Currently reading : Physiognomy of Charles Le Brun
Charles Le Brun (b. 1619-1690), declared by Louis XIV to be the “greatest French artist of all time,” was one of the King’s pensioned artists and a director of the French Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. Captivated by human expressions, Le Brun gave a lecture in 1668 describing the various distortions of the human face brought on by emotion. Later in 1671, Le Brun delivered a more fully fleshed out speech in 1671 that discussed the facial shapes of various figures of antiquity, their relation to animal features, and ultimately the connection between human physical characteristics and the brain’s function. Although the text of his speech has since been lost, Le Brun’s graphed-out comparative sketches of human faces (with anthropomorphic renderings of their animal inspirations) display the way in which he measured the various angles and spaces of the human face to relate them to the brain’s pineal gland (the soul’s location according to Descartes). By observing these angles, Le Brun was able to “discern” personality traits from each of his figures.