Nosing around Bologna

In a city that’s a quick train ride from Milan – a destination considered by many the fashion capital of the world – it is not surprising that women are getting nose jobs. (In just two weeks here in Bologna, I have seen a handful of otherwise fashionably dressed women with large white bandages taped over their noses.)

What is surprising is the role that Bologna and one of its residents played in the development of the nose job – or rhinoplasty – over 400 years ago.

Born in Bologna in 1545, Gaspare Tagliacozzi was a talented surgeon based out of the University of Bologna who expanded on existing surgical methods to develop the ‘Italian method’ of rhinoplasty at a time when those who survived battle often had their noses cut off or damaged.

Anatomical theater in Bologna where Tagliacozzi lectured.

At the end of his career, Tagliacozzi helped standardize reconstructive surgery techniques by publishing a 700 page book that some consider the first text on plastic surgery in the history of medicine.

Examining plastic surgery through the historical lens of Tagliacozzi and 16th century Italy, it is interesting to consider the reasons women get plastic surgery in Bologna today.

In a country like Italy where feminine beauty is sublimated in the media and even exploited in the opinion of some, it seems plausible that women face a new kind of battle. A battle with beauty standards and objectification.

Ironically, this new battle, which is fought not with swords and shields but with images and symbols, articulates yet another threat to the human nose…a body party that has suffered well into antiquity.

–Aaron Ginoza


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