A progressive region-based image compression technique is presented. This technique is based on the second generation image compression paradigm, representing images as a union of homogeneous regions in harmony with the characteristics of the human visual system. The technique is progressive, allowing for an initial coarse version of the image to be reconstructed quickly from the compressed image data, and then refined through to the desired degree of fidelity. This paper describes how this technique can be applied to human face image archiving and retrieval. Compression results are provided and comparison with the JPEG standard is undertaken.