|The cultural significance of the nose|
The nose is a central feature of the face - both in terms of its location and its cultural significance through the ages.
Across cultures and through time, the nose has been recognised as an important feature. Nasal characteristics can affect the overall balance of the face. But it goes deeper than just aesthetic appeal, as the nose has played a role in art, psychology, history and popular culture.
Since ancient times, the nose has been considered the ‘organ of reputation' and believed to reflect character traits or personality. In ancient India, amputation of the nose, or rhinokopia, was a common punishment for criminals, as it was seen to strip a man of his honour. hysiognomy is the ancient art of face-reading, thought to have originated in China more than 2000 years ago. Aristotle was believed to have written a treatise on physiognomy - the idea that outward features can determine a person's temperament.
Still today, there are practitioners of ‘personology' who study the link between physical features and character traits. They believe that idiosyncrasies could be governed by factors such as the shape of the face, hair texture, placement of the eyes and the shape of the nose.
The perfect nose is deemed to be one-third the length of the face, with an equal distance above and beyond. The width at the nostrils should be no more than the space between the eyes. It is believed by physiognomists that such ideal division of the face symbolises inner balance and qualities such as honesty, loyalty and truthfulness.
According to Naomi Tickle, founder of the International Centre for Personology in the US says the Roman-shaped nose says the person likes to be in charge and is very aware of costs. The ski-jump nose is a monetary carefree nose; one that like to spend their money without thinking about the future.
She also believes understanding these meanings can be helpful in relationships. For example, if a person with a Roman nose were to get involved someone with a ski-jump nose, the difference in the way each handles money might lead to conflict.
While it is easy to dismiss it as a new-age fad or seem a little far-fetched, it is interesting to note the significance of the nose and how certain characteristics can be interpreted.
The Egyptian priests considered a large nose to be a symbol of wisdom. Greeks and Romans gave great importance to the beauty of the nose and preferred long, sculptured noses. Europeans in the nineteenth century liked Greek and Roman profiles and also had a preference for long noses.
The nose of Cleopatra is said to be responsible for shaping history. In his seventeenth century work entitled Pensées (‘Thoughts') French philosopher Blaise Pascal remarked, ‘Cleopatra's nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed'.
His theory suggested that had her nose been smaller, she would have lacked the dominance and strength of character which society at the time believed a large nose symbolised.
Another interpretation of the ‘Cleopatra's nose theory' suggests if Mark Antony had been less captivated by Cleopatra's charms, (her nose was one of her more alluring features) he might have turned in a better performance at the Battle of Actium. As his defeat marked the transition of Roman republic to Empire, this theory provokes fascinating ‘what if' consequences for Western civilisation - all because of a nose!
Big or long noses have also been recognised as a symbol of shame. In Japan, long-nosed goblins called Tengu are reincarnations of disgraced samurai, their long noses one of their punishments. The fictional character, Pinocchio, was also punished with a long nose, every time he told a lie.
People of some cultures have been known to change the appearance of the nose in order to fit into the mainstream or the nose ‘fashion' of the time. During the wave of Irish immigration to England and the United States in the 19th century, the Irish, seen as inferior by some, were said to have pug noses. Some Irish had plastic surgery to make their noses conform to the Greco-Roman ideal. This was also the case for many Jewish people after World War II.
The desire for an attractive nose exists across cultures. It was recently reported that large numbers of women in Iran are undergoing rhinoplasty. As the nose and the eyes are the only facial features displayed in traditional women's Islamic clothing, these women are determined to make sure what shows looks good.
An interesting cultural angle is that the traditional Iranian ethnic nose is no longer favourable. Certain facial characteristics are being accepted as a common indication of beauty across different cultures and continents - a result of the internationalisation of media images.
Certain characteristics of the nose may carry positive or negative connotations, but the importance of the nose is undeniable. It is a defining characteristic for people, cultures or characters. After all, any Halloween costume can be completed with a ‘wicked witch' nose, and it was Rudolph's nose that made him the subject of mockery and social exclusion, then put him down in history.
The role of nasal aesthetics
Leonardo Da Vinci believed that the nose set the character of the whole face. It is the most prominent feature and therefore involved significantly in the perception of beauty.
Although the idea of beauty can differ from culture to culture and change with the times, scientists and artists over time have tried to define beauty with a formula.
Twelfth century Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci discovered the numerical value of the Divine Proportion. When the first eight numbers of the Fibonacci sequence (1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21) are divided they result in approximately 1.618, or Phi.
The ‘Golden Ratio' is found in structures as diverse as the Pyramids in Egypt, violins, flower petals, the Parthenon in Athens and the United Nations Building in New York. The proportions used are said to be the most attractive to the human eye. In the same way, a well-proportioned nose is a significant factor to overall facial aesthetics.
Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo and Da Vinci used the Divine Proportion in their artworks to achieve balance and harmony. The Vitruvian Man, one of Da Vinci's most famous works, illustrates how the human body perfectly conforms to the Phi ratio. It has also been suggested that Da Vinci used the Golden Ratio when painting his Mona Lisa.
The human face is full of examples of the Phi ratio and is said to form a ‘golden rectangle', where the longer side divided by the shorter side is equal to 1.618, and the distance between the eyes and the bottom of the chin are also divine.
A recent study carried out by US plastic surgeon Dr Stephen Marquardt revisited the relationship between the Golden Ratio and the face. He has proposed that the most beautiful faces are ones based on the Divine Proportion.
According to Dr Marquardt's mask, the ‘perfect' face shape is one where the measurement of the length of the face is 1.618 times the width; the measurement from the top of the nose to the centre of the lips should be 1.618 times the measurement from the top to the bottom of the nose; and the distance from the bottom of the nose to the chin should be 1.618 times the distance from the centre of the lips to the chin.
A rhinoplasty procedure is often sought by those who want to change the size and shape of their nose, to improve appearance and proportion to other facial features.
Male vs. female nose
There are some minor differences in the aesthetics proportions between the male and female nose. Even though these differences are subtle they are very important because they create the right balance that we tend to associate with feminine or masculine nose shapes.
The female nose is generally smaller and shorter than the male nose. It has a narrower bridge and nostrils, often has a more concave profile and tends to be blunter at the tip. A straight or slightly curved bridge is preferred for female patients. For men, a straight bridge, or even a small hump is associated with a more masculine look.
Men and women have totally different nose angles and nose profiles. A female nose also has a greater angulation between the lip and the tip of the nose. (points upwards more) Therefore men with significantly up-turned noses or too much rotation may appear to look more feminine.
These differences in anatomy that should be taken into account before any rhinoplasty procedure in order to shape a nose that best fits the individual.
Folklore: what your nose says about you
The study of ‘personology' (a modern adaptation of physiognomy) examines the link between physical features and character traits, and can be traced back to beliefs of ancient times. Here is a list of the supposed characteristics that you can read from a person's nose type. While today they may seem more myth than fact, some people believe certain nasal features carry important insights into a person's character.
Bulbous tip: You have a preoccupation with saving
Small tip: You do not consider money important
Flared nostrils: You are a big spender and an adventurous risk-taker
Long nose: Routine work is not your speciality
Short nose: You have a talent for old-fashioned, hard work, but you crave emotional stability
Broad nose: You have stability and a purposeful nature and a powerful sex drive
Long and narrow nose: You are intelligent, witty and engaging
Long and broad nose: You have lots of staying power and concentration
Fat nose: You are optimistic and are usually good in business
Ski-jump nose: You are intuitive
Arched: You are elegant and creative