Saturday, October 12, 2013

A beautiful visage- 17th century male beauty

Karl X Gustaf of Sweden attributed to Abraham Wugters, before 1660
An overview over makeup and hairstyles for men in the 17th century, a companion post to A beautiful visage- 17th century female beauty. The focus is on European upper class gentlemen. I have chosen paintings that are good examples to give a sense of what kind of looks that were popular. Click on the links under each picture to see the whole painting.
Karl X of Sweden embodies quite well the ideal man of the 17th century. Short and rather less than slender, he was a hugely successful man. Winning a throne that it was by no means certain that he would, his cousin Kristina could have married and have children instead of abdicating, he was also very attractive to the ladies. And here are a few other Swedish poster boys, men known at the time for being very handsome.
Detail from a portrait of Gustav II Adolf of Sweden by an unknown artist, painted before 1632
Detail from a portrait of Maria Eufrosyne of Pfalz and her husband Count Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie. by Hendrik Münnichhoven 1653
Detail from a portrait of Count Nils Brahe the younger by A. Wuchters, seconf half of the 17th century
But Lois XVI who fits in better with the beauty standards of today, was also considered a handsome man.
Detail from a painting of Loius XIV by an Charles Le Brun, 1661
At this point of life, Louis had a long and beautiful hair, but when
he grew bald, he started to use a wig, making wig-wearing very popular.
On the other hand, Charles II who doesn't look half-bad either were not seen as handsome by his contemporaries.
Detail from a portrait of Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland by Peter Lely.
In the early 17th century, men could use white paint, though one rarely sees such blatant examples as the one below. The almost metallic white sheen looks very similar to the effect Bismuth has on skin.

Detail from Portrait of a Man in Classical Dress, possibly Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke by Marcus Gheeraerts II, ca 1810
As the century went on, some men used makeup, but in a more discreet way with flesh-coloured powder and a dab of rouge. Bulwer, the old miser, seems to have missed that more natural application of cosmetics and just moans over the fact that both men and women paint their eyes. And, of course, the awful habit of wearing an ear ring.


Patches were also worn by men.
In the beginning of the 17th century men usually wore their hair quite short and almost always with both a moustache and a small neat beard. I just had to include Karl IX, becasue his version of a comb-over must be one of the most fanciful, ever.

Detail from a portrait of Karl IX of Sweden by an unknown artist, before 1612

Detail from a miniature of an unknown man by Nicholas Hilliard, ca. 1600
Hairstyles grow longer and longer as the century progressed..

Detail from a self-portrait by Sir Nathaniel Bacon, ca. 1610
With some rather peculiar versions that mixed hair lengths, the long locks were called love locks.

Detail from a portrait of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham by Michiel J. van Miereveld, 1625-1626
Portrait of François de Montmorency-Bouteville, ca.1615

For several decades it was common to wear one’s natural hair long and flowing. The facial hair disappeared, first the beard and eventually the moustache.
Detail of a portrait of James Stuart, Duke of Duke of Richmond and Lennox, ca. 1634–35
Triple portrait of Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland by Anthony van Dyck, 1635
Detail of a portrait of Francois de Vendome, Duc de Beaufort by Jean Nocret, 1649
Detail of a portrait of Louis Testelin by Charles Le Brun, 1648-1650
Detail of a portrait of a Young man of the Chigi Family by Jacob Ferdinand Voet
Undated, but Voet lived between 1639-1689, so probably 1660's.
Detail of a portrait of James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch, as a Boy by an unknown artist, 1660's
Detail of a portrait of Cornelis Tromp in Roman costume by Abraham Evertsz van Westerveld
Dated 1670-1690, but probably closer to 1670.
The hairstyle became curlier and fuller and though some may have been made from natural hair, the Allonge wig entered the stage and by the end of the century, really big wigs were the norm.

Detail of a portrait of George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, by Peter Lely, ca. 1775
There were also a shorter wig, the periwig, suitable for travels, hunting or warfare.
Detail of a portrait of Karl XI of Sweden by David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl, ca. 1685
Detail of a portrait of a gentleman by Nicolas de Largillière, late 17th century
Detail of a portrait of Henry Davenport III as a Young Man by Jan van der Vaart ,1699


Coiffures Historiques

Corson, Richard, Fashions In Makeup, 1972

Kipar, Nichole, Male hairstyles

Pointer, Sally, The Artifice of Beauty, 2005


  1. I'm wondering if handsome man = had teeth and no disfiguring scars or boils - that simple. ;)

    1. I think that would be to over-simplify it. :) Good teeth and skin have always been considered neccesary for beauty, but each century always have trends when it comes to which kind of looks that was more attractive than other.

  2. I believe that uneven hair-length style is called a "love-lock."

    1. Yes, so it is, which I missed when I wrote this. :)


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.