Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hannah Glasse on pearls

You may have noticed that I have mentioned Hanna Glasse and her book The Art of Cooking. It was first published in 1747 and became hugely popular with several re-prints. What is interesting for this blog is that she didn’t just talk about food, but also included several cosmetic ones. What is even more interesting is that she was a middle class woman who wrote a practical book- a book much more likely to be read by a cook than a lady. So in all probability her recipes were for the kind of cosmetics that could be used even for women who didn’t belong to the upper crust of society.

"Die Magd in der Küche" by Justus Juncker, 1767

Mrs. Glasse mentions pearl powder three times in her book, two that are decidedly cosmetic and one that seems a bit more ambiguous, namely with the tantalizing name of Sugar of Pearl:

To make sugar of pearl.
TAKE damask rose water half a pint, one pound of fine sugar, half an ounce of prepared pearl beat to powder, eight leaves of beaten gold; boil them together according to art;  add the pearl and gold leaves when just done, then cast them on a marble,

If you boil water and sugar you get candy, so I wonder if this isn’t some kind of rose-scented hard candy, but why then add pearl and gold? Perhaps is meant to be crushed again and used to decorate desserts. The other two recipes are quite straightforward and also quite simple.

Nun's Cream.
ONE ounce of pearl-powder, twenty drops of oil of Rhodium, and two ounces of fine pomatum; mix all well together.
I suspect that this name had more naughty overtones than what we modern people might think- a nun could be used to describe a prostitute. The result ought o be a cream with a pearlescent sheen to it, perhaps not so dissimilar to the Spanish white I tried to make earlier, The Oil of Rhodium (Rosewood oil) is probably just there for scent, but the pearl powder may not be real pearls. As I mentioned in my post on pearls , real pearl powder was a very expensive cosmetics and the cheaper alternative of Bismuth could use the same name. And as Mrs. Glasse was an ordinary woman, it is very likely that she meant Bismuth. The last recipe suggests that was well;
Hannah Glasse

MIX pearl-powder with honey and lavender-water ; and then the pearl-powder will never be discoloured.

I don’t know if real pearls can turn suggest, but I do know that Bismuth can, if exposed to sulphur. Am I too far-fetched if I think that the last recipe can be a way to hopefully prevent that?

I do need to try out the Nun’s Cream though! I love old recipes when they actually mention the proportions of the ingredients!

Pictures sources:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Marechalle Powder, brown hair powder

Portrait of a Lady with a Statuette of Cupid, by Francis Cotes (1726-1770).

Cropping up from time to time in 18th century literature is something called Marechalle powder, which seems to be a brown hair powder. Like the fair Aurelia adorns herself in Aurelia: or, The contest: an heroi-comic poem in four cantos:

”Thrice low he bends, then, drawing near the fair,
He shakes a downy puff with graceful air,
Long, blue-stain'd irons from his rough attire
He draws, and gives them to the glowing fire:

While this white pontiff's hands aloft are spread,
In solemn pomp to elevate the head,
Two spotless virgins of the servient band,
Close by the shrine in awful silence stand;

One, puffs and Marechalle powder lifts on high,
And gives soft ointment to the deity;
One ready stands thin, forked wires to bend,
Stain'd o'er with black, and sharp at either end,

And bears those instruments of special note,
Form'd of clear horn, or of the tortoise' coat,
Smooth, speckled teeth their polish'd points disclose,
Some wide extend, some meet in closer rows.

Her golden tresses, wreath'd in stubborn pride.
Now form three hollow tubes on either side;
Low down her back a monstrous bag descends,
Where scented grease with scented powder blends;

Thick and more thick the clouds of fragrance roll,
And brown and yellow dust o'ershades the whole;
At length, the labour of successive hours,
In form complete the finish'd wonder tow'rs." /Samuel Hoole, 1783

As brown hair powder is mentioned elsewhere, and as I’m a bit obsessed with coloured hair-powder, I have long wanted to find a recipe for it, and today I got my wish. I was readingThe Art of Cookery and, lo and behold, the recipe was there!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Playing the Cosmetic-detective

Part of the fun in reading old recipes is that you get to play detective. When I researched yesterday’s post on pearls I found a recipe in Corson’s History of makeup that apart from pearls also contained pale coral and a mysterious substance called tin-ice. The author of the recipe was Nicholas Lémery, Louis XIV’s apothecary, so I was evidently reading a translation. Corson’s or someone else? After some rather extraordinary Google-luck I found out that Recueil de curiositez rares et nouvelles dans les plus admirables effets de la nature from 1681* was translated into English in 1685. And that the translation is online too; Modern Curiosities of Art and Nature. I don’t dare transcribe the French original as my French is very rusty, but you will find it on page 54, called Tres excellent blanc d'Espagne. In the English translation it is called;

A most Excellent Spanish White
Take the Seeds of Oriental Pearl, white or pale Coral, of each two ounces, beat them apart, then put them into a Matras and add as much Aq. Fort. As you shall think fit, Juice of Citron I better: then you must have another Matras, wherein you must put Tin-Ice 8 ounces; having first beaten it well, and pour therein the said water, till all be dissolv’d: then mingle the Pearl and Coral together, and that which you have dissolv’d to the Tin-Ice, pour upon the said Pearl and Coral, to cause them to precipitate, and then before you mingle them, you must add twice every day Fountain-water, till you perceive no taste of the Aqua fortis and then you shall use it with Peach-flowers, distilling each apart; take a little quantity of each and so compound them.

A rather complicated recipe- I think it means that you dissolve the pearl and coral together and then mix it with the equally dissolved tin-ice. After that you add water until the acid is weak enough for use and when you want to use it you mix it again with peach flower water. I may be wrong, though. So, what is tin-ice then? My first thought was that it might be white pigment made of tin. Tin-white do crop up occasionally, but then I asked my friends on FB what they thought. There were several excellent notions, but Madame Berg resourcefully found out that tin-glass is another name for bismuth in the 18th century.

‎"Bismuth, Tin-glass, is a Mettallick Matter, White, Smooth, Sulphureous like to Tin, but hard, sharp, brittle, disposed into Facets or shining Scales, as Pieces of Glass, whence its Name." /Glossographia Anglicana nova; or, A dictionary interpreting such hard words of whatever language, as are at present used in the English tongue: with their etymologies, definitions, etc, 1707

If you consider that Spanish white nearly always means bismuth, then it isn’t too hard a leap to conclude that tin-ice is a version of tin-glass, i.e. bismuth. What do you think of this conclusion? I have only had the Net for research here, so I’m well aware that there may be other source that can put a better light on the subject.

*Google books say the author is Antoine d’Emery, but everywhere else it seems to be Nicholas Lémery’s book.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Guest blogging at American Duchess

I’m sure you all know about the lovely American Duchess. I’m having the great opportunity to guest blog there so hop along and read about busting Georgian beauty myths!

Monday, September 03, 2012

French Rouge,—Five Shillings per Pot.

So far all rouge recipes I have found have been either a liquid or a salve, but as the picture below of Madame Pompadour suggest, there was rouge in powder from as well. And in a book with a rather wonderful title, The art of cookery made plain and easy: which far exceeds any thing of the kind yet published, to which are added, one hundred and fifty new and useful receipts, and also fifty receipts for different articles of perfumery, with a copious index, by Hannah Glasse, published in 1784, I found one.

The recipe
TAKE some carmine, and mix it with hair-powder to make it as pale as you please, according to your fancy, (The art of cookery made plain and easy, p. 401)

Breaking down the recipe
Carmine Bright red pigment derived from the cochineal (an insect) scale. Used today to pigment makeup and food.

Hair powder Starch, which in the 18th century were scented and had added white pigment.

My thoughts
Very straightforward recipe and very do-able. I guess that it would work with just plain starch, but as I have made a batch of hair powder I can use that. I need to find some carmine first, though. The result must be pink, which I like as the rouges I have made so far all have been red.

Marquise de Pompadour at the Toilet-Table by François Boucher,1758