In paintings, you often see people pointing at things. This is sometimes the painter's way of attracting the audience's attention to whatever is being pointed at. Is there a name for this way of guiding attention to objects in a painting?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it does not have a practical aspect.
    – Joachim
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 19:34
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    The question should be allowed. As another current asker states when criticized for requesting terminology help, knowing technical terminology helps with research and understanding. Moving from novice to expert in any area requires a grasp of the discipline’s particular terminology. crafts.stackexchange.com/questions/7647/…
    – Laurent R.
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 22:22
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    What would be a suitable platform for this then? In other SE forums these questions are pretty common. How can you read and learn about a new topic you're interested in if you don't know what keywords to search for? Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 12:19
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    There is a real push, though arbitrarily enforced, to make this site only about practical technique and not about the history or theory of art, even though the topic "Arts & Crafts..." definitely suggests that should be included. Maybe it should just be called "Crafting Techniques" (but that's a case for the Meta...)
    – rebusB
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 17:25
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    AFAIK, this is a terminology question about composition, which would seem to be on-topic. I would assume it's as on-topic as any terminology questions, but whether or not there's a satisfactory answer for you, time will tell.
    – user24
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 19:44

2 Answers 2


In painting, this figure is called a festaiuolo:

[Artists of late medieval and Renaissance Europe] relied on festiauolo - figures who attract our attention by glance or gesture, point us in the appropriate direction, and indicate how we should respond or behave. The concept of the festaiuolo was taken by artists from the Italian theatrical and celebratory conventions. On stage, he or she was usually a secondary character who served as an intermediary between the audience and the main action, explaining, commenting, and modeling the appropriate response. The meaning of the word itself, literally "feast-maker", suggests the role of master or mistress of ceremonies, who would perform introductions and direct guests, and so the festaiuolo functioned in a work of art.

Scholarship and Christian faith: Enlarging the Conversation; Douglas Jacobsen, Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen; 2004. p. 144

This pointing can be to something or someone inside the painting, as well as outside of it, in which case it usually is a concept, like God or Fate (here is a related thread on History.SE).


You could consider this an example of emphasis which generally means, in art terms, an element of the composition that draws the viewer's eye to a desired focal point in the work.

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