A Quantitative Approach to Beauty



Has human beauty always been perceived in the same manner? We used a set of 120,000 paintings from different periods to analyze human faces between the 13th and the 20th centuries in order to establish whether there has been a single canon of beauty (that would maximize reproduction probabilities) or whether this has changed over time. Our study shows that when measuring averageness, symmetry, and orientation, the representation of human faces has not remained constant and that there are substantial differences between the faces depicted between the 15th and 18th centuries when compared to those of both the 13th and 20th centuries. Especially significant is the decrease in the perceived beauty of faces in 20th-century paintings, as the freedom of artists and the openness of society fostered the representation of different types of human faces other than that of classical styles.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.11588/dah.2015.1.21640


Javier de la Rosa

is Ph.D. Candidate in Hispanic Studies and Tech Lead and Developer Chief at the CulturePlex Lab at the University of Western Ontario. As an Engineer and Computer Scientist he has a solid background in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (B.Sc. and M.S.), disciplines that he loves to apply to his new field of research on Digital Humanities, where he combines his two most preferred passions.

Juan-Luis Suárez

is a Professor in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department and the Director of the CulturePlex Lab at the University of Western Ontario. His research deals with culturomics, cultural history, cultural complexity and complexity theory, lean big data, the evolution of the Baroque, technologies of humanism, entrepreneurship, as well as globalization. He also spearheaded a successful IDI proposal at in the field of Digital Humanities on which he is collaborating with participants from a broad spectrum of fields of study.