Facial Types in Painting and Recognition Skills: Laymen as Connoisseurs

J.F.H.J. Stumpel, Astrid Schenk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The history of art attribution in painting demonstrates that connoisseurs compare faces and facial features in their efforts to ascribe paintings to regions, schools, workshops and specific artists. Connoisseurs do not generally reflect on their application of face recognition or its importance. Since connoisseurs apply both specialist perception skills (recognising a brushstroke technique, for instance) and generic perception skills, an experiment was performed aiming to eliminate a connoisseur’s specialist skills. The experiment was performed using laymen observing faces, derived from paintings, that were stripped from all contextual information (i.e., cut-out faces). Thus, only generic skills could be applied in order to categorise these pictures. The results show how laymen arrive at the same categorisation of paintings as connoisseurs do, without prior training in matters of artistic connoisseurship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143–167
Number of pages25
JournalArt and Perception
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Hans Memling
  • physiognomy
  • Pictorial facial types
  • Jean Hey
  • Rogier van der Weyden
  • connoisseurship
  • Rembrandt
  • face recognition
  • art attribution


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