Their faces are not their own: powders, patches and paint in seventeenth-century poetry

Reichardt, Dosia (2004) Their faces are not their own: powders, patches and paint in seventeenth-century poetry. Dalhousie Review, 84 (2). pp. 195-214.

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Abstract

As the London season became established in the late 1630s and the centripetal power of London drew not only aristocrats but also displaced country dwellers into the metropolis, an interest in fashionable appearance proved tempting to many and engaged the attention of both prose writers and poets, sometimes as promoters of the latest cosmetic concoctions, but more often as detractors of the artificial creation of beauty. Despite religious and political differences, and despite the divisions that would erupt in the civil wars and the Interregnum, there was unity at least on one front: the castigation of those who dressed seductively and used any form of body-decoration. This disapproval, however, was directed principally at women, whose arts (such as fine dressing and face painting) were regarded as deceptive rather than creative. By mid century, anxiety about this proactive role in enticing men, usually expressed in prose pamphlets, moved into Cavalier and coterie poetry and also into the many anonymous verse compilations of the time. Such poems draw on the tradition of invective against painted women established by Plato and St. Paul, and also on the frequent vituperative references to cosmetic usage found in Renaissance drama. But they also express nostalgia for the simplicity of a mythical golden age. The prose of those who advocate physical enhancement advertises its pragmatic justifications, but the poetry of those who condemn it relies On a few well-used scriptural objections and a retrograde aesthetic that fails to engage with changing subjectivities, while recording the efforts of both genders to re-fashion body image in ways which can appear challenging even to the twenty-first-century reader.

Item ID: 6182
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: Australian literature; seventeenth-century poetry
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ISSN: 0011-5827
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2010 04:34
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200599 Literary Studies not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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