From Middle English contenaunce, countenaunce, from Anglo-Norman countenance and Old French contenance, from the present participle of contenir, or from Late Latin continentia, and therefore a doublet of continence.
In Judaism and Christianity, the concept is the manifestation of God rather than a remote immanence or delegation of an angel, even though a mortal would not be able to gaze directly upon him. In Jewish mysticism, it is traditionally believed that even the angels who attend him cannot endure seeing the divine countenance directly. Where there are references to visionary encounters, these are thought to be either products of the human imagination, as in dreams or, alternatively, a sight of the divine glory which surrounds God, not the Godhead itself.
The "countenance divine" appears in the lines of the famous poem, And did those feet in ancient time, by William Blake which first appeared in the preface to his epic Milton: A Poem in Two Books. Blake thought highly of Milton's work saying, "I have the happiness of seeing the Divine countenance in ... Milton more distinctly than in any prince or hero."
Hence in scriptural language, the light of Gods countenance is his smiles or favorable regards, his favor and grace; and to hide his face or countenance is to manifest his displeasure, and withdraw his gracious aids. So the rebuke of his countenance indicates his anger and frowns. Psalms 80:16.
This application of face or countenance which seems to be of high antiquity, proceeded probably from the practice of turning away the face to express anger, displeasure and refusal; a practice still common, but probably universal among rude nations. The opposite conduct would of course express favor. The grant of a petition is accompanied with a look directed to the petitioner; the refusal or denial, with an averted face. Hence,
The authors of this paper wish to draw attention to certain not-so-well-known aspects concerning the epithet "Knight of the Woeful Countenance", by which Cervantes' character Don Quixote is universally known. Cervantes used it to highlight the loss of his hero's molars and incisors; thus, the reduced vertical dimension of his face, along with his sagging cheeks and deepened facial furrows, was the reason for his permanently sorrowful countenance. Luis Martínez, a professional illustrator following instructions from the authors of this paper, has recreated the face of Don Quixote as Miguel de Cervantes may well have imagined it for his celebrated character.