Category: Beauty

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

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A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,700 times in 2010. That’s about 14 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 297 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 303 posts. There were 89 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 10mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was October 25th with 130 views. The most popular post that day was John of Jerusalem – Prophecy Number 16.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for rene descartes, augustin lesage, robespierre, male morning sickness, and descartes.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


John of Jerusalem – Prophecy Number 16 January 2010


The three dreams of Rene Descartes August 2010


The three dreams of Rene Descartes – part 2 August 2010


The fashion of beauty patches June 2010


The Prophecies of John of Jerusalem January 2010

Thank you WordPress for doing this for me.  I had intended to give my readers a small update, but this one is more complete.  Is WordPress starting to read my mind?  That thought is a bit creepy.

The year ended on a high note with more than eight hundred visits in both October and November and over one thousand in December.  Considering that this blog has only been in operation since 11 December 2009, I am very pleased with this result.  It makes me feel that I might be doing something useful.  I shall strive to continue in 2011.

Happy New Year to all.


How did women first get the idea of applying little pieces of black taffeta to their faces?  In the beginning, these cut-outs simulated the ramifications of veins on the temples.  But what was their origin?  Could it be a doctor’s prescription for a certain plaster to calm a headache?  The effect produced on the face of a pallid woman might have encouraged her friends to do the same.

Some say that it is the Duchess of Newcastle, under the reign of Charles II, who had the idea of covering the pimples that she had around her mouth, with a piece of black material.  A rival, seeing that it enhanced the whiteness of her complexion, and that she gained a certain je ne sais quoi by it, started to do the same thing.  This introduced the fashion of beauty patches, which reigned despotically for more than a century.

However, the use of patches was apparently known even in Ancient Rome.  The Romans appear to have been very prone to pimples.  In the writings of the Greek doctors who cared for them, as many as twenty-three different denominations of pimples can be counted.  It was therefore natural that they tried to hide them, just like the fashion-conscious ladies of the XVIIth Century.

They used little black plasters in the form of a crescent, called splenia.  They applied them to give the effect of having been scattered on the skin.  These patches were supposed to imitate the little spots commonly known as “beauty spots”.  Sometimes , instead of plasters, little dots were made with a brush, to create the crescent form.

It can be presumed that it is not in imitation of the Romans that the young lords from the time of Louis XIII suddenly had the fantasy to wear patches.  For it wasn’t only women who wore them.  Men also started wearing them.

The taffeta which was used to make these little plasters was cut into strange shapes.  There were the crescent moon, the star, different flowers, and even animals or people.  The face looked like a shadow-play performance.

Their positions on the face varied.  There were, however, some favourite places.  The seven principal ones were:  at the corner of the eye, la passionneela galante, in the middle of the cheek;  la baiseuse, at the corner of the mouth;  on a pimple, la receleuse;  on the nose, l’effronteela coquette, on the lips.  A round patch was called l’assassine.  At one time, women wore patches circled with diamonds on their right temple.

Massillon, who strongly condemned this mania, was preaching at Versailles in front of an auditory of elegant lady sinners.  He thought that he could kill this fashion by exclaiming ironically:  “Why don’t you put them everywhere?”  His advice was followed within the hour.  The fashion-conscious ladies put them in all the places where they hadn’t yet thought to put them.  And this was how the mouches (patches) a la Massillon were born.

It was very important to know where to place patches.  Sometimes it was a pimple or a tumour which needed to be cleverly concealed.  Sometimes, it was a sign that was placed near dimples which, according to Cardinal de Bernis, gave so much grace to the royal favourite’s smile.

We know that Mme de Pompadour used patches in a singular circumstance.  She wrote a letter, enclosing the whole plan of a military campaign, to Field-Marshal d’Estrees.  On the plan, the different points which he was to attack or defend were indicated by patches.

In the first years of the XVIIIth Century, the use of patches had become general, almost everywhere.  At this time, all women possessed a patch box.  The richness of the decoration was in accordance with their social position.

Under Louis XIV, artists represented mythological scenes on them.  Under Louis XV, they displayed graceful subjects, surrounded with rocaille ornamentation.  Under Louis XVI, Venus and Cupid appeared, with their attributes.  They were made, at this time, with Martin varnish, incrusted with gold and silver.

Closed, they looked like snuff-boxes.  Inside, they were divided into three compartments, two of which were closed by a lid with hinges.  The third, in which particles of rouge can often still be seen today, contained the brush used to apply it.

When it was good taste to wear rouge, fashionable women used boxes with double compartments.  One was destined to receive patches, the other, rouge.  Patches were sometimes kept in jewellery-type boxes of green and gold leather.

The patch box was part of a girl’s marriage trousseau for a very long time.  It was among the jewellery that was distributed at court in certain circumstances.  The description of the toiletry set given by Louis XV to the Dauphine in 1680, mentioned three patch boxes in vermilion.

Patches did not survive the French Revolution.  It seems that they have completely disappeared since then.  Unless we count those young ladies who put pencil dots on their faces, in a pale imitation of the taffeta beauty patch of yore.

Like the worldly ladies, the army was addicted to hair powder.  Officers, and even soldiers, wore powdered wigs.  They powdered them with glue or water.  The advantage of these methods, according to the authors of instructions concerning the troops, is “that a regiment, doing tiring exercises, in hot weather, is less ragged in its hair-do than if it was only powdered”.  The dragoons had to have a sack of powder, a powder-puff and combs, not to mention curling tongs, in their pouches.

The War Minister, Monteynard, forbade the use of glue, as being dangerous for health and incompatible with the attention a soldier should give to being well-combed.  He was ignored.  So were the Marquis de Boufflers, who wore his hair short, as an example, and the Count de Saint-Germain, who advocated the suppression of the powdered wig.

Under Louis XVI, the boutiques where most people went to be powdered, resembled the inside of flour mills.  And because the workers, who so generously distributed the flour to their customers, received a good part of it themselves, they justified the name of merlans (whitings) given to them by the people.  In the exercise of their function, they did indeed resemble whitings about to be fried.

On the eve of the French Revolution, there was prodigious consummation of powder and flour for the toilette.  A contemporary writer says that with the powder employed in only one day, you could have fed ten thousand poor people.

It would not have been acceptable for a young girl to appear in the world without powder.  So, at night, she put on a bonnet of white taffeta, which protected and conserved the powder in her hair.  Once the powder had fallen out, the hairdresser re-powdered.  The young lady held a great cardboard cornet on her face, so as not to be blinded.  The operator sprinkled her head with a white cloud, and was soon covered in it himself.

Shortly before the Revolution, men wore their hair plaited, curled, in horsetails, or in pigtails, and laden with powder and pomade.  In 1792, a cry of reprobation was raised against powder.  It was absurd, even odious, that part of the people’s food was being lost on the heads of men and women, with no profit to beauty, and with prejudice to cleanliness.  Little or no powder, that was the new theme.

“The hairstyle with the most freshness and of the best taste, invented firstly by women, and which has just been adopted by our pretty men, is formed by sausage curls, all of the same length;  no powder on the hair.”

The partisans of the Ancien Regime continued to wear powdered wigs.  It was their distinctive sign.  However, there were some who, without having any particular opinion, wore them in memory of tradition.  The national guards for example, who were very proud to resemble the soldiers of the old army.

Among the notable revolutionaries, Robespierre was just about the only one who was not afraid to show himself to his colleagues freshly powdered, in a white tie, evening dress and breeches of the latest cut.

After the fall of the dictator, there were still a lot of powder consumers.  A police report from 1794 says that several sections, in particular that of Montagne, proposed drawing up a petition to the National Convention to try to obtain:

“1.  That the pastry cooks of Paris be no longer allowed to make cakes with a lot of butter and eggs, as long as these remain rare.

“2.  The perfumers use a lot of potatoes to make powder, it would be appropriate to stop this commerce;  it would be good that the Committee for Public Good deals with these objects, and acts in advance of the wishes of the citizens on this subject.”

From this moment, powder gradually disappears completely.

We see it come back for a moment during the Egyptian expedition, when veterans started wearing lightly powdered horsetails and cadenettes again, like under the reign of Louis XV.  These cadenettes were, in the XVIIIth Century, hair plaited with ribbons and worn on each side of the head.

Bonaparte, during the Italian campaign, had a horsetail and cadenettes decorated with a patch of powder, but he soon got rid of it and prided himself, alone among all of the generals, on having a shaven head.  It is also possible that the idea of looking like Titus awoke some feelings in Bonaparte’s soul, which were flattering for his ambition.

At the beginning of the XXth Century, after a few temporary eclipses, powder re-took control of its empire.

Although commonly called poudre de riz (rice powder), there is very little rice, when there is any at all, in its composition.  These powders usually have bases of flour extracted from wheat, potatoes, or different almonds, mixed in more or less large proportions with talc or steatite (soapstone), magnesium (magnesium silicate), Briancon chalk, bismuth oxide, zinc oxide… 

Starch powder was often substituted for rice flour.  The best quality starch is shinier than rice powder.  It gives certain blueish tints at a distance, which are very agreeable to the eye, and which are not produced by rice powder.  It also adheres better to the skin.  This mixture was perfumed with powdered iris, which has a very fine and delicate odour, a little like violet, but gentler.

Powder, however, can be dangerous.  A lot contained ceruse (white lead), which gave brilliance, but exposed to saturnism.  Vegetal based powder was considered precious for protecting the skin against extreme temperatures and sudden variations, and very useful for calming slight irritations.  However, it was eminently nocive for the complexion.

Face powders should not be too perfumed, or they cause headaches and nervous accidents, particularly when an artificial essence is added.  To calm the effects, it was recommended to spread the powder over the face with a hare’s foot prepared and fitted with a handle for this use.  This system was not very efficient.  Obviously.

We shall look at beauty patches tomorrow.

La Petite Toilette, by Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune

It is said that one day, replacing the penitential ashes on their heads by white powder, some nuns showed themselves in public like this, and inadvertently started a new fashion.

We know very little about the use of powder during Antiquity.  Cato mentions a “pulverulent mixture” which was supposed to give a certain brilliance to hair.  But did the Roman women really use powder to make themselves more attractive?  We know that powder or dust on the hair was a sign of mourning and the manifestation of great despair.

At the French court, powder probably made its appearance under the reign of Charles VIII, this king being a good perfumer.

At the time of Francois I, violet powder was known, as well as Cyprus powder.  For toiletry care, muscat soap was used and a powder known as bean flour, which had the reputation of refreshing the complexion.

Henri III was probably the first to cover his hair with violet musk powder, and the mignons immediately imitated their master.

“A valet, having in his hands a box full of powder resembling that of Cyprus, powdered the patient’s head with a big powder-puff of silk, which he plunged into this box.”

Under Henri IV, the fashion of powder was already so widespread that women of low condition, not daring to show their hair in its natural state, powdered it with the dust of rotten wood which they found in old buildings.  Village girls, ahead of their time, powdered themselves with flour.  It is under this same reign that a perfumed powder called griserie began to be spread over hair.

At this time, powder was not used dry on hair.  It was made to hold by a mixture.  You can imagine how many washes it took to get the hair clean again.

At the time of Richelieu, gentlemen had partial wigs, or coins, which were fixed in the hair, to produce thicker locks, and there was a time when this false hair was powdered with the best quality flour.  But so many mockeries rained down on these “millers” and “flour-heads” that the fashion died out.

Louis XIII did not wear powder, in spite of, or possibly because of, the white hair which he had at an early age.  The fashion only took on some consistency under the reign of Anne of Austria.  Among those who launched it, the Marquis of Jauzey is particularly named.

Louis XIV did not really favour this use.  Anything which reminded him that he was getting older, was odious to him, and this artificial whiteness too closely resembled an image of old age, for him to consent to use it.  He barely put up with a light cloud of it, toward the end of his life.

At this same time, the wife of the Marechal d’Aumont amused herself by making her own powder.  This is how the name of poudre a la marechale came into being.

A patch of blond powder sometimes decorated the wigs of young male courtisans who gave themselves an aura of court and of conquest.  For powder was worn, above all, by little bantam cocks on the make.

The rage for disguising hair colour introduced this mode by degrees and, toward the end of Louis XIV’s reign, the Duke of Burgundy, Fenelon’s severe pupil, started wearing powder.

Mme de Sevigne lets us watch the amusing spectacle of the toilette of the Duchess of Bourbon.  She writes to her daughter:  “She curls and powders herself.  She eats the whole time.  The same fingers alternately hold the powder-puff and the pain au pot.  She eats her powder and greases her hair.  The whole makes a very good dinner and a charming hair-do.”

Until then, powder had remained the privilege of people of condition.  Even then, it was only of occasional use, or as a whim.  It is only under the following reign that it became general.

The chronicle reports that the Duke of Fronsac, the future Marechal de Richelieu, still very young, and already the object of admiration of all the court beauties, appeared at the Opera in a most elegant costume, with his hair completely powdered.  This was enough to put powder in fashion.

A treatise on civility from the XVIIIth Century prescribes never “to leave your home without having combed and properly arranged your hair.  You can use pomade or powder in very small quantity.”

On 21 September 1740, an act of the Paris parliament forbade starch makers from making starch because of the cereal famine.  As powder was made from starch, it was worth only 3 sous the pound before the augmentation of the price of wheat and flour.  It increased then to 8 sous.

However, as soon as the act was published, the price of powder rose to 24 sous the pound, in the space of two days.  This was a revolution in the world of marquises and young men on the make.

Women had not adopted the fashion of powdering hair as enthusiastically as men.  The first lady’s powdered head to appear in History is that of Mlle Cecile de Lisoris, in 1704, and it was only very much later that fashion responded.

Lady Montague, visiting France toward the end of the XVIIIth Century, writes of the worldly women that “their hair resembles white wool, and with their faces the colour of fire, they do not even look human.  You would take them for skinned sheep.”.

Second and last part tomorrow.

From Italy, the habit of blonding hair travelled to France, bringing back the fashion of tinting hair, which had been stopped for a while.  At the beginning of the reign of Henri IV, it was still there.  Under Louis XIII, it continued.

Eyebrows were not only drawn with pencils, they were also tinted with the colours used for beards and hair.  Monsieur d’Humieres used it for his son, tinting his red hair, black.

The use of wigs finally relegated tinting to the apothecary’s shop, or the alchemist’s laboratory.  It isn’t really until the Second Empire that we see the fashion of tinting hair re-appear.

The colour is brassy blond, as they said at the Hotel Rambouillet.  Or, as Eugene Sue’s heroine has since said, the Cardoville colour came back into vogue.  People competed to see who could display the most beautiful red hair, or who could obtain the most golden tone.

Two personalities, each famous in his or her way, were victims of this mania, which was not as inoffensive as generally thought.  The first is Mlle Mars, who tinted her hair in the hope of conserving her youth.  She succumbed, in one night, to a series of cerebral accidents, which had been set off by an application of dye.

The second victim – less proven – is supposedly the Duke de Mornay.  He apparently expired in the same way.  A victim of his desire to continue, in spite of his age, to be seen as the most accomplished cavalier, the most distinguished gentleman, the one who set the tone at court and in town.

At the beginning of the XXth Century, the art of tinting made considerable progress.  Unfortunately, it must be recognized that it was to the detriment of hygiene and public health.

In one way or another, all of the liquids employed in France for tinting hair had a lead, copper or silver base.  To fix the colour, or to produce it, solutions of either alkaline sulphides or of tannin, of gallic acid or of pyrogallic acid were used.

The reaction is easy to understand.  If a lead comb, for example, was used, the metal finished by combining with the sulphur which was naturally exhaled from the scalp, either as sulphuric vapour, or mixed with the sebum.

This sulphur, in contact with the lead, produced lead sulphide, black.  The lead salts exercised two sorts of actions.  One local, the other general.  Locally, they dried out, wrinkled and aged the skin.  The general effects were those of saturnine intoxication.  Trembling, paralysis…

Copper salts were even more irritating, more caustic than the lead salts.  Under their influence, rashes, dermatitis or skin inflammations were very often produced.

Pewter salts and bismuth salts, which coloured hair dark brown, rather than black, were not used very much.  On the other hand, frequent use was made of dyes with a silver salt base, mixed or not with copper salts.

This way of tinting hair with silver preparations, gave immediate results, which were called instant dyes, in opposition to the progressive dyes obtained with lead salts.

However, at the time, the products for tinting hair were extremely noxious.  To the point that several reports were drawn up, alerting users.

The director of the Laboratoire municipal wrote:  “Hair dyes all contain violent, toxic minerals…  They all contain substances such as silver nitrate, copper sulphate, lead acetate, mercury bichloride…  It is useless to continue this enumeration:  it shows to what dangers the public is exposed, in having confidence in all the products which pretend to be real remedies.”

The same note is given by one of the members of the Conseil d’hygiene, Dr Dubrisay.  “If dyes are good for tinting hair, they also contain violent poisons.”

A dye containing a substance derived from peat and which was followed by the application of a wash with oxygenized water (hydrogen peroxide), provoked intense itching of the skin, swelling of the eyelids and plaques of rash on the forehead, on the scalp, on the cheeks, on the chin, on the neck, and on the ears.

In the same way, certain eczemas appeared after the use of dyes.  It is true that, given the great number of people who used them, accidents were relatively rare.

Tomorow, we shall look at powdered hair.

What would you say of a woman who had blue hair, green eyelashes and gilded teeth?  In Egypt, at the time of the pharaohs, this was a pretty woman.

According to their bas-reliefs and monumental paintings, we see that not only did they know how to lengthen their eyes, and blacken or green their eyelashes and eyebrows, they were also successful in modifying the colour of their hair.  Henna was used to change hair colour, and was also used to paint the palms of the hands an orangey red.

They knew how to obtain tinted hair of different shades.  In the ancient tombs of Gizah, mummies of dancers with light blue hair have been found.

This custom of tinting hair continues with the Persians.  Young men and old tint their hair and their beards every week, using the following method:  firstly, they applied the henna, which they had  made into a paste with water and, after half-an-hour of contact, they applied a blue powder in the same way.  They obtained a magnificent black coloration.

The Greeks and Romans took their secrets from Egypt and India.  The Greek women, who took care of their hair, except during periods of mourning, loved to show it off and decorate it, and they looked after it carefully.  Lucian says:  “They made their hair as brilliant as the midday sun, dyeing it like wool, using all of the odours of Arabia to perfume it.”

Among the methods they used for procuring a false blond, the most usual was to wash the hair in the water mixture used for washing clothes.  They then rubbed it with a sort of pomade made from yellow flowers, then let it dry.  The men too had the habit of hiding their white hair.  A habit which was not to everyone’s taste.

One day, Alexander seeing a Macedonian occupied in blackening his grey hair, said to him:  “Old man, if you really want to make some repairs to your ancient self, you should start by propping up your trembling knees.”

More than makeup and perfumes, hair was the big thing with the Roman women.  They usually had black hair, and blond hair being rare, it was much sought after.  This created the habit of tinting hair blond.

Those who had white or greying hair, used safran to tint it and give themselves a bright blond.  But blond could be obtained in a lot of other ways.  Either with vinegar dregs and pistachio oil, or with quince juice mixed with privet juice.

Roman ladies were so passionate about bright blond hair that they often wore blond wigs mounted on kid skin, sometimes sprinkled with gold powder.  This passion for blond also reigned among the men.  They used gold powder mixed with the colour with which they tinted their hair.

It was mainly after the conquest of Germania that blond became the favourite colour.  A little later, red hair was preferred.

Roman men also tried to hide their white hair by using a good number of ingredients like wild atriplex, St John’s wort, myrtle wine, cypress leaves, wild sage, boiled leek peelings or walnut husks.

Here is a recipe from Pliny:  “Take one setier of leeches and two setiers of pure vinegar;  beat the lot, then place it in a lead vase, where you leave it to ferment for sixty days.  At the end of this time, rub your hair with it in the sunshine.  It will become a magnificent black.”  Pliny adds:  “Above all, do not forget to keep oil in your mouth during the operation, otherwise your teeth will take on the same black colour.”

The colouring substance was probably due to the lead which had detached itself from the vase under the influence of the vinegar’s acetic acid.  As for the oil in the mouth, this was apparently only a charlatan’s juggling, wanting to hide the means he employed – unless these preparations used a mercury base, and this was a means of preventing its noxious action on teeth.

It is however pertinent to warn of the danger of these decolorations and dyes.  A good number of Roman women used these preparations, which were fatal for the skin.  Some of them even provoked the loss of all the hair.

The Church Fathers forcefully rose against the mania of Christians for tinting their hair.  Tertullian, among others, had noticed that the dyes were harmful for the brain.  Saint Clement of Alexandria said:  “We shouldn’t change the natural colour of our hair and eyebrows with artificial colours.  If we are fobidden to wear clothes of different or mixed colours, it is even more strongly forbidden for us to destroy the whiteness of our hair, which is a cause for respect and a sign of authority.”

In the Middle Ages, blondness was also a beauty criterium.  The blond hair of the heroines of knightly stories, the fear of black hair – in particular that of the Sarrasins – bear witness to it.  Recipes for blonding and even whitening the hair are found in the XIVth Century and up until the end of the XVIth Century.

Black, on the other hand, was very much appreciated in the Orient, where the  art of dyes, which coloured hair a brilliant and permanent black, appeared during the XVIth Century. 

The mania for blond hair was general in Italy.  Vecellio writes:  “During the hours when the sun darts its most vertical rays, they [the women] climb onto the little wooden loggias and condemn themselves to be grilled and serve themselves up there.  Seated, they bathe and re-bathe their hair continuously, with a sponge drenched in Jouvence [youth] water, which they have prepared themselves, or bought.  Has the sun dried their hair?  Quickly, they bathe it again with the same mixture, drying it again with the fire in the sky and renewing, without stopping, the same thing.”

Second and last part tomorrow.

France’s Second Empire brought back makeup.  La Paiva used great amounts of it.  Lola Montes, whose affair with Louis II of Bavaria was widely known, wrote quite a study on beauty, where she reveals a host of recipes, some of which merit trying.  They at least have the essential quality of not harming the health of those who use them.

Mme Vestris, to conserve the youthful freshness of her complexion, never went to bed without first covering her face with a sort of paste composed of “the whites of four eggs mixed in rosewater, 15 grammes of alum, 15 grammes of sweet almond oil”.  It all had to be beaten until the mixture had acquired the consistency of a paste.  After that, it was spread on a silk or muslim mask.

This composition not only retarded the appearance of wrinkles, it also gave back youth and firmness to the skin.  This recipe was without risk, but that was not always the case.

Lead whites, known as theatre white or albaster white, were most detestable ingredients, and considerably deteriorated the skin.  Three classes of society principally used them.  Artists, women of the world and prostitutes.

For the artists, the use of white makeup was necessary for their profession.  Because of this, they usually lost their freshness and their health, very early.  Sometimes, even their lives.  They usually succumbed to organic lesions.

The women whose existence had no other goal but to please, also paid a cruel tribute to their abuse of makeup.  Its effects on them usually showed through various neuroses, which revealed a serious attack on health, and even on the bases of life, which they almost always lost early.

As for the women of the world who only used makeup in much rarer circumstances, they usually only felt passing illness, instead of irremediable lesions.

The red colours were prepared with vegetal or animal colourings, and with talc.  The colouring matters which entered into the composition of these reds were cinnabar, carmine, carthamine, the colouring matter in Brazilian wood…, either alone or mixed with other substances, according to the nuances which one wanted to obtain.

All of these reds presented no serious danger to health.  But cinnabar red or vermilion, known as common red for the theatre, was a red talc, coloured by mercury sulphide.  This gave excellent results from the point of view of its colour, but detestable ones from the point of view of the subject’s health.  It determined the absoption of mercury into the organism.

From the Renaissance, makeup procured most undesirable secondary effects, and the Venitians, to diminish the toxicity of rouge, slept with veal scallops soaked in milk, on their faces.  Instead of cinnabar (mercury sulphide), it was preferable to use eosine (the name recalls the beautiful tints of dawn), whose combinations with potassium or baryta constitute excellent red makeup under electric lights.

The blue for imitating veins was prepared with Briancon chalk (talc), reduced to powder, passed through a silk sieve, tinted with the required proportion of Prussian blue, and transformed finally into a paste by the addition of a little water lightly gummed.  When this paste was dry, it was put into pots in the same way as rouge.  After having softened the colour with white, veins were indicated with a stump dipped in the blue.

Black was also used, or an Indian makeup with a soot base.  It served mainly for eye makeup.  The black was so popular at the court of Peter the Great, that the Russian ladies plucked their eyebrows completely, and substituted a thick layer of black lead for their natural arch.

To resume, mineral colours all presented inconveniences of varying gravity, the most redoubtable of which were lead poisoning (saturnism) and mercury poisoning (hydragyrism).

As the notion of hygiene progressed, the medical corps addressed itself to the noxious aspect of makeup.  As early as the end of the XVIIth Century, Louis-Antoine Caracioli was condemning the use of rouge.  Later, Lavoisier looked for a way to detect mineral reds, more dangerous than the colours of vegetal origin.

In 1799, The Societe royale de medecine was given the task of examining and authorising the sale of new products.  From this date, numerous booklets on health, where it was recommended to prepare one’s own products, appeared.  Recipes were given in them to replace those of Grandmother, not always reliable.

In spite of this, the abuse continued.  Serious reglementation and efficient controls only appeared at the beginning of the XXth Century.

Used well, that is to say, using natural or non-corrosive products, makeup had, and still has, the advantage of seducing and enhancing beauty.  As Baudelaire proclaimed in Le Figaro, 3 December 1863, “Woman is well within her rights, and even accomplishes a sort of duty, in applying herself to appear magic and supernatural… ”

Tomorrow, we’ll start looking at the dangers of hair dyes.

Under the Regency, they lived in a perfumed atmosphere, and there seemed to be some sort of competition to see who could use the most makeup.

Louis XV preferred unadorned ladies.  We know that Mme Du Barry was careful to wear rouge when she wanted to avoid receiving the King.  It was her way of letting him know that she was closing her door to him.

However, during this time of the Gallant King, toilette was very important.  Women spent hours before their mirrors with, close at hand, on a table decorated with lace like an altar, enveloped in muslim like a cradle, all sorts of colours, pastes and philtres to make them younger.

All colours were presented on this new kind of palette.  Mineral red and vermilion, chemical white and vein blue.  The blue was used to paint a net of veins on the breast, to accentuate the whiteness of the skin.

Then there were all different kinds of water.  Water for bleaching and water for making the skin vermilion.  Water to make you paler, when you are too red.  Water for softening the features, if they are too coarse.  Skin water admirable for yellow and bilious complexions.  Water for thin people and water for those who are too fat.

Let us not forget either the milks for getting rid of wrinkles, freckles, suntan and redness from cold weather.  The pomade for removing the marks left by smallpox.  Bands covered with virgin wax, for smoothing and purifying the forehead skin.

To liven up the face, rouge was mostly used.  But there was rouge…  and then there was rouge.  The rouge of the woman of quality was not the rouge of the woman of the court.  The rouge of the middle class woman was not the rouge of the court woman or of the woman of quality, even less that of the prostitute.  It was only a soupcon of rouge.

At Versailles, the princesses wore it very bright and very highly-coloured, and when the women of quality were present at court, they had to have brighter rouge than usual on that day.  Court makeup can be assimilated to theatre makeup.  The ladies of Versailles were on stage.

A letter from Voltaire attests to all the trouble that Marie Leczinska had, to conform with this fashion of illumination, upon her arrival in France.  Women who would have preferred to have abstained from painting their faces, were unable to go without it, for fear of appearing cadaverous in the middle of all of those reddened faces.

As was to be expected, the use of rouge did not take long to spread from the French court into all of the European ones.  Even Russia rushed to adopt it.

Catherine recounts in her Memoires, that the first present made to her by Empress Elizabeth, upon her arrival at court, was the petit pot (little pot).  That was how the china capsule containing the rouge was called.  “To be allowed to use the petit pot” was every young girl’s dream.

In Madrid, the Countess d’Aulnoy, assisting a court lady to dress, saw her dip a brush into a cup full of rouge, and paint, not only her face, including the interior of her nostrils, but also her ears, her hands, her fingers and her shoulders.  This custom, which seemed disgusting to her, had become obligatory.

The most refined women cleaned their faces with a mixture of sugar and beaten egg-whites.  They had difficulty getting rid of the dreadful mastic, which finished by leaving a sort of shiny varnish on the forehead.

Rouge was more than ever in fashion under the reign of Louis XVI.  From the Dauphine down to the lower middle-class, all women used it.  It is not surprising that, at this epoch, the Queen, who had her Fashion Minister, also had her Rouge Merchant.

It was a Mme Josse who was reputed for having the best vegetal rouge, as beautiful and as agreeable as the natural colours.  But she was eclipsed by Mlle Martin who was the only one to have the Queen’s confidence.  She accepted to serve only crowned heads and a few privileged great ladies.  She delivered her product in lovely little pots from the Sevres factory.

In another few years, the Queen would return to the Nature cult preached by philosophers.  Dressed as a milkmaid, she would spend the greatest part of her time in the Trianon sheep enclosures, amusing herself with this pastoral life.

It was too late.  The monarchy was descending into the abyss which she had helped to dig.  The Revolution was on its way, and would leave little time for self-decoration.

Under the Directory, the fashion of Antiquity appeared.  The Greeks and Romans were imitated in everything concerning the art of pleasing.  For example, Mme Tallien plunged her beautiful body into milk reddened with strawberries and raspberries.

The Emperor had only moderate sympathy for perfumes.  On the other hand, the first Empress loved them and also used a lot of colour on her cheeks.

She had so accustomed Napoleon’s eye, that he insisted that all women who appeared before him had to wear it.  “Go and put on some rouge, Madame,” he said to one of them.  “You look like a cadaver.”  And, to another:  “Why are you so pale?  Have you recently had a baby?”

On the arrival of Marie-Louise, there was a complete transformation.  The young Archduchess, whose fresh complexion was adored by her imperial husband, had no need of cosmetics.  In imitation, the ladies of the court finally gave up rouge.

Under the Restoration, the French perfumers invented new recipes, like the eau de Cologne of the famous Jean-Marie Farina, which was a great success.

Fifth and last part tomorrow.

Women weren’t the only ones to decorate themselves.  Some men, those known as the vieux beaux and, at the time, vieux mignons, inundated themselves with perfumes and painted their faces.

It was the King, himself, who set the tone.  His calumniators said of Henri de Valois that he was “uncertain King of France and imaginary King of Poland, Emperor of his wife’s collars and curler of her hair”.  The extravagances of this prince in matters of toilette have remained famous.  He loved to inundate himself with perfumes, daub his face with colours, or soften it with special pastes.

To conserve the freshness of his complexion, the King used a mask prepared with a few ounces of top quality wheat flour and a few egg whites.  He applied this paste upon retiring and only removed it the next day with warm water.  It is said that he got this recipe from the Venitians.

Following the King’s example, his mignons, conserved the whiteness of their complexion and of their hands, by using masks and gloves full of cosmetics, at night.  Here is a cosmetic recipe from 1573, found in Instruction pour les jeunes dames (Instruction for the young ladies):

“I take firstly pigeons from which I remove the legs and wings, then terebenthine from Venice, lily flowers, fresh eggs, honey, a type of shellfish called cowrie, crushed pearls and camphor.  I peel and incorporate all of these drugs together and put them to cook inside the bodies of the pigeons, which I put to distill in a glass alambic in a bain-marie.  I put in the beak of the alambic a little plug of linen on which there is a small amount of musk and ambergris, and I attach the recipient with some lut [paste] to the neck of the screed to which the water is distilled, after which I put the water in a cool place and it becomes very good.”

At the Renaissance, an invasion of cosmetics and perfumes arrives from Italy and they supplant the practice of cleanliness which had characterised the wealthy in the Middle Ages.  Catherine de Medicis, who had had all kinds of perfumes imported, had given a taste for them to her sons.  They oiled and painted themselves like the women and also dressed like them.

Under Marie de Medicis, widowed, then under Louis XIII, perfumes and balms re-appeared in a new vogue.  Diane de Poitiers or Marie Delorme, who contented themselves with simple, water-based lotions, were exceptions.

The Duchess of Montbazon used makeup openly.  Mme de Rambouillet reddened her lips.  Others put rouge on their cheeks, so abundantly, that this applied rouge destroyed the natural rosiness.  Others again, to appear whiter, stayed in bed with unbleached sheets or ate lemons to make themselves pale.

It was from this time that date gloves a la Cadenet, because of that gentleman’s preferred perfume.  He had created the cadenettes, Frangipani gloves, named in reference to the Marquis of Frangipani, and Neroli gloves, for which the Princess of Nerola had found the perfume.

Such habits could not disappear in one day.  Although Louis XIV was antipathetic toward perfumes, he was obliged to tolerate that which he could only stop at the risk of upsetting his most agreeable subjects, and the excessive use of perfumes and makeup continued.

One day, a marquis, whose eyesight was not good, met a duchess who used an exaggerated amount of makeup, in the Versailles park.  He wanted to kiss her but she avoided him by darting behind a statue, which received the kiss.  This drew the remark:  “Plaster for plaster, the error is not great,” from the marquis.

It is also said that the witty Mme Cornuel, meeting one day one of her nieces who had covered her face with a layer of white and pink, exclaimed:  “My God!  My niece, what a lovely mask you have there!…  Your face can be seen through it.”

The King, himself, finished by catching the ambient contagion.  He employed no fewer than eighteen china boxes to keep the various balms which he used.

If Marie-Therese, wife of Louis XIV, contented herself with her natural graces and did not abuse makeup, her brother-in-law spent his time creating himself a face.  As a child, he was often dressed like a girl, and, as these clothes suited him admirably, he liked to dress in them.  He opened formal balls dressed as a woman, a mask on his face, beauty patches on his cheek.  At the court, he played female acting roles.

Saint-Simon painted him, already old:  “Small, with a big stomach, mounted on stilts, his shoes were so high, always decorated like a woman, lots of rings, bracelets, sparkling stones everywhere, with a long wig all established in front, black and powdered, and ribbons everywhere he could put them, lots of all sorts of perfumes.  He was accused of surreptitiously wearing rouge.”

Fourth part tomorrow.

In the times of the Caesars, in the world’s capital, an enormous quantity of infinitely varied perfumes and essences were made.  Criton, doctor to Empress Plotine, gave as many as twenty-five different perfume recipes.

Roman ladies made an immoderate use of perfumes of all kinds, and spent incredible sums of money for this luxury item.  According to Pliny, they used so much of it, that a lady’s approach could be sensed from far away, by the odours exhaled from her hair and clothes.

In the evening, before bed, a Roman lady applied to her face a paste made of bread soaked in donkey milk, an invention of Poppae, Nero’s wife.

This famous courtisan, endowed with great beauty, used on her face a sort of creamy makeup, which formed a durable crust.  It only came off after being washed with a great quantity of milk, which detached it in pieces, leaving behind an extremely white skin.

Poppae made this new makeup fashionable, giving it her name, Poppaeana pinguia, and even used it during her exile, where she took a herd of female donkeys.

For the application of makeup, many people were necessary.  There was a slave for each part of the body.  Those charged with holding the colours, also applied them to their mistress’ face.  Then came those who combed the eyebrows, and those who cleaned and fitted the teeth.

A powerful hierarchy ruled the servants and slaves in charge of cosmetics.  The Cosmetes formed a separate group, and were not to be confused with those who tinted hair or combed eyebrows.

One of the Cosmetes, holding a bowl full of still-warm donkey milk, gently removed with a sponge the cataplasm adhering to her mistress’ face.  Once this was properly cleaned, another Cosmete stepped up to apply the colour.

Before starting this operation, the slave had to blow on a metal mirror, which she then held out to her mistress.  The mistress smelled it and recognized by the odour whether the slave’s breath was healthy and perfumed to her taste by the lozenges which had been given to her for this purpose.  The colour was crushed and mixed with saliva before being applied.

At this time, white lead, or ceruse, chalk and mercury were known.  Mixed with saliva, mercury gave a mixture used like rouge.  However, people preferred to use less nocive products like sorrel or orcanetta, or others, not so agreeable.

Some reds were made from sheep droppings.  In particular, from those attached to their wool.  Crocodile excrements were also collected as well as cow dung, from which a highly recommended powder for chapped skin and freckles was made.  Ladies smeared it over their faces without the slightest repugnance.

Makeup excesses were often mocked and condemned by poets.  Petronius, in his Satyricon, said:  “On her forehead bathed by sweat, streams of makeup flowed, and in the wrinkles of her face there was such a quantity of chalk, that you would have said an old, decrepit wall worn down by rain.”.

The use of all these colours to hide the stigmata of time was also the target of satyrists, like the unforgiving Juvenal:  “That caked face covered by so many drugs and on which the lips of unfortunate husbands get stuck, is it a face or a wound?”  But it was no use trying to reform habits and, in spite of Properce’s wise advice, “the most successful face is still the one given by Nature”, the ladies of Rome continued to use what Cicero calls the “medicines of white and red”.

Women’s use of makeup and perfume ceased to be highly respectable in the Middle Ages, but this was only partially widespread.  As most ladies of the manor led very retired lives and rarely went to town, where perfume shops were to be found, travelling haberdashers furnished them with all of their toiletries.

Here is a list of the necessities of the time:  razors, tweezers, mirrors, toothbrushes, toothpicks, headbands, hair irons, plaits, combs, hand-mirrors, rosewater, cotton, makeup.  These objects were kept in a little piece of furniture called “demoiselle a atourner”, which was a little table with a head and two arms.

The cosmetics and perfumes were placed on the table.  One of the arms carried the mirror, the other, the combs and pins.  On the head, rested the headdress.  This little piece of furniture was usually made of wood.  For ladies of high rank, they were of solid silver.

Women embellished their faces with colours.  Egg yellow, vine water, balms and ceruse composed the makeup, which melted, according to Olivier Maillard, at the first ray of sunshine.  The other parts of their skin displayed in public, such as arms, neck and breast, were also made up.

This would all be incomplete if Madame did not add a few “odorous things”, as Jean Cleree says, to perfume her body.  Musk, for example.  Or some “powders to provoke lust”.

Nothing seems to be too expensive for the enhancement of a lady’s charms.  Neither the objurgations of the husband, nor the declamations of the fashionable preacher, would make her renounce anything capable of making her more attractive.

However, the excessive use of colour was not appropriate at this epoch, for very white skin was recommended.  Women also seemed to be more attached to the ornamentation of their clothes than to makeup.

At this time of free preachers, the elegant lady is recognized by her narrow headdress, armed with long ears like horns, which balances on the summit of her head.  It is the hennin, which obliges women to stoop to pass through doors.  Preachers rant against it, and it disappears, only to return, even more provoking.

A wide forehead, plucked if necessary, with hair hanging in tufts, complete the picture.  If age thins the hair, it is supplemented by hair from cadavers or condemned people.

Third part tomorrow.

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