Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Most Typical Face, and Other Things

We'll do the other things first.

Today is the birthday (in Caprese, Italy, in 1475) of Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect and poet Michelangelo Buonarroti (bet you didn't know his last name, did you?). Michelangelo is justly famous for some of the most towering works of Western art, including the Pieta

and his painting of The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel (for which he also frescoed the entire ceiling for Pope Julius II)

You can read a wonderful account of Michelangelo's life and his work on the Sistine Chapel in the book Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, by Ross King.

Today is also the birthday (in 1806) of English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, many of whose love poems were sonnets she wrote for or about her husband, poet Robert Browning. Elizabeth and Robert married in 1846, when she was 40, but did so in secret, because her father had forbidden her to marry. The newlywed lovebirds decamped to Florence, Italy, which is a great place for artists (and was the hiding place some years later of Dr Hannibal Lecter, but that's another story). One of Ms Browning's most famous and moving poems was "How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)":

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

I think she rather liked him, don't you?

Well, that's enough high culture for now...let's talk about the most typical face on earth.

You may have read this fascinating article by Liz Goodwin the other day: The Most Typical Face on the Planet. It reports on a National Geographic video clip (which you can view at the linked article) which purports to show the "most typical face" of the billions and billions of people now living on planet Earth. The face, a composite of nearly 200,000 individual photos, is that of a male, 28-year-old Han Chinese man ... of which there are, today, about 9 million.

So, if you're a 28-year old Han Chinese man, and you're one in a million, there are at least nine more people out there just like you.

The article goes on to note that this will not be the most typical face for long ... given current population trends, within 20 years, the face of the most typical person on the planet will be Indian.

That's enough for now. It's time to eat some breakfast, read the Sunday paper (half of which is now delivered on Saturday, go figure), wear myself out on the new elliptical trainer, and put the oarlocks on the car so we can row down to visit the local grandchildren this afternoon (yes, it's raining cats and dogs).

Have a good day. Stay dry. More thoughts tomorrow.



Mike said...

I read Michelangelo's last name and was thinking 'I didn't know that was his last name' as I read the rest of your sentence.

Amanda said...

I wouldn't mind having an elliptical trainer in this house except that it would probably be the cause of a few accidents. Maybe in a few years....

Enjoy the time with the grandchildren!

KathyA said...

'The Pieta' moves me like no other piece of art.

Gee, how assuming of us all to be on a first name basis with such an artist all these years! How American of us!