|Theophila Palmer Reading Clarissa by Joshua Reynolds, 1771|
Take one ounce of brown ochre,
One ounce of vermillion,
One ounce of rose-pink,
One ounce of ivory-black,
Three ounces of essence of bergamot,
One and a half ounce of essence of lemon,
Half an ounce of oil of lavender.
Half an ounce of oil of carraways, A quarter of an ounce of oil of ambergris,
Half an ounce of oil of cloves,
A quarter of an ounce of oil of rosemary,
and Half an ounce of oil of cinnamon.
These are to be well mixed together; but care must previously be taken to reduce the first-mentioned ingredients into very fine powder.
The recipe is in two parts. In the first several, finely milled, pigments are mixed in brown, red, pink and black. The first three would make a reddish brown; the addition of black will make the colour darker and duller. Pigments were expensive so there must be a reason for them to be in there. They must be meant to give something colour.
The second part is purely scent. Bergamot and lemon essence with oils of lavender, caraway, ambergris, clove, rosemary and cinnamon. That’s a lot of scent and several of the oil is very strongly scented like cinnamon and clove. So this is clearly meant to smell. Mixing pigments and scent together would either give a scented pigment or a paste. It is a bit hard to say until you have tried as it depends on the ratio between powder and liquid. I lean on a paste, but I’m not sure. And what was it used for? I have a few ideas, but they are just theories.
A scented powder to make into sachets? I don’t think so. Too much valuable pigment to hide away. Had it was meant for that purpose, the scent would have been mixed with starch.
A rouge? I don’t think so either. With ¼ black pigment the shade would most likely to be too dark and unbecoming. Also, cinnamon and clove oils can sting and redden skin upon application and would be uncomfortable to have on your face.
Can in be a tinted perfume meant for hair powder? Might be, but in that case it needs to be mixed with hair powder. Now I know that 18th century recipes aren’t always constant, but the other scented powders in this book are placed together and they also have clear instruction of the ratio between scented powder and hair powder.
For tinting eyebrows? That doesn’t seem too unlikely, but why not say so? The colour could work for hair and to scent your eyebrows aren’t that far-flung, actually- I have encountered that notion elsewhere, though never in an 18th century context.
Then I got a suggestion from a friend, and, well, it doesn’t seem too unlikely. That would explain why it is tucked away at the last page and that it lacks any kind of direction. Could this be meant to rub into the hair of your nether region? It would tint it and scent it, and might that be something that would be considered attractive? I balked at the thought of cinnamon oil on those parts but I have been informed that today you can buy oils, often containing just cinnamon that are actually meant to be used down there for added stimulation. So can this be a more risqué cosmetics for ladies (and gentlemen) who dared? What do you think? Or perhaps you have an excellent idea of what this was really used for that I haven’t thought about. I would love to hear what you think!