Article – Eleonora Chiais, “Make Up, Make Sense: Appunti sul trucco tra ieri e oggi” (Lexia 37-38)

E. Chiais, Make Up, Make Sense: Appunti sul trucco tra ieri e oggi, in “Lexia” (37-38), pp. 341-356.


Make-up makes it possible to ‘dress the face’ and modify it. This modification recalls what the dress, according to Barthes, does with the body: it modifies it by showing it, making it exist, without exhibiting it but creating a new meaning. Make-up performes the same “sense making” for the people who ‘wear’ it. In the history of fashion, make-up has evolved, changing with changing trends. Since ancient times, a face care practice has been found alongside make-up which, today, shows all its interpretation power. Beyond this diachronic analysis, however, it is possible to approach the study of this practice synchronically, using a tool (face-charts), able to present a “written make-up” of much more immediate analysis with semiotics tools. Approaching make-up as an intertwining of both social and cultural practices, we will therefore try to propose different types of “made up faces” and then will try to analyse the evolution of make-up practice through the different decades of the Twentieth Century to get to the contemporary with the various variations of the “no make-up” trend.

What is NeMoSanctI?


NeMoSanctI is a research project carried out at the University of Turin. It studies how models of sanctity have changed after the Second Vatican Council. To this end, it applies a pioneering methodology based on semiotic theory to a wide corpus of normative, judicial, and narrative texts.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 757314).