Georgian Cosmentics: The Face of Beauty

A simple contrast of these two royal portraits, painted a generation apart will give a good idea of the changes suffered by fashion as it evolved from Georgian excess to Regency "simplicity". Full gowns and panniers gave way to Grecian silhouettes and high, powdered hairstyles were tamed to a more natural color and form. Where cosmetics and painting were the rule of the day for Royalty such as Marie Antoinette, such artifice was frowned on during the Regency. Only actresses and a "certain type of woman" would be seen visibly rouged. A clean, wholesome appearance was desired, though one could always benefit from a little "help". The following period recipes will give you an idea idea of the effort expended in attaining a perfect complexion by any means possible, often with poisonous or lethal consequences!

Talc White and other skin whiteners: "Pick out the best and whitest pieces ofthe talc, which is a kind of soapstone, and grind them in a warmed brass mortar, and passed through a silken sieve or let it dust through dense linen fabric. Hereafter, you pour distilled vinegar over the powder in a stoppered bottle, shake it well, and let it stand for some weeks, shaking it well a few times each day. Then you let the powder settle and decant the vinegar. Then you pour clear water over the powder, shake it well, let it settle and decant the water - rinse it thus 6-8 times. When it is all white, let it dry, and pwder it in an agate mortar and store it. Should the powdered talc be too shiny, anneal it in a crucible." "All white paints must be powdered very finely, and then mixed with traganth, for which one must use the whitest and best kind of traganth one can find. To that end, you take an arbitrary amount of the white white paint, put it into a clean porcelain cup, and pour traganth water over it. The traganth water is prepared by letting the bruised traganth soak in water overnight and let it clear by letting it settle." "When the white powder is covered with traganth water, stir them well through and through with a glass spoon until it has become a thick paste, and spread it onto a piece of white paper which has been strewn with the white paint before. Separate small amounts of the size of a pea from it, then dry them in a place that is protected from dust and keep them in a box. In oder to use them, do as follows. Firstly, prepare a good pomad. Now take the dried pellets of whize paint, put somein a small porcelain bowl, pulverize them with a glass spoon and add of the pomad, and mix it well. When you need it, spead some of it evenly on the face, and wipe any surplus away woth blotting-paper. This will make the face shiny and enables it to receive the red paint." Spanish Red: "Fill a pound of the best Turkish safflower into a linen bag, soak it overnight in river water, sqeeze it out, and rinse it in fresh river water until no colour comes out of it anymore. Now put a new pot onto the fire with some pounds of water, let it boil, and add a quarter pound cleaned potash. Now take the pot off the fire, stir in the safflower, and let it stand for a while. Hereafter you squeeze the liquid out and strain it through a cloth and out it in a sugar glass. Now add strong wine vinegar untill everything has taken on a red colour and let it stand for a few days. After that time, a dark red powder settles down, which you dry and store.I can not recommend this red, however, because firstly it rarely turns out a beautiful colour, secondly its resinous nature makes it difficult to spread, thirdly it loses the colour easily, and lastly it is as expensive as many another excellent red."   Carmine Red "The most beautiful and excellent red is the real carmine which must be prepared with great care it if is to turn out well. Take two ounces of powdered cochenille and boil for 5 minutes it in a pure tin pot with 4 maaß distilled water, or simply rain water. The water must be brought to the boil before you add the cochenille. Now add a drachme of powdered Roman alum, take the pot off the fire, and strain the liquid through a cloth into a clean porcelain bowl. Put it in a cool place and cover it with blotting-paper. Now add 2 drops of tin solution every two hours, so that all in all 16 drops of tin solution go into it, and let it rest for some days. After such time, the carmine will have settled on the bottom and the sides of the vessel. Carefully decant the clear liquid, let the carmine dry in the vessel, and brush it onto smooth paper with a clean feather. Zwo ounces of cochenille usually give two drachmen carmine."   Red Lip Gloss "Into a clean copper pan put half a pound of fresh, unsalted butter, and two ounces of beeswax, let it melt over mild heat, add some ounces of rinsed, dried and squashed raisins, and one to three loth alkanna root, and let everything simmer gently for 10 minutes. Then pour it on a mounted piece of dense linen and let the liquid run off, and when it begins to cool, add a spoon of strong bitter orange flower water. Stir until it has completely cooled and keep it in a well-covered pot."
  Recipe Source: Source: Johann Bartholomäus Trommdorff. Kallopistria, oder die Kunst der Toilette für die elegante Welt. Erfurt 1805. Further information about period cosmetics and modern equivalents can be found on A. Bender's page, www.marquise.de Enjoyed this article? Browse our Jane Austen Giftshop for recipes and etiquette books!

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