Five Different Types of Portrait Paintings

Henry James once wrote, “There is no greater work of art than a great portrait.” This is true even in today’s world where photography rules. Portraits have been painted since the ancient times, but their beauty still holds the attention. This unique aesthetic quality attracts both painters and viewers alike. In our lives, we have seen various portraits of famous personalities and models. Each portrait has something different to offer to our visual delight. Let’s look at the different types of portrait paintings done from The Renaissance to the 21st century.

  1. Bust Portrait – This is by far the most common type of portrait. This kind of portrait focuses mainly on the head and shoulders of the person and the painter tries to not just paint the look of the person. But also their Bust portraits capture the very essence of one’s being. The focus of the artist here is the facial expression of the subject. Over the years, many famous painters have done self-portraits too. Van Gogh self-portraits are quite famous and are successful in capturing the various phases of his life. Bust portraits are usually big enough to cover the entire canvas. There are also miniature portraits that are small in size and are mainly used to fit inside a pendant or pocket watch.
  1. Kit-Kat Portrait – Yes, we are talking about a type of portrait and not chocolate. This is a type of portrait that extends below the head and shoulders of the person. A Kit-Kat portrait also includes the hands of the model in the portrait. The world famous portrait, Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci is a Kit-Kat portrait.
  1. Full-Length Portrait – The term itself is self-explanatory. The full body of the person is painted in this type of portrait. Full-length portraits became quite popular during the 17th and 18th century, during the Baroque period. They placed importance on displaying the musculature of the people in their paintings. A full-length portrait also gives the artist the opportunity to paint the background landscape or monuments. Hence, increasing the detailed work and capturing the culture of that time.
  1. Three-quarter length Portrait – This kind of portrait overlaps the full-length and half-length portrait. Though these type of portraits are fewer in number, some very famous painters have chosen to depict their subject in this type of painting. One of the famous three-quarter length portraits is that of Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Raphael. Full-length portraits usually depict the sensual side of the body. This type of portrait is useful in capturing the quintessential personality of the person without any sensual quality attached to the sitter, as well.
  1. Tronie – The word comes from the Dutch language meaning ‘the face.’ This type of portrait became famous during the Dutch Golden age in early 17th century. The tronie gave the sitter the opportunity to be relaxed rather than sit stiff and expressionless. The social strata of the model were not given importance and so they could exhibit a more natural posture. At times, the sitter was painted laughing, giggling, smoking or half turned. One of the most famous paintings of this type of portrait is Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer.

Lionel Smit has carved out a special place for himself among present day artists in the world of portraiture. He has phenomenally portrayed the Cape Malay women in his gigantic sculptures and paintings. Oscar Wilde remarks “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” This statement is so true when it comes to Smit’s work as he lends his signature touch to each of his portraits. If you are a fan of his work, you can now own an original. is an innovative online art gallery that has Lionel Smit art for sale.