Monday, November 10, 2014

which cheek did jesus turn?


tandfonline |  In portraiture, subjects are mostly depicted with a greater portion of the left side of their face (left hemiface) facing the viewer. This bias may be induced by the right hemisphere's dominance for emotional expression and agency. Since negative emotions are particularly portrayed by the left hemiface, and since asymmetrical hemispheric activation may induce alterations of spatial attention and action-intention, we posited that paintings of the painful and cruel crucifixion of Jesus would be more likely to show his left hemiface than observed in portraits of other people. By analyzing depictions of Jesus's crucifixion from book and art gallery sources, we determined a significantly greater percent of these crucifixion pictures showed the left hemiface of Jesus facing the viewer than found in other portraits. In addition to the facial expression and hemispatial attention-intention hypotheses, there are other biblical explanations that may account for this strong bias, and these alternatives will have to be explored in future research.

In portraits, most subjects are depicted with their head rotated rightward, with more of the left than right side of the subject's face being shown. For example, in the largest study of facial portraiture, McManus and Humphrey (1973) studied 1474 portraits and found a 60% bias to portray a greater portion of the subjects’ left than right hemiface. Nicholls, Clode, Wood, and Wood (1999) found the same left hemiface bias even when accounting for the handedness of the painter.
Multiple theories have been proposed in an attempt to explain the genesis of this left hemiface bias in portraits. One hypothesis is that the right hemisphere is dominant for mediating facial emotional expressions. In an initial study, Buck and Duffy (1980) reported that patients with right hemisphere damage were less capable of facially expressing emotions than those with left hemisphere damage when viewing slides of familiar people, unpleasant scenes, and unusual pictures. These right-left hemispheric differences in facial expressiveness have been replicated in studies involving the spontaneous and voluntary expression of emotions in stroke patients with focal lesions (Borod, Kent, Koff, Martin, & Alpert, 1988; Borod, Koff, Lorch, & Nicholas, 1985; Borod, Koff, Perlman Lorch, & Nicholas, 1986; Richardson, Bowers, Bauer, Heilman, & Leonard, 2000).
Hemispheric asymmetries are even reported in more “naturalistic” settings outside the laboratory. For example, Blonder, Burns, Bowers, Moore, and Heilman (1993) videotaped interviews with patients and spouses in their homes and found that patients with right hemisphere damage were rated as less facially expressive than left hemisphere-damaged patients and normal control patients. These lesion studies suggest that the right hemisphere has a dominant role in mediating emotional facial expressions. Whereas corticobulbar fibers that innervate the forehead are bilateral, the contralateral hemisphere primarily controls the lower face. Thus, these lesion studies suggest that the left hemiface below the forehead, which is innervated by the right hemisphere, may be more emotionally expressive.
This right hemisphere-left hemiface dominance postulate has been further supported by studies of normal subjects portraying emotional facial expressions. For example, Borod et al. (1988) asked subjects to portray emotions, either by verbal command or visual imitation. The judges who rated these facial expressions ranked the left face as expressing stronger emotions. Sackeim and Gur (1978) showed normal subjects photographs of normal people facially expressing their emotions and asked participants to rate the intensity of the emotion being expressed. However, before showing these pictures of people making emotional faces, Sackeim and Gur altered the photographs. They either paired the left hemiface with a mirror image of this photograph's left hemiface to form a full face made up of two left hemifaces or formed full faces from right hemifaces. Normal participants found that the composite photographs of the left hemiface were more emotionally expressive than the right hemiface. Triggs, Ghacibeh, Springer, and Bowers (2005) administered transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to the motor cortex of 50 subjects during contraction of bilateral orbicularis oris muscles and analyzed motor evoked potentials (MEPs). They found that the MEPs elicited in the left lower face were larger than the right face, and thus the left face might appear to be more emotionally expressive because it is more richly innervated.
Another reason portraits often have the subjects rotated to the right may be related to the organization of the viewer's brain. Both lesion studies (e.g., Adolphs, Damasio, Tranel, & Damasio, 1996; Bowers, Bauer, Coslett, & Heilman, 1985; DeKosky, Heilman, Bowers, & Valenstein, 1980) and physiological and functional imaging studies (e.g., Davidson & Fox, 1982; Puce, Allison, Asgari, Gore, & McCarthy, 1996; Sergent, Ohta, & Macdonald, 1992) have revealed that the right hemisphere is dominant for the recognition of emotional facial expressions and the recognition of previously viewed faces (Hilliard, 1973; Jones, 1979). In addition, studies of facial recognition and the recognition of facial emotional expressions have demonstrated that facial pictures shown in the left visual field and left hemispace are better recognized than those viewed on the right (Conesa, Brunold-Conesa, & Miron, 1995). Since the right hemisphere is dominant for facial recognition and the perception of facial emotions when viewing faces, the normal viewer of portraits may attend more to the left than right visual hemispace and hemifield. When the head of a portrait is turned to the right and the observer focuses on the middle of the face (midsagittal plane), more of the subject's face would fall in the viewer's left visual hemispace and thus be more likely to project to the right hemisphere.
Agency is another concept that may influence the direction of facial deviation in portraiture. Chatterjee, Maher, Gonzalez Rothi, and Heilman (1995) demonstrated that when right-handed individuals view a scene with more than one figure, they are more likely to see the left figure as being the active agent and the right figure as being the recipient of action or the patient. From this perspective the artist is the agent, and perhaps he or she is more likely to paint the left hemiface of the subject, which from the artist's perspective is more to the right, the position of the patient. Support for this agency hypothesis comes from studies in which individuals rated traits of left- versus right-profiled patients, and found that those with the right cheek exposed were considered more “active” (Chatterjee, 2002).
Taking this background information into account and applying it to depictions of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ highlights the various influences on profile painting in portraiture. Specifically, we confirm the predilection to display the left hemiface in portraiture and predict the same in portraits of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The strongest artistic portrayals of a patient being subject to cruel and painful agents are images of the crucifixion of Jesus. The earliest depiction of Christ on the cross dates back to around 420 AD. As Christianity existed for several centuries before that, this seems to be a late onset for this type of art. Because of the strong focus on Christ's resurrection and the disgrace of his agony and death, art historians postulate that there was a hesitation for early followers to show Christ on the cross. The legalization of Christianity also may have lifted the stigma. Based on the artwork still in existence from that period, Jesus was often pictured alive during the crucifixion scene. Several centuries later, from the end of the seventh century to the beginning of the eighth century, Christ is more often shown dead on the cross (Harries, 2005).