Wednesday, November 27, 2013

At the vanity, 1600-1650

In the 17th century the vanity tables gets gradually more filled up. Also, more paintings depict scenes that are just ordinary women doing their beauty routine and not godesses. Of course, allergorical paintings have always been a great excuse for painting naked ladies, so they aren't completely let off..

The Toilet of Venus by Peter Paul Rubens, 1613

Or nearly naked ones.
Vanity by Francesco Furini
Ribbons and feathers and flowers, but the ladies attending the old woman seems more made up than she is. The bared breast can probably be seen as another attempt to mimic youth.
Vain Old Woman by Bernardo Strozzi, ca. 1625.

A painting stuffed with symbolism, for example the skull the girl is resting her feet on for mortality and the monkey for vanity, the lady herself looks quite ordinary, if pretty. She has sensibly covered her clothes with a peignoir and the chaotic table with ribbons and boxes looks like it has been painted from life as well.

Allegory of Vanity by Jan Miense Molenaer, 1633
 Similar, but without the allegory. Jewelry, feathers and some intriguing boxes and bottles.
Lady At Her Toilette, Utrecht School
 Another peignoir that seems a lot less sensible.
Woman at her toilet, French school, early 17th century

Undated, but the hairstyles suggest the early 17th century. The lady is very pale and a habit of painting herself with Ceruse doesn't seem far-fetched.
Vanity- A Woman With A Mirror, Prague School, 17th century
Young Woman At Her Toilet by Rembrandt van Rijn
Lady at Her Toilette by Jacob Duck

Woman at her Toilet with Servant, from La Vue (sight), ca. 1635

Sunday, November 24, 2013

At the vanity in the 16th century

Women in the act of making themselves beautiful in front of a mirror has always been a popular on paintings. For the person hunting for clues on beauty aids and cometics, they can give some valuable clues. Even if the painting is allegorcial, the beauty ideal depicted is contemporary and one can get glimpses of details like bath tubs and mirrors. Though makeup were in use in the 16th century, the paintings omits that in favour of jewelry and an occasional comb.

Venus at her toilet, School of Fonteinbleu, ca. 1550

Royal mistresses were often portrayed naked or semi-naked in front of the mirror or in the bath. Here are three portraits that possibly depict Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II of France (they are all painted when she was an old woman or after her death). Here she in the process of putting on a ring and there is an open jewelry box in front of her. There is also a double-sided comb.
Diane de Poitiers, master of the Fontainebleau School, ca. 1590

Woman at her toilette, School of Fonteinbleu, 1550-1570
A lady in her bath by François Clouet, 1571
Gabrielle d'Estrées was the mistress of Henry IV of France. She is holding a ring, presumably the king's coronation ring, which she was given as a love token.
Gabrielle d'Estrées and one of her sisters, School of Fontainebleau, ca. 1592

The Queen of Navarre, however, is, if not fully clad, at least fully covered in her shift.
Marguerite d'Angoulème by an unknown artist, ca. 1530
No jewelry here, but a bowl that may be for washing, or possibly some kind of makeup.

Woman at her toilette, from a fresco by Alessandro Allori, ca. 1580
The Countess is combing herself, on the table there is an open jewelry box, but its content is spread out in front of it.
Elizabeth Vernon, Countess of Southampton by an unknown artist, ca. 1590
In the 17th century the motif of a woman making herself pretty became much more common. Next at the vanity post will cover 1600-1650.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Movies and the 18th century

Late 19th century masquearde costume. More
pictures can be seen in an old blog post of mine, but
I'm sorry to say that the original source is lost.
Do an image seek on “18th century makeup” and you will get all sorts of pictures, but as often as not you will see a makeup tat consist of a very white face, rouge in small spots on the cheeks, eyebrows that have been painted over and re-painted much above the natural ones and a rouse-bud mouth painted smaller than it actually is. Quite often there are green and blue eyeshade, a painted on patch and to top it off, a shiny white wig. From a historical point of view, almost everything is wrong with this makeup. The white face: True, white makeup was used in the 18th century, but modern white makeup is pigmented with Titanium oxide, which actually cover up more than the original lead white. The modern makeup is too white! There are lead substitute available here, which is a mix of pigments to mimic actual lead white. The eyebrows: There are absolutely no suggestions that eyebrows were placed anywhere lese than on their natural place. Neither were they thin lines, but rather groomed but natural in shape. There is evidence of false eyebrows, but nothing that indicates that they were place anywhere else than on the natural place. Eye shadows in any colour were not used in the 18th century. The mouth: A small mouth was considered beautiful, but it was never painted smaller. The small patch of rouge isn’t wrong, though, sometimes rouge were placed like that, but patches were not painted on, they were made of fabric.

Generic 18th century wig that has nothing to
do with the actual 18th entury.
But even if the makeup is not especially accurate it still signals 18th century to us and that is its purpose. This is a stage makeup, which explains why it is so exaggerated- it is made to be visible and easily recognizable from a distance. It is a symbolic 18th century look and I thought it could be fun to see how the 18th century have been portrayed by photos and movies sine the 19th century.

The white wigs which are so synonymous with the 18th century are, more or less, a 19th century invention. Of course white wig were available in the 18th century, but the most common thing seem to have been to use a wig in a more natural colour. Women, usually, wore their own hair with fake braids and hair loops, if necessary and both sexes powdered their hair. But even if the powder was stark white, the effect on hair is a bit different. Only white or very blond hair becomes white, other hair colours get various shades of grey. But in Victorian masquerades and plays white wigs were used, a faster and less messy way to get the desired Rococo hair.


The white wig was picked up by the movie industry, but, as it photographed better, shiny wigs were chosen, rather the opposite of the dull powdered look that had been fashionable in the 18th century.
 Early movies demanded a rather un-natural and heavily made up look to come through on the white screen and part of that was heavily painted eyes. (As a happy coincidence I found a link through The Gibson Girl's Guide to Glamor that explores just this subject, read it here.) If the pale face corresponded well with historical facts, they were rather due to looking good rather than trying for an accurate look.
Theda Bara playing the Vamp, I mean Madame du Barry in 1917. Not much 18th century, very much Theda Bara.
Ziegfeld girl, Marion Benda c. 1920’s
Rudolph Valentino and, I think, Bebe Daniels in Monsieur Beaucaire, 1924
Betty Compson - c. 1920s
 This masquearde outfit is actually more accurate than the movie and dance ones above.
Marjorie Post Hutton, as Marie Antoinette, c. 1926
In fact, throughout decades of movie making and even today, makeup and hair in period movies have varied between more or less accurate, most usually less. Up until the 1960’s or so, an actor or actress had a set look that had to remain the same regardless of where, and when, a movie took place. Rita Hayworth’s trademark, for example, was her long, red hair and when she appeared in short, blond hair in The Lady from Shanghai, the audience was not pleased. Makeup was therefore always perfectly modern and hair styled so it looked modern from the front, but somewhat more period at the back
Stunning Merle Oberon in The Scarlet Pimpernel from 1934, probably the main reason, along with Singin's In the Rain, that I fell in love with the 18th century. Her makeup is her standard Hollywood heroine look and the hair too sleek and flat for an early 1790's look. 
Leslie Howard's hair is pure 1930's apart from a few curls at the temples that are slicked down in his face.


Marion Davies in Hearts Divided, 1936
Marie Antoinette from 1938, a beautiful movie, but not especially accurate when it comes to hair and makeup. Tyrone Power's slicked back hair in perfectly contemporary, but with an added pigtail at the back to give a period air. Norma Shearer's hair looks a bit better then, but borrow style elements from the 1930's.


Many of the wigs were re-used for other movies, like Du Barry Was A Lady from 194. Lucille Ball wear her trademark makeup and why this wig is pink I don't know. Perhaps it was an atempt to mimic coloured hair powder.

The 1950's do the 1920's do the 18th century. 
Jean Hagen in Singin's In the Rain, 1952
 Du Barry again, in a hairstyle that would have worked perfectly for a 1950's party too.

Martine Carol in Madame du Barry, 1954
Apart from the token que, hairstyles on both Albert Finney and Susannah York looks more contemporary than anything else.

Tom Jones, 1963
Barry Lyndon from 1975, introducing a new standard in period hair- the wigs are beautiful! The makeup is properly pale, but the rouge is placed after the fashion of the 1970's and there are too much eye-makeup.

Marisa Berenson
The past 40 years, or so, more effort has been made to make accurate hair and makeup and nowadays the hairstyling usually look quite good. Makeups are more of a hit and miss. The rather un-natural look of the 18th century with white skin, red cheeks and no eye-makeup doesn’t fit well into modern aesthetics and movie makeup usually go a more neutral makeup route with pale skin and very discreet eye makeup. Because another reason for not going for historical accuracy is to not alienate the audience.  A too period correct look may look odd or even ugly to the modern eye. For example, when The Scarlet Pimpernel was made into a TV-series in 1999, lady Blakeney, played by Elizabeth McGovern had a pretty correct period makeup and plenty of reviewers noted that Marguerite wasn’t beautiful enough and looked clumsily made up and that even though McGovern is pretty gorgeous in herself. The hair wasn't especially exiting, though, on either sex.

Richard E. Grant, Elizabeth McGovern and Martin Shaw
 Jane Seymour with rather good hair and a pure early 1980's makeup.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1982
 The wigs in Amadeus, 1984, are just plain crazy.

Tom Hulce
Dangerous Liasions, 1988, is probably one of the best costume movies ever, and the hair is really good. The makeup tend toward neautral/pretty accurate, but the rouge is usually placed after contemporary fashion.
Glenn Close, John Malcovich and Michelle Pfeiffer
 My favourite hairmovie, however, is the mini-series Aristocrats from 1999. Spanning most of the 18th century, hairstyles change accordingly. The picture here shows the three actresses who plays Lady Emily Lennox at different stages of her life.

Geraldine Sommerville, Hayley Griffiths and Siân Phillips
If you find the subject interesting, I really recommned Hollywood and History, Costume Design In Film by Edward Maeder, Alicia Annas, Satch Lavalley and Elois Jensen