Beauty and the Beholder
Is it really true – as has often been repeated – that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? That phrase, by the way, was given to us by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, a prolific Victorian era author who is largely forgotten today, in her novel Molly Bawn. But is beauty really dependent on the observer, or is there a classical form of beauty that is timeless?
The concept of objective standards of beauty goes back at least as far as the ancient Greeks in 300 BC, and it actually started with math, not art. Euclid of Alexandria, who was among other things an exceptional mathematician and a founder of the study of geometry, took a strong interest in proportions. He bisected a line so that the whole line’s relationship to the larger segment was the same as the ratio of the larger segment to the shorter one. Then he did the same thing with shapes. The resulting, highly appealing ratio worked out to be about 1.618. By the 12th century AD, Leonardo Fibonacci was experimenting with the Fibonacci Series, which made use of the same type of ratio. He achieved it by creating a continuing series of numbers starting with 0 and 1. Each subsequent number in the series adds the prior two: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, etc. Carried out far enough, the ratio of any sequential numbers in the series approaches 1.618.
So what does all of this math have to do with beauty?
In the 1500’s the “magic” relationship was referenced again in a book for which Leonardo Da Vinci provided the illustrations, and it was given a new name: the divine proportion. Later terminology for this phenomenon included the terms “golden ratio” and “phi.” But whatever the name used for the ratio, the spatial relationships it described were employed by Leonardo and other artists throughout the Renaissance and since to achieve the right balance, spatial relationships and artistic beauty in both art and sculpture.
The divine proportion is just another way to talk about objects in seemingly perfect balance, whether in paintings, in sculpture or in architecture. The ratio appears in nature as well, from flower petals to seashells to the most aesthetically pleasing faces. Could it be that there is an objective standard of beauty after all?
The Divine Proportion in the Beautiful Face
Many believe that the magic ratio can be applied to determine the most attractive human faces by measuring relative distances, including comparing the length of the face to the width, the top of the head to the eyes and the distance from the eyes to the lips, the nose tip to the chin and the lips to the chin as well as other sets of dimensions. Everyone from Justin Bieber to Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Bella Hadid have been said to have faces that adhere closely to golden ratio proportions.
Go to your favorite search engine and pull up some photos of those famous faces, taking time to look at the relative dimensions of their features. Compare them to other celebrities you follow and think are attractive. Often when people decide to have plastic surgery, they think about ideal proportions and dimensions and the relationship of various facial features. Is my nose the right size and shape to perfectly complement the rest of my face, for example? Has my skin changed over time, hiding some of the beautiful bone structure that I naturally possess?
Beauty cannot fully be defined by science, of course. Physical dimensions only make up a small fraction of personal appeal. But having a plastic surgeon who understands the dimensions of your face and how to maximize the attractive relationships between your features will be very important if you are having your nose done, having a facelift or doing some work on your eyes and brow.
The Best Plastic Surgeons Are Artists
There are a lot of technical aspects to plastic surgery, certainly. But a full understanding of the art of facial and body contours and spatial relationships is what separates the good surgeons from the absolute masters. The idea of plastic surgery is to showcase your natural features to their best advantage, helping you put your ideal self out there to the world. Many surgeons have the core skills needed to perform acceptable procedures. When it comes to your face, though, you should not settle for anything less than an artist.
The first step is a private, confidential conversation to discuss all of your options. This is the perfect year to give yourself that little gift. Whether it’s turning back time just a bit, taking care of any areas that you’ve always wanted to address, or just touching things up as you prepare for a post-pandemic world without masks – it all starts with a simple chat.
Let’s schedule some time to talk right after the holidays and explore what’s available to you!