If you need any evidence of the longevity of cosmetics, take a look at @guccibeauty, the brand’s Instagram account devoted to the art of beauty, curated by designer Alessandro Michele. Featuring portraits of women from 2000 years ago to today, it’s a clever, inspiring and intellectual look at make-up and its cultural, historical and contemporary relevance.
What is consistent, across the millennia, is decoration – to a greater of lesser degree – of the female form, through clothing, jewellery, hairstyle and make-up. Although times may have changed the enhancement of facial features and hair, according to the trends of the times hasn’t. The 18th century Boucher portrait of a woman at her toilet (above) features the kind of glowy, rouged cheeks that are currently trending.
Here’s a Roman woman from around AD 90-120 with darkly detailed brows that look so current, with lashes painted on her lower lids that are positively 1960s Twiggyish. And, if you thought that grey is a recent trend hair colour then take a look at the portrait of Countess de Baviere-Grosbrg, from 1780. Meanwhile, an image of Queen Elizabeth 1 celebrates the white skin, high forehead and red hair that are synonymous with Elizabethan style but also the plucked-to-oblivion 1920s, 1960s and 1990s ‘no-brows’ of the style that caused a social media stir on the recent Rihanna cover of British Vogue.
Perhaps it’s all down to the simple fact that the human body and face have never changed their composition and, certain religions notwithstanding, a desire to expose the face, hair, body and its adornment as a statement of fertility, beauty and status is something which is truly timeless.