On Thursday night, Dr Caroline Palmer from the Ashmolean Museum presented a fascinating, thought-provoking talk at Broadway Museum. The talk expanded on key aspects of our current exhibition Painted Faces: The Art of Flattery, so ably curated by Dr Palmer. It explored the relationship between cosmetics and portraiture, taking us on a journey from ancient Egypt through to the present day, with a particular focus on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the popularity of cosmetics to enhance beauty led to an uneasy and oft-criticised connection between respectable ladies (and men) of the aristocracy and those engaged in less reputable pursuits such as acting and prostitution. During this period, there was an ‘unholy’ alliance between those who painted their own faces and those who painted their portraits.
Many of the concoctions used in both face makeup and portraiture were highly poisonous, and we heard the tragic story of the society beauty, Maria, Countess of Coventry, whose death from lead poisoning at the age of 27 was blamed on her extensive use of cosmetics, particularly ceruse, a fashionable and extremely toxic face-whitening cosmetic.

The subject matter provoked a lot of interest in the audience and led to a stimulating discussion at the end of the talk.

The exhibition, Painting Faces: The Art of Flattery, is open until September 8th 2019 and admission is included in the museum entrance fee of just £5.
Gift-aid your entrance fee and we will provide you with free admission to the museum for a whole year.

This talk was the latest in a series of talks during 2019, sponsored by NFU Mutual (Moreton-in-Marsh). The next in the series is ‘Kite’s Nest and Middle Hill’ on September 12th @ 7:00 pm, a talk on local history presented by Richard Young. Tickets are £10 per person (£9 for friends and benefactors) and the price includes a glass of wine or a soft drink. Please contact the museum to book your place.

Trustee Peter Oliver left and Operations Assistant Paul Hirons thanked our curator for this exhibition Caroline Palmer.