When we were in Venice recently, I realised that if one were going to choose a facial feature to represent the Venetians, it would have to be the eyebrow. Eyebrows in Venezia are a constant source of admiration and wonderment.
There is an Italian tendency to be dark-haired and hirsute and - whilst some, usually elderly, gentlemen sport tangled outcrops above their eyes that are occasionally long and thick enough to constitute a single thorny hedgerow - the common consensus appears to be that eyebrows demand constant tinkering and tailoring.
It is a process that takes its artistic inspiration from Venice’s proliferation of bridges and eyebrows tend to lift, arch and double-span the human face much as their masonry counterparts cross the City’s canals with varying degrees of height, breadth and steepness.
From the elderly Contessa with her lacquered mane of silver hair and her outsize Dolce & Gabbana spectacles to the wasp-waited youth with his low-slung Versace jeans and Missoni scarf, from the Prada-wearing, jewellery-jangling socialite tottering across uneven flagstones on perilous heels to the crisply pressed, white-jacketed waiter delivering Bellinis in Harry’s Bar, eyebrow maintenance is de rigeur.
They are universally shaved, shaped, cut, cropped and cultivated, trimmed, tapered and truncated, extended, extrapolated and espaliered, pruned, plucked and prinked and, sometimes even totally demolished and recreated with pencil line or paintbrush stroke.
© Brian Sibley, 2007; Image: © David Weeks, 2007