Famous and Iconic Faces

This is a list of famous and iconic human faces. They are human faces that have become iconic for representing beauty, pain, suffering and illumination. It is said of Helen of Troy that she was ‘the face that launched a thousand ships.’ In addition to beauty, there is the rugged honesty in the unique face of Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps with a face like that would not be elected in the modern era of appearance-led politics. But, old ‘honest Abe’ had the humility to deal with his looks that revealed his inner character. When he was accused of being ‘two-faced’ by a political opponent, Lincoln replied: “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”

Famous faces

Helen_of_Troy-Evelyn-De-Morgan-1898Helen of Troy (c. 3200 BC) In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. She was considered the most beautiful woman in the world and was either kidnapped or seduced by Prince Paris of Troy. This led to the epic Trojan War. The beauty and consequence of Helen of Troy, led the poet Christopher Marlowe to write “Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?

NefertitiNeferneferuaten Nefertiti (1370 – c. 1330 BC) Nefertiti was an Egyptian Queen, the consort of Akhenaten. They ruled Egypt during a period of great wealth and religious revival. Nefertiti was immortalised in a bust by sculptor Thutmose created in 1345 B.C. The bust depicts a model of feminine beauty and reveals the Egyptian understanding of facial proportions.

buddhaLord Buddha  (circa 563 BCE – 483 BCE) Spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism. Statues and images of the Buddha didn’t appear until centuries after his passing. However, it has become an iconic image of the state of nirvana – infinite peace and detachment from the world. The bobbles on the Buddha’s head depict snails which are said to have covered the Buddha’s head from the sun when he was deep in meditation.

cleopatraCleopatra (69 BCE–30 BCE) The last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt. Cleopatra sought to defend Egypt from the expanding Roman Empire. In doing so she formed relationships with two of Rome’s most powerful leaders, Marc Anthony and Julius Caesar. The beauty of Cleopatra had a lasting impact on the politics of the region.

artistLeonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519) Italian Renaissance painter, scientist, inventor, and polymath. This is a self-portrait of Da Vinci and gives us a glimpse into this enigmatic genius, who was born many centuries ahead of contemporaries.

mona-lisaMona Lisa. The Mona Lisa is a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Gioconda, and was painted by Leondardo da Vinci. But, the Mona Lisa is much more than an ordinary painting. Da Vinci wished to capture a particular state of being – a transcendental moment, which caught something deeper than the superficial human moment. The painting has become immortal.

RembrandtRembrandt (1606–1669) Rembrandt was one of the greatest portrait painters, who captured a vivid realism and empathy with his subjects. This is his own self-portrait and so gives a glimpse of the supreme artist according to his own perception.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) – French military and political leader. Napoleon revolutionised Europe. He cemented the ideas of the French revolution (in his own autocratic style) and enabled these ideas, and his Napoleonic code to be spread across Europe. Napoleon became a symbol for both new republican ideals, but to his foes a powerful enemy who created conflict.

Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) – German philosopher, founder of Marxism. With his busy beard and flowing hair, Karl Marx could be mistaken for an Old Testament prophet.  But, it is the face that wrote Das Capital and The Communist Manifesto. Karl Marx became symbolic of everything that followed from the seed of his idea.

queen-victoriaQueen Victoria (1819–1901) British Queen. Presiding over one of the largest empires ever seen, Queen Victoria was the head of state from 1837 – 1901, this included not just Britain but countries which came under British Rule like India. She was the first monarch to appear on postage stamps and her portrait – a symbol of stern Victorian propriety was widely distributed.

artistVincent Van Gogh (1853–1890). Dutch post-impressionist painter, who spent many years in France. Despite turbulent mental state, Van Gogh produced some of the greatest works of all time –  This self-portrait gives a glimpse into this tortured genius who both painted incredible art but also struggled to deal with his own inner demons.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) – Indian nationalist and politician. Gandhi inspired a series of non-violent protests against British rule. He became a symbol of the aspiration for self-government and also non-violent protest.

V.Lenin (1870-1924) – Leader of the Russian Revolution in 1917. He masterminded the Bolshevik revolution and became the first leader of the Soviet Union. Lenin was a hero to those who wished to see Communism spread throughout the world, but he became a figure of terror to those who opposed Communism.

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) Revolutionised modern physics with his general theory of relativity. His work on relativity ushered in the nuclear age. Einstein is the epitome of the eccentric genius. A symbol both of intuitive scientific discovery but also a peace campaigner and champion of human rights.

Charlie Chaplinactor (1889 – 1977) English actor. Chaplin was an iconic film actor whose career spanned the birth of movies in the silent era to mainstream colour films. His many influential films The Kid (1921) and The Great Dictator (1940).

mother-teresaMother Teresa (1910–1997) Albanian nun and charity worker. Devoting her life to the service of the poor and dispossessed, Mother Teresa became a global icon for selfless service to others. Her face embodies the compassion of a charitable figure and the life experience of someone who has served throughout her life.

rosa-parksRosa Parks (1913–2005) American civil rights activist. Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama, indirectly led to some of the most significant civil rights legislation of American history. She became a principled figurehead of the non-violent struggle for dignity and human rights.

eva-peronEva Peron (1919–1952) Eva Peron was widely loved by the ordinary people of Argentina. She campaigned tirelessly for both the poor and for the extension of women’s rights. She died aged only 32 in 1952.

Queen Elizabeth II rosa-parks(1926– ) Since ascending to the British throne in 1952, Elizabeth has become the longest-serving British monarch. Her portrait appears on coins and stamps across the Commonwealth.

Che Guevara (1928 – 1967) A Latin American Marxist revolutionary. Guevara was a key figure in the Cuban revolution, but Guevara also wanted to ferment other revolutions in Africa and Latin America and criticised many aspects of the Soviet Union for betraying Marxist principles. This photo of Guevara became an iconic face of the utopian revolutionary.

marilyn-monroeMarilyn Monroe (1926–1962) American actress who became one of the most iconic film legends. Her films were moderately successful, but her lasting fame came through her photogenic good looks and aura of glamour and sophistication.

audrey-hepburnAudrey Hepburn (1929–1993) British actress. Influential female actor of the 1950s and 60s. Audrey Hepburn defined feminine glamour and dignity, and was later voted as one of the most beautiful women of the twentieth century. She was often described as a woman with an angelic touch.

Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968) – American civil rights campaigner. Martin Luther King was the most prominent figure in the American civil rights movement of the 1960s. He pursued non-violent means of protest to end laws of segregation and discrimination.

Grace_Kelly-150Grace Kelly (1929-1982) American actress. Kelly was a major Hollywood star in the 1950s, winning an Academy Award for her role in The Country Girl in 1955. In 1956, after starring in 11 films, she retired from acting to marry Prince Rainer of Monaco.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929 – 1994) – wife of JF. Kennedy. Jacqueline was a born first-lady epitomising a youthfulness and glamour that was fitting for the 1960s. The whole nation shared her grief after her husband’s assassination.

Mikhail Gorbachev Gorbachev(1931 – ) Leader of Soviet Union 1985 – 1991, oversaw the transition from Communism to democracy in Eastern Europe. Gorbachev was an influential figure in ending the Cold War, and a figurehead for a new direction of openness and democracy.

Muhammad Ali (1942 – ) American Boxer and civil rights campaigner. Ali became undisputed Heavy Weight Champion of the world. His refusal to fight in Vietnam caused him to be banned from the sport. But, he came back, reclaiming his title.

madonnaMadonna (1958 – ) American pop star. Madonna is the most successful female musician of all time. She has sold more than 250 million records. She has also starred in films, such as Desperately Seeking Susan and Evita.

Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009) American pop singer. Initially starting off with the Jackson Five, Michael pursued his own solo career, becoming one of the best selling artists of all time. Jackson was also famous for plastic surgery to change the looks of his face.

dianaDiana, Princess of Wales (1961–1997) British Royal princess who was noted for her humanitarian charity work. Despite her troubled marriage to Prince Charles, she was popular for her natural sympathy with the poor and disenfranchised. At the time, she was the most photographed women in the world.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous and Iconic Faces”, Oxford,  UK. www.biographyonline.net Published 27 October 2018.

 

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