The Reincarnation of Saint-Orlan was a project that started in 1990, which involved a series of plastic surgeries through which the artist transformed her face from elements of famous paintings and sculptures of women. Orlan’s goal in these surgeries is to acquire the ideal of female beauty as depicted by male artists. These are the painting / sculptures that her new face was structured too
The chin of Botticelli’s Venus,
The nose of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Psyche
The lips of François Boucher’s Europa,
The eyes of Diana (as depicted in a 16th-century French School of Fontainebleu painting),
The forehead of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Orlan picked these characters “not for the canons of beauty they represent… but rather on account of the stories associated with them.” Orlan chose Diana, because she is inferior to the gods and men, but is leader of the goddesses and women; Mona Lisa, because of the standard of beauty, or anti-beauty, that she represents; Psyche, because of the fragility and vulnerability within her soul; Venus, for carnal beauty; and Europa, for her adventurous outlook on the future.
Instead of condemning cosmetic surgery, she embraces it; instead of rejecting the masculine, she incorporates it; and instead of limiting her identity, she defines it as “nomadic, mutant, shifting, differing.” Orlan has stated: “my work is a struggle against the innate, the inexorable, the programmed, Nature, DNA (which is our direct rival as far as artists of representation are concerned), and God!”