Leonard da Vinci is considered one of the greatest artists of all time. A painting by him, Salvator Mundi, sold for a world record $450.3 million at auction in New York in 2017, the highest price ever paid for a work of art. Today, Leonard da Vinci continues to inspire artists world-wide and his works, including notebooks, drawings, scientific diagrams and nature paintings have made a significant contribution rivalled only by his competitor Michelangelo. Many aesthetic surgeons and providers of aesthetic medicine are considered today’s modern sculptors of the human tissue and in this exclusive interview with Beverly Hills Cosmetic Dentist, Laurence Rikin, DDS, we discuss the effect Leonard da Vinci has also had on the field of aesthetic medicine. Dr. Laurence Rifkin, a sculptor himself, uses many of the principles Leonardo da Vinci applied to art in his daily cosmetic dental practice and teaches plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists world-wide how they too can learn from the masters to bring better results to their patients. To learn more about Dr. Rifkin, visit www.drlaurencerifkin.com.
What is your background in sculpting?
Before I was a dentist, when I was in college, I was an art major and studied all forms and mediums of art which is where I developed a foundation for artistry. Since my childhood, I knew I had a creative way of thinking and always loved observing objects for their beauty to better understand them. Shortly after college, I discovered my ability to enjoy dentistry through my uncle’s practice. In working in his laboratory, I found I could couple the art skills that I had acquired in college and apply them into a new profession, dentistry, which was extremely exciting for me. The combination of the creative background of art and the health field seemed to be a natural blend together, and as I expand my career in cosmetics in studying with plastic surgeons, I am able to look at smiles and faces in a new light and build them from a different perspective. Dentistry is one of my passions and it’s an art form that I sincerely enjoy.
In what way do you feel Leonardo da Vinci has inspired or impacted today’s aesthetics both in dentistry and in facial plastic surgery?
Leonardo da Vinci studied the human body incredibly thoroughly; he made hundreds of drawings of dissections before we ever had cameras. He carried out dissections on approximately thirty corps and did hundreds of drawings which are still used as references today to understand the anatomy of the human body. Combining that knowledge of the internal structure of the human body, and being able to document that, measure body and facial proportions, and from there creating ideal norms has left a major impact on medicine today.
What are the principles Leonard da Vinci applied to his work and how do they apply to facial aesthetics as we know it today?
Leonardo’s references of facial norms, body proportions were absolutely landmark in the start of understanding how we look at the face and body. His principles were in his recording of observations of average and ideal norms of the face and body proportions, he created thousands of drawings of facial expressions, which is a reference for how we look at faces today. If we look at someone’s face and we see disharmony, we know what the norm should be for general facial aesthetics and the human body, which has given us a fantastic reference point of how to recreate or aesthetically improve someone’s face or body which is applicable to dentistry as well. We look at the teeth in a certain proportion and the entire face, because I want the smiles to be appropriate for the patient’s individual unique face. Teeth have great variation and they are all elements of facial aesthetic and the body features that should work in harmony like an artistic composition.
Is accurate measurement important to facial dimension/harmony?
Accurate measurements are critical when I analyze facial dimensions. Utilizing artistic visualization skills and being able to evaluate symmetry, balance, and weight in an artistic sense are crucial, but you have to measure it. The utilization of today’s technology through computer digital and skeletal CT scans along with three dimensional models are essential in the design, treatment, and execution to create a predictable aesthetic result. I create designs through the visualization of the problem and the solutions using photos, computer images and real models of the anticipated results. It’s an incredibly efficient system that I created for my practice, called the SOAP System, the System Of Aesthetic Predictability, or more affectionately known by my patients as, The Rifkin Method. I created this system to ensure that no steps would be skipped and accurate measurements would be implemented, which are essential.
What is your favorite piece of Da Vinci?
I absolutely love one of his self-portraits, a simple line drawing of his face, and if you stare into his eyes and study his facial expression, you can see into his mind, and see how thoughtful, creative, and observant he was. He genuinely saw the world around us and was a wonderful observer of nature and promoted observation in order for us to truly absorb the impact of beauty.
How has your sculpting helped you with not just the understanding of the human face, but how it also helped you be a better dentist?
When you are performing dentistry or cosmetic surgery, you have to be aware of all the different structures. I couldn’t be the dentist I am today or feel that I am without this background knowledge. My early experience with sculpting enabled me to see more deeply into a structure. All day long in dentistry, I’m sculpting by shaping teeth and smiles; I’m forming lips, and looking at the entire face. I build my sculptures from the inside out, I build the skeleton first, then I put on the muscles and I put on the skin. In the same way in dentistry and probably in plastic surgery, we should be looking at the skeletal system underneath. If a patient has a bad bite, we need to correct the skeletal system as well as the teeth which also have an impact on the facial structure and the smile. Sculpting is drawing in three dimensions, drawing is the short hand of observation and design, and being able to draw is the quick study and sculpting is the creation of it building from the inside out delivering the most optimal final result that you can achieve. I sculpt out of both passion and because it enables me to be a better dentist in helping my patients by being able to fully understanding the impact of what I do and create the best treatment plan.
How did Da Vinci’s influence your lip replica?
The lip replica is a 3-dimensional reference point for our laboratory technician or myself to either wax sculpt the teeth or create the ceramics, which is another technique that ensures facial and smile harmony. The lip replica was the first early reference in saying, how can anybody remotely create teeth in harmony with the face by just photographs; you really have to try them. Today I don’t necessarily do the lip replica, because I have my laboratory here, but between my photographs and computer design, I can create teeth that are in harmony by creating perfect Provisionals or temporary veneers. Then I duplicate that in the final ceramics, which helps decrease patient anxiety because there is excellent predictability of the outcome and we get to test drive the veneers before we actually make the ceramic ones by making beautiful temporaries.
As well as being a painter and a sculptor, Da Vinci was a also a technological innovator and conceptualized flying machines, armored machines, solar, adding machines to name a few. What’s your take on that, and are you able to incorporate any of that diversity into your approach with aesthetics.
Leonardo da Vinci, being the polymath genius that he was, was able to bring it all together, and in dentists and probably as cosmetic surgeons, we need to be mindful of the interaction and the interrelationship of everything. Da Vinci not only created beauty, but beauty to function. In dentistry we have to make things work, which is where Da Vinci had strong abilities, to look deeper into the total meaning of the beauty not only the symmetry, but the functionality. Cosmetics are a form of health by creating symmetry, balance, and proper function. In dentistry, we have to be able to eat and speak with these restorations on our teeth. It is imperative that dentistry and cosmetics are built upon a foundation of health, function, predictability, and longevity.
To listen to Dr. Laurence Rifkin’s interview at Aesthetic Insider™ Radio, CLICK HERE!
READ MORE ABOUT DR. LAURENCE RIFKIN IN THE ARTICLES BELOW.