What is ugliness? What determines ugliness on the human face? This face by Correggio (1519) makes the answers plain. The schematics of the most common facial ugliness are outlined here.

Perhaps the first thing we notice are the high set eyes. They scrunch the forehead and create too much lower face, making it appear too long and droopy. The bird effect. Birds we observe are highly ugly creatures if reduced to their faces and necks. That’s what we have here - the ugliness of a bird like a rook (perhaps the ugliest bird of all). What we have here is a condition of not enough forehead. And through it we see how one disproportionality throws everything off so that other areas of the face, though they correspond proportionally to their adjacent counterparts, do not correspond all the way around. And unfortunately if there are areas of the face which are attractive in isolation, that just makes the overall ugliness that much more tragic and repulsive when considered as a whole.

Moving down from the manly brow we arrive at the oval owl eyes framed in oval by faint, apparently drawn on eyebrows on top and aging eyebags underneath. The eyes match the hair in their utter generic expressionlessness. Now we are at the cheeks - those flabby, drooping, carcassy eyesores - fattening the face, obscuring the chin, invading the neck, hogging the face space. Now the forehead-colored nose - a forehead peninsula far too narrow and tall at the bridge, far too fleshy and ambiguous at the tip, and on top of that - hooked. Look how the tip falls below the level of the nostrils - very unbecoming on a woman, especially an ugly one.

The mouth is probably the most hideous aspect of all. No lips, just a nondescript crease failing to indicate the slightest emotion. Ugliness is a state of being unable to express positive or negative emotions convincingly. A lack of human-ness. Ugliness with a smile is still ugly, and maybe even more so. Here the classic big nose/ weak chin dilemma is matched by a lipless octopus hole for a mouth.

What we have is a large earless beak head plopped down on a rounded off antibody via a fleshy bird neck.

Class dismissed.


Correggio, Portrait of a Lady, 1519
  2005, by Christopher Duckett
Correggio, Portrait of a Lady, 1519