The Elizabethan ‘look’ is iconic. An English Rose. The look of a noble and strong Queen. A white complexion, a blush of pink cheeks and red lips. It was considered the ideal concept of beauty of the Early Modern period and spread globally. How did this phase of beauty come about, and what does it signify?
Maths and beauty? Are the two really linked?
In a sense, yes.
The term ‘Golden Ratio’ was not used until the 1800s, but the mathematical
ratio, arguably, dates back to Ancient Greece.
It’s all to do with proportions. My limited knowledge of maths would be poor at attempting to explain the real formulation, but a specific proportion also known as 1.618 is deemed to be ‘aesthetically pleasing.’ Rumour has it the proportions are embedded within the Parthenon, and the ratio has been proved to be within
nature – a spiral arrangement of leaves and ‘perfect flowers’.
Developments have extended the Golden Ratio to human faces, claiming to deem some human faces more pleasing than others. Historical examples which fit with the Golden ratio include the bust of Nefertiti and slightly later example of Audrey Hepburn – who ironically stated “I never thought I’d land in pictures with a face like mine.”
So what does this mean? That something is beautiful just because of it complies with the golden ratio? I mean, maths is either right or wrong…..
Nope, definitely not!
The formulation may be always right, and tested continually on different objects but what is ‘aesthetically pleasing’ is surely dependent on your own tastes or other individual qualities within those objects.
A flower may be beautiful with full petals which coincidentally falls into the proportion of the ratio – but so is a wilting flower, a brightly coloured flower, a fake flower.
And the Parthenon may be spectacular, perhaps for its equal columns, but also for its historical context and the beauty and interest of its ruins. Or maybe it’s not aesthetically pleasing to you at all.
As for faces – surely you are drawn to particular features of a face rather than proportion? You may be drawn to someone’s beautiful eyes or their unique beautiful smile. Individual qualities may not even be part of their face, but something deeper – their warmth, compassion or general personality.
Beauty is not dependent upon maths.
What do you think? 🙂
This post focuses on “beauty” within 19th century society. This time period is a favourite of mine due to elements of social development, that of fashion, medicine and ideals. The Consumptive Look is of particular interest to me as it integrates all these elements and became central in my academic and personal research interests and projects.
This post focuses on the historical beauty of Cleopatra.
Before I reveal the way I completed the signature look (albeit the Hollywood starlet version) I will outline some common myths about Cleopatra, and some historical context about Egyptian make up.
- Most associate ‘Queen Cleopatra’ as being an Egyptian. This is incorrect, she was actually Greek. This all comes down to blood (as it all does in history). Despite her family actually living in Egypt for about 300 years, the Egyptians saw all the family as Greek as they are descendants from a General named Ptolemy, who, after the death of Alexander the Great, received Egypt after all of the Empire was split!
- Cleopatra did not have long straight or, or a fringe. This one seems a little obvious but is an automatic visual appearance when representing Cleopatra as a figure. Rather the Egyptians were more likely to have shaved heads, with Cleopatra being viewed as wearing a wig of tight curls. This is evident on the emblem pressed which is believed to be a representation of Cleopatra. The real reason why Cleopatra was given a fringe in the 1963 was simply because it was in fashion.
- Cleopatra was deemed as immoral, which is illustrated by a myth that she ‘dissolved a pearl in vinegar, or what they conceived as wine.’ This has been proved to be very false, and pearls are unable to dissolve in such a state. Additionally it is unclear what part of Cleopatra was immoral – one may believe she was beauty orientated and lavish spender. This can be objected to through evidence of her many welfare schemes – despite owning half of the land and being depicted as ‘lavish’ – Cleopatra was an extremely good, moral leader.
- She was not beautiful, unlike another Egyptian Queen, Nerfertiti, who has been
depicted in various Egyptian art as consistently beautiful. Cleopatra, on the other hand, was considered to be a less of a beauty, which is evident in the coins printed with her side profile. This idea links into the previous ‘myth’ ab
out Cleopatra being decadent. I believe there is a correlation between the two – perhaps if Cleopatra was believed to be a decadent and inhumane
character this would reflect upon the perception of her beauty. The Egyptians were very symbolic and precious about their aesthetics – whether Cleopatra was physically ‘beautiful’ or not this may depend upon the beauty of one’s soul…As this can never be proved, it remains open for debate!
I have been asked various times why and how the Egyptians were able to wear such fascinating styles of makeup, specifically the eyeliner worn by figures like Cleopatra. My first response was unknown, but then I took to research and realised just how intelligent the Egyptians were.
Eyeliner, for the Egyptians, was used to fight off optical infections – and this was through the lead salts in the mixture, also known as ‘Kohl’. (ring any bells??)
Weirdly, the two forms of kohl were in green and black – not the blue as represented by Elizabeth Taylor. The fascination about kohl is that it was not directly available at the time – suggesting the Eygptians used their own chemistry in order to merge the components needed.
Perhaps a more important reason, rather than fighting off infection, that make up was so significant and widely used was because of the ‘holiness’ beauty brought to individuals. Even through death and ‘the afterlife’ individuals were buried and decipted in a wide array of colour and make up for religious purposes. Egyptians were extremely symbolic and worshipped many Gods. This is shown by the variety of make up not just on the eyes.
For the facial make up they concocted their own version of foundation and highlighters, such as blusher. Cheeks were stained from coloured clay – ‘red ochre’ which was originally burnt to gain it’s pigment. This was also used for the red of the life.
Egyptians also had access to dye their hair, or wigs, as most individuals were bald. Henna was available as a natural plant, which dyed the hair and nails.
Over the years I’ve had many people saying I have ‘Liz Taylor’ eyes because of my eyeliner, but I’ve always denied it because, although my ‘liner’ has a flick, it’s nothing on par with the Cleopatra style.