francisco Goya painted some of the most searching and provocative images of the period, including Nude Maja (1800), which is believed to be a portrait.

The realist artists of the mid-19th century created objective portraits depicting ordinary people. French painter Gustave Courbet created many realistic portraits, while French artist Honorh Daumier produced many caricatures of his contemporaries. French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec chronicled some of the famous dancers in the theater. French painter Edouard Manet, whose work hovers between realism and impressionism, was a portraitist of outstanding insight and technique.



The impressionists of the late 19th century relied on family and friends to model for them and painted intimate groups and single figures represented either outdoors or in light-filled interiors. French painters Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre Auguste Renoir created some of the most popular images of individual sitters. Noted for their shimmering surfaces and rich dabs of paint, these portraits are often disarmingly intimate and very appealing. American artist Mary Cassatt, who worked in France, was noted for her engaging portraits of mothers and children. Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, both postimpressionist artists of the late 19th century to early 20th century, painted revealing portraits of people they knew, but they are best known for their powerful self-portraits.



Early 20th-century artists expanded the repertoire of portraiture. Henri Matisse produced powerful portraits using nonnaturalistic, even garish, colors for skin tones. Spanish artist Pablo Picasso painted many portraits, including several Cubist portraits, in which the subject is barely recognizable. Expressionist painters provided some of the most haunting and compelling psychological studies ever produced. German artists such as Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, as well as Austrian painter Oskar Kokoschka, produced notable examples of expressionist portraiture.



The first self-portraits in Western art developed during the Renaissance, when artists depicted their own faces staring out from crowds in the backgrounds of narrative scenes. The first artist to systematically chronicle his own features in portraits was German painter Albrecht Durer, whose self-portraits include a remarkable drawing of himself in the nude and a powerful portrait, Self-Portrait (1500, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany), in which he presents himself as Jesus Christ. Rembrandt and van Gogh produced an unusually large number of self-portraits. As a genre, self-portraiture grew steadily in importance after the 17th century.