Saturday, July 28, 2012

Madame Isis' beauty parlour- get your 18th century makeup done here

Yesterday it was the day of Bellman at Skansen, a very popular outdoors museum in Stockholm. A collection of typical Swedish houses from most parts of Sweden, and from several different centuries, have been moved there. There is also a zoo for Scandinavian wildlife, like moose, bear and wolf. Two weeks every summer are devoted to the 18h century and my society, Gustafs Skål, hangs around the manor house, Skogaholm to provide general entertainment by just being there.

Skogaholm's manor house was built around 1690 and was extensively remade a 100 years later.

There is also dancing, lectures in fashion and concerts. Especially yesterday, as Carl Michael Bellman, an 18th century poet and songwriter, is one of the most important persons in Swedish musical history. So to the delight of quite a number of tourists I took the opportunity to try out some of my beauty recipes on some friends instead of myself.

Martin, my first victim. Men did use makeup in the 18th century and depending on amount, social class and year, it didn't have to raise eyebrows or ire. The makeup was done in the same way as for women, when it came to cosmetics and perfume, the 18th century was unisex.

Martin au naturelle

The makeup were done outside the vanity at Skogaholm. Well, outside one of them.

I painted Martin with the white paint I made for Sala, white pigment in Flower-de-Luce water. I have a confession to make, though. I was totally convinced that I had used Titanium dioxide as pigment, but when I went through my ingredient stash I found that I had used the Zinc instead! Bad Isis, no cookie! Well, not that it mattered much, but it's good to the right ingredient. Zinc doesn't cover as well as Titanium, but I thought it looks quite nice. I do need to make a version with Titanium though, to compare.
For cheeks and lips I used the salve with Iron oxide as pigment. It has softened a lot since I made it and it is no longer difficult to use.

Burning a clove and then using it to darken Martin's eyebrows.

A smiling Martin, hopefully because he is so satisfied with the result...

Marianne au naturel.

We decided on the grey hair powder.

I had white powder in my hair.

On Marianne I used the Spanish white. Though not at all opaque it did a rather good job whitening her skin, as well as the added lustre. She reported, not surprisingly, that the fat creme made it rather uncomfortable to wear in the hot weather. We agreed that we should try it again at the Winter picnic, and see if it is nicer to use in cold weather.

With white paint, you just can't stop when the face is done...

On Marianne I used the red salve with Alkanet root as pigment.

Marianne in full makeup. It was very hard to capture the luminous quality the Spanish White gave her face. It looked it's very best if you saw her from a little distance and I really think this makeup would look at it's best in the evening in a room full of candles.

To compare, I painted one of Marianne's arms in the Flower-de-Luce white paint and here you can clearly see how much whiter it actually makes her natural olive skin tone. You can also see the difference between the matte paint on the arms and the shiny paint on her bosom.

For some peculiar reason my husband, who was drafted into taking the pictures, sometimes stopped taking pictures of the makeup...

Tove, dressed as she was in a chemise a la reine, needed a more natural makeup. Again to compare, I used the same red on lips and cheeks as I did on Marianne, but with a lighter touch.

I also made a modern version of Marianne's face paint- I just powdered Tove's face with face powder containing the same pigment as the Spanish White, Mica and Titanium dioxide and the result got very pretty, if not as heavy as Marianne's makeup.

Caroline had already put on makeup, but as she had used some of the lip salve with Iron oxide, it didn't matter. She kindly allowed me to powder her hair instead.

Bear fat was thought the most excellent grease for making hair powder stick, but I had none at hand and used modern hair wax instead.

I used the grey hair powder on Caroline as well. The difference in hair colour made Marianne's powdered hair look grey, when Caroline turned ash blonde.

It was all great fun and my models deserve a big thank you for letting me mess with them. This was all rather improvised, and I would like to do this again. I would really like experiment with the look of powder depending on the models own hair colour- and take better pictures. And, of course, there are more recipes on both white and red paint that I have yet to try.


  1. Absolutely love this! Well done, wish I was there!! Everyone looks stunning!

    1. Thank you! Well, if you ever planned to visit us in Sweden, then think about next year. Gustafs Skål will have its 20 year anniversary and we hope to have several grand party's!

  2. Thank you dear Isis, for the excellent make up! While it lasted all afternoon, including the performance on Solliden stage, it still didn´t feel sticky or even slightly comfortable, as is often the case with grease paint.
    And it looked good too... :-)

    Marianne´s skin became extra stunningly beautiful with Spanish white; her bosom got an almost bronzy shimmering lustre.... nice indeed! ;-)

    1. I'm so glad that it kept well! I think I will need to try other pigments with the same recipe!

  3. Beautiful models. It looks so fun, I wish I had been there!

  4. Great experiment, and the results look stunning (as does everybody in their costumes). Very well done, and kudos to the only man in the troupe for his courage to test make up^^

    1. Thank you so much! Indeed, it was fun to put makeup on a man too!

  5. You are the queen of make-up! Great results!

  6. Dear Isis,

    Now wasn't that fun to read: felt like I was there. The result in that final portrait is really neat, and reminds me strongly of 18th century paintings, as it should!

    Bravo, and thank you for delving into a most under-explored area,


    1. Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I had great fun and look forward to do it again!

  7. Oh, everyone looks so wonderful! Great job! :D

  8. Thank you very much for letting me try your make-up!

    Make-up is the detail that makes any outfit look perfect. I think we should have more of it in the future.

    Even though the Spanish White was sticky and uncomfortable in the sun it kept well during all day and it didn´t cause any blemish or pimples to my otherwise so fat skin. I´m really impressed, since I was expecting my skin to react in the same way as it does with modern make-up.

    As for my arms, they felt as soft as baby skin even the day after. I really have to mix up a bottle of my own.

    1. Oh, it was great fun and I'd love to do it again!

      I will have to work on that one so it get less sticky!

  9. Hello Isis! I absolutely love your make up application techniques. I am doing my own mid 18th century gown (paniers and all ^_^) and searching for make-up history I came across your page. I am a bit ignorant in stage make up and would like to know what type of paint you apply on the face (is it acrylic paintings paint, clown like face paint, or something else? and do you apply it mixed with water or just brush slightly to leave that traslucent doll-like skin? I am trying to recreate the English fashion of the time, which was less intense on the make up than the French and would love any advice. I also like the powdering on the hair but have read that in England it wasn't done even before the tax applied on powder, and I am extremely dark haired and fairly young(30) and am hoping to leave it unpowdered, even if I wear a wig. as I said, please give me any advice you may consider useful. Thank you so much, I wish I could attend an event such as the one u participated in (although in the Canary Islands that would be unprecented!!

    1. Thank you! The makeup I use in this blog is makeup I have made myself after 18th century recipes. You can find them all in this blog if you search around. You can use modern makeup in white or pale skin tones. stark white clown paint will be VERY white so it depend on how much makeup you want. Then as now you used more makeup for evenings and ball. It is not clear to me if you are going to appear on a stage or not- stage makeup has demands on its own and much be much stronger to be seen. My makeup is intendeer for historical even where people see you up close.

      Well, that they didn't powder hair in Ebgland is a bit of a myth, they did. But by the second half of the 18th century a more natural look originated there, so probably you could see more people with tehir hair unpowdered in England than in France. So you could probably leave your hair unpowdered. They also used a lot less rouge in England than in France. Look at as many 18th century paintings as you can to give a general feeling for what was used and what was not.

      Here is what I use if I use modern makeup for an 18th century event: Pale (paler than my skin tone) foundation set with white powder. Pinkish rouge, even if not so strong in colour, I use a lot, painting the whole cheek. Red lipstick and darkened eyebrows. A beauty patch is optional.

      What you shouldn't do (unless you are on a stage) is to paint your eyes- especially not with vividly coloured eye-shadow. Also, don't paint your mouth smaller than it is.

      Hope this is helpful for you.

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