Red and White, Black, and Yellow. Colors of Beauty and Cosmetics Materials in Early Modern English Culture

Red and White, Black, and Yellow. Colors of Beauty and Cosmetics Materials in Early Modern English Culture

Romana Filzmoser

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Richard Haydocke: Frontispiece, in A tracte containing the artes of curious paintinge (Oxford 1598)

Alongside Richard Haydocke's translation of Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo's treatise on painting from 1598, this chapter examines concepts of color concerning cosmetics, painting, and complexion in relation to aesthetics, artistic, and medical practice in the sixteenth- and seventeenth centuries. Agnolo Firenzuola’s discourse on the beauty of women (1541) posited white and red as ideal colors of beauty. Starting from this point, color will be considered in relation to major issues concerning art, medicine and empiricism, discussing beauty as a quality of humoral theory, and beauty’s colors as visual results of photochemical processes. Challenging the relation of art and nature, gender and production, Lomazzo's account on complexion and Haydocke's additions on cosmetics practices and face painting provide key passages when considering the relation of cosmetics colors and artist's colors around 1600.