Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions by Alexander Todorov - review by Henry Gee

Henry Gee

Getting the Look

Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions

By

Princeton University Press 327pp £27.95 order from our bookshop
 

Cast your mind back to 1910. That was when the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuși met Hungarian art student Margit Pogany in Paris. Years later Brâncuși carved her portrait in marble from memory. He refined Pogany’s features down to their simplest form – hardly more than arching brows and a long, straight nose – until it could have been a portrait of anybody. (Danaïde, one of the bronzes based on this sculpture, is in the collection of Tate Modern.) Brâncuși invited Pogany to his studio to view the finished work. She recognised it as herself at once.

It’s all in the brows, you see. We humans have much less hairy faces than other primates. Our eyebrows serve to break up the monotonous flat plane of our smooth, high foreheads, which are in turn framed by our hairlines. You might think individuality is all about the eyes, proverbial

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