0229 In Search of a Divine Face

Physiognomy and the Representation of Sanctity in Christian Art

  • Chiara Croci (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


The article aspires to show how physiognomy was used in late antique art in order to give substance to the theophanic dimension of a person, especially of a saint. Drawing on monumental art, sculpture, daily life objects and catacomb paintings or mosaics, it is possible to discern that the physiognomic features were used as iconographical attributes, which were adjusted depending on the context and of the degree of holiness of the person depicted (saints, deceased, patrons). Therefore, the article allows to follow the transition from portrait to 'icon' characterizing the late antique period.


Physiognomy, Portrait, Icon, Sanctity, Earthly vs spiritual man