All people have unique faces. They consist of the skull, muscles, skin, eyes, nose, ears and mouth. No other animal has a face which is as expressive as a human’s face. Facial expressions can be used to communicate without a common language. Faces can express joy, surprise, fear, sorrow and disgust. These expressions are sometimes made consciously, often unconsciously. Facial expressions can also have different meanings in different cultures. Friendliness is often expressed with a smile, but a smile may look very different in different parts of the world. Expressions like a smile may also be used to mask another feeling. Nowadays, emojis are often used in communication. They are simplified drawings of a face where facial expressions play an important role. The daily expression of emotional reactions through simplified emojis leads us to wonder whether we will be able to read more multidimensional real faces in the future.
There have been different beauty ideals at different times. Facial proportions or features are often at the heart of beauty ideals, but what features are considered beautiful has varied from time to time and varies between regions and cultures. The old saying sums it up: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The collections of the National Museum of Finland contain a lot of objects featuring faces in different forms. They tell us about the people, culture, values and ideals of the past and present.
Many banknotes and coins still have pictures of rulers in them.