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Wearing make-up made from a recipe in  Abdeker's Art of Preserving Beauty (1756)

 

Please read Safety First before continuing

 
 

'When you want to make a beautiful paint...'

So starts a recipe from Abdeker, or, the Art of Preserving Beauty, translated from an Arabic manuscript or rather from the French of A. Le Camus. Published in January 1756 by John Murphy, Bookseller, in Skinner Row, Dublin.

'Take ſour Ounces of the Oil of Ben, an Ounce of Virgin Wax, and two Drams and a half of Magiſtery of Biſmuth. The Oil of Ben is preferable to the Oil of ſweet Almonds, and alſo to that of the four Cold Seeds, becauſe it does not over-heat ſo much as thofe Oils, and keeps a long time before it changes. Tne Magiſtery of biſmuth is to be preſerr'd to that of Tin or Lead, becauſe it is a great deal whiter. This Cofmetic is commonly call'd Spaniſh white'te. If it be diſſolv'd in Flowerude-Luce Water, it will whiten the Face.'

  • Ben oil is a fine oil that is still used in cosmetics today. It is sometimes called Moringa oil.

  • Virgin wax is fresh beeswax. 

  • Magistry of Bismuth is a historical name for bismuth nitrate, a white crystalline powder.

The modern subsitututes for these ingredients are castor oil, beeswax and titanium dioxide.


This face paint was bought from LBCC Historical, through Litttle Bits (not a typo) on Etsy. This is a very interesting store to browse, we suggest you check it out!

 
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Applying the Cream

How easy was it to apply?

 

Fiona's comments on applying the cream

I had stored the cream in our pink cosmetics fridge overnight so it was quite solid when I opened the tin. It became soft quickly in my fingers. While it went on smoothly, it got dry and tacky very quickly. I found it difficult to blend  thinly. It ended up being a little patchy and was thicker and less even than I wanted.
Looking back at the original recipe, it says to mix with some flower water. I think I might try applying it again, mixing it with  rose water.

Taren and Shaelyn's comments on how it looked to the eye

The cream looked soft and pale. It was more subtle visually than in photographs. It was not a harsh look to our eyes, even through the camera. However, under the white light it looked strongly white and opaque. In winter, it would probably blend well against paler skin and be hardly noticeable. It was a very soft look in peachy light.

Comparison Photographs

Fiona's face with and without the Abdeker make-up under different coloured lights

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Bare Face White Light

This is a photograph of my bare washed face with no foundation. While I am happy to be seen without foundation, vanity meant I kept my eye make-up on!
This photograph was taken with a Neewer Ring Light with a white diffusing filter using a Canon G7X Mark III camera in portrait mode.

Abdeker Make-up White Light

This is a photo with Abdeker make-up applied to my face only. It was not applied to my neck. It was taken with the same camera and white diffusing filter ring light as the bare face photograph. The camera position and settings were not changed from the bare face photograph.

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Bare Face Peachy Light

This is a photograph of my bare skin taken with the same camera using the Neweer ring light using an orange diffusing filter. The camera position and settings were the same as for the white light photographs.

Abdeker Make-up Peachy Light

This is a photograph where the Abdeker make-up is applied to my face only. It was taken using the same camera with the orange diffusing filter ring light. The camera position and settings were again unchanged.

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Our Final Thoughts

We were quite surprised with the look of the Abdeker make-up. The make-up in its tin looked startlingly white. In the white light photograph it does look quite white, but this photo is like the 'celebrity make-up fails' in magazines which happen when people wearing white setting powder get photographed with a flash. When lit with a strong white light you get a strong white reflection.

To the eye it was a much softer 'blurred' look which might not be too noticeable in winter on paler untanned skin.


Under peachy light, it really looks quite lovely to the eye. It blurred freckles and wrinkles, and made the skin more luminescent. 

The peachy light we use here is probably close to the colour of candlelight. Any women wearing this make-up at night, lit by candlelight, would probably look like she had beautiful, youthful skin.

We hope you found the subtlety and prettiness of this make-up as surprising and interesting as we did!

Fiona, Shaelyn & Taren