This article reads description in Ali Smith's fiction alongside the techniques and concerns of the visual portraiture tradition. It deploys portraiture as a guiding framework within which to explore how character description operates in this author's work. First setting out the technical similarities between each visual and verbal domain, this study then moves on to a consideration of their shared thematic concerns. Specifically, approaching Smith's work with visual representation in mind has much to tell us about how prose fiction grapples with the issues that typically attach to perceiving and rendering identity, and gendered identity in particular. More widely, this study makes a methodological and firmly interdisciplinary point: it argues for the critical value of considering visual and verbal images alongside one another. This integrated approach stresses the capacity of each respective form to articulate, and query, the workings of the other. And in so doing, they also shed light on the wider visual culture out of which they both emerge.