BY: JESSICA SVENNINGSON
Face paint, more commonly known as makeup, goes back more than 5000 years to the time of the Egyptians. Most of the world knows about the heavily lined eyes of the Egyptians, striking white-faced geishas, and the rose bud mouth of a flapper, however there are many facts about makeup that most people don’t know about. Here are my top 5 lesser known historic facts about makeup.
|Detail from a painting inside the|
sarcophagus of Tanethereret (Musée du Louvre). (Source)
|Edo period geisha paints her teeth blackin a liquored mirror.|
|A geisha with painted black teeth and her maikos, geishas in training, wait for their patrons at a tea house in Japan.|
|Catherine de' Medici was a fashion icon of her era,|
and a regular user of ceruse. (Source)
Have you ever looked at a Renaissance portraits and wondered how those men and women got such stunningly white skin? Having incredibly white skin for most of human history was considered a sign of wealth by the upper class indicating that you did not work outside but spent most of your time relaxing indoors. To achieve the perfect complexion women over centuries had experimented making natural solutions to paint themselves paler, however what became the most popular, and expensive, was Venetian ceruse.
Made exclusively in Venice and then shipped all over the rest of Europe, Venetian ceruse was the best product to turn your skin porcelain white, however the ingredients would destroy the wearer’s skin, and in excessive use became lethal. Venetian ceruse was created by corroding lead in a ceramic pot, scrapping off the corrosion, collecting it, boiling it in water for a long time until the remains collected at the bottom, then mixing those remains with mercury (to fade spots and freckles) and arsenic. The issue was, as the wearer continued to paint themselves, it turned their skin yellow, green and purple, rotted the death, gave bad breath, caused hair loss (giving a hint to why women’s hair lines from that time period were so high – a sign of a receding hair line perhaps), and permanent lung cancer. Ultimately over long periods of time the wearer would look like a dying “dried, shriveled fruit”. One noted individual described the resulting complexion as something, “…. a man might easily cut off a curd or cheese-cake from either of their cheeks.”
The Rococo Period
|Using Thomas Gainsborough’s Lady in Blue (c.1790)|
to illustrate the meaning in placement of mouches (Source)
The Groovy 60's
|A head shot from Twiggy's first photo shoot|
It has always been paramount for every great model to have flawless makeup and a distinct look. When Twiggy, born Lesley Hornby, decided she wanted to be a model in the early 1960s, everyone in her high school told her she was too skinny. Women at that time wanted the curvy hour glass figure associated with Marilyn Monroe, not the waif-like silhouette Twiggy later made the standard of runway models up until ten years ago. However, the thing that made her stand out when she walked into her first photo studio in 1966 were her eyes.
Models at that time had to do their own makeup, and although Twiggy was rocking the mod look of the time, white lid with a dark line in the crease, a heavy dark winged lid with fake eye lashes, she had also hand painted lower lashes under her eyes. It was a lengthy process, allegedly taking an hour and a half to complete the full look. Barry Lategan, her first ever photographer, was quoted saying, “Twigged arrived with her cropped hair and lower eye lashed painted onto her face, she sat in front of the camera and she was dazzling.” She went on to become the face of 1966, and by 1967 was promoting her own fake eye lashes and makeup compact cases. Women continue to paint their lower lash lines, however this has grown into gluing individual lashes onto the lower lid, or simply applying a layer of mascara to the lower lash line.
|Twiggy demonstrating how to paint her face (Source)|
Whatever your personal paint style may be, makeup has always been away of communicating social meaning. The face is the first place anyone will look when meeting someone new and how people paint themselves gives the first split second communication of themselves to the world. How you paint your face expresses elements of who you are, and the culture you are a part of.
All information was sourced from Lisa Eldridge's new book Face Paint.
Eldridge, L. (2015). Face paint: The story of makeup. New York: Abrams Image.