New Title: Facing Beauty, Painted Women and Cosmetic Art

Posted in books, interviews by Editor on February 19, 2012

From Yale UP:

Aileen Ribeiro, Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), 256 pages, ISBN: 9780300124866, $45.

Throughout the history of the Western world, countless attempts have been made to define beauty in art and life, especially with regard to women’s bodies and faces. Facing Beauty examines concepts of female beauty in terms of the ideal and the real, investigating paradigms of beauty as represented in art and literature and how beauty has been enhanced by cosmetics and hairstyles.

This thought-provoking book discusses the shifting perceptions of female beauty, concentrating on the period from about 1540 to 1940. It begins with the Renaissance, when a renewed emphasis on the individual was reflected in the celebration of beauty in the portraits of the day. The fluid, sensual lines of the Baroque period initiated a shift toward a more “natural” look, giving way in the 18th century to a more stylized and artificial face, a mask of ideal beauty. By the late 19th century, commercial beauty preparations had become more readily available, leading to new technological developments within the beauty industry in the early 20th century. Beauty salons and the wider availability of cosmetics revolutionized the way women saw themselves.

Ravishing images of some of the most beautiful women in history, both real and ideal, accompanied by illustrations from costume books, fashion plates, advertisements, caricatures, and cosmetics, bring the evolving story of beauty to life.

Aileen Ribeiro is Professor Emeritus in the history of art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

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Kimberly Chrisman Campbell recently interviewed Ribeiro for Worn Through (15 February 2012). A sampling:

KCC: Was it a natural progression from writing about dress to writing about beauty?

AR: Beauty and cosmetics are intimately linked with clothing. In the Renaissance, the word “cosmetic” was defined in the broadest way as the enhancing of body and face. Painting the face can be equated with dressing the body, and both are about appearances and their meanings. . . .

The full interview is available here»

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