Assessing the aesthetic oblique effect in painting and plating

Charles Spence, Jozef Youssef, Charles Michel, Andy Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Analysis of people's preferences concerning the orientation of paintings has revealed robust evidence for what is known as the aesthetic oblique effect. That is, horizontal/vertical lines are preferred, aesthetically-speaking, over oblique lines in painting by both artists and those who view their works. At the same time, however, researchers have also demonstrated the existence of a preference for linear food elements (be they presented on the plate or on product packaging) when shown ascending to the right (rather than the left, or else when presented in any another orientation). Here, we report on three online studies, the first demonstrating that people visually prefer an edible version of one of Kandinsky's paintings when presented horizontally (while preferring either the horizontal or vertical orientation for the painting on which the dish was based; Experiment 1). In a second study, a similar preference for the horizontal/vertical alignment of a much simpler langoustine dish, with a single dominant linear element, was also documented. This preference for the canonical orientations was also reported in a third experiment with another visually-simple chef-prepared dish. Taken together, these results therefore emphasize the similarity in aesthetic preferences for the horizontal/vertical alignment when viewing either paintings or certain chef-prepared plates of food. At the same time, however, these results also raise the question of what factors determine whether the horizontal/vertical or the ascending to the right preference dominates when plating food.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100168
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science
Early online date6 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • Aesthetic oblique effect
  • Experimental aesthetics
  • Gastrophysics
  • Painting
  • Plating

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