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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

One of Life's Little Mysteries

I've noticed a recent trend in the cover art for biographies of historical women to use portraits that only show the subject from the neck down. "Jane Boleyn" by Julia Fox, "Elizabeth and Leicester" by Sarah Gristwood and "Shakespeare's Wife" by Germaine Greer are all examples of this type of cover; there are even two new biographies of Catherine the Great, one by Simon Dixon and the other by Virginia Rounding, that use headless portraits. I'm wondering why this style of book jacket has become popular. It strikes me as vaguely demeaning to the subject of the book; but maybe the author is just trying to imply that we are unable to know her thoughts. Does anyone have an answer or a good theory? Have you seen any covers of this type on biographies of men?


Dee said...

I have actually noticed this on flickr as well as style trend sites...usually to show off an outfit. Maybe it's just a photography trend that has spilled over to books?

Naomi said...

I have also noticed this trend. I have no answers, and am not knowledgeable in the field of cover art, but I have given it thought. The best guess I've come up with is one of identification. Most people connect a persona with a face. Once we see a face, we attach certain prejudices, good or bad, to that face. If there is no face, we can put ourselves into that person's shoes more easily. Just a thought. That does not address the gender question. Are women thought to identify with characters more than do men? Would this trend then have little to no impact on men? I have no idea.

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