Alaor Santos

Senior Member
Portuguese Brazil

Hi everyone

In the following sentence, I am not sure whether to use the word 'countenance' meaning 'look', 'the expression of the eye'. Does it sound good? If I used 'look' would it be clear enough? I am talking about pictures, paintings here. I want to convey the message that the eyes of the person depicted are the central axis.

The portrait emotional reading is about the countenance, the picture central axis that reveals its intention and its position in the world.

Thank you

  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    In this sentence, I understand countenance to mean the face itself, not its expression. I suspect many people would.

    If that is not what you mean, I think you need to express the idea differently.
    I agree with Cagey that countenance means the entire face, certainly not part of the face, like the eyes. I'll disagree a bit though and say that countenance means "the whole face and the expression on, of aspect of, the face."

    Most of times I've seen it used to emphasize something rugged or rigid or even statue-like. "Mr. Jones faced the camera with a stern countenance." It's picked up connotations of "seriousnesses" or even "grimness" even though the neutral meaning of the word is not that, and you can say somebody has a "pleasant countenance" but that's current usage and flavorings as opposed to strict word definition.

    I'm not exactly sure what you want to state either, but so far it sounds like you want to say something like

    "In paintings, the expressive eyes of the subject seem to focus our attention both by their very nature of revealing the subject person within, and also by their strategic placement by the artist, fix the central axis of the underlying drawing plan so that our own eyes can go nowhere else but where the artists intends them to go."

    Is it something like that you intend?


    Senior Member
    I beg to insert a question here

    When Ross, a foreign teacher heard the good news, she had a cheerful _____.
    A. face
    B. countenance
    C. facial
    D. look
    Key A
    link When ...

    Is this topic question itself designed well?
    I feel puzzled between the options B and C.
    Manybe, it's B?

    Many thanks.


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It's not a well-designed multiple-choice question, and the use of commas is not correct.

    Any of those choices could be used, except for "facial". See dictionary definition of the noun "facial".

    I'd choose B, but that's a rather old-fashioned word for everyday use.
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