This post on Catherine Delors' very entertaining blog led me to two interesting posts about historical fiction book covers on writer Julianne Douglas's Writing the Renaissance blog:
Knowing a book by its cover
Personally, I hate the "headless woman" cover craze. You can read my earlier comments on the subject here: Perkin Warbeck's chin
I like to see portraits or old paintings on book covers, and it annoys me to see them cut off in weird places, or with the faces (usually female) unnecessarily obscured.
As Catherine Delors mentions in her post, Sheramy from the blog Van Gogh's Chair commented on Julianne Douglas's original post, "The point of much historical fiction is to give faces and voices to women of the past, and then the covers take their faces away." Exactly!
For example, the cover of Sena Jeter Naslund's novel Abundance, which is about Marie Antoinette:
This illustration doesn't say "French court" or "Marie Antoinette" to me. It says "anonymous woman holding ugly fan at strange angle."
What a wasted opportunity, when the cover could have looked like this:
Now, that says Marie Antoinette to me, probably because it IS Marie Antoinette (public domain image from Wikimedia).
I would love to see that on the cover of a book because, as I said before, I like looking at historical portraits. And a portrait isn't a portrait without a face.
So please, publishers, bring back the faces. You'll sell more books that way — at least when I'm the one buying the books.
(P.S. I took the title of this post from a C.S. Lewis novel that doesn't have anything to do with book covers — but it's a good book.)