FOUNDATION - EYELINER & EYESHADOW - LIP BALM
Many debate the use of cosmetics
to enhance the female appearance during medieval times, but there
is a considerable amount of evidence for make-up during this period.
The statue at right is dated at 1350 and shows a well-made up
woman, her skin fashionably pale with plucked eyebrows, high hairline
and round forehead and a rosy glow which could not be due to anything
other than a generous amount of rouge. We could suspect that this
was just artistic endeavours to make an attractive sculpture,
but written records also support the use of cosmetics for the
Opinions varied even between members of the clergy as to the respectability
of wearing cosmetics. It was felt that it was generally not a
desired state, although it was mentioned that women who had been
afflicted with illness and were thereby made unattractive, were
excused from the sin of vanity by using cosmetics.
The desire to not repel others or their husbands was deemed an
acceptable excuse for enhancement.
Thomas of Aquinas was questioned
about the use of cosmetics by woman and also grudgingly conceded
that for a woman to make herself as attractive as possible to
her husband so that he might not stray into the sin of adultery
was itself not a sin, however, it was cautioned that a woman should
not make herself so beautiful that she should attract other women's
Studies have shown that women in England 'painted their faces
white' to achieve a paler-looking complexion. Women often painted
their faces with blaunchet or wheaten flour or used lead-filled
cosmetics. It was assured that the root of the Madonna lily would
whiten the face.
Research also suggests ground lily root made a powder for faces,
although it does not specify what kind of lily was recommended.
The Compendium Anglicus from 1240 written by Gilbertus
Anglicus recommends cyclamen root.
One recipe for a flour-based cosmetic
to whiten the face comes from the L'ornement des Dames
in the 13th century. The method is as follows:
'There is a white make-up that
is very easy to make. Put very pure wheat in water for fifteen
days, then grind and blend it in the water. Strain through a
cloth, and let it crystalise and evaporate. You will obtain
a make-up which will be as white as snow. When you want to use
it, mix it with rosewater, and spread it on your face which
has first been washed with warm water. Then dry your face with
Many books say that eyecolours and eyeliner were available during
the medieval period, and it is commonly known that since early
antiquity, Egyptians, Spainish women and later the woman of the
Rus at Staraya Ladoga in the 10th century were using eyeliner
Paintings and sculptures for the High Middle Ages like the one
at left, show women with pale and unadorned eyes and eyebrows
It would seem, therefore, that although the technology to produce
eyeliner and eyeshadow was available, fashion dictated that it
balms, lipsticks and stains
Lip tinctures and balms seem to be the lip treatments most commonly
One recipe for a medieval lip balm
described as a 'sweet smelling grease that will keep the lips
and hands from chapping and make them moist and soft' comes
from the book Secrets of Don Alessio Piemontese, published
'Take 12 oz of fresh suet and
6oz of marjoram and pound them together. Form into balls and
sprinkle with good wine. Next put into some vessel and seal
it tightly so that the odor of the marjoram does not escape.
Place in the shade for 24 hours and then put into water. Cook
slowly, then strain. This process must be repeated 4 or 5 times
always adding another 9oz of suet. Finally a little musk or
civet can be added.'
There appeared also available a lip
stain in use, but I have no information about those at this point.
The ground leaves of angelica, Angelica archangelica, were
the principal ingredient for the manufacture of 'ladies' red powder'.
Dried flowers of the safflower, Carthamum tinctorius, were
also used in the making of rouge. In a poem by a monk of Montaudon
from 1180-1215AD, the writer stated that the statues of the churches
complain to God:
'that there is not enough paint
left to adorn them because of all the ladies who use rouge and
The Compendium Anglicus from
1240 written by Gilbertus Anglicus, mentions brazilwood chips
soaked in rosewater would give a clear, pink dye which can be
rubbed on the cheeks. Shown at right is the Bust of Saint Juliana
Circle of Giovanni di Bartolo dated 1375.
A 13th century French song described in Love Lock'd Out, A
Survey of Love, Licence and Restriction in the Middle Ages
by James Cleugh refers to a peddlar who carries for sale:
'razors, tweezers, looking glasses,
toothbrushes and tooth-picks, bandaus and curling irons, ribbons,
combs, mirrors, rosewater... cotton with which they rouge themselves
and whitening with which they whiten themselves.'
showing the large range of grooming
cosmetics and tools which were in use at the time.