Sunday, October 06, 2013

A beautiful visage- 17th century female beauty

I grew a bit tired of reading about the 18th century and took a little break into the 17th instead. It is one of my favourite periods, and I think it is a pity that it isn't better loved. This is meant as an overview over makeup and hairstyles, which means that there are things I don't mention. The focus is on European upper class ladies, the gentlemen will get their own post. I have chosen paintings that are good examples, but also from known beauties, to give a sense of what kind of looks that were popular. Click on the links under each picture to see the whole painting.

Black and rowling is her eye,
Double chinn’d and forehead high:
Lips she has, all Rubie red
Cheeks like Creame Enclaritéd:
And a nose that is the grace
And Procenium of her face. /Robert Herrick

Detail from a portrait of Anna Margareta von Haugwitz,
by Anselm van Hulle, 1649.
Anna Margareta, an impoverished German noblewoman
embodies the 17th century beauty ideal well. With nothing
but her looks she didn't have much of a prospect, until she
met and wed Count Carl Gustaf Wrangel, the richest man
in Sweden. A mutual love match and a very happy marriage.

The ideal beauty of the 17th century should have a fair, round or oval face with a well-proportioned nose. A high forehead and a small double chin. Dimples in chin and cheek . The eyes should be large and dark, the mouth quite small, but with full lips, the lower one should be fuller than the upper. The teeth should be white and clean and in equal size. The hair could be any colour, but brunettes seem to have been  very popular, but regardless of colour it should be long, thick, curly and cleanly kept.

Pale skin was considered attractive and upper class ladies took care not to be sun-burned. Makeup was also used to make the skin appear as fair as possible. Corson makes a distinction between enamelled and powdered ladies where the first category painted themselves with thick layers of makeup, which gave the skin a slight sheen. Powdered ladies had a more matte skin-tone and probably a more natural look. A late 17th century recommendation was to rub the face with poppy seed oil and then use a white powder made of calcinated bone. There were also pink and flesh-coloured powders, which perhaps didn’t look natural, but indicates that a dead white face wasn’t always wanted.

White paint could be made of talk or pearl powder, with is quite harmless, and Bismuth could be used as well. But the number one white pigment was Ceruse, made of lead, which is very harmful, and mercury which is possibly even worse. There are, for example, a recipe were equal parts of lead white and mercury chloride ( also a white powder) are mixed with lemon juice and rose water to whiten the face. As both pigments are extremely poisonous, it can hardly have been a good idea to use that!
Detail from a portrait of Lady Anne Pope
by Robert Peake, 1615
Heavy and shiny white makeup. The shone
is quite similar to Bismuth.

When studying portraits from the period, those from the first two decades seems to have the thickest layers of white makeup, none, or very faint rouge and lip colour and the eyebrows are left in their natural state. As the century progresses the white makeup looks less heavily applied and rouge came into more use. It is usually sparingly applied, aiming for a quite natural looks, though the mouth is often very red.

A bit bizarre, but not harmful, unless one was allergic to shellfish, was rouge made from boiled crabs. Vermillion, red pigment derived from mercury was common, but there were safer alternatives as well. Tinctures coloured with sandalwood, brazil wood, carnation, cloves, or cardamoms would provide a safe rouge. Cochineal were also used, which meant that rouge could be found in both warm and cold red tones. For ladies not belonging to the upper classes, cheaper rouge pigmented with ochre were available, which they evidently used quite liberally.
Detail from a portrait of Alathea Talbot Countess of Arundel
by Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen, 1619
White makeup and cheeks and lips very delicately shaded with
rouge. The eyebrows seems unpainted.

Eyebrows are kept groomed and though there are recipes for blackening them, they usually look quite natural on portraits. There also seem to have been some use of eye shadow. There are portraits were eyes seems to be shaded with brown or grey and Bulwer rages against the fashion of “painting circles around the eyes” in the mid-17th century. He also mentions tawny as one of the colours used in facial makeup, which is a yellow brown shade which seems more suitable for eye shadow than anything else.
Detail from a portrait of Mary Bankes,
Lady Jenkinson by Peter Lely
Her eyes seems to be shaded with
brownish shade. Experiments with
a matte taupe eyeshadow gives a
very similar look.
For ladies not wanting to paint, there were a number of washes aimed for giving the skin an even a lustrous looks. Some contained talc or ceruse, which would help whiten the face without making it look painted. Regardless if makeup were used or not, the advice for facial care was to wash the face with warm water and a wash ball (soap mixed with herbs and spices), dry it use a wash of some kind like bran water and rub in some pomatum. A beauty regime quite close to modern standards. A lady who steered clear of lead and mercury could probably have a quite nice skin with such habits.

The fashion of patches became huge during the 17th century and ladies could wear many of them at once, all over the face. The black patches were made from satin, taffeta and, for a cheaper alternative, paper, and were gummed to make sure they stuck. At the end of the century, they were used more sparingly, but they were still very popular.
Detail from an engraving Femme de Qualité en Habit d'Hyver
by Nichollas Arnault, 1672-1686

Perfumes were very popular, most of them quite heavy with musk, ambergris and civet. As a comparison, today a perfume has one, or possibly two,  of those ingredients (synthetics today) acting as base notes, which grounds the perfume and makes it long-lasting, but very little is used as to not make it too over-whelming. In the 17th century you could find perfumes which solely contained these three very overpowering scents in equal amounts. There were also perfumed made of ox dung which to my modern nose seems rather disgusting. Perfumes could be similarly made to modern ones, but they could also be found as powder, oils, and hard pomades, wax mixed essential oil. One recipes in Plocacosmos, for example, contains wax and oil of musk and cinnamon. Gloves were usually scented and powder could be sewn into small bags for scenting linens or kept in clothes.
Detail from an engraving English Lady in Winter Costume
by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1644
To protect the skin from wind and sun, a lady could
wear a mask for protection.

Dental medical care was practically non-existent, so even if the ideal was a full mouth of white teeth, it must have been an ideal that few possessed. There were various recipes for dentifrice powders and though some contained abrasive powders like pumice stone, not all of them were and shows that there were an interest in at least trying to keep the teeth nice.

The fashion for hair powder took the first wobbly steps in the 17th century and provided an easy way to change the colour of the hair, but it doesn’t seem to have been universally used. Hair in portraits are often depicted as glossy, something that powder effectively remove. There were also various recipes for hair dye, promising tresses in gold, white as silver, yellow, red, black and green! I wonder who wanted green hair. To keep the curls in place Gummi Arabicum of egg-white were used.

The first two decades or so, the popular hairstyle was rather high, the hair were brushed over a padded form to form a kind of halo around the face. It was smooth and often decorated at the highest point. Originally quite high at the top, it gradually became more rounded around the face.

Setail from a portrait of Catherine Henriette de de Balzac d'Entragues by an unknown artist, 1600
Aged around ten, the princess is dressed and styled as an adult.

Detail from a portrait of Elizabeth Stuart, Princess of England, Scotlan and Ireland by an unknown artist, ca. 1606

Newly wed at the age of 17, the former princess' hair is several shades darker than when she was ten.

Detail from a portrait of Elizabeth Stuart, wife of Frederick V, Elector Palatine by an unknown artist, 1613
This lady wears a shiny white makeup and more rouge than usual in this period.

Detail from a portrait of an unknown lady by Marcus Gheeraerts the younger, 1615-1618

The Swedish queen is quite pale, but doesn't seem to be using either rouge or lip paint.

Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, Queen consort to Gustaf II Adolf of Sweden by an unknown artist, 1619
This fashion doll from around 1600 gives a glimpse of how it may have looked from other angles.
More pictures of the doll can be found here.

Around 1620 the big hair disappears and during a transitional period hair gets flatter and looks quite short around the face.

Detail from Three young girls by a follower of William Larkin, ca. 1620
Detail from a portrait of Anne of Austria, Queen of France by Pedro Pablo Rubens, 1622
Eventually a style develops that with some variations remains fashionable for the next 50 years. The hair on the top of the head and the back is drawn into a knot, while the hair on the sides is hanging down, either frizzed or curled. During the 1630's a short fringe, or curls over the forehad, were popular.

Details from a portraits of Amalia van Solms by Gerrit van Honthorst, 1630's

Detail from a portrait of Amalia de Solms-Braunfels, by Anthony van Dyck, 1632

Detail from a portrait of Anne Sophia, Countess of Carnarvon by Anthony van Dyck, 1633-1635

Detail from a portrait of Elisabeth of Bohemia, Princess Palatine by an unknown artist, 1636
During the 1640-50's the hair is often parted round the crown of the head and the front hair is parted in the middle and curled.

Detail from a portrait of Elisabeth of Bohemia, Princess Palatine by Gerrit van Honthorst, early 1640's
Detail from a portrait of Elizabeth Stuart wife of Frederick V, Elector Palatine by Gerrit van Honthorst, 1650
At 54 the Winter Queen is still quite beautiful.
Not considered a beauty, Queen Kristina seem to have had a beautiful hair.

Detail from a portrait of Kristina, Queen of Sweden by David Beck, ca. 1650

Detail from a portrait of Maria Eufrosyne and her husband Count Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie by Hendrik Münnichhoven, 1653
The portrait is rife with symbolics meanings. Maria Eufrosyne, first cousin of Queen Kristina is standing one step higher than her husband to show his lowlier birth, but he is stepping one step before her to show his superiority as man and husband. And if her loose gown wasn't enough to indicate pregnancy, she is also holding a bean pod in her hand.
The arrangement of curls grow more complicated.
Detail from a portrait of Jeanne Parmentier by Bartholomeus van der Helst, 1656
Detail from a portrait of Princess Henrietta Anne of England by Jan Mytens, 1665
When the curls got wider around the face, it sometimes had to rely on wire to keep the shape.

Detail from a portrait of Adriana Jacobusdr Hinlopen by Lodewijk van der Helst, 1667
 Around 1670 the hurluberlu, or hurly-burly,  becomes popular. Dense curls were clustered over the ears, sometimes with longer curls hanging down from them.
Detail from a miniature, possibly of Frances Jennings by Richard Gibson, 1672-1675

Detail from a portrait of Hortense Mancini, duchesse Mazarin as Aphrodite by Jacob Ferdinand Voet, ca. 1675
Detail from a portrait of Anna Caffarelli Minuttiba by Jacob Ferdinand Voet, 1675

There were also a hairstyle were the curls were kept more close to the head around the head and flat on the sides, with a large, low chignon at the back.
Hedvig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp, Queen consort of Karl XI of Sweden by David von Kraft, before 1682
Mary of Modena, Queen consort of James II of England, Scotland and Ireland by William Wissig, 1685

In the 1680’s the hairstyles started to become higher again, with or without the fontange, a layered starched and wired linen structure, to achieve even higher heights.

Detail of a portrait of Electress Anna Maria Luisa de'Medici by Jan Frans van Douven,1690's
Detail from a portrait of Madame de Noailles by Hyacinthe Rigaud,1692
Detail from an engraving Costume a la Francaise,1693
Then, of course, there was the Spanish influence, doing its own thing, both when it came to fashion and hairstyling.

Detail of a portrait of Maria of Austria, Queen of Hungary by Frans Luycks, 1635
Detail from a portrait of The Infanta Maria Theresa, daughter of Philip IV of Spain by Diego Velazquez, 1651

Detail from a portrait of Catherine of Braganze by Dirk Stoop, 1660-1661

Detail from a painting of Marie Louise of Orleans, Queen of Spain by Jose Garcia Hidalgo, ca. 1682


Corson, Richard,  Fashions In Makeup, 1972

Kipar, Nicole, Female Hairstyles

Pointer, Sally, The Artifice of Beauty, 2005

Salmon, William, Polygraphice: Or the Arts of Drawing, Engraving, Etching, Limming, Painting, Washing, Varnishing, Gilding, Colouring, Dying, Beautifying and Perfuming : in Seven Books. 1685

Wecker, Johann Jacob, books of the secrets of art and nature: being the summe and substance of natural philosophy, methodology digested, 1661
Read more 

Beauty in the 17th century

Courtly beauty secrets from the 17thcentury

Evils of Artifice

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