The history portrait borders and coincides largely with the history of the imitation, of mimesis.
It is thus absent from historic periods where one does not try to represent the world, but where it asserts itself and triumphs during the periods of naturalism. It is also necessary to take into account social context: during certain historic periods, the portrait asserts itself by limiting itself to a social class, to a group or to a simple character.
The individual portrait asserted itself in Greece, with Lysippe in the IV°sc bc JC, first at the court of Alexandre the Great (presence of a strong personality cult), then by widening to others eminent social classes (statesmen, generals, poets, philosophers, speakers), with sculptures intended for public celebration. Unfortunately, Greek original, in bronze and represented standing, are known to us only through marble Roman copies, reduced to the head or to the bust, with some rare exceptions.
Romain learnt from Greeks the art of the portrait, they adopted it outside its honorary aspect, to religious ends deprived (cult of the ancestors) and funeral.
A renewal for the individual face physionomy occurred in the XIII°s limiting itself to the statuary, on one hand under the influence of the resurgence of classicism in southern Italy, on the other hand because of the integration of sculptures of the face of the deceaseds in the architecture of funerary monuments.