Julien Montenero sculpts directly onto his patients’ faces.

Paris, France

Atelier Montenero is walking distance from Montmartre, near a neighborhood of small art galleries and cramped storefront artists’ studios. Inside, surrounded by vases of fresh flowers, 3-D printers, paintbrushes sitting in water, tubes of glue and palettes of paints, Julien Montenero studies his model’s nose. “These colors don’t speak to me,” he says, and the old man blinks in response. Montenero pulls the nose off.

The hole in the man’s face is big enough to hold a plum, and it’s leaking. “One patient came from Libya after an acid attack,” says Montenero, swabbing gently. Most come after having cancerous tumors removed; while waiting for a permanent skin graft or transplant, they need interim noses, eyes and ears made by specialist prosthetists, called anaplastologists. Montenero is one of only 400 anaplastologists in the world; although his offices are in Paris, France, he has made working trips to South America, Asia and Africa. “It’s sculpture,” he stresses. “I sketch the prosthetics based on anatomical clues: the openness of the eyes, the length of the face, the width of the mouth, the ears, smile lines. And then I sculpt onto the face.”

Today, Montenero is replacing the bulbous work of a colleague with a dignified, yellower prosthetic that flares at the nostrils. His patient takes out an iPhone and flicks through old pictures of himself. “I’m more beautiful with this one. Plus, it sticks,” he says. “The previous nose kept falling off in front of guests.”


From the pages of COLORS #87 - Looking at Art.