Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/March 1890/The Physiognomy of the Mouth
By TH. PIDERIT.
THE muscles of the mouth have a triple function. They serve in the articulation of sounds, and assist the activity of the taste and the hearing. Our present study is limited to the movements of the buccal muscles, which have to do with the taste. Taste is the earliest developed of all our senses, and abides with us from the first to the last hour of life. No other sense controls man so early or with so much power; none remains so long faithful to him.
The lips may be regarded as a flat, circular muscle placed in front of the buccal cavity, cleft horizontally in the middle, with a moist, ruddy mucous membrane covering the edges of the opening thus formed. Not regarding now the muscles of the lower jaw, the mouth is closed by the contraction of the orbicular muscle of the lips, and opened by antagonistic muscles which are fixed on its outer edge. The mouth is, then, destined to undergo very great variations of form; and, by virtue of this variety of its movements, it enjoys at least as much importance as the eyes in whatever concerns the mimetic expression of the countenance.
When any object perceptible to the taste is placed upon the tongue at rest, the sensation of the contact is vague and imperfect. It is only when the upper face of the tongue is pressed against the osseous vault of the palate that a complete impression of the object can be made upon the nerves of taste, the extremities of which abut upon the caliciform papillæ of this surface. Hence, when in mastication we inopportunely encounter anything of disagreeable taste, we at once separate our jaws to get the tongue as far as possible from the palate or to prevent any further rubbing of the upper face of the tongue and repetition of the bad taste. The movement of the jaws is accompanied by a corresponding movement of the mouth. The upper lip is removed from the lower lip as the palate is removed from the tongue by the levator muscles of the lip and of the wings of the nose drawing it up. Each of these two muscles rises near the inner corner of the eye, and ends in two points—one of which is attached to the wing of the nose, and the other to the middle lateral half of the upper lip. When these muscles come into play, the expression of the face is modified in a striking manner. The red edge of the upper lip is drawn up in the middle of its upper half, and this part of the lip is turned over, so as to give the line of its profile a broken appearance. The wings of the nose are raised, and the naso-lateral grooves, which, beginning at these wings, continue in an oblique direction to the commissure of the lips, appear near their beginning strongly pronounced and unusually straight. A still further effect of the movement is an even folding of the skin of the back of the nose (Fig. 1). The expression thus depicted, appearing primarily with bitter tastes, is also associated with other disagreeable feelings, which have become characterized by the term bitter.
While in ordinary disagreeable representations and dispositions the skin of the forehead alone is wrinkled vertically, the bitter trait of the mouth also appears in such as are very disagreeable (Fig. 2). The significance and importance of this expression
vary essentially according to the nature of the look. If it is dull, the face bears the impress of bitter suffering, and it is a sign that the person is suffering from bitter feelings and trials; but if it is firm and energetic, the face then wears the marks of lively reaction and violent irritation. When the eyes are directed upward in ecstasy, the vertical wrinkles are of course absent, and then, while the upper lip is contracting bitterly, the face expresses a painful concentration. Such is the expression which painters have sought or should have sought to represent in the penitent Magdalen. If, instead of vertical wrinkles, horizontal furrows appear on the forehead while the mouth is wearing the bitter trait, we recognize that the man is occupied with painful recollections.
The physiognomy is most violently changed when the expression of fear is manifested simultaneously with the bitter trait, or when the vertical and horizontal wrinkles both appear on the forehead at once. In this way the countenance receives the expression of violent terror. Leonardo da Vinci describes this expression in very striking terms when he says: "Paint wounded and bruised persons with pale faces and elevated eyebrows; the whole, including the flesh above, covered with wrinkles, the outside of the nostrils with a few wrinkles ending near the eye. The wrinkled nostrils should raise themselves and the upper lip with them, so as to expose the upper teeth, and these, parting from the lower jaw, will indicate the cries of the wounded." Darwin describes other symptoms of terror and fear as follows: "The heart beats quickly and violently, so that it palpitates or knocks against the ribs. ... The skin becomes instantly pale, as during incipient faintness. This paleness of the surface, however, is probably in large part or exclusively due to the vaso-motor center being affected in such a manner as to cause the contraction of the small arteries of the skin. That the skin is much affected under the sense of great fear we see in the marvelous and inexplicable manner in which perspiration immediately exudes from it. This exudation is all the more remarkable as the surface is then cold, and hence the term a cold sweat, whereas the sudorific glands are properly excited into action when the surface is heated. The hairs also on the skin stand erect, and the superficial muscles shiver. In connection with the disturbed action of the heart, the breathing is hurried. ... One of the best-marked symptoms is the trembling of all the muscles of the body. ... From this cause, and from the dryness of the mouth, the voice becomes husky or indistinct, or may altogether fail. 'Obstupui steteruntque comæ, et vox faucibus hæsit'" (I was amazed, my hair stood up, and my voice stuck in my throat). This form of mouth occurs physiognomically among persons of a soured nature.
The sweet trait is opposed to the expression of bitterness; for while that seeks to avoid as much as possible a disagreeable sensation of taste, in it the muscles are set to play in such a manner as to gather up the gustatory impressions as completely as possible. The mouth is closed and the cheeks are strongly pressed against the teeth, so as to concentrate and retain upon the tongue all the parts of the sapid object, which during mastication and degustation glide between the cheeks and the jaws. In this way the activity of the nerves of taste is greatly assisted. The cheeks are pressed against the teeth chiefly by the action of the same muscles as are exercised in laughing, and for this reason the sweet trait bears a degree of resemblance with the trait of the smile; but the simultaneous contraction of the orbicular muscle of the lips suppresses to a considerable extent the lateral effect of Fig. 3.—Sweet Expression. the laughing muscles. The most essential characteristic, however, of the sweet trait is the peculiar form assumed by the lips; their orbicular muscle being drawn closely against the teeth, the red lips lose their normal swell, so as to appear flattened and straight when viewed in profile (Fig. 3). The mouth is drawn up in this way under the influence of unusually agreeable, sweet tastes, and also as a mimic expression of extremely pleasant feelings in the representations and recollections to which the usages of language have given the epithet of sweet.
The sweet mouth, combined with an enraptured look, gives the mimic expression of a pleasant reverie; joined with a sly look, the expression of amorous coquetry; with horizontal wrinkles it suggests occupation with pleasant thoughts or recollections. It frequently appears when the lips are prepared to give a real or feigned kiss. Inasmuch as the very agreeable feelings to which the term sweet is applied are of only exceptional occurrence, this trait is rarely developed physiognomically. It hardly ever exists among men, but is occasionally found among extremely affectionate women. When it becomes constant upon the face, it produces an impression akin to that of a too constant sweet taste, as if there were too much of it. If we observe the trait plainly impressed upon a person, we shall be likely to find him in conversation making much use of the word sweet, and speaking of "sweet women," "sweet music," "sweet love," and even of "sweet grief."
The central fibers of the orbicular muscle are capable of contraction independently of the lateral fibers, and this movement gives the scrutinizing trait. When we are on the point of tasting a sapid substance, such as wine, we introduce it between the lips projected into the form of a muzzle; we then carefully let the liquid flow slowly upon the upper surface of the tongue, in order that the impression of the taste may be prolonged as much as possible, and we may gain more time to appreciate it. The same expression may be observed on the faces of men who are examining the value of an object, whether it be something perceptible to the senses, or abstract thoughts or associations. The art critic looking at a picture, the doctor feeling the pulse of his patient, the judge weighing the testimony of a witness, the merchant deliberating concerning the acceptability of a commercial proposition—all are tempted involuntarily to project their lips, as if about to taste something sweet, and that the more readily as they fancy themselves better qualified to form a judgment. This trait furthermore betrays a kind of feeling of one's own value, a feeling of superiority; for whoever considers himself authorized and fit to pass a definite judgment on men, things, or events at once feels that by virtue of his quality of judge he rises superior to
the object on which he is called to pronounce. For this reason the scrutinizing trait is also often the expression of arrogance and presumption (Fig. 4). If the scrutinizing trait is associated with vertical wrinkles, it indicates that, while the man is weighing and studying the reasons for and against the judgment he is to pronounce, whatever may be his final decision, he is already in a bad humor (Fig. 5). With horizontal wrinkles, the scrutinizing trait indicates that attention is fixed in the highest degree upon the matters that are under examination, and that they are considered very important or very delicate. A fine representation of this expression is given in Hasenklever's picture, "La Dégustation du Vin" ("The Wine-tasting," Fig. 7). This expression is frequently found among men who think much of the pleasures of the table. Their imagination indulging in fancies of pleasures obtained or anticipated, their lips advance as if they were really tasting what they are imagining; and thus the scrutinizing trait becomes physiognomic. It is also developed in men who have a high idea of their own value, and feel called upon to judge concerning the value of other men.
When we make any very violent bodily effort, as to put on a tight boot, or to open a tightly closed door, besides contracting the muscles of the arm, we stiffen the neck, clinch the teeth, and press the lips close upon one another. It is very evident that these muscles do not in any way contribute to the attainment of the end proposed; but at the moment when the man is calling upon all his strength and energy to overcome a difficulty by Fig. 7.—Head prom Hasenklever's "Wine-tasting," Scrutinizing Expression. means of a bodily effort, the intensity of his will is manifested not only in the muscles that serve to produce the desired effect, but also in all the muscular apparatus of the body. Every muscle contracts; and, of course, the contraction of the weaker muscles is neutralized by that of the smaller ones. These simultaneous movements, without intention or object, appear more evidently in the facial muscles, and notably in the vigorous muscles of mastication. In all violent or difficult movements we are accustomed, by the contraction of the muscles, to press the lower jaw against the upper, as if we were tearing or breaking some hard object.
The fact that we have noticed in connection with the bitter trait that the movement of the lower jaw is accompanied with a similar movement of the mouth—is likewise observed in the pinched trait. As in the former case we remove, as far as possible, not only the upper maxillary from the lower maxillary, but also the upper lip from the lower; so, in the latter, we press the lower maxillary against the upper, and the lower lip against the upper. In consequence of the contraction of the orbicular labial muscle and of the incisor muscles, the lips are closely shut and their red edges are turned within; but at the same time the lower lip is energetically pressed against the upper, by the action of the two levators of the chin. These muscles start from the upper edge of the lower jaw, near the median incisives, directing their fibers downward and outward, and lose themselves in the skin of the chin. They lift the middle of the lower half of the orbicular labial muscle, and press the skin of the chin closely against the bone. In consequence of this movement, the middle of the lower lip seems to be raised, and simultaneously two wrinkles or indentations appear, which, beginning at the middle of the lower lip, are directed thence toward the sides, like the sides of an obtuse-angled triangle, in a straight line downward and outward. These two indentations are very characteristic of the pinched trait, and correspond with the lower border of the tense labial orbicular, Fig. 8.—Pinched Expression. drawn up in its middle (Fig. 8). This expression is, however, provoked not only by very intense corporeal but also by very intense intellectual efforts. The efforts, however, which we make in mental works—in scientific researches, for example—are rarely passionate enough in their nature to bring on a spasmodic pressure of the lips and teeth; but this takes place when we dispose ourselves for an intellectual combat, when one appeals to all the force of his will to defend himself against strange influences and guard his own convictions. The mouth closed firmly, with the lower lip raised, gives the expression of tenacity, stubbornness, obstinacy, and perseverance.
A person having his teeth and lips closely shut and the skin of his forehead contracted at the same time into vertical wrinkles, shows that he is angry, and firmly disposed to contend about the matter that is on his mind (Fig. 9). If his lips are pinched and
his eyebrows lifted up, he is trying to maintain the impressions that have determined him to an obstinate persistence in his opinions and intentions (Fig. 10). In J. Schrader's picture, "Gregory VII in Exile at Salerno" (Fig. 11), the tenacity of the mouth, the anger expressed in the vertical wrinkles, and the tense attention in the horizontal ones, joined with a secretive look, give to the face of the character the expression of a dangerous man who is contemplating perfidy and vengeance. Another combination is that of the pinched trait and vertical wrinkles with the bitter expression of the mouth (Fig. 12).
It remains to describe the complicated muscular movements that accompany a violent rage. The jaws are strongly pressed upon one another, in expression of an energy ready for the combat,
of a provoking resolution; the upper lip is elevated and also the wings of the nose (bitter trait) so high that it is impossible to pinch the lips; and the teeth of the upper jaw are seen above the upward-drawn lower lip. The nostrils are swelled out wide, for the movements of respiration and the heart are precipitate in rage, and the air is inhaled and expired violently to meet an obstacle in the tightly closed teeth, so that the breathing, preferably Fig. 13.—Pinched Expression, with Bitter Eyes wide open, Vertical and Horizontal Wrinkles, and Wings of the Nose swelled out (Expression of Fury). done through the nose, is facilitated by the inflation of the nostrils. The forehead presents horizontal wrinkles as a sign of close attention, and vertical wrinkles in expression of anger. The eyes look brilliant and "flash with fire" under the effect of the mental excitement, roll wildly in their orbits, or cast a fixed and piercing look (Fig. 13).
The pinched trait becomes physiognomical most easily and frequently with persons whose daily occupations involve often or for long periods painful or intense bodily efforts, whether in the shape of a great display of force, or of special care and prudence. It may be developed among blacksmiths as well as among embroiderers, among butchers or sculptors; but we may be sure that persons with whom we find it are accustomed to do work with zeal and conscientiously. This trait can not, however, be developed physiognomically as the result of intellectual efforts and the expression of tenacity, except the corresponding states of the mind are repeated not only often but with duration. We recognize in them the tenacem propositi virum (man tenacious of his purpose) of Horace, the persevering man; and also, when the expression of the pinched air is engraved with a particular force, the opinionated, obstinate, headstrong, hardened man.
The expression of contempt, or disdain, is manifested partly in the eyes and partly in the mouth. A person who wishes to show his contempt raises his head in order to cast his look downward upon the object of his scorn; he thus expresses that he feels superior to the one who appears low to him—only he does not look straightforwardly at the object, but side wise, as if he did not judge it necessary to turn his head in order to fix his eyes upon him; at the same time the eyelids droop as in sleepiness and as a sign of extreme indifference toward the real or imaginary cause. Fig. 14.—Expression of Contempt. Still, a certain degree of idle and constrained attention is recognizable in the stretched appearance of the frontal muscles; the eyebrows are drawn up and horizontal wrinkles are formed on the skin of the forehead (Fig. 14). Thus, a feeble degree of contempt is expressed only in the eyes, but in the rising degrees of a haughty disdain the expression of the mouth becomes modified in a peculiar way. The bitter trait appears in the upper lip, as if the person were feeling a disagreeable, nauseating taste, and simultaneously the lower lip is pushed forward and upward, as if in the desire to remove an insignificant object from the neighborhood of the lips. The sign that the object is regarded as very insignificant is derived from the fact that in elongating the lower lip we are accustomed to blow a little puff of air, as if that were enough to blow away so light an object. Hence the mimic expression of contempt is a complicated one, and is related partly to imaginary objects and partly to imaginary sensorial impressions.
As in the pinched trait, the lower lip is likewise drawn up in the trait of contempt, and in both cases by means of the two levator muscles of the chin. The expression of stubbornness, however, is essentially distinguished from that of contempt by the lips being drawn inward, while in contempt the lower lip is pushed forward. This is due to a combined action of the levator muscles and of the triangular muscles of the chin; while the former push the lower lip upward and the corners of the mouth are depressed, the red edge of the lower lip is turned outward. Under the influence of the levator muscles of the chin, wrinkles characteristic of the lower lip are formed in the expression of Fig. 15.—Contemptuous Expression in the Mouth. contempt as well as in that of stubbornness; but in the latter the wrinkles start from the middle of the lower lip and are directed in a straight line toward the base and outward, like the sides of an obtuse-angled triangle, while in the former they form, by tension toward the base of the triangulars of the chin, a curved line, the convexity of which is upward (Fig. 15). In both expressions the chin is flat, because its skin, under the influence of the levator muscles, is drawn upward and tightly stretched.
If vertical wrinkles appear along with the expression of contempt, and the arched eyebrows and horizontal wrinkles are Fig. 16.—Contemptuous Expression, with Vertical Wrinkles on the Forehead. wanting, we judge that the person is under the influence of both anger and contempt (Fig. 16). The expressions of contempt and bitterness may be combined, as signs of a corresponding complexity of feelings. The expression of contempt occurs physiognomically with pretentious, arrogant men, who are accustomed to measure the conditions and opinions of others by the scale of their own imagined excellence, and who are hard to satisfy. This trait is manifested in the eye by highly arched brows, horizontal wrinkles, and depressed lids. In the mouth, we perceive that the middle of the lower lip seems pressed up, and that under its red border, which is slightly thrown out, an arched wrinkle is developed, the convexity of which is turned upward.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue Scientifique.
In a work on the "Constitution of Celestial Space," M. Hirn deals with the question of the existence of an ether and its possible tenuity. Among the curious conclusions that he reaches is one that the density of a medium capable by its resistance of causing a secular acceleration of half a second in the mean velocity of the moon, would correspond with a kilogramme of matter uniformly distributed throughout a space of about three hundred and ninety thousand square miles. This is a density one million times rarer than that of the air reduced to one millionth of its normal density in Mr. Crookes's apparatus.