Faustina's Nose Job



Imperial Portraits

Up to Faustina the Elder


  William Storage and Laura Maish
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The larger-than-life Getty statue of Faustina the Elder uses a standardized body type, commonly called "Large Herculaneum Woman",  with a conventional portrait head of Faustina from fairly late in her life, though the statue itself may be posthumous. The Getty Faustina is in remarkably good condition. The original nose was broken off in ancient times. Her current nose is a restoration - in fact it is her second new nose. We will propose a third.

Even the most skilled restorers - ancient and modern - have to deal with the question of what the original piece looked like. Since intact marble portraits of the same subject often show a wide range of interpretation of their regal subjects, restorers must, at best, pick one of them to use as a model and faithfully reproduce it, making adjustments needed to fit the recreated parts into the voids on the restored piece. Apparently, the skills required to do this are sufficiently different than those required to produce an original, because otherwise highly rated sculptors have produced some appalling results. Art historians rail at such work, finding the restorations less pleasing to view than were the heads in their mutilated state. For example, Cornelius Vermeule describes the restorations of pieces acquired by the Duke of Devonshire as follows.

  A third-rate Scottish sculptor, Thomas Campbell, did his worst for some of the Duke's best. Thus the splendid Tiberian head ... received a ghastly new nose. The head of Domitian ... lost its manifest quality to heavy restoration about the head and a bust of the Severan type... Antinous was so badly massacred in marble and plaster that modern critics have fought over its total authenticity.  

The restorers who fashioned Faustina's current nose did refer to other sculptures of her and to her numismatic images; and their artistic abilities were in fact first-rate - far from the sort Vermeule rails against. Still yet, some additional historical research combined with some anthropometric analysis could have resulted in a better nose.

Intact sculptures reveal that Faustina was by no means the ideal of feminine Hellenistic beauty. She is commonly described as homely, matronly, and dowdy [1]. We cannot know what Faustina really looked like. We can accept on good grounds the Capitoline head from Lanuvio (ancient Lanivium, Latium) as perhaps the definitive Faustina portrait, not on its quality as measured by an artist, but on the judgment of its original audience. It was found in the location most treasured by those who most treasured Faustina - the villa of Antoninus Pius, her husband who survived her by twenty years and never remarried. THe colossal bust of Faustina in the Vatican was no doubt an importance piece in its day, but its current nose is a restoration. Faustina's coin portraits should be ignored altogether; they vary widely without having a dominant type.

By using photographs carefully recorded for the specific purpose of craniofacial measurements, we have identified landmarks on the Getty and Capitoline heads and recorded key angles and proportions commonly used by surgeons in planning reconstructive or aesthetic plastic surgery (see references below).

A surgeon would look at the restorative work done on the Getty statue something like this. The Lanuvio portrait has a nose height to face height ratio of  .46, one standard deviation below human white female mean. Her nasal index is 0.64 (equals female mean). The Getty statue head, as restored, has a nose height to face height ratio of 0.50 (2 SD above mean) and a nasal index of 0.66 (~1/2 SD above mean).

Faustina's nose is somewhat longer than average. That this is not apparent from the ratio of nose height to face height is a consequence of a horizontal mandibular deficiency, apparent in the profile view. To remove the effect of the mandibular deficiency, we compared nose height to face width as determined by interzygomatic distance. The Lanuvio head shows a nose length to face width ratio that is two SD above human mean. The same ratio on the Getty head is four SD above human mean.

The Lanuvio head's nasofacial angle is about 28 degrees, two degrees smaller than the average for white women, although portraits of ancient Roman women seem to regularly fall below the mean for modern white women. Its nasolabial angle is just over 100 degrees, about average for human women. By contrast the nasolabial angle of the Getty head is under 90 degrees and the nasofacial angle is below that of the Lanuvio head.

proportion Lanuvio head Getty head human mean human std. dev.
nose height / face height  = (n-sn)/(n-gn) 0.46 0.50 0.48 0.02
nose height /face width (n-sn)/(zy2-zy1) .415 0.445 0.380 0.017
nasal index = (al2-al1)/(n-sn) 0.64 0.66 0.64 0.05
anterior facial plane-Frankford plane angle 100 degrees 100 degrees 80-95 degrees  
nasofacial angle 31 degrees 30 degrees 33 degrees  
nasolabial angle 100 degrees 87 degrees 100 degrees  

(See appendix for definitions of landmarks)

Construction lines for facial landmarks used to
calculate frontal facial proportions in the Lanuvio head.


The nose/nostril shape of the Lanuvio head would be viewed in facial anthropometry as type 2 or 2-1 in Farkas' modified Topinard classification. The restored Getty features indicate type 4. This is also consistent with the colossal bust of Faustina in the Vatican, indicating perhaps that its restorers and the Getty restorers drew from the same source for their restorations.

Denarius, RIC 351.                     Colossal bust of Faustina, Vatican, Round Room.

Approximate nose shapes for the Lanuvio and Getty portraits.

A non-surgeon's summary can be stated more simply. Faustina's nose (that of the Lanuvio portrait) is slightly longer than average, and of average width and shape. Her relatively small nose height as compared to face height is not due to a small nose, but is due to a small chin and lower jaw. The artists who restored the Getty head gave her a slightly longer and wider nose than that of the Lanuvio head, with angles and dimensions farther away from the average human nose than the angles and dimensions of the Lanuvio head. In common terms, they, like the Vatican portrait restorers, probably ended up with a Faustina that was more homely than she needed to be.

Faustina's numismatic nose types - the denarius naris

We have applied the ratios of measurements between facial landmarks taken from the Capitoline head to the Getty head and (digitally) given her a new nose, one very close to the nose of the Lanuvio head, which we suspect is closer to the original nose of the Getty statue. The results are shown below.


  (Larger images)


[1] Vermeule (untitled review in American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 103, No. 1, Jan., 1999, pp. 167-168) chided another author for calling Faustina the Jackie Kennedy of her day. Vermeule added that Faustina, dowdy and matronly, would better be compared to Barbara Bush or Bess Truman. On this point Vermeule is probably mistaken. Faustina was much closer to the age of Jackie Kennedy as first lady than she was to Bush or Truman during their times as first lady. When she died Faustina was a few years older than Cleopatra was when she and Mark Antony were in the news.

Anthropometry of the Head and Face by Leslie G., M.D. Farkas. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2nd edition (January 15, 1994). ISBN-10: 0781701597. ISBN-13: 978-0781701594.

Anthropometric Facial Proportions in Medicine by Leslie G., M.D. Farkas (Author), Ian R. Munro (Author). Charles C. Thomas Publisher (December 1986). ISBN-10: 0398052611. ISBN-13: 978-0398052614.

Proportions of the Aesthetic Face (The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery) by Nelson Powell and Brian Humphries. Thieme Medical Pub (March 1984), ISBN-10: 0865771170. ISBN-13: 978-0865771178.

"Craniofacial Variability Index: A Simple Measure of Normal and Abnormal Variation in the Head and Face" by Richard E. Ward, Paul L. Jamison, and Leslie G. Farkas. American Journal of Medical Genetics 80:232240 (1998)

"International Anthropometric Study of Facial Morphology in Various Ethnic Groups/Races" by Leslie G. Farkas, Marko J. Katic, and Christopher R. Forrest. The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, Vol. 16, No. 4, July 2005.

"The use of anthropometric proportion indices in the measurement of facial attractiveness" by Raymond Edler, et. al. European Journal of Orthodontics 28 (2006) 274281.

3D head anthropometric analysis by Reyes Enciso, et. al. School of Dentistry, Univ. Southern California.


Frontal view of Getty head with restored nose

Profile of Capitoline head rotated to "neutral position."
The Frankford Plane, defined by a line from the upper
margin of the auditory meatus to the lowest point on
the orbital rim, is horizontal. Also showing relative
nose height and lower face height

Profile of Capitoline head showing lines used to
determine nasofacial and nasomental angles.
Note inclination of anterior facial plane (gn - pg).

Profile of the actual (as restored) Getty head

Adjusted profile of Getty head based on
measurement of the Capitoline head

Comparison of actual (as restored, at left) and
adjusted Getty head views

Comparison of adjusted (left/front) and
actual (as restored) Getty head


Appendix - Definitions of facial landmarks

The head is in standard orientation when the line connecting the orbitale and the porion is horizontal and when a facial midline, defined by vertical alignment of the nasion and gnathion, is vertical. All measurements are projective, either onto a plane defined by projecting the facial midline to the back of the head (profilie) or the vertical perpendicular plane (frontal).

In humans the nominally horizontal line connecting the exocanthions and the normally horizontal line defined by the corners of the mouth are used in this determination. We have found that these normally horizontal-lines are very often not perpendicular to the facial midline defined by the nasion and gnathion in ancient Roman portraits, so they are not used for aligning the facial midline to the vertical in our calculations.

The nasolabial angle is measured between the surfaces of the columella and the upper lip. The nasofrontal angle is defined by the contour of the nasal bridge and the anterior surface of the forehead below the glabella.

The landmarks listed below are shown on frontal and profile views of the Getty Augustus below.

 v    vertex    highest point of standard-oriented head
 g    glabella    most prominent point between the eyebrows  
 op    opisthocranion    situated in the occipital region of the head is most distant from the glabella  
 eu    eurion    most prominent lateral point on each side of the skull in the area of the parietal and temporal bones  
 tr    trichion    point on the hairline in the midline of the forehead  
 zy    zygion    most lateral point of each of the zygomatic  
 go    gonion    most lateral point on the mandibural  
 sl    sublabiale    Determines the lower border of the lower lip or the upper border of the chin  
 pg    pogonion    most anterior midpoint of the chin, located on the skin surface in the front of the identical bony landmark of the mandible  
 gn    menton (or gnathion)    lowest median landmark on the lower border of the mandible  
 en    endocanthion    point at the inner commissure of the eye fissure  
 ex    exocanthion (or ectocanthion)    point at the outer commissure of the eye fissure  
 p    center point of pupil    Is determined when the head is in the rest position and the eye is looking straight forward  
 or    orbitale    the lowest point in the margin of the orbital (eye socket) (directly below the pupil when the eye is open and the patient
 is looking straight ahead) that can readily be felt under the skin.
 ps    palpebrale superius    highest point in the midportion of the free margin of each upper eyelid  
 n    nasion   a point in the midline of both the nasal root and the nasofrontal suture - corresponding to a skull bone suture that is often
 (but not always) visible beneath the skin in a marble portrait.
 pi    palpebrale inferius    lowest point in the midportion of the free margin of each lower eyelid  
 os    orbitale superius    highest point on the lower border of the eyebrow  
 sci    superciliare    highest point on the upper border in the midportion of each eyebrow  
 se    sellion (or subnasion)    Is the deepest landmark located on the bottom of the nasofrontal angle  
 al    alare    most lateral point on each alar contour  
 prn    pronasale    most protruded point of the apex nasi  
 sn    subnasale    midpoint of the angle at the columella base where the lower border of the nasal septum and the surface of the upper lip meet  
 sbal    subalare    point at the lower limit of each alar base, where the alar base disappears into the skin of the upper lip  
 ac    alar curvature (alar crest) point    most lateral point in the curved base line of each ala  
 ls    labiale (or labrale) superius    midpoint of the upper vermillion line  
 li    labiale (or labrale) inferius    midpoint of the lower vermillion line  
 ch    cheilion    point located at each labial commissure
 sto    stomion    Intersection of vertical facial midline and horizontal labial fissure between closed lips 
 sa    superaurale    highest point of the free margin of the auricle  
 sba    subaurale    lowest point of the free margin of the ear lobe  
 pa    postaurale    most posterior point on the free margin of the ear  
 obi    otobasion infrious    point of attachment of the ear lobe to the cheek  
 po    porion  the superior surface of the external auditory meatus (ear canal).  
 t    tragion    notch on the upper margin of the tragus  

         Page created 6/14/08. Copyright 2008 by Bill Storage and Laura Maish. All rights reserved.