A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person. For this reason, in photography a portrait is generally not a snapshot, but a composed image of a person in a still position. A portrait often shows a person looking directly at the painter or photographer, in order to most successfully engage the subject with the viewer.
Profile view, full face view, and three-quarter view, are three common designations for portraits, each referring to a particular orientation of the head of the individual depicted. Such terms would tend to have greater applicability to two-dimensional artwork such as photography and painting than to three-dimensional artwork such as sculpture. In the case of three-dimensional artwork, the viewer can usually alter their orientation to the artwork by moving around it.
A portrait is a work of pictorial, graphic, photographic art, etc. whose purpose is to represent, in a similar way, a person with his outfit and his characteristic expressions. The term portrait applied to sculpture in France in the classical period.
The term is more rarely applied to the representation of an animal, although animals often appear in portraits, as appendices characteristic of the person represented, as in the equestrian portrait.
When the person represented is the author, it is self-portrait.
The art of portraiture has evolved since the achievements of Persia and Egypt in the techniques employed, in the preferred style and in the use made of it.
The art of the portrait flourished in Ancient Greek and especially Roman sculpture, where sitters demanded individualized and realistic portraits, even unflattering ones. During the 4th century, the portrait began to retreat in favor of an idealized symbol of what that person looked like. In the Europe of the Early Middle Ages representations of individuals are mostly generalized. True portraits of the outward appearance of individuals re-emerged in the late Middle Ages, in tomb monuments, donor portraits, miniatures in illuminated manuscripts and then panel paintings.
One of the best-known portraits in the Western world is Leonardo da Vinci’s painting titled Mona Lisa, which is a painting of Lisa del Giocondo.
The official portrait is a photographic production of record and dissemination of important personalities, notably kings, presidents and governors. It is usually decorated with official colors and symbols such as flag, presidential stripes and coat of arms of countries, states or municipalities. There is also connotation as an image of events, products and meetings.
Portrait photography is a popular commercial industry all over the world. Many people enjoy having professionally made family portraits to hang in their homes, or special portraits to commemorate certain events, such as graduations or weddings. Since the dawn of photography, people have made portraits. The popularity of the daguerreotype in the middle of the 19th century was due in large part to the demand for inexpensive portraiture. Studios sprang up in cities around the world, some cranking out more than 500 plates a day. The style of these early works reflected the technical challenges associated with 30-second exposure times and the painterly aesthetic of the time. Subjects were generally seated against plain backgrounds and lit with the soft light of an overhead window and whatever else could be reflected with mirrors.
In politics, portraits of the leader are often used as a symbol of the state. In most countries it is common protocol for a portrait of the head of state to appear in important government buildings.